Actual Honest-to-God New Rides Coming to Coney in May, New Coasters in 2011

Actual Honest-to-God New Rides Coming to Coney in May, New Coasters in 2011
Photo by Neil deMause

In what's becoming a bit of a Coney Island tradition, City Hall officials shlepped out to Brooklyn in a slushstorm today to make the long-rumored announcement that the Italian firm Zamperla has been tapped to open a new amusement park in Coney to replace the dearly departed Astroland. Actually, two new amusement parks: Luna Park (named in part to honor the classic Coney park that burned down in 1946, and in part because that's what they're all called in Italy) will open on the old Astroland site this summer, and the less-historically-monikered "Scream Zone" will follow in 2011.

"Coney Island is coming back, big time!" declared Mayor Bloomberg at a packed press conference next to the stingray tank at the New York Aquarium. Dead silence. "I hear some cheers out there!" And there was much rejoicing.

If Zamperla's name is familiar, it's probably because you've seen it on the sides of many Coney rides of the past at both Deno's and Astroland, including the Frog Hopper and Tea Cups. (The new parks will technically be run by Central Amusement International, the Zamperla affiliate set up to run the Victorian Gardens each summer at Central Park's Wollman Rink.) Among the details revealed today about the new parks:

  • Luna Park, on the Astroland site, will feature 19 rides, including a "family" (read: kiddie-size) roller coaster, a Mega Disk'O, and a brand-new ride called the "Air Race," which will feature four-seater airplanes swinging around a central "control tower" (read: pole with a glowing globe on top, or maybe King Kong). CAI is also hoping to install an entry gate reminiscent of the famed crescent-moon-themed one that adorned the original Luna Park.
  • The Scream Zone, opening in 2011 on the now-vacant land straddling Stillwell Avenue that was home to go-karts and batting cages until Joe Sitt knocked them down three years ago, will get the big-ticket items: two new roller coasters, new go-karts, and a "human slingshot," described by CAI's David Galst as "two posts on either side, two heavy-duty elastic cords, two people are pulled down in a vehicle all the way to the ground, and launched to the sky, over 200 feet in the air." (Spoiler warning: Probably something like this.)

    Other details are still sketchy — CAI execs gave the distinct impression of either not wanting to tip their hand too soon or having no clue which rides they were going to install just yet — but company vice-president Peter Pelle did promise "no entrance fee and affordable ticket prices," which will no doubt come as a relief to anyone fearing a replication of Victorian Gardens' entry fees. Added Galst: "We will have rides that will flip you, turn you, launch you, drop you, splash you, make the mayor want to lose his lunch."

    Their failure to applaud on cue notwithstanding, elected officials and Coney amusement denizens alike seemed thrilled by the mayor's announcement. City councilmember Domenic Recchia, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, and of course Marty Mark himself were all on hand to officially enthuse. Deno Vourderis, scion of the Deno's Wonder Wheel family, declared himself "ecstatic" at having a new amusement neighbor; Coney Island USA jefe Dick Zigun greeted a Voice reporter with: "Say nice things this time!" Astroland's Carol Hill Albert, who chose not to respond to the city's RFP for a ride operator once she saw the tight timeline and is now once again selling off her inventory, didn't come out for the press event but has previously said she thought Zamperla would do a terrific job as her successor.

    In all, Zamperla has promised to spend $30 million on building its new parks, with the city chipping in about $6.5 million for "infrastructure." (The city will get a rent of $100,000 per year, plus an additional cut of gate receipts.) Zamperla's lease will run for ten years, but presumably the company will be eligible to re-apply for a new lease in 2020 (currently slated to run for 25 more years), assuming its rides prove more popular than the last park that tried to live off of an old Coney park's coattails.

    In other Coney news revealed today, the city says it plans to break ground this fall on both Steeplechase Plaza, the public plaza at the foot of the Parachute Jump that's supposed to be the new home of the B&B Carousell, currently in storage; and on Coney Island Commons, an affordable housing complex and community center in Coney's West End that was originally supposed to be completed last summer, NYC Economic Development Corporation president Seth Pinsky added that he was "optimistic" that Ringling Brothers would be bringing its one-ring circus back to the boardwalk this summer.

    Sadly, no live human Pac-Man. Maybe in 2020.


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