Cedar Point is a 364-acre (147 ha) amusement park located on a Lake Erie peninsula in Sandusky, Ohio. Opened in 1870, it is the second-oldest operating amusement park in the United States behind Lake Compounce. Cedar Point is owned and operated by Cedar Fair and is considered the flagship of the amusement park chain. Known as “America’s Roller Coast”, the park features a world-record 72 rides, including 16 roller coasters – the second-most in the world behind Six Flags Magic Mountain. Its newest roller coaster, Steel Vengeance, is set to open in May 2018.
Cedar Point’s normal operating season runs from early May until Labor Day in September. The park then reopens only on weekends until the end of October or early November for a Halloween-themed event known as HalloWeekends. Other attractions near the park include a one-mile-long (1.6 km) white-sand beach, an outdoor water park called Cedar Point Shores, an indoor water park called Castaway Bay, two marinas, and several nearby resorts.
The park has reached several milestones. It is the only amusement park in the world with five roller coasters taller than 200 feet (61 m) – Magnum XL-200, Millennium Force, Wicked Twister, Top Thrill Dragster, and Valravn – and is the only park with roller coasters in all four height classifications. Cedar Point also received the Golden Ticket Award for “Best Amusement Park in the World” from Amusement Today for 16 consecutive years from 1997-2013. The park is the most visited seasonal amusement park in the United States with an estimated 3.6 million visitors in 2016. The park also has several buildings that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In the mid-19th century, the south shore region of Lake Erie was a popular vacation destination for the emerging middle class in the United States. The lake’s islands, such as Kelleys Island and South Bass Island, were gaining a reputation for their freshwater bathing resorts. The Cedar Point peninsula, named for its abundance of cedar trees, was originally known for its fishing. Local fishermen leased land and built living quarters there. Sandusky, which featured an important shipping harbor and two railroads, transformed into a major economic center over the next three decades. Railroad and steamship travel supported an emerging tourism industry, and rapid development of the area began.
In the 1860s during the American Civil War, housing for a battery of four field artillery pieces was constructed at the tip of the peninsula. It was used to defend a prison for Confederate soldiers on nearby Johnson’s Island. Louis Zistel, a German immigrant, built two boats to transport the prisoners. In 1870, he began to ferry locals to the Cedar Point peninsula, which was regaining popularity as a summer picnic destination. Zistel opened a bathhouse on the north shore of the peninsula and the same year built a beer garden with a small dance floor. He charged 25 cents per person to ride from Sandusky to Cedar Point on his boat, Young Reindeer. This marked the beginning of commercial tourism on the Cedar Point peninsula.
Benjamin F. Dwelle and Captain William Slackford leased land on the peninsula in 1882 and built eight new bathhouses, a dance hall and wooden walkways on the beach. The steamboats R.B. Hayes and Lutts provided transport to Biemiller’s Cove and Cedar Point Light. Building on early success, Dwelle and Slackford continued to expand the offerings for their visitors each year and added picnic tables, cleared acres of brush, and built a baseball diamond. In 1888, after Slackford became ill, Dwelle entered a more lucrative partnership with Adam Stoll and Louis Adolph, who owned land at Cedar Point, and investors Charles Baetz and Jacob Kuebeler. The partnership’s first venture was constructing a Grand Pavilion, which opened in 1888. It was a two-story theater and concert hall with a bowling alley and photographer’s studio. The building was recognized for its unusual architecture, and still stands in the park. The first amusement ride at Cedar Point, a water toboggan ride consisting of a ramp that launched riders into Lake Erie, opened in 1890. Electricity was installed at Cedar Point in 1891. The first roller coaster, Switchback Railway, opened the following year. It stood 25 feet (7.6 m) high and had a top speed of 10 miles per hour (16 km/h). The Switchback Railway was designed as two identical tracks side-by-side – one for the ride down and the other for the train to be hauled back to the top by the ride attendant.
Representatives of the Lake Erie and Western Railroad purchased the peninsula for US$256,000 (equivalent to about $7,530,500 in 2017) in 1897, and formed the Cedar Point Pleasure Resort Company. The company appointed George A. Boeckling, a businessman from Indiana, as the park’s new manager. Under his tenure, the peninsula was transformed from a picnic ground into a nationally recognized amusement park and resort destination.
