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Cincinnati's Coney Island Waterpark Is No More
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Back in 2019, Cincinnati's Coney Island amusement park closed, with park operators then planning to focus on the waterpark section of the park. The Sunlite Water Adventure area was to be the highlight, with expanded amenities. Cannonball Cove which opened that year, featured multiple diving boards in a separate 12.9 foot pool area; various waterslides and interactive water features were all part of the waterpark mix.

 The park's president and CEO felt that most of the guests visiting the venue came because of the massive Sunlite Pool, whose development remained central to the park over the last five years.

But now, the pool and the waterpark itself are also gone, with all of Coney Island shuttered as of New Year's Eve 2023. The Cincinnati Preservation Association and local residents alike have sought to maintain some of Coney Island's significant history, however that possibility has not been discussed with the property's music industry purchaser.

Music and Event Management Inc., which is a subsidiary of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, purchased the Coney Island grounds, with the intention of building a new, state-of-the-art music and entertainment venue at a cost of roughly $118 million dollars. The new music venue joins Riverbend Music Center and PNC Pavillion also owned by CSO and located nearby.

The newly planned location will feature cutting edge sound and lighting, a larger seating capacity, customizable seating configurations, and spaces for VIP and patrons. While it should be everything that music lovers wish for in the region, what it won't be is the beloved Sunlite Pool, which was added to Coney Island in 1925. The vast pool was long renowned for its 200 by 400-foot size, around which the waterpark was later created.



The pool would've celebrated its 100th birthday next year. Park owners gave no specific reason for the somewhat abrupt sale, instead just releasing a statement saying they were proud to have provided a place that created many family memories. “We thank the millions of patrons and employees from Cincinnati and surrounding neighborhoods. You made this a special place for all of us. But the time has come for this historic destination to offer new and different options for entertainment-seekers looking for fun and unique experiences."

With the Cincinnati Preservation Association encouraging the symphony to leave the pool and its gardens intact, there may be some hope for the history of the place to remain, but as yet there are no plans are in place to do so. The music venue is scheduled to open in the spring of 2026.

The change came about rapidly enough that there were season passes already purchased, which Coney Island says will be fully refunded. Last month, some purchasers and gift card holders were invited to attend a sale of Coney Island merchandise from apparel to drinkware, as the park's holiday event, Nights of Lights, came to a close.

In recent months, the park had even announced new attractions coming to Coney Island, including disc golf, a sports alley, and fowling. But times – and plans – have changed.

Park owners have related that making the decision to sell the park was difficult, but stated their confidence in the ability of the CSO to make the right decisions for the location.

This certainly is not the first time that Coney Island has been through major changes. The land was first purchased by an apple farmer who rented out the park for private, riverfront picnics. The farmer discovered that renting his land turned a larger profit than farming it, adding dining, dancing, and bowling alley facilities before selling it in 1886 to the Ohio Grove Corporation. Those owners gave the park a new name: Ohio Grove: The Coney Island of the West.

MAY 1928: Guests are dressed up for a visit to Coney Island's mall, to ride roller coasters or the Ferris wheel, or just go for a stroll. Photo courtesy of The Enquirer/Harry Pence.

Amusement rides came and went, periodic river flooding occurred, but through it all, the visitors remained. The Sunlite Pool opened in the 1920s as the largest recirculating swimming pool worldwide.

In the late 1960s, Taft Broadcasting purchased the park, moving most of the amusement rides to higher ground on Kings Island with plans to redevelop the riverside park. But instead they became more involved in developing the amusement parks Kings Dominion in Virginia and Carowinds Park ins North Carolina than in redeveloping Coney Island.

By 1991, Coney Island was purchased by Cincinnati businessman Ronald Walker, who brought back the amusement rides; Walker sold off the amusement park portion of Coney Island in 2019, but committed to developing and expanding the waterpark, with the Sunlite Pool still a major focal point.


Late 2000s park map, prior to the closure of the amusement park when all of the amusement rides were sold.


The addition of a new music venue is hoped to elevate Cincinnati into the ranks of other top cities, drawing more of the music industry's largest performing acts.

The orchestra's CEO and president, Jonathan Martin explains “We are building a new home for live music events that will offer a mesmerizing fusion of cutting-edge technology and architectural significance…This new development will usher in the future of the music industry, and we are proud to be leading the next step in the same way Riverbend [Music Center] changed the face of live music in our community 40 years ago when it opened."

But for now, the attention of area preservations and residents is not on the future, but on keeping at least a portion of the historic Coney Island present in the community. As of this writing, however, the 137-year-old amusement park is closed for good, and the fate of the massive Sunlite Pool remains elusive.
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