SITUATED on the shore of Lake Erie in Ohio, US, Cedar point is the second oldest amusement park in North America with a history dating back to 1870. Thus, in 2020, this world renowned amusement park and resort is celebrating its 150th. anniversary.
Prior to 1870 the Cedar Point Peninsula was mainly used for fishing and hunting, but that all changed following an editorial in the local newspaper in 1867 calling on “some enterprising person” to utilise the magnificent beach on the lake side of Cedar Point. In the summer of 1870, local businessman Louis Zistel opened a small beer garden, bathhouse and dance floor on the peninsula and would bring guests over to Cedar Point on his steamboat, Young Reindeer, for the price of 25 cents. By the 1880s, it was noted in the local paper that “sailing and bathing parties to Cedar Point are all the rage.”
Two years later several other steamers were introduced to serve the area while a new dance hall and more bathhouses were also built at Cedar Point. A large Grand Pavilion was opened later in the 1880s, featuring an auditorium, bowling alleys and dining facilities, while an adjacent Ladies’ Pavilion provided refreshments suitable for ladies and children.
The park’s first roller coaster, the Switchback Railway, was opened in 1892. It stood an “amazing” 25ft tall and reached an “unbelievable” top speed of 10mph.
In 1897 four owners (Adam J. Stoll, Jacob Kuebeler, Louis Adolph and Charles Bretz) sold their interests in Cedar Point to the Cedar Point Pleasure Resort Company of Indiana. This marked the coming of George A. Boeckling to the management of Cedar Point, Boeckling guiding Cedar Point’s success from 1897 until his death in 1931.
Cedar Point’s first hotel, the Bay Shore Hotel, opened in 1899, while The White House, a 55-room hotel, opened on Sandusky Bay in 1901. The following year, the Figure-Eight Roller Toboggan made its debut as the second roller coaster to be built at Cedar Point, while in 1905, the historic Hotel Breakers welcomed its first guests. The hotel offered 600 rooms, making it one of the largest hotels in the Midwest.
A new midway was built in 1906, featuring various rides, games, fortune tellers, merchandise shops, a skating rink, a massive Coliseum with a grand ballroom and other attractions. In the same year the steamer New York was purchased by Cedar Point, while the following year saw the arrival of the steamer Eastland and the beginning of steamship services to Cedar Point from Cleveland.
In 1911 Cedar Point announced that a roadway would be built to the resort, connecting it with the main arteries coming into the Sandusky area, this subsequently opening three years later in 1914. A year later The White House was remodelled and reopened under new name The Cedars.
Another roller coaster, the classic Cedar Point Cyclone, opened in 1929 along the beach, the attraction being billed as “Scientifically Built for Speed, Thrills and Safety,” while several years later the Tumble Bug was one of the few rides added to the venue during the Depression.
The mid-1930s saw the removal of the Leap the Dips coaster, while at the end of the decade the dance floor and skating rink of the Coliseum was converted to a ballroom and a refreshment service was added. Top name big bands performed in Cedar Point’s Grand Ballroom.
During the 1940s a family favourite, the Midway Carrousel, made its debut, while in the early 50s the regular steamer service between Sandusky and Cedar Point was discontinued. 1957 saw a group of investors from Cleveland (including George Roose and Emile Legros) acquire ownership of Cedar Point and the Cedar Point Causeway opened in June of the same year. Construction of the Cedar Point Marina, one of the largest on the Great Lakes, was completed in 1959.
Throughout the 1960s, a wide range of new rides, attractions and facilities were introduced at the park, the start of the decade seeing attractions such as the Cadillac Cars, Scrambler and Tiki Twirl opening, along with the Sky Ride and Star Voyager the following year. These were followed in subsequent years by rides including the Sky Wheel, the Cedar Point and Lake Erie Railroad and what is the oldest operating roller coaster at Cedar Point today, the Blue Streak, which debuted in 1964.
Other additions in 1965 included Earthquake, Space Spiral and Turnpike Cars, while Jungle Larry’s African Safari opened in the same year. “Jungle Larry” and “Safari Jane” Tetzlaff entertained guests for 30 years with their ever-expanding menagerie of tigers, leopards, exotic snakes, chimpanzees, monkeys and an occasional elephant. Jungle Larry’s African Safari ran until the 1994 season.
