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Park Profile

MarineLand Canadian park celebrates half-century

Thrill rides and sea life? John Holer’s MarineLand might not be the only venue that mixes animals with amusements but he’s been doing it longer than most – and it works. Gary Kyriazi discovers a winning combination in Niagara Falls, Canada

If 75-year-old John Holer is crazy, he’s crazy like a fox. What he’s been doing with MarineLand for the past 50 years continues to work well, defying the standard rules of the amusement industry. One rule, however, has always guided him: being passionate about what he does. “From the start,” he points out, “my vision for MarineLand was to create a place where people would be able to get as close to animals as possible. People


eople think I’m crazy,” John Holer advised me with a dismissive shrug, “but I don’t care what people think. I know what I’m doing.”

are fascinated by animals and have a great desire to learn about them.” Okay, that’s not so unusual. Many people share

Holer’s passion, and the success of the many marine parks around the world has proven this. MarineLand of Florida was the first of the large sea life parks when it opened in 1938, and MarineLand Of The Pacific in Southern California opened in 1954 as the largest oceanarium in the world, its success aided in no small way by the opening of nearby Disneyland the following year. The non-zoo-like, close-up environment of these sea life parks set the stage for the various Marine Worlds, Sea Worlds and wild animal parks that would mirror the theme park rush of the 1960s. So what makes Holer’s MarineLand stand out? He added thrill rides.

What? Thrill rides in an animal park? That’s breaking an amusement industry rule. Thrill rides belong in an amusement park, animals belong in an animal park. (Interestingly, America’s first enclosed amusement park, 1895’s Sea Lion Park at Coney Island, was in fact a sea life attraction with thrill rides – including the first Shoot-the-Chute and America’s first loop coaster, the Flip-Flap – but when it morphed into the legendary Luna Park in 1904, the animal acts were through.)

Animal Attraction John Holer with the park’s Topple Tower in the background OCTOBER 2011

I reacted to the animal/thrill ride mix as the rest of the industry did when, in 1981, I joined the Arrow Development Company, which at that time was Arrow Huss. Holer had just signed a contract for what would be the world’s longest steel coaster at 5,500 feet long. After I shook off the incongruity of such a ride at an animal park – after all, a sale is a sale – I visited John at his beautiful park and he walked me around the proposed coaster’s route. “You see, my park is a family park,” he explained with his usual passion, “and I don’t want to separate


MarineLand rides

•Dragon Mountain Roller Coaster (Arrow Looping Coaster) •Ocean Odyssey (Zierer Flying Fish) •Topple Tower (Huss) •Bumble Bee (Huss Air Boats) •Orca Screamer (Zierer Famiy Free Fall)

•Viking Adventure (Zierer Kontiki) •Sky Screamer (S&S Power Combo Triple Tower) •Kandu’s Twister (Mack Teacup) •Tivoli Wheel (Zierer Ferris Wheel) •Boat Carousel (Zierer Dragon Boats) Lady Bug Coaster (Zierer Tivoli) •Space Avenger (Zamperla Top Gun) •Wave Swinger (Zierer) •Hurricane Cove (Mack Sea Storm)

•Sky Hawk (Huss Condor) •Flying Dragon (Zierer Suspended Flying Carpet)

•Magic Experience (Huss Magic)

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