Coney Island is a ‘Scream’ — but is that the rides or the prices?

Coney Island is a ‘Scream’ — but is that the rides or the prices?
Photo by Tom Callan

Coney Island’s new amusement park lives up to its name for two reasons: its thrill rides and its prices.

It costs $42 to ride all four attractions at Scream Zone, which features the first new roller coasters in Coney Island since the Cyclone in 1927. That kind of money goes a lot further in other parts of the People’s Playground, including Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park on W. 12th Street, where five rides cost $25. But don’t scream too much over your Scream Zone bill, as you’ll need to save your voice for the death-defying attractions.

The most expensive and most exciting ride in the Surf Avenue park, which opened April 24, is the Slingshot ($20). Thrill-seekers shouldn’t mind spending that bill to be strapped in an oval pod that catapults more than 150 feet in the air at 90 miles per hour. But less adventurous Coney enthusiasts may prefer spending $20 on three beers at Ruby’s Bar on the Boardwalk.

Other attractions include the Steeplechase ($7), a mini coaster that pays homage to the original Coney horse racing ride that closed in 1964; and the Zenobio ($8), a 100-foot-tall beam that somersaults its riders through the sky.

“It was pretty crazy,” said first-time rider James Turpin, who traveled from New Jersey to experience the new park.

Scream Zone’s fourth ride, the Soarin’ Eagle roller coaster ($7), was closed due to mechanical issues. A Luna Park operator who declined to give her name said that workers were still running tests to see if the 66-foot-high coaster, which straps riders in a horizontal position, would be ready to open this weekend.

With Scream Zone, opened on April 24 by the same company that runs Luna Park, the People’s Playground got another dose of the city’s vision for a “new” Coney Island. The area is now a balanced blend of old and new, with the decades-old Cyclone and Deno’s Wonder Wheel running near the Central Amusement International attractions.

Scream Zone is a great time, but it remains to be seen if the $19-million park can make up for some major losses in Coney Island, including the demise of the Siren Music Festival, and a decision by Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus to fold up its tents after a two-year run along the Boardwalk.

And other operators, including landowner Joe Sitt and old-timer Horace Bullard, have long failed to realize their own dreams in Coney Island. For Sitt, that’s meant selling his extensive holdings to the city, and retaining some land for an upcoming Stillwell Avenue flea market called BK Festival that critics say is a poor substitute for year-round entertainment.

But, taken together, Scream Zone and the 19-ride Luna Park represent the first major investments in Coney Island’s amusement zone since the now-shuttered Jumbo Jet coaster was built 40 years ago — and remain just a first phase of what the Bloomberg Administration heralds as the transformation of the People’s Playground into a vibrant tourist destination.

“Over the past several decades Coney Island experienced little investment, but we’re reversing that trend,” said Deputy Mayor Robert Steel at Scream Zone’s opening ceremony on April 20. “Luna Park was a phenomenal success in its first year last summer, and the Scream Zone is sure to help bring more visitors, activity and jobs to Coney this year.”

Eventually, Luna Park and Scream Zone will be a part of a sprawling 24-7-365 hub of hotels, restaurants, shopping and indoor attractions that will stretch half-a-mile from the Cyclone near W. Eighth Street to the Cyclones’ MCU Park near W. 19th Street.

Scream Zone [100 Surf Avenue between W. 10th and 12th streets in Coney Island, (718) 373-5862], open weekends through Memorial Day, and daily after that. Tickets $26-$30. For info, visit www.lunaparknyc.com.

Horse play! The Steeplechase, one of the first roller coasters to debut in Coney Island since the Cyclone, sends riders on a model horse through a series of twists and turns.
Photo by Tom Callan