New coaster, flume, and more opening at Coney Island
Luna Park to welcome Tony’s Express and Leti’s Treasure
Also in this edition (at the bottom): See me fulfill a lifelong dream and operate a roller coaster! And, read about my guest appearance on the CoasterRadio.com podcast.
The amusement area at Brooklyn’s fabled Coney Island continues to expand. Luna Park announced that it will be opening three new attractions this summer, bringing additional fun and energy to the seaside boardwalk.
The headliners will be Tony’s Express, a junior roller coaster, and Leti’s Treasure, a “Super Flume” boat ride. The two attractions, which will intertwine with one another, will be located in a previously undeveloped parcel between the classic B&B Carousell (and no, that is not a misspelling; that has been the name of the lovely merry-go-round since 1906), the decommissioned Parachute Jump, and the Thunderbolt coaster. The site has been empty for more than four decades,
The rides, which visitors will access by passing through an evocative archway that recalls Coney Island’s original Luna Park (which operated from 1903 to 1944), will line the boardwalk and should be quite a sight.
The custom junior coaster will climb about 50 feet and reach a top speed of somewhere between 30 and 40 mph. Although the park has not posted any height requirements yet, the relatively mild ride should be accessible to a wide audience, including young children.
Its stylized, retro trains and cars will recall vintage coasters that once graced Coney Island such as the Gravity Pleasure Switch Back Railway that LaMarcus Thompson, the “father of the American roller coaster,” created in 1884. One of the earliest thrill machines, it helped kick off the coaster craze that continues unabated.
The flume ride will feature 12 large boat vehicles, each capable of accommodating six passengers. They will be lifted into the air and encircle the coaster while providing a view of the famous beach. For the finale, the passengers will climb 40 feet and plunge down a partially enclosed tube into a splashdown pool.
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The names, Tony’s Express and Leti’s Treasure, pay homage to Antonio and Letizia Zamperla, the grandparents of Alessandro Zamperla, the park’s president and CEO. The family has been in the entertainment and amusement industries for a number of generations. Antonio led the Italy-based Zamperla company for many years, and his wife, Letizia, worked alongside him.
“We are honored to names the two rides after my grandparents,” says Alessandro. “There is an emotional attachment and meaning. It is a symbol of our passion, commitment, and legacy in the amusement industry.”
Zamperla, though its subsidiary, Central Amusement International Inc., operates Luna Park in Coney Island, and the amusement company provides all of its rides and attractions, including the new coaster and flume. The arrangement is something of a throwback to the early days of Coney Island when it was the epicenter of the amusement industry. Brooklyn-based ride manufacturers would showcase their rides at the boardwalk amusement area before selling them to other operators across the country and around the world. Today, Zamperla often debuts its latest ride concepts at Luna Park. Leti’s Treasure represents the first Super Flume, a new model from the company.
A third attraction, the Sky Chaser ropes course, will also debut this summer. The 50-foot-tall structure will invite guests to strap in and navigate its obstacle course. It will be located on a former public street that the city has tuned over to the amusement district.
Parts of two additional public roads will be closed to traffic and added to the district. All told, the newly developed parcels will represent a 50% increase in Luna Park’s footprint according to company officials.
“After the pandemic, people want and need to have fun at a great place like Coney Island,” Alessandro says. “This is a great place to be.” He adds that the compact park may be running out of space in which to expand. But future plans call for the removal of its go-karts which would free up space for new attractions.
Coney Island, which had seen its fortunes ebb from its heyday in the early 20th century, is now on the upswing. The two major amusement operators, Luna Park and Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, have been reinvesting and introducing exciting new attractions. Last year, Deno’s introduced Phoenix, a wonderful suspended, family thrill coaster. During its debut season, the park invited me to fulfill a childhood dream of operating a coaster. My son, noted filmmaker Jeremy Levine, captured my adventure and created a video.
When was the last time you visited Coney Island? Might you make a trek this year?
Mike Collins and E.B., the funny, informative, affable, and gracious hosts of the CoasterRadio.com podcast (the original theme park podcast, as they are fond of pointing out) invited me as a guest on their most recent episode. As usual, we had a ball talking about parks and attractions, including my takes on some of this year’s new rides such as Iron Gwazi at Busch Gardens Tampa, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind at Epcot, and Ice Breaker at SeaWorld Orlando. I also shared the news about my new Substack newsletter, “Arthur’s About Theme Parks.”
If you aren’t familiar with the podcast, you should give it a whirl. I’ve been regularly listening to Mike and E.B. since their first episode way back in 2005 (when podcasts were something of a newfangled curiosity). They strike a great tone, providing plenty of laughs and a bit of irreverence, but also giving the topic great respect. Mike and E.B. clearly love the industry. And with their production and broadcasting backgrounds, they approach the entertaining podcast with careful attention.
You can find CoasterRadio.com wherever you get your podcasts. Or you could listen online to my guest starring episode here.
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Last time I visited Coney Island it was off season and the only thing open was Nathan's Hot Dogs... Sounds like a couple of great reasons to plan another trip to New York