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Thor Equities abandoned flea market on Stillwell Ave in Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Thor Equities abandoned flea market on Stillwell Ave in Coney Island. October 30, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

One month ago, ATZ asked “What is Joe Sitt planning for Stillwell Avenue in Coney Island 2010?” Still no word on Stillwell from Thor Equities, though Coney Island’s 40-plus rides and diverse attractions will open in just 20 days. Palm Sunday– March 28th this year— is the traditional season opener in Coney Island.

The Cyclone roller coaster, Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, McCullough’s Kiddie Park and the Eldorado Bumper Cars are busy getting ready for the big day. In fact, the Eldorado as well as Paul’s Daughter, the Grill House and Gyro Corner on the Boardwalk were already open last weekend! Yet Thor Equities property on Stillwell, the gateway to Coney Island’s beach and Boardwalk, still looks like the ghost town of last summer’s failed flea market.

Here’s why: The Coney Island Rumor Mill says that Sitt is asking $500,000 for both sides of Stillwell and he wants all of the money up front!

According to sources, Sitt is not willing to negotiate on the amount either. This lack of flexibility doesn’t surprise us. Half a million is actually a 75 per cent reduction from Sitt’s original asking price! As ATZ reported last month, sources said several carnival and amusement park operators balked at Thor’s initial asking price, a cool $2 million for the two 50,000 square foot parcels.

New Sign on Stillwell. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

January 7, 2010: New Sign on Stillwell. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

Some of the interested parties were contenders in the City’s RFP for a Coney Island Amusement Operator, which was won by Zamperla. The Coney hopefuls who put in bids for Thor’s parcels were said to be balking at the slew of onerous lease terms such as a 30-day-vacate clause. (“Coney Island: Amusement Operators Balk, Money Talks at Stillwell,” Feb. 10, 2010).

Negotiations continue for carnival rides and a go kart track though rumor has it that one of the potential amusement operators told Sitt’s agent where to take his lease and shove it. Good negotiating strategy or goodbye Coney Island?

When all is said and the deal is done, we may see Geren Rides back on Thor’s property for the third year in a row. The Georgia-based carnival operator did after all buy a Schwarzkopf Wildcat roller coaster, Reverchon Himalaya and other rides last year with the intention of coming back to Coney.

UPDATE  March 10…Sources say amusement operators from Wildwood, New Jersey, are close to signing a 5-year lease with Sitt for a go-kart track on one of his Stillwell parcels.  If they ink the deal and if CAI/Zamperla goes ahead with their plan for go-karts on the City’s Stillwell parcels in 2011, Coney Island will have duelling go karts on the site of the much missed Coney Island Batting Range and Go Kart City.  Why not bring back the Batting Range? As one of our friends says, “I still miss the batting cages. Without a doubt, they were the best in the entire city. Watching the balls fly off your bat with the Wonder Wheel in the distance was a thing of beauty.”

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Related posts on ATZ…

March 3, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: What Stillwell Looked Like Before Joe Sitt

February 10, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Amusement Operators Balk, Money Talks at Stillwell

January 8, 2010: Coney Island 2010: Good Riddance to Thor Equities Flopped Flea Market, Hello Rides?

June 4, 2009: Coney Island Ride Count: Veteran Ride Ops 40, Joe Sitt 10!

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What is Joe Sitt planning for Stillwell Avenue in Coney Island 2010? Last month, ATZ said “Good Riddance to Thor Equities Flopped Flea Market, Hello Rides?” In the February print edition of the amusement trade publication Funworld, Thor Equities has a full page ad seeking amusement operators for two large open air lots at Bowery and Stillwell: “Are you ready to count cash this summer in Coney Island?”

After selling the Boardwalk half of the property to the City, Sitt appears to be playing a high stakes game with amusement operators to lease what’s left of his Stillwell lots to the highest bidder.

Thor Equities  in Funworld Magazine

Thor Equities ad in this month’s Funworld Magazine seeks amusement operators to lease the Stillwell property. The photo shows an overflow crowd at Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest on the 4th of July.

But sources say several carnival and amusement park operators have balked at Thor’s initial asking price, a cool $2 million for the two 50,000 square foot parcels. Some of the interested parties were contenders in the City’s RFP for a Coney Island Amusement Operator, which was won by Zamperla. The Coney hopefuls who put in bids for Thor’s parcels are said to be balking at the slew of onerous lease terms such as a 30-day-vacate clause.

Sideshow operator John Strong, who made a deal to lease the Thor-owned Grashorn Building for his freak museum, managed to get the 30 day clause removed. Perhaps Sitt will play let’s make a deal with one of the balking operators as we get closer to Coney Island’s opening day—March 28, 2010. At the moment, the Coney Island Rumor Mill says all bets are off for the City’s RFP winner Zamperla and runner-up Amusements of America to lease Thor’s Coney parcels.

Or maybe not…. Jane Baxter Vivona, an independent ride operator who is married to A of A’s Phil Vivona, is said to be eager to park her Space Roller in Coney Island for the season. Here’s a vid of what we’ll be missing if A of A has indeed dropped out of the picture…

Glenn Geren of Geren Rides, whose carnival has supplied the rides for Sitt’s Dreamland for two consecutive seasons is still in the running. Last summer, Geren purchased a Schwarzkopf Wildcat Coaster, Reverchon Himalaya, Watkins Swinger and Tempest in anticipation of a third season in Coney Island (“Coney Island 2010? Carnival Gambles on Roller Coaster,” Aug 8, 2009). Perhaps his gamble will pay off.