The second roller coaster at Cedar Point, the Figure-Eight Roller Toboggan, debuted in 1902. It was moved several years later and renamed The Racer. A pony track was built near the beach the same year. Mosquitos were becoming a problem, so in 1904, the park hired the Detroit Dredging Company to drain swampy areas on the peninsula. Detroit Dredging connected a series of lagoons to form a water passageway that quickly became one of the park’s signature attractions. Aside from sightseeing passenger boats, the passageway was used to transport coal to power plants near the center of the peninsula. The historic Hotel Breakers opened in 1905 as one of the largest hotels in the Midwest; it had 600 guest rooms and a cafe that could seat 400 guests. A new area of the park called “Amusement Circle” was designed in 1906 to link the pier to the beach. It was located southeast of the Coliseum, a large arena built the same year that featured a grand ballroom and other attractions.
In 1908, the Dip the Dips Scenic Railway roller coaster opened but was soon overshadowed in 1912 by the larger Leap the Dips ride. In 1917, Dip the Dips was razed and replaced by the Leap Frog Scenic Railway. With three roller coasters and a growing variety of other rides, Cedar Point was beginning to grow as an amusement park, though that was not Boeckling’s priority. He marketed the peninsula primarily as a bathing resort complete with shows, exhibits, motion pictures, and other forms of entertainment, but did not emphasize the park’s rides.
Many more hotels and restaurants were constructed in the remaining years of Boeckling’s tenure, including Hotel Cedars, White House Hotel, Crystal Rock Castle, and Crystal Gardens Ballroom. The Cyclone, a rickety and rough coaster, was built in 1926. Cedar Point continued to update its ride attractions, replacing the Racer, the Circle Swing, and many other rides to make way for a Shoot-the-Chutes water ride, a Tilt-A-Whirl, and fun houses such as Noah’s Ark and Bluebeard’s Palace. Boeckling’s health began to deteriorate in the late 1920s. In 1931, Boeckling became confined to a wheelchair, but he continued to oversee park operations, and was pushed around Cedar Point by an employee or relative. His condition worsened, however, and he eventually had to remain indoors. Boeckling died on July 24, 1931 from uremia. His portrait in the lobby of Breakers Hotel was draped in black. Flags in the resort and on the G.A. Boeckling steamboat were lowered to half mast.
After Boeckling-George A Roose Era
Edward Smith took over Cedar Point’s management after Boeckling’s death. Little expansion happened through the 1930s; one of the few rides built in that period was the Tumble Bug. The decaying Leap the Dips coaster was demolished in the mid-1930s. In the late 1930s, the resort was on the brink of being sold to the state of Ohio for US$3,000,000 (equivalent to about $51,069,400 in 2017). After the 1938 season, the directors had the second floor of the Coliseum modernized in the art deco style with a new stage. In the middle, the giant dance floor remained. Some of the top bands of the time played in the ballroom. As a result, it kept Cedar Point operating through the rest of the Depression. Momma Berardi’s Home Made French Fries came to Cedar Point, Momma Berardi’s family played an important role in the food industry at Cedar Point. Momma Berardi’s fries were sold there from 1942 until 1978, winning four Reader’s Choice Awards.
By the end of World War II, Cedar Point was in need of financial help. The wood of the Cyclone roller coaster was rotting, the boardwalk was cracked in many places, and the fishing dock was in need of repair. In 1946, Cedar Point’s oldest still-existing ride, the Midway Carousel, was installed. By 1951, the Cyclone coaster was razed because of its poor condition, leaving the resort without a roller coaster. As the Cyclone was being removed, the Laff-in-the-Dark, Rocket Ships, and Loop-A-Plane attractions were installed. Cedar Point Causeway was built in 1957, and is still in use. The president of Cedar Point, Bernie Zeiher, was replaced by George Roose around 1958, and Emile Legros was elected chairman that same year.
In the 1950s, the Pagoda Gift Shop was a post-office and the Crystal Rock Castle was turned into a maintenance shop in the late-1950s. In 1959, the hotels were repainted, new admission gates were installed, and over US$1,200,000(equivalent to about $10,074,000 in 2017) was spent to refresh Cedar Point. The park’s first roller coaster since the Cyclone, the Wild Mouse, was built. The resort also got a new kind of ride, a monorail that was the most popular ride in 1959. Breakers Hotel was restored, and the neglected cottages were demolished. The Coliseum and Grand Pavilion were both painted and remodeled. The Crystal Rock Castle Maintenance Shop, bathhouses, and the old powerhouse were demolished, and a new $50,000 bathhouse, boiler house, and maintenance shop were built in their place.
