Conneaut Lake Park

Construction has started on a new lakefront Tiki hut-style bar on the beach area at Conneaut Lake Park. 

Memorial Day weekend traditionally has been Conneaut Lake Park's opening, but the new ownership is now targeting July 4 weekend instead with one of its nostalgic rides gone.

A bigger blow to summer nostalgia than the delayed start date, the Tumble Bug –– one of the park's iconic rides –– was deemed unable to be repaired, though its cars have been preserved.

Separate announcements about the opening delay and the demise of the Tumble Bug came over the weekend via social media posts at New Conneaut Lake Park, the amusement park's Facebook page.

"The park will NOT be open/ready by Memorial Day,” the Sunday night post read. “We are hoping to open 4th of July weekend.”

Saturday's post said the Tumble Bug, a 1920s-era low-level rollercoaster, isn't coming back.

"We wanted to make sure it met our expectations before we open up," owner Todd Joseph of Keldon Holdings LLC told the Tribune in an interview Monday.

Keldon purchased Conneaut Lake Park and its assets for $1.2 million in a U.S. Bankruptcy Court proceeding earlier this year.

"It's going to take a little while longer," Joseph said. "I only bought the park two months ago and the amount of work that's been done I think superseded even our expectations. It's a huge undertaking. I've got the right team in place and they're doing great work. They're the ones, if the park is successful moving forward, that should get the credit."

Joseph's plan to revitalize the historic amusement park is to make it into an events center, in which entities would lease the grounds for such gatherings as festivals and concerts.

Dilapidated buildings along the Midway have been cleared from Comstock Street southeast to the boardwalk area by the lake. Deteriorated pavement and trees in the area have been cleared along with the former large wooden stage that overlooked the lake. The large open area will be the site for festivals and concerts.

Construction of a planned Tiki hut-style bar has started on the beach at the park, too. 

"Given COVID and some of the transportation issues with rides, we decided to punt it (the opening) for a month," Joseph said.

Joseph confirmed he was working to added more rides at the amusement park as well as in its Kiddieland area, but declined to say how many or what they were.

"I'd rather just wait and let people come in. I think they'll be more excited that way," he said.

In a social media posting in April, the park said two of its iconic rides — the Tumble Bug and the Blue Streak rollercoaster — wouldn't be in operation this year due to necessary repairs.

The Tumble Bug "needs a lot of repairs to ensure its safety," the April 1 posting said. "This will take some time. We do intend to keep it and have it up and running next year.”

On Saturday, an update posted at New Conneaut Lake Park’s Facebook page said the Tumble Bug couldn't be repaired, but made no mention of the Blue Streak rollercoaster.

"As stated before the Tumble Bug needed many repairs and our hope was to have it fixed and ready for 2022," the post read in part. "The issues with the Tumble Bug were not able to be repaired and we were unable to save it. Please believe me when I say, we tried. It was not the outlook we wanted but it was beyond repair. Unfortunately nothing lasts forever."

But luckily its cars have been saved, according to the post.

"We did not want to scrap the cars, so we have placed them inside the park, where they belong, to cherish the memories. When we open, guests may sit in the them to take pictures."

Joseph said he got conflicting reports about the Tumble Bug's viability to continue.

"So it leaves me in the middle and we're not putting Band Aids on bullet wounds any more — is really what it comes down to," he said.

Joseph reiterated the Blue Streak won't operate this year, but will be examined this fall.

"After the summer, we'll take a look at it," he said of the wooden coaster. "We'll get some structural engineers in. It won't be operable this year. No final decision has been made."

A lot of other changes are happening on the park's grounds.

The former pony track, its building and fence have been taken out.

"It didn't meet what we're trying to do," Joseph said. "We'll be expanding Kiddieland into that area and adding family rides as well."

The plan is to the make the park and its amusement rides flexible.

"The idea is to have a park where we can pivot, move them around systematically," he said.

The exterior of the park's former convention hall is being stripped away so it can become an open-air picnic area with food and beverage stations and music, Joseph said.

The bumper car building will become an under-21 events center with a disc jockey, food and more.

There are some events already booked for July at Conneaut Lake Park including a concert July 3 and a car, truck and motorcycle show July 31.

"The events scheduled are a go," Joseph said. "Those events are definitely booked and we're working on a few other events this year." He's working to have events slated for each weekend in the 2022 season.

Joseph did decline comment on his recent purchase of the nearby Sunset View motel property, at 12210 Route 618 in Sadsbury Township, near the park. Joseph said it was a separate item.

Sunset View is a 28-room motel with 10 additional separate cottages as well as a four-bedroom single-family residence on seven acres of land. IKLR Assets LLC, another limited liability company formed by Joseph, purchased the property for $69,540.83 from James D. and Elizabeth Clark, according to a deed recorded May 6 with the Crawford County Office of Register and Recorder. 

Keith Gushard can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at kgushard@meadvilletribune.com.

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