Industry History

Our goal for this page is to be the most comprehensive, all in one, history of the amusement and theme park industry.  Please be patient as we organize all the infomation we have.

1815:

  • Charles Kenny acquires land near Pittsburg PA.

1840:

  • Riverside park opens.

1860:

  • A portion of Charles Kenny’s land becomes popular as a picnic area.

1870:

  • Cedar Point begins operations.  Main activities include swimming, picnics and camping.

1888:

1889:

  • The first ride is added to Geauga Lake Park. (A carousel)

1892:

  • Cedar Point opens first roller coaster.

1897:

  • Cedar Point acquired by The Cedar Point Pleasure Resort Company for $256,000.

1898:

  • Trolley Park opens on Charles Kenny’s land in Pittsburg, PA.

1901:

  • Cedar Point opens it’s first hotel with 55 rooms.

1903:

  • Cedar Point’s hotel “White House Hotel” expanded with 77 additional rooms.

1906:

  • The Pittsburg Kennywood Park Company is formed and takes over the lease of Kennywood (Charles Kenny’s property in Pittsburg).

1907:

1908:

  • First rides added to Hershey Park.

1926:

  • Ideal Beach opens.

1930′s:

  • Riverside park closes during the Great Depression.
  • Kennywood survives the Great Depression by sponsoring school picnics and live bands.

1932:

  • Ole Kirk Christiansen began making toys in his small workshop in Billund, Denmark.

1934:

  • Mr. Christiansen came up with a name for his toys and his workshop: LEGOs.

1937:

  • Busch Gardens (Pasadena, CA) closes.

1940:

  • Riverside Park is purchased and reopened.

1946:

  • Santa Claus Land opens.

1947:

  • LEGO bought it’s first plastics injection molding machine.
  • Walt Disney purchases 160 acres  in Anaheim California.

1949:

  • The first LEGO brick was introduces under the name “Automatic Binding Bricks.”

1950:

  • Herschend Family acquires long term lease on Marvel Cave near Branson, MO.

1951:

  • Cedar Point removes the last roller coaster from it’s property.  Roller coasters will remain absent for the next 8 years.

1952:

  • Ideal Beach changes name to Indiana Beach.

1953:

  • ABC television network agrees to provide funding for Walt Disney’s theme park in exchange for a weekly TV show.

1954:

  • Construction begins on Disneyland.

1955:

  • Disneyland opens with 17 rides and themed areas.  Visitors on first day total 60,000.

1956:

  • Disneyland first year guest totals 5 million.
  • Deer Park opens.
  • A Real Estate Group buys Cedar Point and all the land around it.  They had plans to close Cedar Point and build a housing development but the lease for the park ran until 1959 halting their immediate plans.

1958:

  • Inner tubes on the bricks were introduced which increased the amount of possible building configurations. (Legos)
  • The Real Estate Group decides to rebuild and develop Cedar Point after a small profit the previous year.

1959:

  • Busch Family Entertainment founded to run Anheuser Busch’s theme park operations.
  • - A steel track roller coaster is added to Cedar Point, roller coasters were absent for the previous 8 years.
  • Busch Gardens Tampa Bay opens.






1960:



1961:



1964:



  • Darien Lake opens as a campground.

1965:



  • Penn Central Railroad acquires Great Southwest Corporation (Six Flags).
  • Cedar Point attendance surpasses 2 million for the first time in history.

1966:



  • Walt Disney dies, brother Roy Disney assumes control of the company.

1967:



1968:



  • LEGOLAND Billund opens on 9 acre site.  All buildings, landscapes and vehicles were built using standard LEGO bricks.
  • Marine World opens in Redwood City, CA.
  • Astroworld opens in Houston Texas as the area’s first major theme park.  It included 8 themed areas; Alpine Valley, American, Children’s World, European Village, Modville, Plaza de Fiesta, Oriental Corner and Western Junction.

1968:



  • Astroworld opens.
  • Marine World opens in Redwood City, CA.

1969:



  • Penn Central Railroad creates a new company; Six Flags Theme Parks to manage it’s theme park operations.
  • Geauga Lake Park acquired by Funtime, Inc.
  • Coney Island (Ohio) acquired by Taft Broadcasting.
  • Construction begins on Magic Mountain with an estimated cost of $20 million.

1970:



  • Taft Broadcasting acquires 1600 acres in Kings Mill, OH to build a new park.
  • Fun Island themed area opens in Astroworld.
  • Roy Disney dies.
  • Rebel Railroad acquired by Cleveland Browns and renamed Goldrush Junction.

