San Diego, California, USA
Belmont Park is a historic oceanfront amusement park located in the Mission Bay area of San Diego, California. The park was developed by sugar magnate John D. Spreckels and opened on July 4, 1925 as the Mission Beach Amusement Center. In addition to providing recreation and amusement it also was intended as a way to help Spreckels sell land in Mission Beach. Located on the beach, it attracts millions of people each year.
The history of the vintage historic Belmont Park dates back over 85 years now, deep into the Roaring Twenties, when the park was first founded in the Mission Bay area of San Diego, California. Before t time of the 1920s, the Mission Bay area, nicknamed False Bay hundreds of years earlier by a Spanish explorer, was a tidal marsh that was often overlooked, being out-shined by the well-established nearby communities of Coronado and Pacific Beach. The area would slowly develop, but was always overlooked by most, except John D. Spreckels.
© Belmont ParkSpreckels, the wealthiest man in San Diego at the time, who ruled over a sugar empire, began shaping the area. He began constructing the Union building and the Spreckels Theater, acquiring the Hotel del Coronado and North Island, and united two papers, the San Diego Union and the Tribune. He connected cities with the San Diego and Arizona Railways, the San Diego-Coronado Ferry System, and the San Diego streetcar system, which he upgraded with electric power and extended into the Pacific and Mission Beaches. He solved the area’s biggest problem, which was its inaccessibility, and allowed the area to thrive.
The attractions and rides that remain from the original 1925 park include Giant Dipper, a wooden roller coaster that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places]. Another historic facility is The Plunge, an indoor swimming pool.
Other amusements include a Tilt-A-Whirl, a three story drop tower called Vertical Plunge, Liberty Carousel, and the Wave House Athletic Club. The Wave House Bar and Grill overlooks the ocean and features two artificial waves. The larger wave is a FlowBarrel called "Bruticus Maximus" (or "bmax") and features an 8-foot barreling wave. The other wave is a smaller sheet wave known as a FlowRider. Newer attractions in Belmont Park include a pendulum ride called The Beach Blaster and another ride called Chaos.
In 2002, businessman/surfer Tom Lochtefeld bought the master lease for the property and started development of the Wave House. In Spring 2006, the Wave House hosted MTV's 'Total Request Live.
On November 3, 2010 Wave House Belmont Park LLC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in United States Bankruptcy Court citing a 700% increase in rent owed to the City of San Diego as the reason. Tom Lochtefeld, Belmont Park Manager Member, alleges the city has breeched its lease agreement.
Perhaps his biggest contribution to the areas popularity would come in 1925, when he constructed the Mission Beach Amusement Center, now known as Belmont Park. When the park opened in 1925, it had two key attractions which would carry it through the good times, and the bad, and remain the parks only two original attractions still in operation today, the Plunge, and the wooden Giant Dipper roller coaster.
© COASTER-netThe Mission Beach Plunge opened as the centerpiece of the small park. At 60’ by 175’, it was the largest salt-water pool in the entire world at that time, holding 400,000 gallons of water. The building which the Plunge was built in was based on the Spanish Renaissance-style buildings built at Balboa Park in the mid-1910s, and originally opened as the “Natatorium.” In 1940, the salt-water began taking its toll on the filtering system, so fresh water had to be brought in instead, at which point it became the “largest indoor heated pool in Southern California.” Over the years, the Plunge has seen many upgrades and modifications, but features of the historic pool were kept each time to keep the classic look of the pool.
The other attraction which has withstood the test of time, the Giant Dipper, remains the parks star attraction to this day. The 2,600-foot long coaster was created by the legendary team of Prior and Church, and was built for $50,000 in less than two months. It also originally featured the single-bench Prior and Church trains that would later serve as the influence for Great Coasters International’s modern-day Millennium Flyers, and the Gravity Group’s new Timberliners.
