Posts Tagged ‘roller coaster’

Coney Island Skyline

First Tower of Luna Park’s New Thunderbolt Roller Coaster on the Coney Island Skyline. April 23, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

While Coney Island’s amusement parks are already open for fun in the sun on Saturdays and Sundays, these photos provide a glimpse of some of the new construction underway this month. Zamperla’s Thunderbolt roller coaster, which is set to debut on Memorial Day weekend, is rising on the skyline. In the above photo the first tower can be seen alongside the Parachute Jump, SkyCoaster, PTB Bar’s lighthouse and the Boardwalk’s ornamental lamp posts. Isn’t it a beautiful sight?

Here’s a rendering of how the steel coaster will look when completed. The $10 million dollar ride is Coney Island’s first custom-built coaster since the Cyclone debuted in 1927 and is named in honor of the demolished 1925 Thunderbolt.

Thunderbolt Roller Coaster Under Construction

Luna Park’s New Thunderbolt Roller Coaster Under Construction, Coney Island. April 5, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

Luna Park has also built new booths for water race, basketball and balloon games on the Boardwalk next to Scream Zone’s SkyCoaster. The stands will house the first games on the Boardwalk, which historically had arcades and games galore, since Shoot the Freak lost its lease in 2010.

Game booths Coney Island

New game booths under construction on the Boardwalk. April 5, 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

On Friday, ATZ posted photos of two new mom & pop businesses under construction on Surf Avenue and also set to open in May. Lunatic Ice Cream will occupy the former Island Grocery and Luna Park Cafe is across the street from the Cyclone. Next to Stillwell Terminal, a new building is going up to house a Johnny Rockets franchise, but the “Coming Soon” sign may be overly optimistic considering the slow progress of construction at the site. Coming in 2014?


Related posts on ATZ…

April 25, 2014: Under Construction: New Mom & Pops Coming to Coney Island’s Surf Ave

March 10, 2014: High Hopes for Coney Island’s New Thunderbolt Coaster

December 2, 2013: New Construction: Coney Island Area’s 1st Hotel in Decades

September 2, 2013: The New Coney Island: A Tale of Two Jones Walks

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Thunderbolt Roller Coaster

Teens gaze at billboard for Thunderbolt Roller Coaster set to open in Coney Island in May 2014. Photo © Tricia Vita

Coney Island has been home to dozens of roller coasters since the Switchback Railway debuted in 1884 but it’s been a long 87 years since one was custom built for the People’s Playground — the Cyclone in 1927. The fact that Coney has landed on a national list of “Top 5 New Coasters for 2014” is cause for cheers of anticipation. At today’s groundbreaking for Zamperla’s new Thunderbolt steel coaster, slated to open in May in Luna Park, officials expressed high hopes for the 2014 season and the future of a reinvigorated Coney Island.

Mark Treyger, the neighborhood’s new City Councilman said “The Thunderbolt’s arrival is a major addition to the amusement district that will further stimulate and excite our local economy while providing enjoyment to thousands of Coney Island visitors.” Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said the coaster “promises to be an ‘electrifying’ boost to the local economy, all while delighting the young and young at heart.”

Thunderbolt Coney Island

Ground Breaking for Thunderbolt Roller Coaster, Luna Park Coney Island, March 10, 2014. Photo via Luna Park NYC Facebook

The 115-foot tall coaster will reach speeds of 55 miles per hour during a two minute ride that features a 90-degree vertical drop, a 100 foot vertical loop, an 80 foot zero-g roll, a 112 degree over-banked turn, a unique heartline dive, a corkscrew, and several airtime hills, according to the ride manufacturer.

The new $10 million dollar ride is named in honor of the 1925 Thunderbolt, which occupied an adjacent lot on the same block until it was controversially and illegally demolished in 2000 on the orders of Mayor Giuliani. The house under the roller coaster made famous by Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall” was the real life home for 40 years of Mae Timpano. Thanks to the New York Times mention this morning of the new Thunderbolt lacking one feature–a house built beneath it–the obit of the last man who lived there is our top post of the day. Do you think the new Thunderbolt should have a house beneath it like the old one? Maybe an Airstream?

The Thunderbolt will be the third Zamperla coaster in Luna Park to be named after Coney Island attractions of the past. In 2010, their Wild Mouse-style spinning coaster was rechristened “The Tickler” in honor of an innovative 1906 thrill ride in the original Luna Park, after which the park is named. The next year, a Pony Express-themed Motocoaster in Scream Zone was dubbed the Steeplechase Coaster, after Steeplechase Park’s signature horse race ride.