1968 saw the formation of Cedar Point’s live entertainment department, while in 1969 the Cedar Creek Mine Ride, one of the first roller coasters to utilise steel tubular track, was introduced, along with the Town Hall Museum in Frontier Town, where guests could enjoy displays of photos and memorabilia from the park’s colourful past.
Cedar Point’s Centennial year of 1970 saw a wide range of additions made to the park. The WildCat, Bayern Kurve, Dodgem #2, Monster, Schwabinchen, Calypso and Super Himalaya all made their debuts, as did the Centennial Theatre (now the Jack Aldrich Theatre). Kiddieland (Kiddy Kingdom) was opened at its present site with 14 rides and a lost children’s area, and Sealand, a large walk-through marine exhibit, opened on the beach. This had eye-level windows for guest viewing of sharks, penguins and a variety of other aquatic animals. It was removed after the 2001 season to make room for Wicked Twister.
Connecting Frontier Town with the main midway, the Frontier Trail was built near the lagoons on the bay side of the peninsula in 1971. It offered a shaded walkway with log cabins and craft demonstrations, Fort Sandusky and the Petting Farm. The Camper Village RV Campground with 224 RV campsites also opened in the same year.
Among other key attractions introduced during the 70s were the Corkscrew coaster, the Gemini racing coaster, the tallest and fastest such ride on the planet at the time, and the Junior Gemini.
The following decade began with the opening of Oceana, a 1,600-seat dolphin stadium and aqua zoo, while the Sky Wheel, Funhouse and Shoot-the-Rapids were removed after the 1981 season. Two years later Cedar Fair, L.P. was formed with Robert L. Munger, Jnr., as its chief executive officer.
The 80s also brought attractions such as Avalanche Run (re-themed as Disaster Transport in 1990), Berenstain Bear Country indoor complex, Thunder Canyon white water raft ride and the Iron Dragon suspended coaster to the park, while in 1996, declining health forced Robert L. Munger, Jnr., to step down as CEO, with Richard L. Kinzel becoming the new president and chief executive officer.
In 1988 Soak City waterpark was opened, the original complex consisting of 10 slides. In 1990, Main Stream and Tadpole Town were added, while five years later Zoom Flume, Renegade River and Choo-Choo Lagoon opened. A 6.5-acre addition in 1997 included a 22,500sq. ft. wavepool, an action slide area with three twisting, enclosed inner tube raft slides, an activity pool section with various interactive water elements and an adult activity area with whirlpools and a swim-up refreshment centre. Splash Zone was added in 2004.
Famous worldwide for its record-breaking coasters, in 1989 Cedar Point opened the world’s first coaster to top the elusive 200ft tall threshold, the Magnum XL-200, and to begin the 1990s, the park opened Sandcastle Suites with 96 suites. The following year a further 91 suites were added.
Mean Streak opened as the tallest and fastest wooden roller coaster on the planet in 1991, with other additions during the decade including Challenge Park, and outdoor section in Bernstain Bear Country, Snake River Falls flume ride and Raptor, which at the time claimed the accolade of being the tallest and fastest inverted coaster in the world.
Also in the 90s the $12m Mantis opened as the tallest and fastest stand-up roller coaster in the world, while the decade also witnessed the debut of Power Tower, a 300ft-tall thriller that either launches its riders up 240ft or blasts them down 240ft at speeds of up to 50 mph.
Camp Snoopy, a family playland featuring seven rides, opened in 1999, while to kick-start the new Millennium in style, Cedar Point stunned the coaster world in 2000 with the debut of the tallest (310ft) and fastest (93 mph) “giga-coaster” on the planet, Millennium Force. In the same year the 350-room Breakers Express was added on Causeway Drive.
The following year the charming Lighthouse Point opened, featuring 50 cottages, 10 cabins and 59 luxury RV campsites and in 2002 the park debuted its fifteenth coaster, Wicked Twister, and a Peanuts ice-skating programme, Snoopy Rocks! On Ice in the Good Time Theatre (formerly the Cedar Point Cinema).
Cedar Point hit the coaster headlines yet again in 2003 with the debut of the 420ft-tall, 120mph Top Thrill Dragster, making the park home of the tallest and fastest roller coaster in the world.
Among investments in 2004 were those in improvements for the Soak City waterpark, while Cedar Point made a further splash in the same year with the addition of its new $22m Castaway Bay indoor waterpark resort. Further additions during the noughties included maXair, Skyhawk, Maverick, the park’s seventeenth coaster, from IntaRide, Hot Summer Lights, an all-new sensory experience, and Planet Snoopy, Cedar Point’s fourth special area for young children.
