West Mifflin, Pennsylvania
Kennywood is an amusement park located in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania. The park first opened in 1898 as a trolley park for the Monongahela Street Railway Company. Along with Rye Playland Park, it is one of only two amusement parks listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Kennywood is owned by Kennywood Entertainment, which until December 2007 was a closely held family business owned by the Henninger and McSwigan families. Kennywood Entertainment is now operated by Palace Entertainment, a subsidiary of Parques Reunidos, an international amusement park company based in Madrid, Spain.
Just outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, there exists an amusement park that, after over a hundred seasons, has matured into a world-renown blend of carefully-preserved history and world-class modern-day thrills; of a commitment to the best of yesterday along with the best of today. The park, named Kennywood, is also a rare story of survival and success; an amusement park that has defied the odds while weathering out the bad times along with the good for generation after generation to enjoy. At the end of the nineteenth century, a new wave of amusement parks swept the United States when trolley operators began exploring the possibility of opening parks along their routes to encourage ridership. In 1898, Pittsburgh's Monongahela Street Railway Company opened a new trolley park just across the Monongahela River from Pittsburgh in the rural city outskirts of West Mifflin. The former picnic grove was located on Anthony Kenny's property, thus being named Kennywood Park.
On the other side of the century divide, Kennywood's major addition was the Old Mill, a combination of water ride and dark ride to compliment the park's small collection of attractions. The following year, 1902, brought a standard triple-figure-eight wooden coaster with a side-friction track built by Fred Ingersoll, and named nothing other than Figure Eight. Over the next few years, Kennywood would begin a tradition of improvement by remodeling the coaster, and giving it the unique new name Gee Whizz Dip the Dips in 1905. The following year saw the opening of a second coaster and another standard for the early 1900s - Scenic Railway - a themed side-friction model. In the next few years, Kennywood would add two more coasters to its collection with John Miller's twin-tracked Racer of 1910, followed by the replacement of Scenic Railway the next season with the new $30,000 Speed-O-Plane at the front of the park. Temporarily satisfied, Kennywood took the next ten years off from any new coasters, but did install the popular flat ride Whip in 1918.
One coaster left and another arrived in 1921 when Gee Whizz Dip the Dips was removed and famed coastermaker John Miller was called in to create Jack Rabbit. The new ride had the distinction of using Miller's system of upstop wheels so that intense airtime elements could be included without any worries of the train derailing. Jack Rabbit's other first for Kennywood was a terrain-based layout to save on support costs. Due to the success of Jack Rabbit, Miller was called in just three years later to build a larger version by the name of Pippin, taking advantage of another natural ravine, and more than making up for the previous year's loss of Speed-O-Plane. It wasn't just the coasters, however, that were focused on, with 1925 bringing a swimming pool and the '26 season a new carousel. Plenty took place the next year as well. The new flat ride Turtle was introduced while the old Racer was demolished and a Kiddieland section opened in its place. But Kennywood wasn't about to let down its growing crowd of coaster fans. John Miller returned once again with plans for the new Racer - a ride larger than before but still designed for all ages. The new layout was a moebius configuration with two sides racing over each half of the 4,500-foot layout.
To enhance the new Kiddieland, the kiddie woodie Brownie Coaster opened in 1928; two years later, the Auto Race car ride was added for older kids to enjoy. While the Great Depression and World War II era hit hard, the park managed to avoid the fate of a number of other parks through special events rather than major new rides. Brownie Coaster was replaced by a new junior wooden coaster named Teddy Bear in 1935, and the fun house Noah's Ark was completed in '36 as the major new attraction for the next several years. During the 1940s, a secondhand ferris wheel was brought in, then the Olde Kennywood Railroad arrived in 1945, relocated from the 1939 World's Fair. In 1948, a third smaller wooden coaster replaced the existing ride, this time the family ride Dipper, which would be lengthened three years later to 1,650 feet. And with the Baby Boom, the 1950s was a period of investment in a slew of new family rides and flat rides with the largest being the 1958-60 Wild Mouse, and 1966 saw the addition of a second, more modern powered car ride - the Turnpike.
