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Coney Island of the West


The unlikely return of Pacific Park


With the area’s troubled history of California’s


coastline parks going out of business and a lack of faith in the concept from local authorities, a successful


return for Santa Monica’s Pacific Park was by no


means a given. Gary Kyriazi fired some questions at the parks’ vice-president Jeff Klocke to find out how it managed to defy the odds…


I


n Southern California in 1900, a plethora of amusements began to grow, with one amusement park and/or pier after another opening along the 30-mile coastline between Santa Monica and Long Beach. This amusement mecca eventually, and appropriately, was


referred to as the “Coney Island Of The West.” Unfortunately, as was often the case with the great American amusement parks, they eventually all disappeared: most of them went bankrupt, while others' leases were not renewed by their cities of Santa Monica, Venice, or Long Beach, citing the need to “clean up the 'carny atmosphere' of the piers and their amusements.” Still others burned down in the days of lath, plaster of Paris, and minimal fire codes. While the Santa Monica Pier remains standing, its amusements (other than Charles Loof's 1916 carousel, operating to this day) were removed in 1930, making it one of the earliest of the oceanside casualties. The two parks that managed to hang on the longest were Pacific Ocean Park in Santa Monica, and the Long Beach Pike, closing in 1967 and 1975 respectively. The former went bankrupt, and the latter was taken over by the city of Long Beach, which removed the amusements in favor of the Queen Mary, Howard Hughes' Spruce Goose, and new restaurants and shops.


So when Pacific Park opened on the Santa Monica Pier in May 25, 1996, it was a return, however abbreviated, of “Coney Island Of The West.” Amidst a very positive flurry of “Welcome Back!”, many in the amusement industry wondered if the return of an ocean pier amusement park in Southern California would succeed. After all, the history of Southern California piers and parks deemed otherwise. To that end, Park World recently spoke with Jeff Klocke, president and manager of Pacific Park.


vice- 46


Pacific Park hit its 20th year last year, and it has been a modern amusement park success story, a return to the glory days of Southern California oceanside amusement parks. Was there ever any doubt or concern about Pacific Park's success when it opened in 1996? Pacific Park has worked closely with the City of Santa Monica and the community since its opening in May 1996, becoming the first amusement park on the Santa Monica Pier since the 1930s. The management team at the time was committed to making a success of the two-acre amusement Park that anchors the seven-acre Pier with its nine-story tall Pacific Wheel Ferris wheel along with 12 rides, 14 midway games, an over the ocean food plaza and beachside retail. Pacific Park is the first and continues to be the only admission- free amusement park in Los Angeles that helps attract more than 8 million visitors annually to the Pier and we look forward to celebrating another 20 years and more with everyone that visits.


The City of Santa Monica has mandated a 12- ride limit for Pacific Park. And of course, you have the space limit given the finite size of the Pier, particularly in the ride area. Other than space, what challenges has Pacific Park had in its past 20 years of operation? We work really hard with the City of Santa Monica and the Santa Monica Pier Tenant Association to maximise our efforts and mitigate any challenges. It’s a real group approach that keeps major challenges in check. For Pacific Park specifically, our challenges have included acquiring talented staff and increased government regulations; parking, traffic and access; and unforeseen or abnormal weather conditions.


APRIL 2017


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