The new era at Conneaut Lake Park begins today.
The fabled amusement park on the western shore of Conneaut Lake will open for its 2021 season at 11 a.m. under new private ownership — the first time it's been open since the 2019 summer season, after it was sidelined in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Todd Joseph of Keldon Holdings LLC bought the park and its assets from Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park for $1.2 million in cash in a U.S. Bankruptcy Court-approved sale on March 2. Trustees is the nonprofit corporation that oversaw operations of the park.
Joseph purchased the amusement park and its rides, water park, beach area, water system, Hotel Conneaut, Camperland campground and any active leases on assets such as the hotel and the water system.
Work on getting the park ready to open has been ongoing since Joseph and Keldon took over ownership in March, according to Jaclyn McCoy, the park's general manager.
Initially, the park was going to open on Memorial Day weekend — its traditional opening weekend — but that was pushed back until the July 4 weekend due to the amount of preparation work necessary.
"We're trying to do years worth of work in only four months," McCoy said in an interview with the Tribune this week. "We're getting things ready, but it's still a work in progress."
Some leased rides not owned by the park were removed and others brought in while still others have been refurbished and their buildings repainted.
McCoy stressed that when the park opens today, not everything that is planned for this season may be operational. Officials are hoping the public will be patient as more work will be done in-season, she said.
The park plans to operate on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday schedule with additional improvements made during the other days.
"The Flying Scooters and the Trabant, we're awaiting parts," McCoy said. "We're planning on having nine adult rides and 14 Kiddieland rides."
The Tilt-A-Whirl ride has been refurbished and located near Kiddieland. It has a base track while its cars have been repainted, she said.
Two of the park's iconic rides — The Tumble Bug and The Blue Streak — definitely won't be available, tough.
The Tumble Bug, a 1920s-era low-level roller coaster, isn’t coming back at all. A social media posting May 22 on the park's Facebook page said the Bug couldn't be repaired.
The Blue Streak, a wooden roller coaster that was built in 1937 and first in operation in the park's 1938 season, won't operate this year. Joseph told the Tribune in an interview in May that the coaster will need to be evaluated by engineers this fall.
Meanwhile, crumbling pavement and dilapidated buildings along the Midway were cleared from Comstock Street southeast to the boardwalk area by the lake. The former large wooden stage that overlooked the lake also was taken out, leaving a large open area to be the site for events and concerts.
A Tiki hut-style bar has been constructed on the park's beach area.
In addition to the rides, the water park and concerts, Joseph’s plan to revitalize the historic amusement park also includes making it an events center, in which entities lease the grounds for such gatherings as their own festivals and concerts.
There also have been some additions to the park as the Kiddieland area has been expanded and will have pony rides, a corn pit, and a large jump pad; a large slide has been installed along the Midway; and an obstacle course has been placed on the west side of the park near Route 618.
"The obstacle course also will have a couple of short zip lines, a hay bale castle, a rock wall and more," McCoy said.
There is room for more rides and attractions on the grounds in the future, she said. Also, some of the rides are able to be moved to different areas to help with the flow of the park.
The park's miniature golf course is expected to be refurbished and ready soon.
The former bumper car building is being converted into an under-21 events center with a disc jockey, food and more. The former convention hall is being transformed into an open-air picnic pavilion with food and beverage stations and music.
"I'm so happy to be a part of it," said McCoy, who grew up in western Crawford County and went to the park as a child. "We're trying to make new memories for kids like my own kids. It's going to be different than what it was. I'm excited to see it come back to life."
Keith Gushard can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Admission prices for Conneaut Lake Park:
• Free for ages 2 and under
• $4.95 for senior citizens (age 65 and older) with beach access
• $9.95 general admission to the park with beach access
• $14.95 for water park with beach access
• $19.95 for amusement park and Kiddieland rides with beach access
• $24.95 amusement park and water park combo ticket with beach access
• $29.95 all access (amusement park, Kiddieland, water park and events center) with beach access
• Amusement park — 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday
• Water park — noon to 7 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday
• Events center and Tiki bar — 11 a.m.. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday for Tiki Bar unless there's an event on Sunday
Conneaut Lake Park holds a July 4 fireworks show Sunday at 9:45 p.m. with free admission to the park after 9 p.m. Those entering must enter at Reed Avenue and Comstock Street entrance for access to the events center grounds.