The city is looking for a new operator to run the Cyclone — but a word of warning comes from the current operator: that old rattletrap thrill ride is a money pit.
On Tuesday, the Parks Department announced that it would begin a quest to replace Carol Albert, whose family has operated the iconic wooden coaster since 1976, with a new operator who will upgrade the area around the 83-year-old coaster, work longer hours, operate beyond Labor Day, and even add a new entrance on W. 10th Street.
City officials said the Cyclone should be a centerpiece in the “new” Coney Island, which just celebrated the successful conclusion of Luna Park’s first year last month.
“We think the Cyclone can play an even larger role in the area’s revival than it has already,” said Andrew Brent, a spokesman for Mayor Bloomberg.
Brent added that the ideal operator would have experience running other coasters, as well as knowledge of restoration of historic rides.
Albert said she also would make a bid, though admitted that it’s not an easy job running the world’s most-famous roller coaster.
“I’ve lost money on the Cyclone,” Albert said. “We had a very successful season [last summer], but expenses are through the roof!”
According to her, concessions and other marketing efforts on site would help make the coaster more profitable.
The search for a new operator of the Cyclone — a city landmark — stands as another watershed moment for the changing Coney Island.
Next year, new businesses will likely appear on the Boardwalk when they will be under the control of Central Amusement International, which currently runs Luna Park. The Italian amusement operator will also be opening a new “Scream Zone” of coasters next summer at Coney Island that will attract more adrenaline junkies.
It was unclear how many potential operators turned in proposals when the job of King of the Cyclone was last up for grabs in 2006. Albert said that her bid had won every 10 years since 1976, but that issues over the contract had led the city to issue a new request for proposals this year.
It is highly likely that Central Amusement International will try to win the bid, Albert said.
“It’s a natural arrangement [running both Luna Park and the Cyclone],” said Albert, who also ran Astroland before Luna Park took its place. “With ticketing arrangements it is very beneficial.”
Valerio Ferrari, the president of Central Amusement — who has been keeping his cards close to his vest as of late — would only say that he supports any improvements for Coney Island.
“Luna Park is proud to call the Cyclone our neighbor, and we fully support any effort that will enhance this landmark and contribute to the neighborhood’s revitalization,” Ferrari said.
Albert insisted she was not bitter at the process that might take the coaster out of her family’s care, but did add one request:
“I’d like to be sure my employees stay no matter what,” Albert said. “I have three workers that are the handbook for the Cyclone. It can’t run without them.”