The season kicks off in Coney Island this Saturday: Luna Park unlocks its gates, Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park opens its doors, and the Cyclone takes its first spins of 2011. In honor of the event, we present this appreciation.
The Cyclone still terrifies riders with an inherent threat its modernized rivals lack—collapsibility. As croaking chains pull you up those slatted-wood tracks, your faith in that metal bar pinning you to your seat starts to waver: surely this security mechanism won’t hold? Surely nothing so old could be safe? The Cyclone may never flip you upside down, or spin you through a loop-the-loop, but we have more faith in the stability of its Six Flags upstagers. When you climb into the Cyclone’s carriages, you worry the whole structure might buckle under your weight.
This fear, of course, is irrational—mostly. Thousands upon thousands take the rickety coaster’s 85-foot plunge every year, and reported injuries are relatively few. Fatalities, only two. The Cyclone has never fallen apart. But it’s that occasional report of harm that keeps thrill-seekers enticed. When I was a child, my mother took a ride in the back car, and alit with a bloody nose. Hitherto, the Cyclone had scared me. Thereafter I was petrified.
The iconic attraction is the last of its kind in Brooklyn. Opened in 1927, it was one of several similar rides in a densely occupied amusement area. But by 2000, when the city demolished the decommissioned Thunderbolt, it became the last Coney coaster standing, amid an amusement area that had almost disappeared.
A decade later, Coney is in the midst of large-scale redevelopment, and this season promises to be the first since the 1980s in which there’ll be more than one roller coaster to ride—in fact, there should be three. As part of its new Luna Park, amusement operator and developer Zamperla plans to open “Scream Zone” this spring, which will consist of four new rides, including two coasters. They’ll do the things that fancy modern roller coasters do. But I suspect they won’t bloody the noses of young mothers, or instill decades-lasting fear in the hearts of kids.