Related posts on ATZ…

February 23, 2014: Sunday Matinee: Under the Roller Coaster (2005)

September 22, 2012: Saturday Matinee: Coney Island’s Mite Mouse Coaster (1992)

April 21, 2012: Saturday Matinee: A Switchback Railway (1898)

April 28, 2010: New Coney Island Coaster Pays Homage to Luna Park’s 1906 Tickler

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Tornado Roller Coaster

Vintage postcard of the 1926 Tornado Roller Coaster, also known as The Bobs, on Stillwell Avenue East, Coney Island

News that the landmark Childs Building on the Boardwalk will be developed into a music venue brings the delightful prospect of Coney’s amusement area extending all the way from 21st Street to the soon-to-be-renovated to the tune of $150 million New York Aquarium on West 8th. An RFP to develop and operate amusements on a narrow City-owned lot at 15th Street makes it likely that Coney Island will get a major roller coaster as well.

The Coney Island Rumor Mill has been saying for months that Luna Park operator and ride manufacturer Zamperla was designing a brand-new coaster for Coney with some claiming to have seen the design. When Italian Wired asked Alberto Zamperla over the summer what his company was secretly working on, he mentioned only a super coaster inspired by the sci-fi Western “Cowboys & Aliens” as well as an interactive water attraction to be built in Coney Island before being sold around the world.

Will the new amusements on 15th Street pay tribute to any of Coney Island’s famed coasters of the past? We’d love to see an homage to the Tornado, aka “The Bobs,” which is pictured above. The 1926 thriller was a complex ride built on a narrow lot on Stillwell Avenue East and had an array of other rides, games, sideshows and restaurants beneath it. What more could we ask for in Coney Island? It’s time to bring out ATZ’s big wish list. This is actually the first of a series of posts since the list is a bit longer than we anticipated!

When a $168 million, 26-acre surf park was planned for Randall’s Island several years ago, our first thought was they should be building it in Coney Island. A year-round surf venue in Coney would attract surfers and spectators, residents and tourists alike. Then the project fell through due to funding problems and technology flaws. Over the past two years, new surf parks and surf pools are once again in the news, thanks to innovations in artificial wave surfing.

Next year, the first indoor surf park in the US will open in Nashua, New Hampshire featuring what American Wave Machine Inc. describes as the world’s largest standing wave surfing machine. The all-season surfing venue will have a retractable glass roof, glass walls for spectator viewing, surfside lounging area and a cafe. Last year in Lima, Peru, the company debuted the world’s first surf arena at La Ola Movistar SurfStream, which visitors from the US in the above vid describe as “The closest thing to surfing outside of the ocean yet. If I was a kid I would not leave this thing.” Promo vids of special events at the arena show world-class surfers competing in contests while rock bands play poolside. Build it and they will come to Coney!

Silverball Pinball Museum

Silverball Pinball Museum Arcade, Asbury Park Boardwalk, NJ. May 1, 2011. Photo © Tricia Vita

Coney Island once had dozens of year-round arcades, now there are just a few open seasonally. Meanwhile in California, Las Vegas, Baltimore, and on the Jersey Shore, pinball museums have become local gathering places and year-round tourist destinations. The Asbury Park Boardwalk is making a comeback and part of the allure is the bells, buzzers and flashing lights of pinball. The Silver Ball Museum Arcade and Pinball Hall of Fame boasts the top 200 machines from the electromechanical wonders of the 1930s and ’40s up to the solid state electronic games of today.

When we visited Silver Ball last year, owner and pinball machine collector Rob Ilvento explained: “Every game you’re playing at the museum was the top game of that year. Six thousand titles were made, like everything else some games are fun some aren’t. If the operators couldn’t make money, the manufacturer would stop making it, so it may make it rare but it doesn’t necessarily make it collectible. The ones that I put in the museum are not only collectible but have a fun factor when you play.”

Signage above the machines narrates the history of pinball and the stories of the individual games. Patrons pay $10 for a one hour pass, $20 to play all day and $25 for a family of six on a Sunday night. The museum also hosts parties, weddings, fundraisers and pinball tournaments.