In the 1960s, the idea of “pay one price” season passes became common. On March 28, 1960, Cedar Point announced plans to transform the park into a “Disneyland” amusement center. Those plans fell through, however. Cedar Point & Lake Erie Railroad opened in 1963, transporting passengers from the middle of the park to the back. In 1964, Cedar Point built its oldest surviving roller coaster, the Blue Streak. It was named after the local high school’s sports teams, the Sandusky Blue Streaks. Jungle Larry’s Safari Island was a well-known attraction that operated from 1965 until 1994 despite the death of Jungle Larry in 1984. The Cedar Creek Mine Ride opened in 1969; it is currently the second oldest roller coaster at Cedar Point.
In 1970, the Centennial Theatre, named in honor of Cedar Point’s 100th anniversary, was built. 1972 brought Giant Wheel and the now-defunct Jumbo Jet coaster, which was noted for being the fastest coaster at that time. In 1975, Robert L. Munger Jr. took over as president of Cedar Point after Roose retired. The record-breaking Corkscrew roller coaster was built in 1976; it was the first roller coaster to span a midway and have three inversions. Gemini opened in 1978 and was advertised as the tallest, fastest and steepest roller coaster in the world. A kiddie coaster, named Jr. Gemini (now known as Wilderness Run), opened the following year across from the Gemini. White Water Landing opened in 1982, replacing the original Shoot the Rapids log flume. In 1983, Demon Drop was built at the front of the park. Avalanche Run opened in 1985 close to the beach, and would later be re-themed as Disaster Transport. That same year, the San Francisco Earthquake Ride was transformed into the Berenstain Bear Country.
Dick Kinzel era
In 1986, Robert L. Munger Jr, the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Cedar Fair, stepped down due to health issues, and was replaced by Richard “Dick” Kinzel. Thunder Canyon, a river rafting ride manufactured by Intamin, also opened in 1986. In 1987, Iron Dragon, a suspended roller coaster, debuted on the Million Dollar Midway near the Cedar Point & Lake Erie Railroad station. In 1988, Soak City (now known as Cedar Point Shores), Cedar Point’s outdoor water park, was constructed near Hotel Breakers. It featured speed slides, more than 10 body and tube slides, a family raft ride, a water playhouse and two lazy rivers.
Several new rides and roller coasters opened at Cedar Point from 1989 to 2011 that were record-breakers. Magnum XL-200 debuted in 1989, breaking the world height and speed records. It was the first roller coaster to exceed a height of 200 feet (61 m) and speeds over 70 miles per hour (110 km/h) and was the first hypercoaster in the world. For the 1990 season, Avalanche Run was transformed into Disaster Transport, the ride was fully enclosed and special effects were added. In subsequent years, the special effects and theming were removed, leaving the ride almost completely dark. Mean Streak opened in 1991 as the northernmost attraction in the park. It broke records for the fastest and tallest wooden roller coaster in the world, reaching speeds of 65 miles per hour (105 km/h) and a height of 161 feet (49 m). Challenge Park was built between Hotel Breakers and Soak City in 1992. Challenge Park included RipCord, Skyscraper, and two eighteen-hole mini-golf courses.
Snake River Falls was constructed in 1993 because of the popularity of Soak City. The 82-foot (25 m)-tall structure sends riders plunging down at 40 miles per hour (64 km/h). At the bottom of the hill, the ride ends with a splash landing in which the boat creates a large wave, splashing spectators on an overlooking bridge. When it opened, it was the tallest and fastest water ride in the world. In 1994, Cedar Point installed Raptor. The Mill Race log flume was removed from the park, and the circular Calypso was relocated to make room for Raptor, the first inverted roller coaster to feature a cobra roll. In December 1994, the park held its only Christmas in the Park. The Midway Carousel was open, and a horse-drawn carriage gave behind-the-scenes tours of the park, and the midway held many Christmas festivals, including a Christmas tree. In 1996, Cedar Point opened Mantis, then the tallest, steepest, and fastest stand-up roller coaster in the world. Originally, the ride was to be called “Banshee”, but it was later changed after negative public reaction. The discarded name would later be reused for Banshee at Kings Island in 2014. In 1997, the park added HalloWeekends, a Halloween event with haunted houses and mazesduring the Halloween season. Camp Snoopy debuted in 1999; it features eight Snoopy-themed attractions, with the exception of a Tilt-A-Whirl. The area also features a junior roller coaster built by Vekoma, Woodstock Express.
