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Thunderbolt to roar again in People’s Playground

Thrown for a loop: The new Thunderbolt has one major difference from the old one — loops, unseen in Coney Island for nearly a century.
New York City Economic Development Corporation

Thunder will soon roll again in Coney Island, but it’s not a storm that’s approaching — it’s competition for the Cyclone.

Luna Park owner Zamperla announced plans to build a new Thunderbolt roller coaster — named for the famed attraction the city razed in 2000 — on public property at W. 15th Street and Surf Avenue, next to where its predecessor once stood.

The new ride, due to be completed next year, will differ from its namesake in a number of ways — and not just because it won’t have a house beneath it.

Luna’s Thunderbolt will be a steel, rather than wooden coaster. It will be built around an 11-story straight drop and a vertical loop — making it the first ride to send Coney-goers upside-down since the Loop-the-Loop, which closed shortly after World War I.

Politicians applauded the roller coaster’s rebirth as another sign of Coney Island’s recovery from both Hurricane Sandy and www.brooklyndaily.com/stories/2013/22/all_coneysback_2013_06_01_bk.html“>decades of decline.

“Thanks to the Thunderbolt’s return, all of the other exciting new additions to Coney Island, and of course its trademark attitude, Coney Island truly is ‘America’s playground,’ ” said Borough President Markowitz.

Roll of thunder: Luna Park will create its own version of the Thunderbolt near where the legendary coaster once stood.
New York City Economic Development Corporation

The coaster’s second coming also represents another expansion of the Luna Park amusement area. The park — built in 2010 — sits on Surf Avenue between W. 10th and W. 12 streets. It began operating the B & B Carousell on the Boardwalk near Kensington Walk earlier this year. Luna will start operating a new, high-tech light system on the Parachute Jump later this month.

Zamperla Chief Executive Officer Valerio Ferrari framed the theme park’s growth as integral to the revitalization of the area.

“Thunderbolt will put Coney Island back on the Olympus of the amusement area destinations in the world,” the Italian-born businessman said.

The original Thunderbolt was built in 1925 atop the Kensington Hotel — which served as home to many of the coaster’s caretakers, including the late Andy Badalamenti and Alvy Singer, the fictional protagonist of Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall.” The ride closed in 1982 after suffering severe damage in an arson attack. The Giuliani Administration destroyed the derelict attraction in a controversial pre-dawn demolition in 2000 — a move a federal judge later declared illegal. The owner, the late Horace Bullard, received just $1 in compensation.

Zamperla also operates the city-owned Cyclone.

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at wbredderman@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him at twitter.com/WillBredderman.

Gone, but not forgotten: The original Thunderbolt belonged to the late Horace Bullard, and was demolished by the city in 2000.
Associated Press / Robert Mecea

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