Coney Island

Coney Island, a cherished landmark nestled along the banks of the Ohio River, closed permanently at the end of 2023. While most associate the name with the iconic amusement park in Brooklyn, New York, Cincinnati's own Coney Island holds a distinct and fascinating narrative that has left an indelible mark on both the theme park industry and the people of Cincinnati. Here we explore this historical park’s story, one last time. 

The story of Coney Island in Cincinnati dates back to the late 19th century when James Parker purchased land on the Ohio River banks in 1867. Initially named Parker's Grove, the site served as a popular recreational destination featuring picnics, swimming, and live entertainment. In 1886, Parker's Grove was changed to Ohio Grove, and began to be called “The Coney Island of the West.” By 1987, the name of the park was officially changed to Coney Island. 

Coney Island
Image: Coney Island Park


From thrilling rides and games to lively shows and concerts, Coney Island offered a plethora of entertainment options for patrons of all ages. It even included roller coasters such as the Shooting Star. One of the park's most iconic attractions, however, was the Sunlite Pool, inaugurated in 1925 as the largest swimming pool in the world at the time.

The massive pool included water slides and diving boards, Sunlite Pool quickly became a summertime hotspot, drawing crowds eager to escape the sweltering heat and enjoy aquatic adventures. It continued to be the world’s largest recirculating pool until the park’s closure in 2023.

Over the years, Coney Island underwent several expansions and renovations, evolving into a sprawling amusement park that attracted droves of visitors from across the region. It even caught the attention of a dreamer who happened to be building his own park in the 1950s. 

Walt Disney drew inspiration from Coney Island when developing Disneyland. Additionally, generations of families created cherished memories at Coney Island, forming enduring bonds with the beloved amusement park. 

However, like many historic landmarks, Coney Island faced challenges in the latter half of the century, including flooding, economic downturns, and competition from larger theme parks. In the early 1970s, Coney Island was set to undergo a significant transformation under new ownership from a company called Taft Broadcasting. 

It was to be relocated to a larger plot of land in nearby Mason, Ohio, and it would include new attractions and themed lands. In addition, many of the rides from Coney Island were moved to this new park. In 1971, Coney Island officially closed, and from this came the theme park icon, Kings Island. 

Sunlite Pool
Image: Coney Island Park

This wouldn’t be the end of Coney Island. The park would reopen in 1973, but without many of its iconic attractions, it would not live up to the reputation it once held. Many of the attractions would be carnival-style rides, though the Sunlite pool would remain popular. The park also had a roller coaster called Python. By 2019 though, all of the rides would be removed from Coney Island and the park would shift to operating only as a water park. However, through all of this, locals would remain nostalgic and loyal to the small park.

Image: Coney Island Park

In 2023, it was announced that Coney Island would shut its doors forever to make way for a new concert venue. While many fans of the nostalgic park carried out petitions and longed to see the park go on to live once again, the park closed its gates permanently on December 31st. The new 118-million-dollar concert venue, to be built in partnership with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, will take over Coney Island’s land. There are claims that it will be “The nation’s best amphitheater.” While it is great that this area will continue to entertain both locals and visitors to the area, there is no doubt that the nostalgia of Coney Island will be deeply missed. 



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