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Posts Tagged ‘Eldorado Bumper Cars’

Rendering for 1218 Surf Ave, currently the Eldorado Bumper Cars, shows a new arcade and burger restaurant. Photo via Thor Equities Facebook Page

Long absent from social media channels, last week Thor Equities joined Facebook and Twitter. “Our FB page is up & running. We have begun featuring exclusive photos & descriptions of our properties. Take a look,” they tweeted. We did, and found that Thor “liked” Times Square, Central Park, a raft of real estate pages, and one that surprised us– Bikram Yoga — but has yet to “like” Coney Island or anybody in Brooklyn. Snub? Priorities? They’ll probably get around to it sooner or later.

Among the Brooklyn properties featured in Thor’s Facebook photo albums are two in Coney Island: The vacant new building at Surf and Stillwell Avenues and the Eldorado Building at 1218 Surf Avenue. Eldorado owners Sandy and Sheila Fitlin sold the building to Thor in March and the bumper cars and arcade are expected to close at the end of the season after a 40-year run.

Dennys and Eldorado

Thor Equities bought the Eldorado Building at 1218 Surf Avenue in March 2012. Its neighbor is Denny’s Ice Cream, owned by Coney Island USA. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

When the Eldorado closes the Fitlins plan to take down the marquee and other signs, which were not part of the sale, they told ATZ. They hope to place the signage with a museum or collector. Knowing all of this did not lessen the shock and dismay of seeing Thor’s rendering for 1218 Surf with a “Joe’s Burgers” and generic arcade replacing the fabulous Eldorado Skooters facade and “Bump Your Ass Off” signage. If this is news to you, better run right over to the disco palace of bumper cars and bump, bump, bump for one last time this summer.

Along with the expected closure of McCullough’s Kiddie Park on the Bowery, whose lease with Thor ends this season, the closing of the Eldorado marks a critical point in the exit of independent amusement operators with a long history in Coney Island and the beginning of Thor’s “CONEY ISLAND – The RETAIL RIDE of a LIFETIME.” It started in 2007, with Thor’s eviction of Norman Kaufman’s Batting Range and Go Kart City and the Zipper and Spider rides documented in Amy Nicholson’s upcoming film “Zipper.” It continued with the loss of games in the shuttered Grashorn Building and the demolished Henderson Building. The caption for the Eldorado property calls it “an unbeatable retail opportunity.”

On Thor’s Facebook page, the captions on the two Coney properties got reversed and what’s more the new building at Surf and Stillwell is misidentified idiotically referred to as the “Henderson Building.” The century-old music hall was demolished by Thor in 2010 despite preservationists’ best efforts to save it. The doomed Henderson along with the old Shore Hotel were on a parcel rezoned by the City in July 2009 for a high rise hotel. “Every one of these buildings is just horrible, rundown relics with nothing exciting about them. I hate to say it, but the great buildings of Coney Island disappeared 80 years ago,” Sitt told NY1 before demolishing the buildings.

Ironically, Sitt’s first new construction after years of real estate speculation in Coney Island is a suburban looking one-story structure that looks like a car dealership. We certainly hope it’s a typo that Thor is calling this vacant, boarded-up new building the Henderson Building! Why not call it the Thor Building? The question is what are Joe Sitt’s plans for Coney Island’s newest building at Surf and Stillwell, and Coney’s oldest building– the Grashorn — at Surf and Jones Walk? ATZ tweeted that question to @ThorEquities. Awaiting a reply.

Thor

Rendering of Thor Equities Building at Surf and Stillwell, Coney Island via Thor Equities Facebook

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Related posts on ATZ…

March 20, 2012: 60 Years of Family History in Coney Island End with Sale of Eldorado

May 4, 2011: Thor Equities Touts Coney Island as “RETAIL RIDE of a LIFETIME”

December 27, 2010: Video: Tribute to the Henderson Theater by Charles Denson

March 14, 2010: Eldorado Auto Skooter: Coney Island’s Disco Palace of Bumper Cars

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Last week, Sheila Buxbaum Fitlin and Sandy Fitlin, whose families have operated businesses in Coney Island for more than six decades, sold the building that houses the Eldorado Auto Skooters and Arcade at 1216-1218 Surf Avenue to Thor Equities. For months Coney Island insiders knew of the pending sale as well as the possibility that the bumper cars and arcade will open for one more season, in the same way that Astroland remained open the year after it was sold.

