Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Astroland Sold To Thor Equities!

Coney’s Astroland amusement park announced yesterday – as reported through the Daily News – that is has been acquired by Thor Equities. Thor states, that the new development in place of Astroland will be an extension of enclosed amusements and attractions geared for the 21st century as a year-round destination. Thor is destined to create the 1.2 Billion project as a new kind of entertainment destination with a show that never stops. No longer are amusements in areas prone to cold climates useless during the winter. But perhaps may prove claustrophobic in the summer when we invite our relationship with the outdoors.

Joe Sitt of Thor Equities plans to develop everything from the Aquarium to the Cyclone stadium. Most likely Deno’s Play Land will be the next acquisition. And perhaps the Wonder Wheel will most likely be resituated somewhere else in the area - probably next to wherever they place B&B Carousel.

The three main criteria of the project’s fundamental principles are: To create thousands of jobs for the community, a promise to expand the amusement district, and a wide variety of mix usage bustling with shopping, dining, and of course the residential component.

All this to include a luxury high-rise hotel to accommodate the influx of visitors. As well as a year-round indoor waterpark. New Yorkers will have two water parks to visit if Randall's Island water park is realized.

What was beginning to sound like smoke and mirrors in order to flip the property and make a profit could now turn out to be an inaccurate speculation due to their continued push about amusements. Thor also announced yesterday that they are kicking off an ad campaign blitz to sway the public perception in order to generate support. And now with the purchase of the Astroland property and the intention of converting it into an ‘extension’ of the amusements it could more likely validate their claims. Perhaps…or perhaps not. Thor has done this type of flip with the purchase the Washington bathhouse. They purchased it for $12 million (well over the asking price) and sold it for an unheard of tag of $84 million. A huge profit within nine months.

What worries some about this speculation is the possibility that if Thor does not get the rezoning changes it seeks; they could leave empty lots in their wake. Like Fred Trump did when he couldn’t get the city to change the zoning variances and as a result the lot was left abandoned. But then again it was a different time. A time without the development boom that Brooklyn and the rest of the country is experiencing.

Still, more has yet to be seen. As part of their campaign, Thor has announced they will release newsletters and put up a website. It is still hopeful that these will result in more specific designs unlike the fantasy renderings that were dished out recently that included a generic roller coaster. An attraction that loops and weaves in and out of parts of the main structure would have to be the beacon of the ‘resort’ since it will be such a permanent feature competing with the buildings’ themes.

Renderings were laden with virtual holographic whales and mermaids that perhaps can only appear at night if the technology even exists. A 150 ft high attraction: The Coney Island Splash? The intention and maybe even heart are in the right place and in the right direction, as Dick Zigun commented. But all appears to lack concrete creative thought. It’s difficult to imagine an amusement park of the kind that Disney, Universal, or Las Vegas could produce. Let alone with the right balance of present and old Coney.
Thor has only developed malls and mix use space like Beach Place in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

Ideas that marvel the public are the creation of highly talented experts from every aspect of the amusement industry as well as Hollywood. Like imagineers and story tellers supported by technical experts and special effects wizards, not concocted solely by business developers. Perhaps in the day of Tilyou, Thompson, Dundy, or Reyolds - but not today. At this point Thor has only utilized artists to create renderings with rampant ideas thrown into the mix at a conference room.

Through all the fantasy play, many Coney locals and enthusiasts still worry that Thor’s real attraction will be the residential components where the less-important aspects are the amusements themselves. Thos has commented in their releases that amusements do not generate much revenue and are too seasonal. If that is the case then it's highly unfortunate that the amusement part of New Coney’s main event will just be the sideshow...with a sideshow.

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