Conneaut Lake Park

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Conneaut Lake Park
CLP W Logo.png
Slogan"A traditional amusement resort with something for everyone!" and "Where the past becomes the future"
LocationConneaut Lake, Pennsylvania, United States
Coordinates41°38′08″N 80°18′54″W / 41.63556°N 80.315°W / 41.63556; -80.315Coordinates: 41°38′08″N 80°18′54″W / 41.63556°N 80.315°W / 41.63556; -80.315
OwnerTrustees of Conneaut Lake Park, Inc.
Opened1892
Previous namesExposition Park
Operating seasonMay to September
Area200 acres (0.81 km2)
Rides
Total29
Roller coasters3
Websitehttp://www.conneautlakepark.com/
 
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Conneaut Lake Park
CLP W Logo.png
Slogan"A traditional amusement resort with something for everyone!" and "Where the past becomes the future"
LocationConneaut Lake, Pennsylvania, United States
Coordinates41°38′08″N 80°18′54″W / 41.63556°N 80.315°W / 41.63556; -80.315Coordinates: 41°38′08″N 80°18′54″W / 41.63556°N 80.315°W / 41.63556; -80.315
OwnerTrustees of Conneaut Lake Park, Inc.
Opened1892
Previous namesExposition Park
Operating seasonMay to September
Area200 acres (0.81 km2)
Rides
Total29
Roller coasters3
Websitehttp://www.conneautlakepark.com/

Conneaut Lake Park is a summer amusement resort, located in Conneaut Lake, Pennsylvania, USA. It has long served as a regional tourist destination, and is loved by roller coaster enthusiasts for its classic Blue Streak coaster, which was recently classified as "historic" by the group American Coaster Enthusiasts.[1] Conneaut Lake is Pennsylvania's largest natural (glacier) lake[2] and is a popular summer resort for recreational boaters due to there being no horsepower limit on the lake.[3]

History[edit]

Exposition Park[edit]

Conneaut Lake Park was founded in 1892 as Exposition Park by Col. Frank Mantor as a permanent fairground and exposition for livestock, machinery, and industrial products from Western Pennsylvania. Prior to this time, 7 acres of land on which the park is located were purchased in 1877 by Aaron Lynce for use as a boat landing. Col. Mantor's company, the Conneaut Lake Exposition Company, purchased an additional 175 acres of adjacent land, 75 of which were given to Mr. Lynce as payment for his parcel.[4]

During its early years, buildings at Exposition Park included a dance hall, a convention hall (for lectures), and a bathhouse. Several of the structures from Lynce's landing were also retained as well as a farmhouse on the property that was converted to a hotel. The park's first mechanical ride, a carousel, opened in 1899, and was soon joined by other rides and a midway.

Ownership of the park transferred to the Pittsburgh & Shenango Valley Railroad in 1901, during which time several hotels were built on the property. Originally accessible only by boat or train, trolley service was extended to the park in 1907. With its lakefront presence, hotels, and remote location, the park became a popular resort destination.[4] Although many of the park's original buildings were lost in a 1908 fire, new concrete block replacements were constructed, including the Dreamland Ballroom.

Name change and growth[edit]

The park was renamed "Conneaut Lake Park" in 1920 to reflect a move toward more amusements and rides. Rides added over these years included a Tumble Bug, bumper car ride, and a Figure Eight roller coaster (later renamed The Jack Rabbit). In 1938, the park's signature roller coaster, The Blue Streak, was added.

In 1943, a large portion of the Hotel Conneaut was destroyed in a fire. The ghost of Elizabeth, a bride who supposedly died in the fire, is said to now haunt the hotel.

Facing competition from corporate-owned theme parks, the park added a jungle cruise ride and other new attractions in the 1960s. As trolley service had been discontinued, the park's management began to focus on directing automobile traffic to the park.[4] "Fairyland Forest," a walk-through attraction, was constructed across the highway from the park's main entrance. Using a combination of fairy tale characters and animals to help attract families and appeal to young children, many similar attractions existed across the country at that time. Although popular, the area eventually fell into neglect and closed in 1985 and was replaced with Camperland in 1986.

Ownership changes and decline[edit]

By the 1990s, a series of ownership changes had taken their toll on the park. A 1974 takeover of the park by Dr. John and Mary Gene Winslow Flynn had saddled the park with $750,000 in debt and expansion slowed. Charles Flynn, long-time associate of New York City mayor Ed Koch and son of Dr. John and Mary Gene decided to leave politics and become actively involved in the family business. Initially this change in management was able to invigorate the park. In the early 1980s, rides such as the Paratrooper and Yo-Yo were added. The waterfront was improved. Along the park's midway, a waterslide tower was added and proved popular.

