Tony’s Express, one of the three new rides coming to Coney Island’s Luna Park, quietly opened to the public Friday, Sept. 9. The ride, though highly anticipated, debuted without much fanfare, aside from a post on social media just hours before launching its first ride at noon.
Alessandro Zamperla, the owner of Luna Park and chief executive officer of Central Amusement International, in October 2021 hosted a groundbreaking ceremony on the park’s planned five-acre expansion, which includes the new attractions and a trio of pedestrian plazas.
Stakeholders initially anticipated all three rides to debut before the end of the Summer 2022 season, but now expect the project to be completed before the launch of the next amusement season. It is not yet known when the incoming log flume ride — coined Leti’s Treasure and set to intertwine with the now-open Tony’s Express — will premiere.
Both rides are named in honor of Zamperla’s grandparents, Antonio and Letizia Zamperla.
Antonio and Letizia Zamperla are embedded in the park’s history: Antonio was the first Italian to be inducted into the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions Hall of Fame in 2005, and Letizia drove tractor-trailers filled with rides and attractions around Europe.
Beyond memorializing Zamperla’s lineage, Tony’s Express also pays homage to the nation’s first roller coaster, the Switchback Railway, in the design of its trains. Its entrance, an illuminated station house, was also constructed in hopes of reestablishing Luna Park as “The Electric Eden,” a nickname for the park coined in the early 1900s.
Coney’s newest roller coaster is billed as fun for the whole family, traveling at more than 30 miles per hour over 1,200 feet of tracks. It’s also outfitted with two train cars that are Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant and accessible.
When it opens, Leti’s Treasure will operate a dozen boats inspired by the vessel from the former Shoot the Chute ride, which “skipped” across the water.
Each of the 12 boats on Leti’s Treasure can hold up to six passengers and will lift riders 40 feet in the air, offering a never-before-seen semi-panoramic view of the peninsula, before taking passengers for a big splash at over 35 miles per hour.
The third coming attraction — a ropes course dubbed the Sky Chaser by children at the Coney Island YMCA — does not yet have an opening date. Its arrival will coincide with the three new pedestrian plazas, coming to Stillwell Avenue, West 12th Street and West 15th Street.
The Zamperlas hope the expansion will solidify Coney Island’s place as a year-round destination, with all three rides — including the long flume — set to be open all year long.
At the project’s groundbreaking ceremony last fall, former councilmember Mark Treyger applauded the Zamperlas for rehabilitating longtime unused space in Coney’s amusement district. The past pol believes the expansion, particularly the new pedestrian plazas, will help bring more tourists to the southern neighborhood during the winter months.
“This is also about activating and reinvigorating this historic amusement district,” Treyger said. “I think this is the most magical place in New York and I think I can say this with certainty: We need Coney Island more than ever.”
The Luna Park expansion will grow the amusement park by a whopping 50 percent, officials said, and will finally utilize areas in the amusement district that have been vacant for over 40 years. Some 100 jobs will also be created as part of the new development.
Press representatives for Luna Park did not respond to a request for comment.