Cedar Point built the first giga coaster, Millennium Force, in 2000. When it debuted, it was the tallest and fastest complete circuit coaster in the world, reaching speeds of 93 miles per hour (150 km/h) and heights of 310 ft (94 m). In 2002, Wicked Twister opened as the first second-generation Intamin inverted impulse roller coaster. Today, Wicked Twister is the tallest (215 ft) and fastest 72 miles per hour (116 km/h) inverted impulse roller coaster in the world. Top Thrill Dragster debuted as the first strata coaster in 2003 and was the tallest, 420 ft (130 m), and fastest, 120 miles per hour (190 km/h), roller coaster in the world. It is currently second-tallest in the world. maXair debuted in 2005 as only the second HUSS Giant Frisbee ride in the United States. Dan Keller also retired in 2005 as Vice President and general manager. He was replaced by John Hildebrandt, who had been the Vice President and general manager of Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom since May 2004. In 2006, Skyhawk was built next to Snake River Falls, it is currently the tallest Screamin’ Swing in the world. In the 2007 season, Cedar Point built Maverick, which features a 100-foot (30 m) drop at a 95-degree angle and includes a linear synchronous motor (LSM) launch in the middle of the ride reaching speeds of 70 miles per hour (110 km/h). In 2008, Cedar Point introduced Planet Snoopy, a kids’ area constructed on the site of Peanuts Playground; it consists of family and children’s rides relocated from Cedar Point’s sister park Geauga Lake after it closed. The area also consisted of a “Kids Only” restaurant called Joe Cool Cafe, which had a small menu for adults. Starlight Experience, a night-time LED light extravaganza with floats themed to the four seasons, debuted in 2009. The $1,000,000 attraction took place on the Frontier Trail nightly beginning at twilight. In 2010, Cedar Point added a new flume ride on the park’s Frontier Trail named Shoot the Rapids, which included two drops and a three-minute journey through a rustic, western-themed environment. It was removed in February 2016 following a history of low ridership and a serious incident in 2013 injuring seven riders. WindSeeker, a 301-foot (92 m) tall tower that spins riders along the shoreline of Lake Erie, was introduced in 2011. WindSeeker did not open on time due to construction delays and opened to the public on June 14, 2011.
Matt Ouimet era
On June 20, 2011, Cedar Fair announced that Dick Kinzel would retire on January 3, 2012, and Matt Ouimet would become the CEO of the company. Ouimet was employed by The Walt Disney Company for 17 years, including tenures as president of Disney Cruise Line and the Disneyland Resort.
In 2012, Cedar Point added Dinosaurs Alive!, a walk-through exhibit featuring approximately 50 life-size animatronic dinosaurs. It is located on Adventure Island and replaced the Paddlewheel Excursions boat cruise ride. A six-lane mat racer slide complex called Dragster H2O was added to Soak City. The slides around Dragster H2O were repainted and the Speed Slides were dismantled to make room for Dragster H2O. Cedar Point also introduced Fast Lane, their version of a fast-pass system, and a new nighttime show, Luminosity – Ignite the Night!. Cedar Point also removed WildCat for the 2012 season to make room for Luminosity. This was the first time since 1978 that a roller coaster was removed from Cedar Point.
On July 13, 2012, Cedar Point announced the removal of Disaster Transport and Space Spiral. Exactly a month later, Cedar Point announced GateKeeper, the longest wing coaster in the world, which opened on May 11, 2013. Along with GateKeeper, a new main entrance plaza was constructed, replacing the entrance that was built in the 1960s. It features two 100-foot (30 m)-tall support columns that the trains go through. Cedar Point is investing $60 million in its hotel resorts over three years, starting in the 2013–2014 offseason. At the end of the 2013 season, John Hildebrandt retired as the park’s general manager and was replaced by Jason McClure, the former Vice President and general manager of Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom.
Two new family attractions called Pipe Scream and Lake Erie Eagles were added in 2014, along with a pay-per-ride thrill ride named SlingShot. Camp Snoopy and the Gemini Midway underwent renovations the same year, and some rides within those areas were relocated and given new themes. In 2015, the stand-up coaster Mantis was transformed into a floorless roller coaster called Rougarou, receiving new trains and a new green and orange paint scheme in the process. Also in 2015, Hotel Breakers received a $25-million renovation. A new roller coaster called Valravn debuted in 2016 as the tallest, fastest, and longest dive coaster in the world. The 223-foot-tall (68 m) ride replaced the 40-year-old Good Time Theater along with an antique car ride known as Turnpike Cars. Calypso was also moved in the process to the beach area near Wicked Twister, where it was renamed Tiki Twirl. Raptor and Top Thrill Dragster were repainted as well. As the 2016 season came to close, Cedar Point announced that Mean Streak would close permanently on September 16, 2016, though park officials declined to confirm that it was being torn down.