Theme Park, Amusement Park and Attractions Industry News

Coney Island Advisory Panel speaks

The recommendations follow three days of workshops and discussions in May focused on branding, marketing, planning and development, and will be used by the New York City to shape and inform development plans.

“With the rezoning of Coney Island underway, we are focused on ensuring that the amusement area is a vibrant and dynamic district for generations to come,” said New York City’s deputy mayor for economic development, Robert C Lieber.

“Coney Island is a brand that means so much to so many, and from what I’ve seen and heard here this week, the private sector believes that the City has put together a plan that will build on the history and enhance one of America’s treasures,” remarked Jim Seay of Premier Rides, and chairman of the Advisory Panel.

The panel released seven guiding principles. A final report of the panel’s findings will be released this summer. In the meantime here are its initial recommendations:

1) Leverage Coney Island’s Brand and its Unique Natural and Historical Assets. The ocean, the beach, the boardwalk and access to the City’s transit system are Coney Island’s greatest assets and draws to visitors. The redevelopment of Coney Island presents an opportunity to create a unique, 21st Century urban seaside amusement park.

2) Honour and Celebrate Coney Island’s History; But Don’t Get Overly Nostalgic. There is no need for a themed park at Coney Island; the site contains enough history that it doesn’t need to be “Disney-fied.” But while honouring and celebrating Coney Island’s history, the plan shouldn’t “get stuck” on preserving the artefacts. Planning and design should focus on enhancing visitors’ experience.

3) Get the Core of Coney Island’s Amusement District Right. A critical component of successful development of the area is the programming of the 12-acre amusement core that faces the boardwalk. When properly programmed, 12-acres is a sufficient space and could contain around 30 major amusements, including thrill rides, coasters and other family attractions. The core should be an “Air-In-The-Face” experience, focusing on speed, thrills and adrenaline.

4) Expand Coney Island’s Seasonal Core Amusement Experience to the Larger, Year-Round Urban Entertainment District. While parts of the amusement district will be seasonal, the Coney Island experience should extend to the 15-acres outside the amusement core, featuring a critical mass of indoor attractions, rides, restaurants and hotels. Big-box and mall retail should not be allowed in the entertainment zone; it will erode the amusement district and dilute the brand. Coney Island should be about the totality of the experience across the district and how the indoor and outdoor areas work together.

5) Coney Island Must Remain Accessible, Open and Affordable. Coney Island should continue to be open and family-friendly. To be successful the area should not be gated, although there are ways to ensure a safe, quality visitor experience through creative operations strategies. Coney Island should not be compared to and will not compete with gated, suburban amusement parks.

6) City Ownership of Coney Island’s Amusement Area is the Important to Move Forward. The City should own the land in the amusement area, but should leave the development and operations to private partners. The continued Balkanization of Coney Island’s amusement area is unsustainable, and the area will best be developed by a single operator/developer.

7) DON’T WAIT. There is Only One Chance to Get this Right. The City should think in terms of phased development of the permanent amusements as the infrastructure allows and as is financially feasible. It should begin with the installation of a major roller coaster followed by additional programming as the infrastructure is built out. The time is now to identify and select a single industry operator/developer to oversee the development. The operator/developer can begin to build permanent amusements and introduce innovative programming before area infrastructure is complete.

New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and the Coney Island Development Corporation (CIDC) convened the Coney Island Amusement Advisory Panel as an independent advisory board comprised of professionals representing a diverse cross-section of the industry.

Members of the panel include Chip Cleary (Parques Reunidos/IAAPA), Jim Pattison (Ripley Entertainment), Tony Catanoso (Steel Pier, Atlantic City), Nikki Nolan (Great Wolf Resorts), David Rockwell (Rockwell Group), Valerio Ferrari (Zamperla USA), Kieran E Burke (Six Flags), Al Weber (Mid Ocean Partners), Will and Jack Morey (The Morey Organization/Morey’s Piers).

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