Geren Rides Trabant in Coney Island, Labor Day 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Geren Rides Trabant in Coney Island, Labor Day 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Funworld is a trade magazine published by the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA), the largest amusement industry association in the world. Sitt’s ad appears to be trying to take a page from the CIDC’ s playbook. In November, the CIDC successfully pitched the City’s Coney Island Amusement Operator RFP to attendees at IAAPA’s trade show in Las Vegas.
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But Thor Equities advertisement touts visitor stats for Coney Island’s season that are as over-inflated as Sitt’s rents and cites five million more visitors than the City’s estimate for an entire year. According to the ad copy, “Coney Island, Brooklyn’s famous entertainment destination, expects 10 million thrill seeking visitors this summer and your business can be right smack in the middle of them!” The Coney Island Development Corporation’s RFP Fact Sheet says, “Currently, approximately five million visitors come to Coney Island every year. With its signature events and its iconic attractions, Coney Island ranks among the must-see destinations for both the more than 8 million New York City residents and the estimated 46 million visitors who come to New York City each year.”

The City’s five million figure includes the New York Aquarium’s 750,000 year round visitorship. The majority of amusement rides and attractions are currently open from Palm Sunday through Columbus Day, with daily operations from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day Weekend.

The best estimate of what an individual amusement operator can expect in Coney Island this summer is provided courtesy of Alberto Zamperla, the CEO of Zamperla, in a recent article about their new Luna Park: “For the first season we have estimated the presence of 400 thousand visitors and we are confident it will grow in the future,” Zamperla told the the Italian newspaper Il Giornale di Vicenza.

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Related posts on ATZ…

January 31, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Freak Museum to Lease Coney’s Oldest Building

January 26, 2010: Scoop: Zamperla’s $24M Coney Island Park to be Named Luna Park!

November 23, 2009: The Contenders from A to Z: Coney Island Amusement Operator RFP

August 8, 2009: Coney Island 2010? Carnival Gambles on Roller Coaster

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One of the new rides we expect to see in Zamperla-landia Coney Island in 2010 is the Vertical Swing. The tower ride is Zamperla’s version of the Star Flyer prominently featured in the CIDC’s renderings since November 2007. According to the company’s website, the Swing comes in both a 125-foot park model and a 102–foot portable model (top decoration included) that takes only half a day to set up.

We also found this spectacular 190 foot (58 meter) Vertical Swing (Kettenkarussell) in a vid of Wunderland Kalko amusement park in Germany. New for 2009, the ride is sited within the cooling tower for a proposed nuclear power plant which instead became an amusement park after widespread protests! The Vertical Swing is crowned with the park’s mascot Kernie. As you can see in a second video, the ride offers a 360 degree view of the surrounding area. Can’t you just imagine yourself swinging in the sky over Coney Island’s Beach and Boardwalk this summer!

Reithoffer Sky FlyerZamperla’s first portable Vertical Swing, pictured at left, was sold to Reithoffer Shows. It debuted at last year’s Florida State Fair where it was among the top ten grossing rides. The carnival calls it “The SkyFlyer.” The lighting scheme looks more colorful than our Parachute Jump! Other top carnivals that have purchased the new ride are Ray Cammack Shows (RCS) and North American Midway Entertainment (NAME). According to Zamperla’s website: “What makes the portable ride unique is the rotation made with the entire tower (instead of a rotating center only). It reaches a maximum speed of 12 r.p.m. The setup is easy and takes about half a day. Hydraulic extension: no cranes needed!!!”

The cost of the ride– $700,000 (park model) and $790,000 (portable model)– illustrates why Zamperla had an advantage over park and carnival operators going into the Coney Island Amusement Operator RFP. As the world’s largest manufacturer of rides, Zamperla doesn’t have to get financing to buy new rides or wait months for them to be built. If the ride is not already in stock, Zamperla can ramp up production in one of their factories around the globe. We expect the company to rotate the ride line up over the ten year lease, bringing in new pieces to keep Coney Island’s midway thrilling and profitable. As we wrote in “The Contenders from A to Z” (November 23, 2009), we also expect Zamperla to try out prototypes in Coney Island, an exciting prospect that calls to mind the heyday of Coney when the first models of any new rides would come here.

The Tower Swing Ride Was Prominently Featured in the CIDC's November 2007 Renderings of  the new Coney Island Amusement Park

The Tower Swing Is Prominently Featured in the CIDC's November 2007 Renderings of the new Coney Island Amusement Park

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Related posts on ATZ…

August 29, 2010: Video: Grand Prize Winner of Luna Park Coney Island’s Film Contest!

February 15, 2010: Steeplechase Express: Will Zamperla MotoCoaster Pony Up for Coney Island?

January 26, 2010: Scoop: Zamperla’s $24M Coney Island Park to be Named Luna Park!

January 14, 2010: Zamperla Ride-O-Rama: Rock the Disko Music Video

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