1971:



1972:



  • King’s Island opens by Taft Broadcasting.  Park is replacement for Coney Island.
  • Busch Gardens (Houston, TX) closes
  • Country Fair themed area opens in Astroworld.
  • OPRYLAND USA opens with a cost of $28 million.  The park is owned by National Life & Accident Insurance Company.

1973:



1974:



1975:



  • Family Leisure Centers a joint venture between Top Value Enterprises and Taft Broadcasting Co, opens Kings Dominion.
  • Taft Broadcasting acquires Carowinds near Charlotte, NC.
  • The Old Country: Busch Gardens Williamsburg opens.
  • Six Flags acquires Astroworld and changes name to Six Flags Astroworld.
  • OPRYLAND USA suffers from flooding, sustains $5 million in damage.

1976:



  • The Herschend family acquires Gold Rush Junction Park in Pigeon Forge, TN.
  • Mariotts Great America opens.
  • Coney Island themed area opens in Six Flags Astroworld.  Park also introduces season passes.

1977:



  • Six Flags acquires Great Adventure in New Jersey.
  • LEGO TECHNIC for older children debuts.
  • First water slides added to Darien Lake.
  • Six Flags Astroworld changes Modville themed area’s name to International Plaza.
  • Goldrush Junction renamed Silver Dollar City (TN).
  • OPRYLAND USA opens OPRYLAND hotel.
  • Kings Dominion opens Kings Quarters hotel.

1978:



1979: 



  • A gasoline shortage affects the entire tourism industry.  Peter Herschend of Silver Dollar City Corp. organizes local business owners to get together and purchase gas, then resell it below cost.  This is advertised to potential visitors of Branson, CO.  Other vacation destinations saw up to a 25% drop in business, but Silver Dollar City’s attendance dropped only 2%.
  • Taft Broadcasting begins construction of Canada’s Wonderland in Toronto.
  • Busch Gardens (Van Nuys, CA) closes.
  • Six Flags acquires Magic Mountain and rebrands it as Six Flags Magic Mountain.

1980:



  • Family Leisure Centers (Top Value Enterprises) is dissolved.  Taft Broadcasting gains 100% ownership of King’s Dominion.
  • LEGO DACTA, now known as The Educational Division, is set up.

1981:



  • Canada’s Wonderland opens.
  • Six Flags Astroworld remodels Country Fair themed area and renames it Nottingham Village themed area.

1982:



  • Wild World opens in Largo, Maryland primarily as a water park, but has a few “dry” rides.
  • Penn Railroad Corporation sells Six Flags to Bally Manufacturing for $140 million.
  • Adventure Kingdom opens in Mexico. Has 6 themed areas at grand opening.  Mexican Town, Cattle Town, Frech Town, Polynesian Town, Swiss town and Childs Town.
  • Waterworld construction begins adjacent to Six Flags Astroworld.

1983:



  • Boardwalk Shores opens adjacent to Geauga Lake Park.
  • Waterworld opens adjacent to Astroworld.
  • Senior executives at Taft Broadcasting form Kings Entertainment Company and acquire 2/3 ownership of Kings Dominion, Carowinds, Kings Island and Canada’s Wonderland.
  • Carowinds Brochure for this year

1984:



  • Taft Broadcasting opens Hanna-Barbera Land near Houston, Texas.
  • Executives and park managers of Taft Broadcasting buy Taft Broadcasting’s Theme Park Division and form Kings Entertainment Company (KECO)
  • Six Flags acquires Mariott’s Great America.
  • Six Flags acquires Atlantis, The Water Kingdom in Florida; rebrands it as Six Flags Atlantis.
  • Six Flags AutoWorld opens in Flint Michigan.
  • Six Flags signs licensing deal with Time Warner to use Looney Tunes theme and characters in it’s parks.
  • Santa Claus Land changes name to Holiday World.

1985:



  • Six Flags Power Plant opens in Maryland.
  • Mariott’s Great America renamed Six Flags Great America.
  • KECO brought in to manage Great America in Santa Clara, CA.
  • Australia Wonderland opens.
  • Six Flags AutoWorld closes. (Flint, MI)
  • Marine World closes at it’s location in Redwood City, CA.
  • Keiko (a whale) arrives at Adventure Kingdom as a new attraction.
  • Dolly Parton invests in Silver Dollar City. (TN)

1986:



  • Marine World reopens at it’s new location in Vallejo, CA.
  • Silver Dollar City (TN) is renamed to Dollywood.
  • Boomerang is moved to Adventure Kingdom from Puebla and construction begins.

