Monday, October 4, 2010

Starliner to Return to Miracle Strip at Pier Park

© Carol Holmes
The Starliner wooden roller coaster will be making a return trip to Panama City, Florida, after a four year stay in Winter Haven at Cypress Gardens.  The operators of the new Miracle Strip at Pier Park have purchased the ride and are starting efforts to get the coaster rebuilt.  The estimated cost of rebuilding the coaster sits at around $2 million, and it is hoped it can see a 2012 reopening.

This past March the 'new' Miracle Strip Amusement Park reopened at Pier Park, which is a large shopping and entertainment center near the beach in Panama City.  The park features four rides purchased and restored from the original Miracle Strip:  a 1964 Allen Herschell Carousel, 1958 Red Baron, 1985 Balloon Race, and a 1975 Eli Bridge Ferris Wheel.


Here's a shot of the new park after it reopened (more photos).  The busy location it sits in seems to have made it an early success, though the addition of the coaster is still a very large project for the park.

According to Miracle Strip they have already mapped out three possible locations for the coaster, all of which are located on the West edge of the property, near the ocean.  The development is huge, and while the aerials aren't fully updated you can get a feel for it by checking out this map.  The amusement park is located in the center of the development:

The large undeveloped section next to the park in the above photo was converted into a white sand beach this past summer.  That area will serve as a relaxing space to hold festivals and other events, which are common at Pier Park.  To me the proposed location of the coaster at the West end, by the beach and pier, means that it won't sit next to the amusement park.  That could hurt or benefit the ride; being near the beach would mean even more traffic from those out for a day of fun and sun.

As for getting the Starliner operating again, the owners of the park have launched a campaign to win $250,000 from the Pepsi Refresh Everything program, much like Conneaut Lake Park's Blue Streak did.  The idea is up for voting this month.  The plan needs more funding for that, but it's a start.

The coaster is a classic John Allen design, originally opening in 1963.  It closed in 2004 when the original Miracle Strip ceased operations.  It was then rebuilt and opened in 2007 at Cypress Gardens, but closed the following year.  It is now in storage, awaiting its trip back to Panama City.


Chris said...

Wow, thanks for the visual! While you didn't mention it in the post, you sort of called this one about a year ago once we heard Legoland was selling the coasters. The building at the top is a movie theater, and to the right is a JCPenney. Pier Park is a very large outdoor shopping mall, and it goes all the way out to the beach which is where they are planning to put the coaster. In other words, there will be many mall type stores/restaurants (mostly touristy restaurants e.g., Margaritaville) between the coaster and the rest of the park rides. I don't think that is necessarily a bad thing, as having the coaster too far from the beach is going to limit people who don't want to commit their beach time to a whole park from riding (Hard Rock Park learned that lesson the hard way!). It would be right across the street from Margaritaville and a Caribbean themed restaurant, both with outdoor seating areas. When I see the plans, I'm thinking this will be an awesome beach front location that would rival the Giant Dipper on the left coast.

NewsPlusNotes said...

Isn't Landry's in Texas kinda like this, shopping and entertainment with rides thrown in? It seems like such a smart development in warm weather areas.

I wish I could open one!