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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A view of the former Geauga Lake from May 2013

Geauga Lake is exactly the reason why preserving our parks is such an important thing to do. In May 2013 we rode by the park to check it out. The park was open from 1872 to 2007 when the rides area was closed and the focus upon the amusement operations was put upon the water park, Wildwater Kingdom, that replaced the former Sea World. Geauga Lake Park was located in Aurora, east of Cleveland, Ohio. It was always a regional park. Many parks closed around it including Crystal Beach, Erieview which closed in 2006 I believe, Idora Park and others. This once thriving rust belt area lost most of its parks. Geauga Lake remained.

The closure of the park created a huge hole in the community. History repeats itself and it is very close to happening again at Conneaut Lake, another rust belt park. I am contributing a portion of my sales to the restoration of the park and giving away free Blue Streak tickets with each purchase.

The park was owned by the Funtime in the early 90s. In the mid 90s the Funtime Parks went up for sale. These parks included Geauga Lake, the former Wyandot Lake which is now part of Jack Hanna's Columbus Zoo and Darien Lake up in New York near Buffalo. Kennywood Entertainment Company, owners of Kennywood, Idlewild and Lake Compounce were VERY close to pulling of a deal to purchasing the Funtime Parks, but Kieren Burke, then president of Premier and later Six Flags, swooped in and purchased the parks in a last second deal.

The park was steadily expanded and then in 1999 it was decided that the park was going to expand at a huge rate to try to compete with the large tourist destination park, Cedar Point, located about an hour Northwest of the park on Lake Erie in Sandusky. The park added four coasters in one year in the year 2000 including the CCI built Villain wooden roller coaster, the B&M built Batman Knight Flight (later named Dominator) the Intamin built Superman: Ultimate Escape (later named Steel Venom) and a kids coaster. In 2001 Busch, then owners of Sea World approached Six Flags to purchase Geauga Lake because they were trying to de-emphasize the educational aspects of the parks and include amusement rides. Six Flags instead countered to purchase the Sea World Ohio park instead. Six Flags purchased Sea World Ohio across the lake AND built a Vekoma Flying Dutchman coaster named X-Flight. In 2002 attendance steeply dropped and the company found the park to not be sustainable. In 2003, Cedar Fair swooped in and purchased the park at a steep discount. The first move Cedar Fair did was remove the branding names from rides, switching Batman Knight Flight to Dominator, and Superman: Ultimate Escape to Steel Venom, among other name changes. They closed down the animal side of the former Sea World and built a water park. Realizing the park was overbuilt, they sustained the size of the park and began removing some rides in 2006 including sending X-Flight to Kings Island to open there as Firehawk, where it remains today, and Steel Venom was moved to Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom in Allentown and built as Voodoo, where it was later renamed again to Possessed. After the 2007 season, it was announced that the park would close. The Dominator was moved to Kings Dominion where it retained the same name, the Vekoma invert named Thunderhawk was moved to Michigan's Adventure and the Vekoma Boomerang coaster was moved to Carowinds. The remaining rides were auctioned off. Many smaller rides ended up in places all over the country and the remaining coasters were torn down, except for the historic Big Dipper roller coaster that dates back to 1925 and was designed by John Miller. The following photos are what remains.

Here is a pile of rubble. Peaking above and peeking through the trees you see the turnaround for the classic 1925 John Miller creation, the Big Dipper.

 I recall this large pine tree creating some shade on a nice little midway

That tall concrete piling was a footer for either the boomerang or Steel Venom

This is the former ballroom for the park that was converted into storage at some point. A piece of the park's heritage that was already pretty much long forgotten way before the park closed. The park strayed from being a traditional and regional park at some point during the 90s. Six Flags attempted to bite off more than they could chew and put the park in an irrecoverable tail spin. This park is greatly missed. 
 
This is what remained of the Raging Wolf Bobs. It has since been torn down.
More of the Raging Wolf Bobs


This neatly stacked pile of wood is being reused in different places. The wood from the former Hercules at Dorney Park is rumored to have gone to build an Amish barn. This rumor is unconfirmed though. This wood is being used by the park and rides operator and restorer, Adams Amusements. 

This is the former Sky Coaster. It has since been taken down as well. It is creepy because the cables, even though they are rusty, look like they are about to head back down and pick up some more riders. 

This is the view from behind the former river rapids ride.


 The view of the former parking lot and entrance. On the bottom photo you can see the Big Dipper oddly looming over the skyline again. I wish we could see the park start back from scratch as a regional attraction with the Big Dipper and some small rides surrounding it, but I highly doubt that will happen. The community around the park is hurting as a result of this park having gone. We know what kind of power an amusement park has to keep a community together by creating a place to forget about the worries of the world and to make a living. We cannot let Conneaut Lake go out like this. That park closed in 2007, but folks rallied together and were able to resuscitate the park in 2009. Right now an old tax debt is looming over the park and threatens it, even with all of the dedicated folks trying to bring the park back. I have both volunteered and worked to raise the word to help restore the park. Each year the park has taken leaps and strides, but right now the time is critical. I am working to spread the word through my website and Facebook community and also through donating a portion of the funds from my book "Great Pennsylvania Amusement Parks Road Trip." The book is available through the dropdown menu at the top of the page and if you order a book you get the choice of either a free Conneaut Blue Streak or Lakemont Leap the Dips ticket.  





6 comments:

  1. I grew up loving that park since the 1960's. Please bring it back. It is a wonder place for entertainment and provides jobs for adults and young people. It provides work experience and eminence family pleasure. Please, please bring back Geauga Lake Park.

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    1. There is no hope for the park sadly. I was talking to a guy that knows the person who owns The Big Dipper and he said that everything from the buildings to the underground utilities have been completely destroyed to the point that everything and I mean EVERYTHING would have to be fully re-built other than the Bid Dipper which many of the main components have actually (except the cars) have been kept in working condition.

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  3. A rebuild is possible but not likely as the cost would be too high. I feel like if the right team of investors swooped in this park can come back. As much as it is missed, people will come!

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  4. I think everyone who has been involved in getting the petitions signed to bring the park back should try to target investors who could negotiate to buy the property from cedar fair and tell them they want to build condos then after they aquire the property they could start out small and start brining back the park a little each year that would allow them to grow slow to a level that would be manageable, and keep the park a family Park, just a thought, it would also allow the investors to have time to recover some of the money they invest without going way underwater as some of the previous owners have done, and they had to sell

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  5. I think everyone who has been involved in getting the petitions signed to bring the park back should try to target investors who could negotiate to buy the property from cedar fair and tell them they want to build condos then after they aquire the property they could start out small and start brining back the park a little each year that would allow them to grow slow to a level that would be manageable, and keep the park a family Park, just a thought, it would also allow the investors to have time to recover some of the money they invest without going way underwater as some of the previous owners have done, and they had to sell

    ReplyDelete