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New owners appeal for help to return Starliner rollercoaster to Panama City Beach

Starliner rollercoaster image

The Starliner rollercoaster from the defunct Cypress Gardens theme park in Florida has been purchased by new owners, who have appealed for help to restore it to its original home.

Teddy and Jenny Meeks bought the wooden coaster from Merlin Entertainments Group, which is currently converting Cypress Gardens into LEGOLAND Florida ahead of a 2011 opening. The Starliner is surplus to requirements at the new park, and the couple hope to return it to its previous location at Panama City Beach by 2012.

The Starliner was located at the beach's Miracle Strip Amusement Park from 1963 until 2004, when the park closed and the coaster was moved to Cypress Gardens. The Meeks, along with several business partners, hope to return it to one of three potential locations at the west end of Panama City Beach.

The total cost of the returning to the first permanent wooden rollercoaster in Florida to the beach has been estimated at $2 million, with the ride currently sat in storage near Tampa. The coaster will be updated with a new magnetic braking system if the funds can be raised.

Fans of the Starliner can help in the campaign to restore it to its former glory. The Meeks, who have already saved Miracle Strip's carousel ponies, balloon ride and biplane ride, are hopeful of raising $250,000 in the form of a grant from Pepsi. The public can vote daily at www.refresheverything.com/starlinerbackhome, or by texting "103457" to Pepsi on 73774.

The Starliner reaches a maximum height of 70 feet, hitting 55 miles per hour on its way around a 2,640-feet course. The ride was designed by Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters, and was the most popular ride at Miracle Strip Amusement park for many years. It can be seen action in the video embedded below:

The plan to return to the Starliner to Panama City Beach could help to give the area an economic boost after the effects of the disastrous Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The ride could have formed part of LEGOLAND Florida, but its owners decided that it was not suitable for the park's target age group of children aged 2-12.

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