An absolutely dead day at Conneaut Lake (6/27)
This past weekend I managed to catch the special “Mission: Amusement” on the Travel Channel, which was filmed in 2013 at Conneaut Lake Park. The whole theme of the special was the Board of Directors (who I believe were ousted this year) “called in an amusement park expert” to show park manager Lenny Adams how many things need to be done to improve the park. After Lenny’s initial annoyance with the “expert”, he finally gave in and allowed the expert’s team to make some improvements to the park. Those improvements included fresh paint, new signage, sprucing up the main entryway, and a brand-new haunted maze. It all led up to the big “Park after Dark” event, where people actually showed up to the park for once and experienced all the improvements first-hand. The end of the special made it seem like all was right in the world and that Conneaut was still drawing people to the Haunted Hostel maze and the rest of the park in general.
Last season, I visited Conneaut Lake Park the week following the big 2013 Refresh and came away impressed as it seemed like the park was finally headed in a positive direction. Fast forward to June 27, 2014. The bright signage at the front entrance was removed. Including my car, there were 10 cars in the main parking lot. The tubs on the Flying Scooters continue to rust away. The Tilt A Whirl is down for yet another season. The train ride was down. The Music Express didn’t have cars on it. My footsteps could be heard as the park was so quiet. Paint on the midway games buildings was peeling away. And the various areas of rubble (Ultimate Trip building, behind the bumper cars, Toboggan, etc) are still lying in wait in hopes that someone will eventually clean them up.
To be completely honest, this was one of the oddest visits I have ever had to ANY amusement park. Normally when you visit a place like this, there is noise from the crowds and the rides, creating an atmosphere that is vibrant and alive. If you watch my video below, you’ll see quite the opposite. I will be honest, I did go out of my way in certain areas to make the park look bad (the rubble shot for instance), but the empty midways were pretty hard to avoid. With it being a warm, sunny day in late June, I would have expected a few more people in attendance, but no such luck.
I only rode 2 rides while at the park- Devil’s Den and Blue Streak. My first ride on Devil’s Den (which is in the video) was my first ever “lights-on” ride. I am not sure why the lights were on and none of the stunts were working, but it was definitely strange seeing how close the walls are to the car as you zip your way through. My second ride was a traditional lights out ride and if I recall, not all of the gags were working like they were after the big refresh last season.
I also rode the Blue Streak and was the only rider on board. The train is currently missing its last car, leaving the NAD train with 3 cars now. I rode in the front seat and when I was dispatched into the tunnel, I honestly didn’t think I was going to make it to the lift hill. The train CRAWLED through and I really started to freak out thinking that I might get stuck. Thankfully, I made it to the lift and enjoyed a rather rough ride on this classic coaster.
It really is a shame that Conneaut Lake is in such dire shape. It’s also a shame that the locals really don’t care what happens to the place. The park’s setting is wonderful and if it was ever cleaned up, it would probably be a nice place to spend some time. The way the park is now though, I think the few people that do go stay an hour or so and realize that there is nothing else to do and leave.
Oh well, thanks as always for reading and if you haven’t seen my video yet, it’s attached below for your viewing pleasure.
Weird that the new attraction from last year was closed. Do you know if it was just for the day or more permanent? I guess it is good news, though, that Blue Streak, Devil's Den and the tumble bug are even running. The park has been struggling for so long and it seems like we've been predicting its demise every year since I first came here, but at least it has been able to provide some entertainment throughout the past 15 years. You can tell some people really care about the place and want to keep it going, even if it is an incredible uphill battle that I'm sure will eventually be lost.
***It was word play. Eerie is an adjective meaning strange. Erie is the nearby town where Waldameer is located. But they sound the same.
Finally got around to watching the video, Ray. Well done as usual and shows that the park is even more Erie than Waldameer. Get it...eerie/Erie? :) ***
I see what you did there.
Great write-up and video Ray. Always a pleasure. This park will either close or always be hanging by a thread until someone comes in with the financing to really improve things and market it.
I don't see how what they're doing now is sustainable, from a business perspective. They need money, and the what they have just isn't bringing it in.
The park can start - needs to start - with getting the water slides up and running - maybe even adding one would be a prudent investment. That will begin to drive attendance, as the GP loves water.
The Beach Club needs to be resurrected too. Where's the insurance money? That needs to happen as soon as possible. They'll never generate enough revenue with just the rides.
It would be a terrible shame if Conneaut closed its doors for good - a huge loss for us fans.
* This post was modified at 7/21/14 1:40:06 PM *
Coaster to Park Ratio: 4.90 / Steel to Wooden Ratio: 2.55 / Wooden Coaster Percentage: 28.2%
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I've never been to the park but a fellow English enthusiast (Phil Gould) took time out to write about Conneaut Lake and others on his travels in Pennsylvania last year. (Conneaut is on Page 3 of link)
The video helps bring Phil Gould's thoughts about the park alive.
PS: sigh!..What I would give to ride a Tumble Bug again now Blackpool's is no more!
PPS: Horrid nauseous memories of just about enduring a ride similar to Witches Stew in 1970s Southport UK..It was called The Scat..not even a nice name..I was sick for the rest of the day...No, make that 2 days. :-)