Kennywood is not only the greatest traditional amusement
park in the world. It’s the heart and soul of the whole amusement
park industry. Yes, the notion of amusement parks arose at Coney Island,
Jones Beach, Atlantic City, Rehobeth Beach, Virginia Beach and Revere
Beach, old boardwalk parks just narrow strips of rides perched on piers
above the surf. And yes, a hundred local parks had sprung up by the 1930s.
But first tough economic times in the 30s, and then World War II in the
1940s, shut most of those parks down. Many reopened by 1950, but they
had lost their fans, and one by one they withered and died. Not Kennywood.
The main reason Kennywood survived is a century of very good decision
making. The two families who ran Kennywood for a century have always been very careful
about how they spent their money, and have understood their core audience
Its management watched its pennies and survived the depression,
then convinced the government it provided steelworkers much needed
relief from the exhausting job of producing weapons and ammunition
for the war. So KW remained open, and entered the 50s on a solid foundation.
For anyone sincerely interested in amusement parks, a walk through
Kennywood is like a visit to Williamsburg. The park is a living museum.
These aren’t replicas. They’re the actual rides that were
built back in the 1920s, 1930s, etc. This is an inter-generational
park. Grandparents, parents and children come every year. Towns, schools,
churches, and families have their annual picnics here.
Kennywood's judgement about which rides to keep and which rides to rotate
out has usually been perfect. We disagree with a few recent choices, but
over 110 years, they're about 105-5. No other park can match that. True,
landlocked Kennywood has had less margin for error, but they've maneuvered
|The ghosts of Travers, Miller, Mangels and other early giants
strode these walkways and designed these rides. The Jackrabbit introduced
the downstop wheels and used the famous double dip to show them off. The
Racers didn’t introduce the Moebius single track double train coaster,
but it became its most elegant incarnation. The Thunderbolt (originally
the Pippin) dropped out of the station straight into the ravine as the first
coaster with the lift hill halfway through the ride.
More innovations have been introduced at Kennywood than in all other parks
Kennywood is to amusement parks what the Yankees are to baseball, Notre
Dame is to football, and Kentucky is to basketball. They are always there.
Others rise and fall but in every decade for 110 years Kennywood set the
standards by which the rest were judged. Coming out of the tunnel onto the
KW Front Midway is like coming out of the tunnel and looking up at the Golden
Dome, 24 thousand fans in Rupp Arena, or the green expanse of Yankee Stadium.
Yes, there are newer, bigger stadiums and arenas, and yes, others in a given
year may win the national championship. But in every decade, those teams
In the amusement park world, Cedar Point may
now have more coasters, Voyage at Holiday World may be longer and Thunderhead
at Dollywood may be the hot new sensation. But for class, elegance, tradition,
history, and a feel for the power and glory of the amusement park world,
Kennywood remains the ultimate destination.
There have been times in the past when Kennywood's decline was declared.
West View, Geauga Lake, and Kings Island were all thought to be surpassing
Kennywood and taking its customer base. West View is long gone, Geauga
Lake closed in 2007, and Kings Island keeps changing ownership in
its attempt to stay solvent. Meanwhile, Kennywood rolls on.
The Big Steel economy of the Monongahela Valley has collapsed. 100,000
men once made their living within a few miles of Kennywood. As their jobs
were sent to Asia and the mills went silent, the valley sank into recession.
The entire community of Duquesne, right across the bridge, has become
a boarded up, bulldozed ghost town. But somehow Kennywood rolls on.
|That is why Walt Disney brought his Imagineers here in
1950 when they were planning Disneyland and his brother brought them
again in 1970 for a week and told them to recreate this atmosphere when
they were planning Disney World. It was Walt himself who wrote that
"Kennywood is the heart and soul of the amusement park industry,
a national treasure as much as Yellowstone or The Grand Canyon."
Walt's been gone since 1968, but his words echo down through the decades.
The park has been landlocked for several decades. But it’s been
quietly buying property, and now Kennywood owns basically the entire
plateau, plus the cliffs down to the old railroad property along the
river. So they're drawing up plans right now for the expansion that
may double the size of the park in a decade. Kennywood has maintained
its competitive position when it was not able to expand. Rival parks
now wait nervously as the expansion finally begins.
|This Year's Unique Visitor Tally : 1,003,492
||Contact us at Omlordw@aol.com
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