1987:



  • Kentucky Kingdom opens on 10 acres adjacent to the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center in Louisville Kentucky.
  • Kentucky Kingdom files for bankruptcy within a year of opening.
  • Wesray Capital along with park managers buys Six Flags from Bally Manufacturing for $610 million.  Wesray Capital owns 80%, Managers own 20%.
  • Boomerang construction completed and opens in Polynesian Town at Adventure Kingdom.
  • Kennywood designated as a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of Interior.

1988:



  • Kentucky Kingdom remains closed for the 1988 and 1989 seasons. Rides are being auctioned off.
  • The Dollywood Company opens it’s first Dixie Stampede dinner attration in Pigeon Forge, TN.
  • Silver Dollar City and several other local attractions stay open later into the year for the first Ozark Mountain Christmas.
  • Soak City opens adjacent to Cedar Point.
  • Deer Park changes name to Michigan’s Adventure.

1989:



  • KECO purchases Great America with a 50 year lease on the land the park sits on.
  • Partnership formed to reopen Kentucky Kingdom. Partnership includes Ed Hart and a group of 227 unsecured creditors of the closed park.
  • Busch Family Entertainment acquires theme park unit of Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.  Properties include all SeaWorld parks, Boardwalk & Baseball and Cypress Gardens; both in central florida.
  • Six Flags sells Six Flags Atlantis in Hollywood, FL.  The park is immediately renamed Altantis, The Water World.  The park is destroyed by hurricane Andrew in 1992.
  • Six Flags Power Plant closed. (Baltimore, MD)
  • Boardwalk & Baseball closed.
  • Water Works is opened adjacent to Kings Island.
  • Cypress Gardens sold to parks management team.

1990:



1991:



  • Tierio buys White Water Bay from Silver Dollar City Inc.
  • Wesray Capital’s debt threatens bankruptcy on Six Flags.  Time Warner increases it’s percentage to 50%.  Time Warner also retires (pays off) Six Flags debt and injects an additional $150 million into the company.  The Blackstone Group and Wertheim Schroder buys the remaining 50% from Wesray Capital.
  • Adventure Kingdom closes and begins remodeling.
  • Wild World stays closed for this entire season after bankruptcy filing in 1990.
  • Disney announces plans for 3 hotels and the Westcot Center, which will be known collectively as Disneyland Resort.

1992:



1993:



1994:



  • Canada’s Wonderland acquired by Paramount Parks.
  • Viacom acquires Paramount.
  • Tierio changes name to Premier Parks.
  • Wild World renamed Adventure World, Water Park renamed Paradise Island by Premier Parks.
  • Hersheypark expands to encompass 90 acres.
  • Disney cancels plans for Westcot Center at it’s California resort.

1995:



  • Geauga Lake acquired by Premier Parks.
  • The New Adventure Kingdom renamed as Adventure Kingdom.
  • Six Flags acquires Wet n’ Wild (TX) and rebrands it as Hurricane Harbor.
  • Premier Parks acquries Funtime Parks.  Deal includes three parks: Geauga Lake, Wyandot Lake and Darien Lake.
  • Six Flags Hurricane Harbor opens adjacent to Six Flags Magic Mountain.
  • Elitch Gardens opens at new location in Denver Colorado.
  • After Time Warner gets into financial trouble; 51% of Six Flags is sold to Boston Ventures for $200 million and also assumes $800 million in Time Warner debt.
  • The Herschend Family built and launched the Showbot Branson Belle for lunch and dinner entertainment cruises on the Table Rock Lake.
  • Cedar Fair acquires Worlds of Fun.
  • The New Adventure Kingdom changes name back to Adventure Kingdom after management changes.  Also re-introduces Cornelio the Dragoon as official mascot.
  • Soak City (adjacent to Cedar Point) is expanded.
  • View Kentucky Kingdom park map from this year.

1996:



  • Six Flags Over Mid America changes name to Six FLags St. Louis.
  • Premier Parks has an IPO, raises $70 million.
  • Premier Parks acquires several parks:
    • Elitch Gardens
    • Waterworld USA (Concord, CA and Sacremento, CA)
    • Great Escape & Splash Water Kingdom
  • Premier Parks becomes fourth largest amusement park owner in the United States.
  • Six Flags takes over management of Fiesta Texas and changes name to Six Flags Fiesta Texas.
  • LEGOLAND Windsor opens.
  • Keiko is transported to it’s new home at the Oregon Coast Aquarium in the United States.