Coney Island is famous as the place where the hot dog was invented and the roller coaster was perfected. Coney is less well known as the place where William F. Mangels invented the Whip since the ride doesn’t operate here anymore though it thrives elsewhere. The same thing can be said for the game of Fascination and Frozen Custard, among other Coney Island originals. Why not bring them back for people to enjoy once again, perhaps in a special section of the revitalized Coney devoted to historic rides and attractions?

In Margate, England, the Dreamland Trust is creating the world’s first heritage amusement park with a 1914 Whip, a 1920s Caterpillar and other rides collected from around the UK, as well as their park’s original 1920 Scenic Railway, the oldest of its kind in Britain. “Work is now underway to reinstate Dreamland as one of the UK’s best-loved amusement parks with a heritage story to tell,” according to the website of the £10m park, which is funded by Heritage Lottery Fund, the UK government and their local council.

Last year we wrote “Bring Back the Whip! A Birthday Gift for William F Mangels” (ATZ, Feb. 1, 2011), which includes a Whip Census. If you know of any Whips not on the list, please let us know. It’s a shame that Coney Island, where this classic ride was invented in 1914, doesn’t have an operating Whip. If you want to ride it, you’ll have to take a trip to Rye Playland, Knoebels, Kennywood, Cedar Point, Trimper’s or any of the other parks or carnivals listed on ATZ’s Whip Census. The Whip was one of the first and most popular thrill rides. Old timers tell us there used to be quite a few Whips as well as quite a few carousels and roller coasters in good ol’ Coney Island. Wouldn’t it be fitting to have a Mangels Whip installed in Steeplechase Plaza next to Mangels’ B & B Carousell? It’s not in the plans, so we’ll add it to our wish list for 15th Street.

Whip Car

Mackie ‘Rides’ the Vintage Fairy Whip Car at the Coney Island History Project. May 22, 2010. Photo © Coney Island History Project via flickr


Related posts on ATZ…

January 28, 2012: Lost Delights of Coney Island: Frozen Custard

November 29, 2011: Fascination: From Coney Island to Nantasket Beach

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

October 6, 2010: Traveler: Where You Can Play Fascination Year Round

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This rare footage from 1992 is all that remains of the Mite Mouse roller coaster, which was in Coney Island for just a few seasons. Nestled against the Jumbo Jet, seen in the background, the little coaster kept a low profile. When YouTube user swampfoxer posted this video clip of two friends riding the Mite Mouse, he noted that “most people I know that frequent Coney Island never knew it was even there. Guess I picked the lucky year to visit Coney Island.” His footage of the Jumbo Jet, shot the same day, was featured in “Remembering Coney Island’s Jumbo Jet Coaster 1972-2002” (ATZ, April 21, 2011).

The first Mite Mouse came out of the Allan Herschell factory in North Tonawanda, New York, in 1959 and traveled with Conklin Shows. The manufacturer described the ride as “extremely portable and ideal for smaller carnivals and such permanent installations which want a Mouse ride but do not require the larger Mad Mouse.” The Coney Island ride had previously operated at a park in Ocean City, Maryland, where it was called Miller’s Gold Mine.


Related posts on ATZ…

April 21, 2012: Saturday Matinee: A Switchback Railway (1898)

August 16, 2011: Video of the Day: “IT Girl” Clara Bow in Coney Island

March 10, 2011: Video: Seasons of the Cyclone Roller Coaster by Charles Denson

January 5, 2011: ATZ Saturday Matinee: Shorty at Coney Island

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Alberto Zamperla

Alberto Zamperla at Opening of Luna Park Coney Island. May 28, 2010. Photo © Bruce Handy. All Rights Reserved

The July issue of Italian Wired has a feature story on Alberto Zamperla, president and CEO of Antonio Zamperla S.p.A and founder of Coney Island’s Luna Park. “Megagiostre: l’arte di trasformare adrenalina in soldi è italiana.” Translation: “Mega Rides: The art of turning adrenaline into money is Italian.” Two grafs in the article caught our eye. Since the conversation is in Italian, we translated the quotes with the help of Google, Bing and a dictionary. If any of our readers have corrections, let us know.

When reporter Riccardo Meggiato asked Zamperla what his company is secretly working on, he replied: “We plan an interactive water attraction, which will be built in Coney Island in a few days before being sold throughout the world. It’s called Watermania and consists of a madcap monorail in which the occupants can also shoot the water cannons against those who are there to watch.”

