Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Blast From The Past - The Rise and Fall of the Idora Wildcat Pt 2

On April 26th 1984 a devastating fire destroyed the Wildcat, the Lost River, eleven concession stands, and the park office. Some employees tried to save the parks records and while some of the newer files were saved, all of the older files and historical records were all lost.

It later determined that sparks or the heat from a welding torch most likely ignited some leaves on the roof or the roof of the Lost River.The Lost River was next located next to the Wildcat and the fire quickly spread to the coaster. The wind caused the flames to spread to the concession stands and on to the midway. The flames spread along the Wildcats wooden tracks and threatened the merry-go-round.

The merry-go-round was scorched, but saved from destruction. Employees tried in vain to douse the flames with hand fire extinguishers, but the blaze was soon an inferno. In all twelve fire departments responded, with many off-duty firefighters also battling the fire.

The lack of in-park hydrants, poor water pressure, and aged wooden rides and buildings only added to “fuel to the fire." The blaze was finally controlled by running hoses to hydrants outside the park. The damage to the park was estimated to be in millions, with the Wildcats damage alone almost $1.5 million. The Wildcat was Idora's biggest attraction and the park owners acknowledged its loss was disastrous.

Idora did operate through the summer, but without the Wildcat its fate was sealed. On September 16th 1984 the park closed and on October 20th, a two day auction was held to sell off the remains of Idora Park.

Prior to the park's closure, Idora was among one of the nation's few remaining urban amusement parks. But, the story doesn't end here. For over 17 years what was left of the Wildcat and the rest of Idora slowly rotted away.

Every couple years there would be talk of rebuilding the coasters and re-opening the park. But nothing ever seemed to come of it and in truth most of the talk was just wishful thinking.

In 2000, a church group bought the property and again there was some talk of re-opening the park. Or, perhaps a picnic grounds with rides. Again, this was purely speculation. On July 26th 2001 all of the speculation came to an end, when the parts of the park that were not destroyed by fire were finally demolished.

The Wildcat was always very popular with the locals and many enthusiasts considered it a classic. In fact the year it burnt, the Wild Cat was still ranked among the top ten roller coasters in the world.

Unfortunately, we never got to ride the Wildcat, or visit Idora when the park was open. Our first in person look at the park was a few weeks before it was bulldozed and our last look at the park was shortly after it was razed.