January 22, 2010
By Andy Campbell, The Brooklyn Paper
Coney Island’s going back to the big time, as the city announced on Wednesday that the amusement wizards behind the popular Victorian Gardens theme park will begin running an amusement park by the Boardwalk this summer.
Zamperla, an Italy-based manufacturer of amusement park rides that has also gotten into the theme park business with its popular attraction in Manhattan’s Central Park every summer, has won the city contract for an unspecified, but up to 10-year, run as the faded funhouse’s newest, biggest draw.
The contract comes with big expectations: the Economic Development Corporation has a much broader vision of a revived Coney Island that will see the former People’s Playground transformed into a 24-7, all-year entertainment, amusement, games and retail zone — one that will take at least a decade to realize.
Until that Xanadu can be built, Zamperla will bring in its rides — though the actual amusements remain undecided — and begin operating by this summer.
“We’re excited,” said EDC spokesman Dave Lombino. “But we can’t comment on the rides or the selection process until the agreement is finalized.”
Though details remain sketchy, the EDC did require all would-be interim operators to provide an “open and affordable” pay-as-you-go experience in Coney. Zamperla’s track record in that area includes Victorian Gardens operation, which offers all-day unlimited rides for $21.50 that has proven very popular.
“Zamperland” in Coney Island will eventually operate on all three parcels of land between the former Astroland site and Keyspan Park that the city bought from major Coney landowner Joe Sitt last year — though only the Astroland plot — at Surf Avenue and West 10th Street — is required to be ready by this summer.
Astroland’s former owner Carol Albert, who initially hoped to bid for the interim amusement park, said the announcement of Zamperla’s winning bid was bittersweet.
“Reluctantly, we pulled out at the last minute because we could not possibly put [a proposal] together in the six weeks that the [EDC] required,” said Albert, who sold her land to Sitt in 2006 and ran her park as a renter until 2008. “But Zamperla will provide great rides and a beautiful experience like they did with Victorian Gardens.”
The city plans to spend $2.2 million, mostly to bring in electrical generators and portable toilets, though Zamperla is expected to build permanent restrooms and take over the electric bill in future years.