For decades, Coney Island has always been a prime summer destination for tourists and Brooklynites alike, home to amusement parks and activities, from Deno’s Wonder Wheel to the Aquarium to the beloved Seaside Concert Series. Recently the area has experienced a rejuvenation, thanks to the opening of the new Luna Park in 2010 as well as its expanded use of venues and holiday celebrations. It is becoming a year-round attraction.
Old school Coney fans were upset when the original Thunderbolt roller coaster was demolished in 2000. However in June, 2014, lightning struck twice when the name was brought back as Luna Park introduced its newest coaster. The new Thunderbolt, a steel coaster with speeds of 55 mph and a 90-degree vertical drop, returned to much fanfare.
“The Thunderbolt roller coaster represents another exciting step forward in the continued revitalization of Coney Island,” said then-NYCEDC President Kyle Kimball.
MCU Park has been home to several sporting events. In addition to being the home of the minor league Brooklyn Cyclones since 2001, it also hosted the NY Penn League’s All Star Game in 2014 and games for the recent Fall Experimental Football League’s Brooklyn Bolts.
The New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League also played their first match at Coney Island this past May. “Since we started in 2001, and since we replaced the turf after Superstorm Sandy, we wanted to do as many different events and involve as many people from the community as possible,” said General Manager of MCU Park, Steve Cohen. “I think this is just another step after baseball and football and some of the other things we’re doing to broaden the use of MCU Park.”
The Alliance for Coney Island has also made it easier for attendees to navigate through its various attractions with the new Coney Island Visitors Center, located in the Stillwell Avenue subway station. “It’s been over three years in the making,” said the Alliance’s Executive Director Johanna Zaki. “It’s very easy for the millions of visitors that use the train station every year to go to the amusements to stop in and pick up information.”
This past New Year’s Eve, Coney gave Time Square a run for its money with its first annual New Year’s Celebration, that featured various performances in the shadow of the Parachute Jump, where a digital ball drop was planned as part of an 8,000-LED light show. “It really was a one of the most memorable experience I’ve had at Southern Brooklyn. It was a magical and special evening in our community,” said Councilmember Mark Treyger.
Just as special is Nathan’s annual Fourth of July hot dog eating contest, which this year was accompanied by an evening fireworks display courtesy of the Alliance.
Coney enthusiasts have long had a place to learn about the history and unique nature of the area in Coney Island USA. Founded by Dick Zigun in 1980, the non-profit arts organization runs some of Coney’s biggest events and attractions, such as the Coney Island Museum, which has exhibits such as Thompson & Dundy’s Luna Park in 3D.
The museum’s Circus Sideshow/Freakshow performances rank as must sees thanks to the performers who beguile the audience with their freakish and fun skills. However, Coney Island USA’s most notable hosted event is the Mermaid Parade, which celebrated its 33rd year in June. “It’s the largest art parade in the country,” said Zigun. “It’s a very fun, wonderful day and it has become a huge event in Coney.”