Sunday, April 22, 2007

Coney Island In Cincinnati

Long before Kings Island in Northern Cincinnati, there was Coney Island, down on the river along Route 52. The park was used in the opening sequence of The Banana Splits Show, as you will see in this video.

I posted this article because this was a part of my childhood and these were great memories.

This is a brief part of an article on the history of Coney Island. The entire article can be read at AppalachianFestival.Org.

In the 1960s, when old and worn facilities and public apathy forced amusement parks across the country into closings because of declining business, Coney Island remained more popular than ever... and yet the end was drawing near. The famous animator Walt Disney visited Coney Island to study the park before building his dream project, a new age "themed" amusement park in California called Disneyland. But if these were exciting and heady times for Coney Island, a foreboding cloud was forming on the horizon – after more than 80 years of operations, Coney Island was, ironically, becoming a victim of its very own success. There was no more room to grow, and the river kept flooding. And the eventual opening of Disneyland in California was taking amusement parks to a different, polished, high-tech "theme park" level. So, in 1968, Coney Island was sold to Cincinnati's Taft Broadcasting Company, who planned to move many of the park's rides and attractions 20 miles north of the Ohio River's waters to Kings Mills, Ohio. The new theme park would be called Kings Island.

In the spring of 1971, Coney Island was opening for its 85th and final season. It was a tremendous year with 2.3 million visitors, many of them coming to Coney to view for the last time an entertainment institution that had meant so much to so many for so long. Thus, the final day of Coney Island, as millions of Midwesterners knew and loved it, was on September 6, 1971. The crowd was gigantic, wall to wall, as if the people turning up in huge numbers somehow thought their presence was going to save the old park from the wrecker's ball. But, inevitably, at the end of that fateful day, as it was reported, "the crowds went home, the workmen went about turning out the lights, and an era came to an end." Some rides were relocated to Kings Island, some sold, some demolished.

Kings Island did indeed open in 1972, and it looked as if the beloved Coney Island on the Ohio River would vanish forever, becoming no more than a childhood memory in the minds of millions of Midwesterners. But Coney Island, as it had so many times in the past, endured yet again by reinventing itself. With a paraphrasing nod to Mark Twain, reports of Coney Island's demise were greatly exaggerated. Though the rides and much of the park had been sorrowfully dismantled around it, Sunlite Pool never did close, staying open each summer. In 1973, the picnic grove re-opened for groups to enjoy, and people came back. In 1974, a beautiful tennis complex was built, which for years would host the Western Open professional tennis tournament until it moved to the Golf Center at Kings Island and renamed the ATP Championship. To the delight of nearly everyone, Moonlite Pavilion -- once home to the Dodgems, Cuddle-Up and The Whip -- opened in 1976 for live entertainment. Today it continues as a popular venue for weddings, private parties, business meetings and Coney's Big Band dances.

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