1997:



  • Australia Wonderland acquired by Leisure Theme Parks Sunway Group and renamed Wonderland Sydney.
  • Cedar Fair acquires Knott’s Berry Farm & All Soak City Parks.
  • Soak City (adjacent to Cedar Point) is expanded again.
  • Premier Parks acquires several more parks
    • Kentucky Kingdom ($64 Million)
    • Premier Parks acquires Riverside Park.
    • Old Indiana Fun Park (What’s left of it)
    • Riverside Amusement Park (MA)
  • Premier Parks begins managing Marine World Africa USA in a 10 year deal and adds first rides.
  • OPRYLAND USA closes.
  • Premier Parks acquires 13 rides from the defunct OPRYLAND USA.
  • Premier Parks has second IPO, raises $200 million.
  • Water Works (Kings Island) is expanded to 30 acres.
  • Adventure Kingdom celebrates it’s 15 year aniversary.
  • Hersheypark expands to encompass 110 acres.
  • Island Waterpark opens adjacent to Elitch Gardens.

1998:

  • Premier Parks acquires Walibi Family Parks (6 parks in total).
    • Walibi Aquitaine (France)
    • Walibi Rhone-Alpes (France)
    • Walibi Lorraine (France)
    • Walibi Wavre (Belguim)
    • Walibi Flevo (Holland)
    • Bellewaerde Park (Belgium)
  • Visionland built by West Jefferson Amusement & Public Park Authority opens in Bessemer, AL.
  • Silver Dollar City, Inc obtains long term lease to operate Stone Mountain Park in Georgia.
  • Marine World Africa USA rebrands as Marine World Theme Park.  More rides are added.
  • Premier Parks acquires Six Flags for $1.9 Billion.
  • Several Parks owned by Premier Parks/Six Flags undergo rebranding.
    • Kentucky Kingdom to Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom
    • Darien Lake to Six Flags Darien Lake
    • Elitch Gardens to Six Flags Elitch Gardens
    • Adventure World to Six Flags America
  •  Six Flags acquires 2 parks:
  • Silver Dollar City,  Inc. obtains long term lease to operate Stone Mountain Park in GA.
  • Premier Parks opens Island Kingdom adjacent to Riverside Park.

      1999:



      • Hurricane Harbor opens in St. Louis.
      • Cedar Point attendance passes 3 million.
      • Hurricane Reef (adjacent to Kings Dominion) is expanded and rebranded as Water Works.
      • LEGOLAND California opens on 128 acres.
      • Michigan’s Adventure announces 5 year expansion program.
      • Marine World Theme Park renamed Six Flags Marine World.
      • After almost a decade of planning, construction begins on Jazzland in New Orleans, LA.
      • Premier Parks acquires several parks:
        • Adventure Kingdom
        • White Water (Atlanta)
        • Splashtown (Houston)
        • Reino Aventura (Mexico City)
        • Warner Bros. Movie World (Germany)
      • Six Flags Astroworld receives a $16 million capital improvement package, the largest in the park history.  Most of the money is spent on Waterworld.
      • Premier Parks continues rebranding parks:
        • Geauga Lake to Six Flags Ohio
        • Riverside Amusement Park to Six Flags New England
        • Reino Aventura to Six Flags Mexico
        • Walibi Flevo to Six Flags Holland
      • Carowinds brochure

          2000:



          • Adventure Kingdom renamed Six Flags Mexico.
          • Premier Parks changes name to Six Flags.
          • Six Flags continues to rebrand parks under Six Flags banner.
            • Walibi Wavre to Six Flags Belgium
          • Six Flags acquires LaRonde in Canada and Enchanted Parks (WA) and Sea World Cleveland.
            • Six Flags merges Sea World Cleveland and Six Flags Ohio.  Renames the combined park Six Flags Worlds of Adventure.
          • (Feb) Cedar Fair enters into 5 year agreement to take over operations of Visionland.
          • (Mar) Cedar Fair cancels operations agreement of Visionland.
          • Jazzland opens in New Orleans, LA.
          • On opening day, Jazzland is sold to Alfa Alfa Holdings and is run by Alfa SmartParks Inc.
          • British Airways London Eye opens in London.