In 2011, Cedar Point unveiled WindSeeker, a 30 storey tall swing ride, while in 2012, more than 50 larger-than-life animatronic dinosaurs inhabited Cedar Point’s Adventure Island with the debut of the new Dinosaurs Alive! attraction.
Located at the new front entrance of the park, GateKeeper, from Bolliger and Mabillard, forever changed the landscape of the park in 2013. This mammoth ride opened as the longest wing roller coaster and boasted the longest drop of any such coaster in the world. A year later, Cedar Point focused on family fun with the addition of two new rides, Pipe Scream and Lake Erie Eagles, along with several new restaurants, new live shows and more. Lighthouse Point was also refreshed with an all-new check-in centre and 52 deluxe cabins.
Rougarou debuted as the first floorless coaster at Cedar Point in 2015 and in 2016 the venue unleashed Valravn, the world’s tallest, fastest and longest dive coaster. The Battle for Cedar Point, an all-new, interactive, augmented reality game also debuted.
Among developments in 2017, Cedar Point Shores Waterpark, a complete overhaul of Soak City, opened with Point Plummet, Portside Plunge, Lakeslide Landing, Lemmy’s Lagoon and several new dining and entertainment options. And a year later another world’s first came to the park in the shape of Steel Vengeance, the tallest, fastest, longest and steepest hybrid coaster in the world. Indeed the ride was so large, another new roller coaster category was defined – the “hyper-hybrid.”
Last year, a new type of attraction opened in the middle of the park, with Forbidden Frontier on Adventure Island welcoming young explorers and families to interact with island residents, engage with fun attractions and complete secret missions.
Coming right up to date, 2020 was, of course, to have seen huge celebrations at Cedar Point to mark its historic 150th. anniversary milestone but not surprisingly with the COVID-19 pandemic causing so much disruption to all our lives, celebratory plans have been put on hold. Those plans had included “a celebration worthy of a sesquicentennial!” with the park set to mark 150 years of summertime family fun on Lake Erie with multiple additions, including Snake River Expedition, The Corral, French Quarter Confections, The Mac Shack, Wild Turnip, the Celebrate 150 Spectacular parade and more. The park was also planning to introduce the Ticket of a Lifetime promotion, giving lucky winners lifetime admission to Cedar Point. Now, however, these celebrations have been postponed until 2021. There will be select merchandise in gift shops this year, but the majority of new offerings will be held till next year.
For park-goers looking for refreshment and sustenance, Cedar Point has everything from walk-up food locations where you can get chicken fingers, fresh cut fries, cheese-on-a-stick and more, to dine-in restaurants like Famous Dave’s BBQ, Tomo Hibachi at the Hotel Breakers, Coasters Drive-In and Chickie’s & Pete’s.
Numerous manufacturers and suppliers have provided rides and attractions to Cedar Point over the years and among these have been Bolliger and Mabillard, Intamin/IntaRide, Huss, ProSlide, Zamperla and Rocky Mountain Construction to name just a few.
Typically, the park sees more than 3m visitors per year, with the season running from early/mid-May to the end of October, although for 2020, due to the delayed opening all parks have had to implement due to COVID-19, the reopening date for season pass holders only was July 9 and10 and for all other guests July 11. The park has developed an extensive coronavirus reopening plan with new processes and enhanced procedures throughout the venue to help control the spread of germs. All guests must reserve their visit in advance through the park’s website or mobile app before arrival while cleanliness, health and safety protocols also include health screening, temperature screening, social distancing and the use of face coverings.
“The safety of all of our guests and associates has always been, and will always be, our top priority. We’re looking forward to returning to summertime fun in a safe and healthy manner,” said Jason McClure, vice-president and general manager of Cedar Point. “We’ve implemented new safety protocols throughout the property that align with the recommendations of health and safety experts. With that guidance, we’re ready and excited to welcome our guests and associates back to Cedar Point.”
At a glance
Founded in 1870
First coaster, the Switchback Railway, opened in 1892
First hotel, the Bay Shore Hotel, opened in 1899
Soak City waterpark debuted in 1988
Introduced world’s first coaster to top 200ft tall, the Magnum XL-200
Debuted the 420ft tall, 120mph Top Thrill Dragster coaster in 2003
Over 3m visitors annually
All details correct at the time of publishing – InterPark magazine Jul/Aug 2020 edition