Before the early 2000s, Geauga Lake was a popular amusement park located in Bainbridge Township and Aurora, Ohio. This park, once the largest amusement park in the world, operated for over one hundred years before its unfortunate closure in 2007, and was left abandoned for nearly a decade. This once beloved park has a rich history, and although it no longer exists, it remains alive in the memories of millions of people who once walked the bustling streets in their childhood. So how did this once popular and flourishing park reach such an unfortunate demise? Let’s start at the beginning.
Though the area was settled in the early 1800s, it did not become an operating amusement park until 1887 when it was turned into a recreational area with picnic spots and a dance hall. Geauga Lake gained its first ride two years later in 1889 when a carousel was opened. The next noteworthy expansion came in 1926 with the introduction of an Olympic sized swimming pool and the park’s first roller coaster–the Big Dipper–as well as a bowling alley, theater, and race track.
Geauga Lake gained in popularity over time and steadily added new attractions to its offerings. In 1969, it was acquired by Funtime Incorporated, who got to work making arrangements with SeaWorld executives. After some time, the two companies agreed to share the shoreline of Geauga Lake. SeaWorld Ohio was opened, offering a marine life themed experience neighboring the amusement park. The two parks would operate side by side for a successful thirty years.
In 1995, the park was purchased by Premier Parks who, within a few years, also acquired the Six Flags brand. After the acquisition, Geauga Lake was renamed to Six Flags Ohio starting in 2000. Within a year, Six Flags and SeaWorld Ohio came to an agreement and SeaWorld Ohio was bought by Six Flags for $110 million. Now united as a single park, the former SeaWorld Ohio and Six Flags Ohio merged to become Six Flags Worlds of Adventure.
In 2004, Six Flags sold the park to Cedar Fair, and the original Geauga Lake name was restored. The marine life portion of the park was closed and the animals were moved to other existing parks throughout the nation. Then, it was demolished to make room for a brand new seasonal waterpark called Wildwater Kingdom at the lake’s shore.
By 2004, park attendance was on the decline. Attendance that had reached well over 2.5 million was now struggling to reach 700,000.
The park continued to operate seasonally until 2007, when it was announced that the amusement park portion would be permanently closed while the waterpark would remain open. Cedar Fair cited the demand for a large park in Aurora and Bainbridge was simply not enough to justify its continued operation as the reason for pulling the plug on the beloved park.
This decision was met with great backlash, with many petitions and speculation quick to begin circulation. Though some began to speculate that it was a strategic move on Cedar Fair’s part to eliminate a competitor for their flagship park, Cedar Point in Sandusky, others viewed it as an attempt to acquire a new, successful asset that simply did not pan out in Cedar Fair’s favor.
Geauga Lake’s rides and attractions were dismantled and auctioned off, and anything that did not sell was left behind, completely abandoned. This included the main entrance, various service buildings, and most notably the park’s first coaster, the Big Dipper...