          2001:



          2002:



          • Ride the Ducks expands to Baltimore, MD.
          • Jazzland files for bankruptcy, park investors make bid for park.  Buyout fails when financial backing falls through.
          • City of New Orleans sells Jazzland to Six Flags.  Six Flags will lease land for 75 years as part of the agreement.
          • Visionland fails to open on time, finally opens in June.
          • LEGOLAND Deutschland opens.
          • PARC Management formed by members or management from other park chains including Six Flags, Ogden Entertainment & Alfa SmartParks.
          • (June) Visionland files for bankruptcy protection.
          • (Aug) Visionland put up for sale.
          • (Aug) Wild Adventures offers to buy Visionland and keep it open for at least 5 years.
          • (Oct) ThemeParks LLC announces interest in Visionland.
          • (Oct) Wild Adventures withdrawls offer to buy Visionland.
          • (Oct) Team Pro Parks announces it is buying Visionland.
          • Six Flags Astroworld and Waterworld merge into one park; Six Flags Astroworld. 2 parks, 1 ticket.
          • Six Flags Mexico fined for illegal cutting of trees in an adjacent preserve to build Superman: The Escape, a new roller coaster.  The fine puts the park heavily into debt.

          2003:



          2004:



          • Wonderland Sydney closes.
          • Water Works (Kings Island) is refurbished and reopens as Crocodile Dundee’s Boomerang Bay.
          • Universal Parks sells PortAventura in Salou Spain to Caixa banking group.
          • Herschend Family Entertainment acquires Ride the Ducks International which operated in 5 U.S. Cities.
          • Cedar Fair acquires Geauga Lake.
          • Six Flags Worlds of Adventure sold to Cedar Fair Six Flags moves animals from wild life area to other Six Flags parks across the country, rebranded as Geauga Lake.  Water park renamed Hurricane Hannah’s.
          • Six Flags sells Warner Bros. Movie World in Spain back to Time Warner.  Renamed Parque Warner Madrid.
          • New welcome sign and LED scroll sign added to parking toll plaza at Six Flags Astroworld.
          • Six Flags sells several parks to CDA Parks to pay down debt.
            • Six Flags Belgium in Belgium. (Walibi Belgium)
            • Bellewaerde Ypres Belgium in Belgium.
            • Walibi Aquitaine in France.
            • Walibi Lorraine in France.
            • Six Flags Holland in Netherlands. (Walibi World)
            • Warner Bros. Movie World in Germany (Movie Park Germany)
          2005:


          • Paradise Island renamed Six Flags Hurricane Harbor.
          • Hurricane Harbor opens adjacent to Six Flags Great America.
          • Six Flags New Orleans is severely damaged by Hurricane Katrina. The park will be closed indeffinately.
          • Six Flags Astroworld closes and is demolished.  The property is sold to a development company.
          • Herschend Family Entertainment opens new corporate headquarters in Atlanta, GA.

          2006:



          • Paramount Parks sold to Cedar Fair.
          • Six Flags announces the closure of it’s corporate offices in Oklahoma City and plans to move to New York City.
          • Six Flags sells Wyandot Lake in Powell, OH.
          • Herchend Family Entertainment establishes Hershend University to train and develop community leaders.

          2007:

          2008:



          • Ride The Ducks opens in San Fancisco, CA and Newport, KY.
          • Six Flags signs a deal with China to allow Six Flags properties in China.  The deal leaves open the possibility of an additional Six Flags resort.
          • Busch Family Entertainment relocates headquarters from St. Louis, MO to Orlando, FL.
          • PARC Mangement purchases 6 attractions:
            • Myrtle Waves Water  park from Burroughs & Chapin (Myrtle Beach, SC)
            • NASCAR SpeedPark from Burroughs & Chapin (Myrtle Beach, SC)
            • NASCAR SpeedPark from Burroughs & Chapin (Sevierville, TN)
            • NASCAR SpeedPark from Burroughs & Chapin (Concord, NC)
            • NASCAR SpeedPark from Burroughs & Chapin (Hazelwood, MO)
            • NASCAR SpeedPark from Burroughs & Chapin (Vaughan, Ontario)

          2009:



          • Six Flags Theme Parks files for chapter 11 bankruptcy.

          2010:



          2012:



          • Universal Parks plans to open Universal Studios South Korea.
          • Busch Family Entertainment plans to open SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, Discovery Cove and Aquatica in Dubai, UAE.
          • Disney World launches expansion of the Magic Kingdom with new Fantasy Land themed area.

          2016:


          • Disney opens it's largest international park to date in Shanghai China at the cost of $5.5 Billion.