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The New Pacific Park at
California's Santa Monica Pier

Thoroughly Modern Thrills, Chills and Bumper Cars in the Traditional Amusement Park-on-the-Pier Style

For well over a hundred years, beach-goers and holiday visitors have been drawn by the romance of pleasure piers and the amusement parks that often accompany them.

The brand new Pacific Park is the West Coastís only amusement park actually located on the pier, and marks a return to the golden age of Southern Californiaís pleasure piers. The new park, that opened on Saturday, May 25th, 1996, boasts a long list of "onlys" such as the only roller coaster situated right on a pier. The Coaster rises five stories above the ocean and makes two 360 degree turns, high above two of the parks other rides. Dubbed the "Santa Monica West Coaster" itís a "Made-in-the-USA" thrill-ride that also provides spectacular views of Santa Monica and the Pacific Ocean.

Another "only" is the Pacific Wheel, Californiaís only giant Ferris wheel, standing nine stories tall and turning at 2.5 revolutions per minute. At night, more than 6,000 incandescent multi-colored light bulbs create a spectacular light show.

There are a variety of stomach-churning rides catering to thrill seekers including "Sea Dragon," and "Rock and Roll." Kids can get their kicks on rides like "Red Baron" for young flying aces and "Clown Around" with six silly elephants that take youngsters up and away for a high flying journey around a smiling clown.

Hollywood filming takes place near this famous pier on a regular basis. The Looff Hippodrome carousel was featured in the classic film "The Sting" and today visitors to the pier can often see the filming of Baywatch on one side, and the actors of Pacific Blue policing it up for the cameras on the other.

We talked to the one person who probably knows more about the park and the fun you can have than anyone at this point. She is Pacific Parkís Marketing and Public Relations Manager, Christie Conti. Her energy and enthusiasm for the Park required little prompting as she talked about a place she obviously greatly enjoys.


SANTA MONICA PIER HISTORY

(from Pacific Park press office) With the opening of Pacific Park, the Santa Monica Pier will mark a return to the days when the venerable pier offered Southern California the very best in outdoor entertainment. With activities as diverse as roller coasters and ballroom dancing, the Santa Monica Pier was integral to the Southland's amusement scene from the early 1900s through the 1960s.

What's now known as the Santa Monica Pier was actually two piers, one built in 1909 and one in 1916.

Construction on the Santa Monica Municipal Pier began in May of 1908. The 1,600-footlong wood pier was dedicated on September 9, 1909 at a gala ceremony attended by more than 5,000 people. A flotilla of navy warships was on hand for the celebration, which included speeches, a band concert and swimming races.

The Pleasure Pier was built contiguous to the Municipal Pier in 1916 by carousel and amusement pier pioneer Charles I.D. Looff and his son Arthur.

Looff said he chose Santa Monica for his amusement pier because "the bathing beach at Santa Monica is well-known as one of the finest on the Pacific Coast, it attracts the highest class of people and transportation facilities are unequaled.''

Looff's pier included "The Blue Streak Racer" roller coaster, a two-story Hippodrome building housing a hand-carved merry-go-round, a shaded bandstand and the "Whip" and "Aeroscope" thrill rides. He later added other attractions including a multi-story Fun House.

In later years, the Pleasure Pier was enlarged and today is 270 feet wide and 1,080 feet long, with a total of nearly 300,000 square feet of space.

The Pier thrived through the 1920s with the opening of the enormous La Monica Ballroom in 1924. More than 25,000 people lined the pier to watch opening festivities of the ballroom, which totaled more than 15,000 square feet and was designed to accommodate 5,000 patrons at a time.

Although the Pier flourished through the 1930s, severe storms and competition from other area roller coasters caused the demise of the Pier's coaster, which was demolished in 1930 and never replaced.

While the Municipal Pier was owned and operated by the City of Santa Monica, the Pleasure Pier was owned and operated by a succession of entrepreneurs until the 1950s, when it was placed in trust of the City of Santa Monica for the people of California.

In 1973, a public campaign saved both piers from a demolition order from the City Council. Through the 1970s a series of studies of the Pier were made, and it was officially designated an L.A. County Historical Landmark in 1975.

In 1981, work began on the restoration of the Pier, beginning with the Hippodrome building and its carousel. Construction on the Municipal Pier was completed in 1990.

Pacific Park is designed to recreate that beloved family pastime of spending a day on a pleasure pier as many did at Pacific Ocean Park, popularly known as P.O.P. Decay and financial woes forced P.O.P. to close on October 6, 1967 and the Southern California coastline has not seen an amusement park on a pier since (nearly 30 years).

Two other Southland cities, Santa Cruz and San Diego, are home to family amusement parks, but are located near a pier, not on one such as Pacific Park.

With the opening of Pacific Park, the Santa Monica Pier will be returned to what it has been since the turn of the century -- Santa Monica's most distinctive and beloved resource.


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