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March 25, 2005

Historic Starliner Roller Coaster To Be Relocated

Valdosta, GA -- The fate of the Starliner roller coaster has been secured, as Adventure Parks Group, steps up to preserve yet another piece of amusement park history. The historic Panama City Beach coaster will be carefully dismantled starting this month and then make its new home at either Cypress Gardens Adventure Park in Winter Haven, FL or Wild Adventures theme park in Valdosta, GA sometime in 2006.

"We're pleased to be able to add the Starliner to our ride line-up," says Kent Buescher, President/CEO of Adventure Parks Group. "Aside from its historical significance, the coaster is a classic wooden ride that will appeal to a broad range of ages, making it a perfect fit for either one of our family-oriented parks."

The Starliner rates a page in several different history books. As far as tourism is concerned, it was the first major roller coaster of its kind built in the state of Florida and was the only wooden coaster in operation in the state for many years. It was also a significant attraction for Panama City Beach in the 60's and 70's, helping that area become the tourist destination it is today. The Starliner also has a place in roller coaster history as one of less than a dozen coasters designed by John Allen that are still operating. John Allen was a famed roller coaster designer and builder whom many consider to be the influencing force of the way coasters are designed today. He designed coasters for the famed Philadelphia Toboggan Company, the oldest existing manufacturer of wood coasters and their trains.

The Starliner first graced the sand of Panama City Beach in 1963, when Jimmy Lark, a local construction businessman, purchased and erected the coaster. At the time it towered over a fairly bare landscape of sand dunes and a few tourist courts-clusters of cottages rented out to visitors. Lark charged 25 cents a ride and the Starliner was an instant hit. The following year, Lark added a few more rides and Miracle Strip Amusement Park was born. The Starliner was the main attraction of the Miracle Strip Amusement Park until it closed in September of 2004.

"I continue to receive emails and phone calls about the fate of the Starliner. Some from former customers who are only ten-years old, others have ten-year old grandchildren, all yearning for one more ride on the Starliner," says Buddy Wilkes, former manager of Miracle Strip Park. "It's going to be fantastic to tell them she'll soon have a new home and will be ready to take them for another exciting trip around the tracks."

Buescher purchased another Florida first last year, the historic Cypress Gardens. Florida's first theme park went dark in April of 2003 but reopened as Cypress Gardens Adventure Park in December of 2004 after undergoing massive restoration and additions. 39 rides were added to the park, as well as a water park that is currently under construction and slated to open in June. He started his venture into the amusement park business with Wild Adventures Theme Park in Valdosta, Georgia. Wild Adventures opened in 1997 quickly grew into one of the top fifty parks in North America.

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