Thursday, December 28, 2000

Our lives just as thrilling as Kings Island

        Paramount's Kings Island spent $40 million to improve itself over the past two years. Yet attendance is down 6 percent since 1998, according to the trade publication, Amusement Business. Surely this cannot be a surprise. After all, the key attraction at any amusement park is thrills. And for the past two years, Kings Island has been competing in a marketplace that has just about all the thrills it can handle.

        First off, $40 million is a drop in the bucket. This doesn't even sound like serious money to your average Greater Cincinnati resident. Heck, we have coughed up 10 times that for an amusement park where we are hardly ever amused. A place where the biggest reason to brag is that we finally have natural grass. Where the overruns are more than $50 million.

Queasy stomach
               Kings Island might have caused a few mildly queasy stomachs with its Pirate Ship swinging back and forth. But the back and forth between the Hamilton County commissioners and the Pirate Ship captained by Mike Brown had local taxpayers begging for airsickness bags. Football fans were openly sick.

        Or take Son of Beast, which was to be a “landmark attraction” for the park. The world's tallest and fastest looping roller coaster cost $15 million. The opening of the ride was delayed. All summer long there were shutdowns. Once it stopped with passengers on board.

        But, again, neither the price tag nor the thrills at Kings Island could compete with the Highway Beast, Son of Fort Washington Way.

        Besides a breathtaking cost of $314 million, the project offered daily excitement for motorists navigating the merge from Sixth Street, U.S. 50 east and I-75 south on the west side. “Just close your eyes and hit the gas” was the advice from a Price Hill woman.

Road hogs
               Meanwhile, all east siders had the opportunity to exit downtown by way of Fifth Street. You could stop and have your picture taken with a couple of painted pigs and still not hold up traffic.

        The Public Roads Asylum designated both Fourth Street and Third Street as one-way, westbound. So those who live in Oakley travel there by way of Indianapolis.

        The official press release read, I believe, “Tee, hee, hee. Let's see those east-side snoots get home now.”

        A new marketing campaign is scheduled to begin soon, aimed at bringing people to Cincinnati. “Let the spirit move you” is the slogan. But we natives know the real slogan should be “Come downtown. You'll never find your way out.”

        Approximately 3.2 million people found their way to Kings Island this year. On the other hand, an estimated 15,000 fans were present for the kickoff at the Bengals' last home game in the $450 million Paul Brown Stadium.

        Hey, it was cold.

        But even if the Bengals have a full house — 65,600 fans at each of 10 home games next year, that's still only a fifth of the Kings Island crowd, which spends an estimated $463 million in Warren County. Besides the privilege of calling ourselves a major league city, Cincinnati gets squat.

        I hope Kings Island execs figure out a way to sell enough tickets to remain prosperous. Maybe they'll raise the price. Maybe they'll charge more for their funnel cakes. Maybe the cost of playing Whack a Mole will go up. But whatever they decide it's their business, unsubsidized by me.

        Which I find thrilling.

        E-mail Laura at or call (513) 768-8393.


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