© COASTER-netWhile the park remained extremely popular throughout the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, by the late 60s and 70s, the park began to fall into disrepair. Somewhere during this time, the park was home to a wooden wild mouse roller coaster called Wild Mouse, as well as a small wooden coaster called Kiddie Coaster which opened in 1955. Suddenly, in December 1976, the roller coaster and the park were closed, and the wooden coaster structure became what the city considered an “eyesore.” The city tried to force the owner to tear down the structure, but a group of coaster-loving citizens stepped up in protest. The group, “Save the Coaster Committee,” worked to save the Giant Dipper by having it declared a National Landmark, and requested to have the ride’s ownership transferred over to their group. Eventually, this attempt came to fruition, and through several business arrangements, were able to save the coaster from destruction.
In 1989, the Santa Cruz Seaside Company, the company that owned the other famous seaside amusement park, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk (who had their own Giant Dipper coaster), was contacted to see if they had any interest in restoring and operating the Belmont Park Giant Dipper. While the land surrounding the coaster was not a part of the project, it’s location in the middle of the complex would benefit both parties, and after a year of discussion, the newly formed San Diego Seaside Company (now San Diego Coaster Company) was formed to restore and operate the Giant Dipper. They invested over $2 million in restoring the coaster which included a new train from Morgan built specifically for the coaster.
© COASTER-netOn August 11, 1990, the restored coaster was reopened to the public, with an overwhelmingly positive response; it was determined that the annual ridership over the first three years was more than triple their original projections. The classic-style, beautifully restored structure, station, and train brought many old visitors back to once again experience the ride for the first time in 14 years, along with a number of new visitors ready to have their first shot at it. There were so many patrons visiting, that the San Diego Coaster Company ordered a second train to have in operation by the following spring.
Since then, the park has expanded slightly, and currently is home to such attractions as a tilt-a-whirl, the Vertical Plunge three-story drop tower, S&S Power Frog Hopper attraction, and the Liberty Carousel. In 2002, Tom Lochtefeld, a businessman and surfer, bought the master lease for the property and in 2003, removed the Sea Serpent attraction to make room for Chaos. In 2004, he had the parks Baja Buggies removed in favor of the new Beach Blaster, while closing Pirates Cove. In 2006, he began creating the Wave House for surfers, which contains several artificial wave creators, including a FlowBarrel and FlowRider.
For the 2010 season, the park introduced a SkyRopes obstacle course, a Moser Gyro Loop called “Control Freak,” and the first-of-its-kind Chance Unicoaster know as the “Octotron,” which is replacing the parks Chaos ride. While the small, vintage, historic park continues to operate, in November 2010, Wave house Belmont Park LLC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy due to an alleged 700% increase in rent owed to the City of San Diego, though Lochtefeld alleges the city breached its lease agreement in doing so. The park owner assured fans of the park that the ban
kruptcy would not affect any of the rides, many of which are under a separate lease protecting them.
In early 2011, Belmont finally unleashed Octotron, which was originally scheduled to open as the parks third “New for 2010” attraction, but missed its targeted December 18 date due to winter rains and minor mechanical issues. The Octotron is a prototype “Unicoaster” ride manufactured by Chance Morgan, which features seats that flip and rotate end-over-end while traversing a Himalaya-style track. Riders can spin themselves as crazy or mild as they want, utilizing a joystick on each set of seats. Belmont would be only the second park to receive one of these attractions, following Nickelodeon Universe at Mall of America. By the end of the year, the park was once again facing a future of uncertainty. Lochtefeld, who ran the park since 2000, was forced to hand the keys to the park over to the bank, which he owed $17 million, but the park has been kept in operation, and Loctefeld continues to fight back. While the parks future is somewhat uncertain right now due to financial issues, its historied past and the support it has of the community bode well for the parks survival.
Present Roller Coasters (1)
|Giant Dipper||Frank Prior, Fredrick Church||Wooden||1925||Operating|
Past Roller Coasters (2)
|Kiddie Coaster||Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters, Inc.||Wooden||1955||Unknown||No|
|Wild Mouse||Unknown||Wooden||1974||1976||J's Amusement Park|
- ↑ San Diego Historical Society timeline
- ↑ http://www.wavehouseathleticclub.com/mission_beach_Plunge_history.html
- ↑ sandiegonewsroom.com