“We’re actively working on negotiations,” arcade operator Gordon Lee told ATZ on Monday. Lee’s company Sun Star is a longtime provider of arcade machines to Coney Island, including the Eldorado as well as the now-closed Astroland Arcade and Faber’s Fascination. Last season Lee managed both the bumper cars and the arcade for the Fitlins after the death of their son Scott in October 2010. The bumper cars have undergone pre-season maintenance and passed inspection and are ready to open on Coney Island’s opening day if an agreement can be reached with Thor Equities.

Fitlin

Sandy and Sheila Fitlin. April 17, 2011. Photo © Coney Island History Project. All Rights Reserved

Scott Fitlin was the DJ extraordinaire of Surf Avenue’s legendary disco palace of “Bump, Bump, Bump Your Ass Off” bumper cars and his untimely death at the age of 48 left the attraction’s future in question. His parents had retired to Texas and left the bumper cars in his care. It was a gift to Coney Island and a tribute to his memory that the Eldorado reopened last season. ATZ asked the Fitlins for a statement about the sale of the Eldorado and their years in Coney. Sheila Buxbaum Fitlin sent us the following note via email:

It is with deep regret that I sold Eldorado. Due to my advancing age, the fact that I live in Texas, and, of course, Scott’s death, I could no longer continue.

As one of the last of the “old timers,” I view a legacy in Coney Island that spanned three generations and lasted almost 60 years. I pay homage to those of us who shaped Coney Island–

The Buxbaum & Fitlin Family, Jerome & Carol Albert, Denos Vourderis, Freddy Garms, Norman Kaufman, Ronnie Guerrero, Jeff Persily and any I may have forgotten.

Eldorado established an entity that became a standard of the industry. The Bumping Disco was known worldwide, reproduced somewhat once in Japan, but never really successfully duplicated anywhere. Eldorado was one of the very first of the FECs. Today the concept is everywhere and much embellished upon. Many years ago we had plans to extend to other areas, but it never came to fruition. Unfortunately, we were never really recognized or acknowledged by “the new Coney Island.” Oh, what things the “old timers” could have taught the “johnny come latelys.”

I only wish that Scott had not died and the next generation could have persevered.

GOODBYE CONEY ISLAND, and most of all, goodbye to those I love.

Our friend Scott Fitlin told us about the history of the Eldorado in a March 2010 interview. It begins: “Eldorado was hand built by my grandfather Joseph Buxbaum, my Dad Sandy Fitlin, and my Uncle Peter Buxbaum, and a carpenter named Rafael. Opening date was March 21st 1973, admission was 50 cents and 25 cent re-rides. The FIRST record played was Cisco Kid-War!”

In a 2007 interview in the Coney Island History Project’s Oral History Archive, Sheila Buxbaum Fitlin recounts how her parents met in 1930s Coney Island when her mother was working in a frozen custard stand at Bowery and Stillwell and her father was selling hot corn next door to Nathan’s.

In the 1940s, the family opened the Shamrock Irish House, a restaurant, cabaret and open air bar with singing waiters on Henderson Walk and the Bowery. Customers would throw money onto the stage. “I can recall as a child–10, 11, 9–going there, getting a stage-side table and my father would give me a roll of dimes and set me up with my Coca Cola,” says Sheila in the interview with Charles Denson.

In the oral history interview, Sheila says the family switched over to games in the mid-1950s and had one of the first-ever water racing games. The Eldorado building was at one time the Pleasureland Arcade and was won by the Buxbaum and Fitlin families in a closed bid auction in 1971. The building is located mid-block on Surf Avenue between Denny’s Ice Cream and the Popper Building, a few doors down from Thor Equities property at the corner of Surf and Stillwell.

UPDATE March 20, 2012, 9:00 AM:

UPDATE April 12, 2012:

Good news! Gordon Lee of Coney’s Eldorado Bumper Cars phoned to say he’s operating the ride today & open for business! The arcade will also open this weekend for the season. Hours at the Eldorado are “12 noon till closing.”
Eldorado Bumper Cars and Arcade, 1216 Surf Avenue, Coney Island

Eldorado Bumper Car Crew. Photo © Tricia Vita/me/myself/i via flickr

Eldorado Bumper Car Crew. April 26, 2009. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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Related posts on ATZ…

November 18, 2010: Good News from Coney Island! Eldorado “Bump Your Ass Off” Bumper Cars To Reopen

