Last night, Coney Island photographer Bruce Handy was surprised to see a sight that hasn’t been seen since Astroland Park closed forever on September 7, 2008. The Astrotower, which has been standing but not operating since before the park closed, was illuminated. It makes us happy to see it lit! Bruce speculates that Luna Park technicians were testing the electrical hookup for future lighting of the tower. We wonder if they will light it for the park’s Halloween Horror Nights, which begin in mid-October. In the close-up shot below you can see they are using the bare bulbs that originally lit the tower and have not installed LEDs. Why has it taken so long?
Ever since Luna Park was built on the former Astroland site in April 2010, there’s been talk of Zamperla repurposing the tower as signage or possibly restoring it as a ride. Since nothing was done, the 270-foot observation tower got rusty and started to look like a neglected stepchild amid the glittering new rides on the skyline. Earlier this month, when a similar tower at Cedar Point was imploded, a fan on Luna Park’s Facebook page asked if the Astrotower would have the same fate. The answer was reassuring: “The Astrotower is going to stay up for posterity,” according to an official post on Luna Park’s Facebook. “It’s an historic ride. Luna Park will re-paint the ride, but it will no longer take guests up to give them views of Coney Island.”
According to the Coney Island History Project, the $1.7 million Astrotower was manufactured by the Swiss company Von Roll and installed in 1964. “It required a foundation of 1,100 tons of concrete and 13 tons of steel reinforcing bars. Like Astroland’s other space-age themed rides, the tower was built specifically for the park.” The Municipal Art Society and Save Coney Island have said the structure is eligible for the State and National Registers. We’d love to be able to ride the Astrotower once again. If that’s not in the stars, let’s hope it will be refurbished and illuminated like Steeplechase Park survivor the Parachute Jump.
UPDATE September 29, 2012
This evening, Luna Park confirmed on their Facebook page that the tower will be illuminated, but not reactivated as a ride. “Our electricians are testing the lighting system as we finalize plans to paint and rewire parts of the tower. The Astrotower will not operate as a ride – instead it will provide Coney Island with a spectacular, night-time extravaganza. Look to the Coney Island skies for some exciting new developments in 2013…”
It’s great news that the once proud and now forlorn looking tower will be a bright spot on the skyline of the new Coney Island. The painted and illuminated Astrotower will compliment the bling-y lights promised for the Parachute Jump in Steeplechase Plaza, which is set to open next season.
At the same time, we’re not buying the statement that “The Astrotower will not operate as a ride.” Perhaps it should be qualified with the two words “in 2013”? It’s hard to believe that Zamperla, one of the world’s largest ride manufacturers, can’t come up with a plan to reactivate the tower as a ride. Is it a matter of money or current priorities? In 2014, the tower will be 50 years old. The only question is when the Luna Park Astrotower opens, will the Zamperlas be serving bagels and lox as Jerry Albert did when the ride known as the bagel in the sky because of its circular car debuted in Astroland?
Related posts on ATZ…
July 8, 2012: Video of the Day: Coney Island Lights by Jim McDonnell
May 29, 2012: Photo Album: Coney Island Lights & Signs of the Times
April 14, 2012: Astroland Bumper Cars Return Home to Coney Island