Thursday, March 01, 2001

Americana closed for rest of year

Park aims to reopen in '02

By Kevin Aldridge and Randy McNutt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MONROE — Americana Amusement Park, a fixture for generations, won't open for the 2001 season, owner Jerry Couch said Wednesday.

        “I'm not giving up on the park,” he said. “I need more time to develop adjoining property and get my management team together. The park isn't for sale.”

        Mr. Couch, who owns Couch's Camper Sales in St. Clair Township, bought the Butler County park in May 1999 from Park River Corp., owner of Coney Island, for an undisclosed sum.

    Defunct amusement parks in Greater Cincinnati:
    Chester Park, Cincinnati (Winton Place)
    Fantasy Farm, Monroe
    Lunken Airport Playfield
    Kiddieland, Cincinnati
    Playland, Cincinnati
        Mr. Couch said he did not have enough time to prepare the park for opening in 2000 but had hoped to reopen it in April. He said his goal was to develop 68 acres around the Americana site to help support the amusement park during the months when it is closed.

        “I have a few million dollars invested in that place, so I'm doing what's best for it,” Mr. Couch said. “We've opened up some camping areas. We'll put up some buildings in the next two months.

        “I don't want people to think I'm trying to pull the wool over their eyes. Everybody wants the park to succeed. It can't sit there year after year. If it is going to happen, it will be in 2002.”

        Monroe Mayor Elbert Tanreuther has his doubts.

        “I'm not surprised he wasn't able to open it this year, and I really don't expect him to open it next year,” he said.

        City officials have not spoken with Mr. Couch since he bought the park more than a year ago, the mayor said. Mr. Couch has not applied for a building permit for any construction, which would need to happen before the park could do any serious refurbishing, he added.

        “If he can get it open — great. If he doesn't, it won't be a real big surprise to me,” Mr. Tanreuther said.

        Park River bought Americana in 1996 and sank $4 million into improvements, but attendance did not meet expectations.

        Mr. Couch said he doesn't want to sell the park or develop over it, despite the fact that it lies in a desirable, growing area along Ohio 4.

        “I think Americana has a bright future,” he said. “If I can develop the property around it with camper sales, it will be successful.”

        One problem, he said, has been uncertainty about the proposed Ohio 63 corridor project, which would connect Ohio 4 to Trenton and send more east-west traffic toward Monroe.

        Construction on the 10-mile Trenton Bypass could begin in July 2003, and run from Ohio 4 (Hamilton-Middletown Road) to U.S. 127.


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