It’s not clear if Watermania was planned for this season at the time of the interview, which may have been done months ago. We’d be very surprised to see the ride this summer. Where will it go? With very little space for new rides, the ride will probably replace one of the other rides in Luna Park.

Zamperla also tells Wired that his company is developing a super coaster inspired by the sci-fi Western “Cowboys & Aliens.” In the 2011 movie, a spaceship arrives in the Arizona Territory, where a posse of cowboys and townsfolk do battle with the aliens. The description of the coaster, featuring a dark tunnel where interactive movies are projected and riders blast away at adversaries calls to mind Universal’s Men in Black or Disney’s Buzz Lightyear Ride.

Neither Coney Island nor a time frame for the coaster’s completion are mentioned in regard to the super coaster, but Zamperla’s intention is to have the latest rides that they develop in the park. The Air Race, a prototype designed by Mega Disk’O creator Gianbattista Zambelli made its world debut in Luna Park Coney Island in 2010.

Thanks to Coney Island photographer Bruce Handy for his portrait of Alberto Zamperla at Luna Park.


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January 18, 2013: Coney Island 2013: “Water Mania” Spin Ride to Debut at Luna Park

May 12, 2012: SkyCoaster Under Construction in Coney Island

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

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

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La Marcus Thompson’s Gravity Switchback Pleasure Railway debuted in 1884 in Coney Island on the site where the Cyclone thrills today. Film footage doesn’t exist since the Kinetoscope wasn’t invented until the 1890s, but this documentary short by British filmmaker R.W. Paul shows patrons at an English fairground enjoying a Switchback Railway in 1898. We love the little boy running up to see the coaster and hope that he got a chance to ride!

Thompson’s 1885 patent was titled “A Roller Coasting Structure” and his gravity-powered ride which took its inspiration from a mining railway is known as America’s first roller coaster. In Coney Island, the first cars seated passengers sideways and went 6 miles per hour over 600 feet of undulating track. When people waited on line for up to three hours to ride, a reporter for the New York Sun proclaimed that “Coasting” was all the rage in Coney this season. As for the nickel ride: “It combined the effect of seasickness, imparted by the primeval swing, with the rush of a runaway ice wagon on a down grade; but besides all this there is a feeling of sailing through space which is elsewhere unattainable without the assistance of a balloon.”

By 1888, Thompson had been granted 30 patents and had built at least 20 roller coasters in the U.S. and 24 more abroad including several in the U.K., according to Robert Cartmell’s The Incredible Scream Machine.

Switchback Railway

Engraving of La Marcus Thompson's Switchback Railway in Coney Island on Opening Day, June 13, 1884


Related posts on ATZ…

January 8, 2012: Video of the Day: Coney Island at Night by Edwin S. Porter

August 16, 2011: Video of the Day: “IT Girl” Clara Bow in Coney Island

March 10, 2011: Video: Seasons of the Cyclone Roller Coaster by Charles Denson

January 15, 2011: ATZ Saturday Matinee: Shorty at Coney Island

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Coney Island had a Mardi Gras celebration every September until 1954, but ATZ had no idea that Popeye the Sailor Man and his rival Bluto were once part of it! Many thanks to sideshow historian James Taylor, publisher of Shocked & Amazed! On and Off the Midway, for sharing this fun find.

In this 1935 cartoon, Popeye and Bluto perform duelling sideshow acts against the backdrop of Coney’s rides and amusements. “Oh, I’m King of the Mardi Gras, in fact I’m the whole bloomin’ show,” sings Bluto as he struts onstage in front of his awesome banner line.

I run the whole works here at Coney, What power supreme I enjoy!
Hey, speaking of kings,
I’m one of those things.
In fact I’m the real McCoy!

A few steps away, Popeye blusters on a makeshift stage and steals Bluto’s audience by resorting to dirty tricks.

“So the message is that, if you screw with a guy’s act, you’re the hero of this thing? Jeez,” writes Taylor on the Shocked & Amazed! Facebook page. “Still, how often you get to see Popeye AND sideshow together?” The sideshow acts and roller coaster climax are well worth the price of a ticket.


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February 25, 2012: Video: Happy International Sword Swallowers Day!

January 15, 2011: ATZ Saturday Matinee: Shorty at Coney Island

November 25, 2010: Happy Belated Birthday to Harpo Marx

September 20, 2010: Movie Monday: Teaser Trailers from the Coney Island Film Festival

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