October 17, 2010: Photo Album: Oct 15 Tribute in Sound & Light to Scott Fitlin

October 13, 2010: Rest in Peace: Scott Fitlin, Coney Island’s Eldorado Man

March 14, 2010: Eldorado Auto Skooter: Coney Island’s Disco Palace of Bumper Cars

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Electro Spin and Wonder Wheel

Coney Island's 64 Rides include Luna Park's Electro Spin and Deno's Wonder Wheel. Photo © Jim McDonnell via smugmug

This month marks the 2nd anniversary of Amusing the Zillion, which began on April 10, 2009 with a sweet first post on Coney Island ‘s Opening Day. The zings came in May and June with “Joe Sitt’s No Show Rides” (ATZ, May 17, 2009) and “Coney Island Ride Count: Veteran Ride Ops 40, Joe Sitt 10!” (ATZ, June 4, 2009). Back then, the dwindling number of rides and the empty lots had people asking “Is Coney Island Closed?” and gave rise to the marketing slogan “Coney Island: Really Fun, Really Open.”

We’re happy to report that Coney Island has come a long way since then with the opening of Luna Park (May 2010) and Scream Zone (April 2011) on land purchased by the City from real estate speculator Joe Sitt. As we head into Coney Island’s Easter weekend, which can be as busy as Fourth of July if the sun shines, the amusement area has a grand total of 64 rides! (Update: September 12, 2012… McCullough’s had to reconfigure the park and removed two kiddie rides in 2011. Scream Zone added two rides: Go Karts and a Skycoaster in 2012. Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park replaced two rides with the largest Bumper Cars in New York City. For the 2012 season, Coney Island’s parks had 63 rides plus the Megawhirl and a half-dozen or so carnival rides brought to Stillwell Avenue for the summer.)

Luna Gate and Cyclone

Luna Park entrance and Cyclone Roller Coaster, Surf Avenue at 10th St. Photo © Jim McDonnell via smugmug

The ride count for the 2011 season is Luna Park (19), Scream Zone (4), Cyclone (1), Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park (22), Eldorado Bumper Cars (1), Polar Express and 12th Street Amusements (5) and McCullough’s Kiddie Park (12). Coney Island’s extended season stretches all the way to Halloween, effectively creating 30 weekends of summer fun.

Coney Island isn’t a gated single operator park like Six Flags or Disneyland. Visitors can move freely throughout the People’s Playground, where the rides and attractions are individually owned and operated by several different families. Here’s ATZ’s guide to Coney Island’s rides for the 2011 season.

LUNA PARK, THE CYCLONE and SCREAM ZONE

Air Race

Zamperla's Prototype Air Race at Luna Park. Photo © Jim McDonnell via smugmug

Luna Park opened last May with a magnificent gate that pays homage to the original Luna Park. Operated by Central Amusements International, the park division of Italian ride manufacturer Zamperla, Luna Park features 18 Zamperla rides and a Reverchon water flume. Notable rides include the prototype Air Race, designed by Mega Disk’O creator Gianbattista Zambelli. The thrill ride sends riders upside down at up to 4 g forces and made its world debut in Coney Island last May.

One of Coney Island’s historic rides that inspired a modern counterpart in the new park is “The Tickler.” Zamperla’s spinning coaster model, the Twister, was renamed “The Tickler” in honor of Coney Island inventor William F. Mangels pioneering thrill ride that debuted in 1907.

Additional rides include the Brooklyn Flyer (Vertical Swing), Eclipse (Discovery Pendulum), Circus Coaster, Coney Island Hang Glider, Lynn’s Trapeze, Surf’s Up, Big Top Express, Happy Swing, Mermaid Parade (Kiddie Log Flume), Speed Boat and Tea Party.

Sling Shot

The Sling Shot Ride in Coney Island's Scream Zone Thrill Park. Photo © NYCEDC via flickr

Also operated by Central Amusement International is the iconic Cyclone Roller Coaster, a New York City landmark that first opened in 1927. This weekend the amusement operator is debuting Scream Zone, a new thrill park on the Boardwalk. Rides include the Turbo Force, Sling Shot, Soarin’ Eagle Coaster (Volare), and Steeplechase Motocoaster, which pays homage to Steeplechase Park’s legendary horse race ride.