For most of its history, Conneaut Lake Park functioned as a real-life community within an amusement park, as local traffic and waterfront cottages were interspersed with the amusement rides. Park Avenue and Comstock Street, the park's main walking paths, were shared by both patrons and vehicles alike. Although bothersome at times, locals were proud of this arrangement's unique appeal.[4] In an effort to remain competitive, the decision was made to enclose the park for the 1990 season. For the first time in its long history, admission would be charged. In a letter to customers explaining the changes, Flynn stated, "Traditional parks are dropping like flies and it's time we all realize that we have to take steps now and save our park before its too late to do anything about it."[4]

The new gated park format, coupled with a rainy summer, led to a decline in attendance. In an effort to raise capital, several rides were sold off. After another disastrous season, a decision was announced: the park, with the exception of the water park, would be leveled and a new family entertainment complex would be built on the property. The new family entertainment complex would focus on special events, concerts, group picnics, and non-ride activities, such as batting cages, mazes, and sports activities. The Blue Streak rollercoaster, which required an estimated $100,000 in repairs, would be scrapped.[4]

As the park's rides were auctioned off, a group of four local businessmen made a concerted effort to purchase as many of them as possible. This group went on to purchase the park from the Flynn family in an attempt to preserve it as a traditional amusement park. Although nearly $1 million was spent in upgrading and refurbishing the park, attendance continued to dwindle, in part due to a public perception that the park had closed altogether.[4]

In 1995, the owner's filed for bankruptcy and the park did not open. However, by the 1996 season, a group called Summer Resorts, Inc., under the leadership of Gary Harris, completed a purchase of the park. Although Harris arrived at Conneaut Lake with a history of criminal charges, residents were optimistic that the park could be saved under his leadership.[5] The park reopened on July 4, 1996, but new problems arose in 1997 when Harris was convicted of tax evasion. To help extricate himself from his legal difficulties, Harris gave the debt-ridden park to the Conneaut Lake community in 1997, but later filed a lawsuit claiming that he held a 99–year lease on the park grounds and retained ownership of several rides.[6] When that lawsuit was lost in 2001, ownership reverted to a court-appointed trustee.[7]

Early 2000s and rebirth[edit]

The park began the new century under the oversight of a not-for-profit corporation, The Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park. During this time, the park experienced a renewed interest, driven in part by roller coaster and amusement park enthusiast groups. Several of the park's rides, including the Devil's Den and Blue Streak Roller Coaster, were repaired by volunteers. In August 2010, the park received $50,000 in funds from a contest sponsored by Pepsi for use in restoring the Blue Streak.

Unfortunately, this era was not without its share of difficulties. Several fires destroyed buildings on the property, including a 2008 fire that destroyed the Dreamland Ballroom [8] and a fire on August 1, 2013 that destroyed the dockside restaurant and the beach front building.[9][10]

Partial historical timeline[edit]

Current roller coasters and attractions[edit]

Roller CoasterYear InstalledDescription
Blue Streak1938An Edward Vettel wooden coaster that still utilizes its original rolling stock and braking system. It is the only Vettel shallow track design still standing, and is the sixth oldest wooden coaster in the country.[15] The park replaced the coaster's original trains with new Century Flyer built by National Amusements Devices in 1966. The original lighter trains were rebuilt and placed back in the ride in 2002 to reduce maintenance costs. The park is currently running the NAD trains due to insurance demands and costs to retrofit the original trains with modern restraints.
Little Dipper1950sAn Allan Herschell kiddie coaster that still has its original cars.
Toboggan (SBNO)2002A Chance portable roller coaster type ride (Currently SBNO)

Other attractions at the park include:

NameTypeYear Installed
ParatrooperFrank Hrubetz & Co., Inc.1960s
Flying ScootersBish-Rocco flying ride1997
DodgemsReverchon Bumper Cars1937
Tilt-A-WhirlSellner Tilt-A-Whirl1949
Tumble BugHarry Traver and Co.1925
Bessemer Railway SystemAllan Herschell, Miniature Train ride1923
Musik ExpressMajestic Manufacturing2002
CarouselMuller1910
TrabantChance-Morgan1997
Witch's StewWatkins2001
Devil's DenPretzel Manufacturing1968
Hostile HostelWalk Through Dark Ride2013
Waterslide (SBNO)Water Ride1986
Mini Water Slide (SBNO)Water Ride1991
Lazy River (SBNO)Water Ride1991

Kiddieland[edit]

There are 13 rides in Kiddieland.

The following rides are in kiddieland:

Ride Name
Boats
Kiddie Carousel
Dune Buggy
Jeeps
Little Dipper
Pony Parade
Saturn Shuttle
Tot-Gun
Tubs of Fun
Turtle
Kiddieland Pony Rides
Jolly Catapillar
Hot Pursuit

Gallery[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ WFMJ news
  2. ^ Visitpa.com
  3. ^ Pymatuning Lake Association
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Futrell, Jim (2002). Amusement Parks of Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books. pp. 79–92. ISBN 0-8117-2671-1. 
  5. ^ "Felon Buys Conneaut Lake Park". Observer Reporter. 3 July 1996. 
  6. ^ Simonich, Milan (16 February 2003). "Conneaut Lake Park may have to close over ownership lawsuit". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 
  7. ^ Ove, Torsten (21 July 2004). "Former Conneaut Lake Park owner returning to prison". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 
  8. ^ a b GoErie.com
  9. ^ a b Tully, Jessica (August 1, 2013). "Conneaut Lake Park restaurant, beach club destroyed in fire". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved August 1, 2013. 
  10. ^ a b "Fire Destroys Building at Conneaut Lake Park". Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. Retrieved August 1, 2013. 
  11. ^ a b http://rcdb.com/1670.htm
  12. ^ Meadville Tribune
  13. ^ http://www.conneautlakepark.com/events.html
  14. ^ http://www.meadvilletribune.com/local/x1783698434/Fest-organizers-want-county-tax-sale-delayed
  15. ^ Pittsburgh Live.com

External links[edit]