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Geauga Lake update: No sale over the Christmas holidays


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December 28, 2007

AURORA, Ohio -- No one bought the former Geauga Lake's The Big Dipper roller coaster to put under their Christmas tree. Now Cedar Fair LLC, the park's owner, has hired the Intermark Ride Group to sell the historic coaster, along with three other coasters.

"I would call this the 'After Christmas Everything Must Go' sale," Richard Munch said Friday. Munch is the historian for the American Coaster Enthusiasts.

Cedar Fair had first tried to sell the 82-year-old wooden coaster, along with the Villain and the Raging Wolf Bobs coasters, through a smaller ride broker the past three months but that broker failed to sell any of them.

Cedar Fair bought the park in 2004 from Six Flags for $145 million. It changed the name of the amusement park side back to Geauga Lake and renamed the former Sea World section as Wildwater Kingdom.

When attendance plummeted in 2007, Cedar Fair waited until the parks closed in September to announce that the Geauga Lake & Wildwater Kingdom's amusement park side would not re-open in 2008 and the rides would be auctioned, sold, moved to other Cedar Fair parks or demolished.

Wildwater Kingdom will re-open May 24 and the rest of the 500 acres will be sold to developers for either residential or retail/residential development.

Some had hoped that the Big Dipper would remain as the lynch pin for any development, similar to the rides inside the Mall of America in Minnesota.

Calls to Cedar Fair and IRG went unanswered Friday. No sale price for any of the coasters was listed on the IRG Web site.

Munch hasn't despaired that at least the Big Dipper could be saved but others have.

"Most believe that the amusement area must be leveled before the water park reopens in 2008, if not sooner," Munch said.

Munch, ACE and several other groups have been lobbying to save the Big Dipper.

Even U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, got involved, writing a letter to Cedar Fair last month, asking that the Big Dipper be saved from demolition or sale.

He addressed a letter to Cedar Fair chairman, president and chief executive officer Dick Kinzel, asking the company to develop a plan for The Big Dipper.

In the letter, Brown said he hopes company officials will keep the ride at its current location or have it moved to another site where it can continue to operate.

"Such an important and rare piece of Ohio and amusement park history deserves the utmost consideration as Cedar Fair develops plans for the property," Brown wrote.

Munch said Brown's letter is good news.

"The word is getting out that this should be saved," he said.

Munch, who is also a board member for the National Roller Coaster Museum and Archives, referred to several mixed-use developments with rides and attractions that have been successful.

In response to Brown's letter, Cedar Fair spokeswoman Stacy Frole said nothing has changed.

"We currently have The Big Dipper up for sale. Any interested party has the opportunity to buy those assets," she said. "We're doing every effort to move these rides to other locations where they might have value."

Brown disagreed.

"Ideally, keeping The Big Dipper in its Aurora, Ohio, home would be preferable, perhaps by including the coaster as part of a mixed-use retail and amusement complex or as part of a classic amusement park museum," Brown wrote.

"However, as Cedar Fair makes final decisions on the future of the Dipper, I strongly urge against destroying or scrapping this unique piece of Buckeye State history," Brown added.

For more information about saving the Geauga Lake amusement rides, go on-line to

The wooden ride is a John Miller coaster and is only one of 13 coasters of its kind left in the world. Miller was a prolific inventor in the early 1900s who had more than 100 patents and designed many safety devices still used in today's roller coasters.
The Big Dipper was originally built by National Amusement Devices, of Dayton.

Of the 13 Miller coasters left in the world, four are not operating.

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