No amusement park ride is more widely known than the Coney Island Cyclone. Praised for delivering a century of screams, the wooden roller coaster is one of New York’s most iconic attractions. Here’s an overview of the Cyclone’s own 90-year ride through time, from its conception to present-day use.
The Thunderbolt and Tornado, Coney Island attractions that opened for business in 1925 and 1926, proved wildly successful. Seeing this, Jack and Irving Rosenthal purchased land at Surf Avenue and West 10th Street for a coaster of their own.
The ambitious duo investing in the Cyclone hired respected coaster designer Vernon Keenan and contractor Harry C. Baker to bring their vision to life. The Giant Racer, occupying the Rosenthals’ newly acquired piece of land from 1911 to 1926, was torn down. The Cyclone was erected in its place.
In a wave of anticipation, the Cyclone opened to the public on June 26, 1927. A single ride cost $0.25.
It proved the success the Rosenthals hoped it would be, flourishing under their management. When Jack and Irving diverted their efforts to managing Palisades Park in 1935, Coney Island veteran Christopher Feucht assumed management of the Cyclone. It continued to thrive, gaining notoriety throughout the country and even abroad.
NYC Buys the Cyclone
The Cyclone’s popularity continued in the early postwar days, but the ride became less lucrative when attendance and revenue at Coney Island fell in the 1960s. After nearly a decade of decline, the City of New York purchased the coaster in 1971. Plans to redevelop the site as a NY Aquarium expansion were drawn up in 1972, but a successful “Save the Cyclone” campaign ensured they wouldn’t be carried out. Instead, the Cyclone was refurbished.
Cyclone Achieves National Historic Landmark Status
As the Cyclone continued to age, further preservation efforts were made. In 1988, it was declared a New York City landmark. And in 1991, the Cyclone was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a National Historic landmark.
Today’s Cyclone Activity
The Cyclone has made dozens of appearances in popular culture. Recent sightings include Beyonce’s “XO” video, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and Patrick Harris’s 2015 painting “Cyclones.” The coaster is currently undergoing a five-year, off-season-only refurbishment project. In season (May through September), a ride on the Cyclone costs $10.
Even after nearly 90 years of operation, the Cyclone still delivers thrills. If you come to Brooklyn and don’t at least glimpse the coaster, you’re missing out on one of the borough’s most iconic sites. The Cyclone and Coney Island’s other attractions are a 30-minute drive from NU Hotel Brooklyn.