The major event of the sixties at Kennywood took place when an ambitious plan to lengthen the Pippin was executed with the help of Andy Vettel. A former double-out and back layout was joined in the middle with a new circular half of the ride after a taller lift hill above the ravin, creating a very unique 2,887-foot ride renamed Thunderbolt. Then, the next decade brought Kennywood's largest investment yet, a large log flume dubbed Log Jammer in 1975. That was the same year that disaster struck with a fire destroying four smaller rides, but the park would recover quickly and add two flat rides, Gran Prix and Enterprise, to close out the decade. 1980 Was the year that a tubular steel coaster made its debut at Kennywood for the first time when Laser Loop blasted off. The standard Schwarzkopf shuttle coaster launched riders through a loop and up a 138-foot reversal tower spanning the side of the park. Kennywood then introduced another dark ride, the themed experience Gold Rusher. The other major addition of the eighties was the river rapids raft ride Raging Rapids in place of the Dipper, and a number of new flat rides lined the midways that decade including Pirate, Wave Swinger, Musik Express, Flying Carpet, and Swing Around.
Confirming the importance of Kennywood, in 1987 the amusement park became the first ever in the country to be declared a national historic landmark. And while continuing with operating the best of the old and focusing on restoration more than ever, 1991 would see a new addition that would catch the thrill ride world by surprise. The previous year had seen the removal of Laser Loop, and in its place was erected a portion of the new world's fastest, longest-plunging steel coaster: Steel Phantom. Using the property's terrain again, Kennywood managed a 225-foot second drop through the Thunderbolt to reach 80-mph speeds and complete four inversions on the Arrow Dynamics-crafted track. After the debuts of two more flat rides, Wipeout and Bayern Kurve, Kennywood thought big again when adding the world's tallest Skycoaster attraction in 1994, at 180 feet, over the top of the park's scenic lagoon. Just the next year came the largest single expansion with a section named Lost Kennywood themed after the Luna Parks of the 1920s. This section, taking over former parking lot land beyond the Steel Phantom, became the new home of Whip, Wave Swinger, and a new splashdown water ride called Pittsburgh Plunge.
Kennywood's first steel kiddie coaster, the Lil' Phantom, was 1996's addition, and the classic Noah's Ark underwent a revamping. The next year, Kennywood made another bold statement in the world of modern rides by investing in the tallest freefall tower ride on the continent: the 252-foot PittFall from Intamin, located in the Lost Kennywood expansion. After passing the milestone of a century in business in 1998, Kennywood began construction on the sixth coaster and third dark ride in the park - Exterminator. A themed enclosed spinning wild mouse, Exterminator evened out Kennywood's wood to steel ratio upon opening in 1999.
In 2001, coaster fans were overjoyed by Kennywood again when the park repeated history. Steel Phantom, now a poorly-aging ride, went under the knife much as Pippin had nearly fourty years before as all but the ride's famous first two hills and drops were demolished, then the hills were connected to a longer, faster 3,200-foot track circuit now focusing on heavy banked curves and extreme airtime hops as opposed to inversions. The new and improved ride then reopened as Phantom's Revenge. The looping Aero 360 debuted the next year in place of Kennywood's Wonder Wheel ferris wheel, and 2003's King Kahuna brought in more spinning head-over-heels action along with a new theme to its area of the park - Volcano Valley. The tradition of improving on the old continued in 2004 when the 103-year-old Old Mill was rethemed and renamed Garfield's Nightmare. And Kennywood's traditions are bound to coninue for years to come while new generations experience a true American classic.
Present Roller Coasters (8)
|Jack Rabbit||John A. Miller||Wooden||1920||Operating|
|Lil' Phantom||Molina & Sons||Kiddie||1996||Operating|
|Phantom's Revenge||Arrow Dynamics||Hyper/Steel||2001*||Operating|
|Racer||John A. Miller||Racing||1927||Operating|
|Sky Rocket||Premier Rides||Sit-Down/Launched/Steel||2010||SBNO|
*See also Steel Phantom below.
Past Roller Coasters (12)
|Steel Phantom||Arrow Dynamics||Steel/Hyper||1991||2000||No*|
|Brownie Coaster||William F. Mangels||Powered||1928||1953?||No|
|Gee Whiz Dip The Dips||Fredrick Ingersol||Wooden||1902||1921||No|
|Laser Loop||Schwarzkopf||Launched||1980||1990||La Feria Chapultepec Magico|
|Racer||John A. Miller||Wooden||1910||1926||No|
|Scenic Railway||John A. Miller||Wooden||1904||1910||No|
|Speed-O-Plane||John A. Miller||Wooden||1911||1923||No|
|Teddy Bear||Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters||Wooden||1935||1947||No|
|Tickler||William F. Mangels||Wooden||1931||1952||No|
|Wild Mouse||B. A. Schiff & Associates||Wild Mouse||1958||1960||Idlewild and Soakzone|
*Steel Phantom was rebuilt as Phantom's Revenge.