DENO’S WONDER WHEEL AMUSEMENT PARK

Wonder Wheel

Deno's Wonder Wheel. Built in 1920 by the Eccentric Ferris Wheel Company using Bethlehem Steel forged on the premises. Photo © brooklynnfoto via flickr

Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park has 22 rides and is owned and operated by the second and third generation of the Vourderis family. The Wonder Wheel, which is an official New York City landmark, celebrated its 90th birthday last year. A popular spot for engagement photos, the Wheel has a very romantic history: When the park’s founder Denos Vourderis was a hot dog vendor in the 1940s, he promised his sweetheart Lula that he would buy the Wonder Wheel for her as a wedding ring if she would marry him. She said yes and in 1983 when the Wheel was offered for sale, he bought it and built the park around it.

According to the history page on the Wonder Wheel’s site, it was “built in 1920 by the Eccentric Ferris Wheel Company using 100% Bethlehem Steel forged right on the premises. Each year, the entire 400,000 lb. ride is overhauled and painted to protect it from the elements of weather, wear and tear.”

The park’s adult rides include the legendary Spook-A-Rama dark ride, Thunderbolt, Bumper Cars and Tilt-A-Whirl. The Kiddie rides are the Carousel, Herschell Boats, Dizzy Dragons, Pony Carts, Jumping Motorcycles, Sea Serpent Roller Coaster, Mini Enterprise, Free Fall, Red Baron Airplanes, Willie the Whale, Fire Engines, Jets, Flying Elephants, Pirate’s Pond, Big Foot Trucks. Rio Grande Train, and Samba Balloon.

Carousel horse dedicated to Denos Vourderis, founder of Deno's Wonder Wheel Park. Photo © Deno's wonder Wheel Park via flickr

12th STREET AMUSEMENTS

The classic Saturn 6 ride is part of 12th Street Amusements. Photo © Jim McDonnell via smugmug

The Guerrero family’s 12th Street Amusements has 5 adult rides including the Polar Express, Bumper Cars, Saturn 6, Ghost Hole and Virtual Reality. The Saturn 6 is a classic flat ride. “Right now, I believe the only one in existence is at Coney Island,” writes one ride fan on the CoasterBuzz forum. “Some people think the newer Dartron Hurricane’s are the same thing but the Saturn 6 cars are fastened directly to the arm in a manner so as they do not pivot when they are raised. This is one of those rides you can hear from way down the midway. The loud pop of compressed air being released as the arms raise up & down.”

ELDORADO BUMPER CARS

Eldorado

Eldorado Bumper Cars on Surf Avenue. Photo © Jim McDonnell via smugmug

Coney Island’s disco palace of bumper cars, the Eldorado Skooters, is a family owned business at Surf Ave between Stillwell and 12th St.

As we say in the amusement biz, it’s the front of the show that gets the dough! The front of Coney Island’s Eldorado is famed for its lights and signage. On flickr you’ll find dozens of pix of the dazzling theater-style “Eldorado Auto Skooter” marquee and the sassy “BUMP YOUR ASS OFF!” signs by Dreamland Artist Club founder Steve Powers.

The Eldorado was hand built by the Buxbaum and Fitlin families and a carpenter named Rafael, according to Scott Fitlin. It opened on March 21st 1973 and the first record played was “Cisco Kid-War.” The bumper cars are old school Italian-made Soli cars. Stop by the Eldorado this summer to hear the legendary sound system and “Turn that Wheel!”

MCCULLOUGH’S KIDDIE PARK

McCullough's

More Rides at McCullough's Kiddie Park, Coney Island. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

McCullough’s is a family owned park with 12 10 kiddie rides on the Bowery at 12th Street. The rides are the Bumblebeez, Ferris Wheel, Carousel, Swings, Motorcycles, Yellow Submarine, Dizzy Dragons, Himalaya, Ladybug, Frog Hopper, Circus Train and Tug Boat.

According to his interview in the Coney Island History Project’s Oral History Archive, “Jimmy McCullough learned the carousel business from his father, James McCullough, who began his career working on the Steeplechase and Stubbman carousels. Working in Coney Island is a family business going back generations for Jimmy who is a descendent of both the Tilyou and the Stubbman families.”

Bumblebeez

Bumblebeez at McCullough's Kiddie Park, Coney Island. Photo © me-myself-i/Tricia Vita via flickr

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May 29, 2012: Photo Album: Coney Island Lights & Signs of the Times

May 22, 2012: Photo Album: Welcome Back, Paul’s Daughter & Ruby’s Bar!

November 15, 2011: Coney Island 2012: What’s New on the Boardwalk

May 21, 2009: Astroland Closed But Your Kid Can Still Ride the USS Astroland This Summer!

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