Elitch Gardens is a family owned seasonal amusement park in Denver, Colorado. In 1994, the park moved to it's current location in downtown Denver and later became known as "Six Flags Elitch Gardens". In August 2006, Six Flags sold Elitch Gardens for $170 million dollars.
Where do mile high thrills dominate the Rocky Mountain’s biggest city? At no other place than Elitch Gardens. But this park has had a long and unique history that dates back to the year 1890. John and Mary Elitch opened up Elitch’s Zoological Gardens on May 1, 1890. Situated on sixteen acres of former farmland, the park began to slowly grow and become one of the Rocky Mountains’ premier destinations for entertainment. Unfortunately, John Elitch passed away in 1891, which left Mary Elitch to single-handedly manage and operate the park. That year though, the park opened up the Theatre At The Gardens, which became the country’s oldest summer stock theater. A summer stock is a type of show that is performed seasonally (during Summers) and reused every year using stock materials.
With the dawn of the twentieth century, people were becoming fascinated with electricity. Amusement parks such as Kennywood began to spring up across the country and thus began the history of the modern roller coaster. Elitch Gardens hopped on the bandwagon in 1904 and built the Toboggan Slide, a side-friction Figure-8 style wooden roller coaster designed and built by Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters. Also, in 1906, the park installed its first carousel, also built by Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters.
Mary Elitch retired from the entertainment business after twenty-six years of hard work in 1916. The park was sold to John Mulvihill, who would really heat things up with new rides and gardens. The first addition Mulvihill added was the fancifully designed Trocadero Ballroom. Following that came more thrill rides as the roaring twenties ushered in a new era of thrill rides. In 1922, the park opened up its second roller coaster, Sky Rocket, a PTC wooden coaster designed by Herbert Paul Schmeck and a new carousel in 1928. The park’s first roller coaster, Toboggan Slide, was removed in 1925. During Mulvihill’s ownership, the park popularized its slogan,” Not to see Elitch’s is not to see Denver!”
Mulvihill died in 1930 and who was the next to take the reigns of the park? His son in law and the first of many Gurtlers to operate the park, Arnold Gurtler. The Great Depression put a damper on a roller coaster renaissance as many parks and rides closed down for good and demolished. However, Elitch’s prospered, although the zoo portion of the park was removed during the 1930’s. In 1936, Sky Rocket was revamped and reborn into Wildcat. The ride would remain to be one of Elitch’s star attraction for years to come until closing in 1994.
In 1945, the park was handed down to Arnold’s sons Jack and Budd. As times moved on in America, the 1950’s brought what would be called the Baby Boomer generation. And with a lot of tikes came one theme park innovation that is still around today. In 1952, Elitch Gardens opened up its Kiddieland section and became an instant hit among young parents. Many pint-sized versions of Elitch’s thrill rides operated in the section and became yet another staple to the park. As for the park’s original intention, gardens, the park became one of the nations largest distributors of carnations during the fifties.
But the 1960’s brought even more thrilling roller coasters,
© Elitch Gardensincluding the park’s most iconic ride. In 1960, Kiddieland finally got a roller coaster, a Herschell Little Dipper coaster that now operates at the new location as Great Chase. Following that ride was a Schiff Wild Mouse roller coaster called Wild Mouse that was installed during the sixties, but closed down with the park in 1994. But the iconic thrill ride for this era, opening in 1964, is none other than Mister Twister. Designed by Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters, Frank F. Hoover, and John Allen, Mister Twister was not the smash hit coaster the park thought it would be. The next year though, the ride was modified with a higher, steeper first drop, a double helix element, and a hidden tunnel. The improvements turned Mister Twister into the memorable and intense ride it was for its day.
Years later, in 1985, the park was handed down again to Sandy Gurtler. The park was cramped as it is and Sandy Gurtler wanted to relocate the park. Denver, Colorado is a city known for its city redevelopment and offered a new plot of land in the downtown area that was once a rail yard. In 1990, the park opened up its last major thrill ride in the old location, an Arrow Dynamics shuttle loop coaster known as Sidewinder. Sidewinder was relocated from Magic Springs & Crystal Falls in Arkansas where it operated there as Roaring Tornado. In June 1994, the park announced that they were going to move from its original location to the new location in Downtown Denver with the announcement of purchasing a 67.7 acre plot of land for $6.1 million. October 1, 1994 was the last day ever for the old park and for some classic rides as well. Soon after, a majority of the rides were moved to the new park in the downtown area while others rot away. Mister Twister would be “cloned” at the new park (Twister II) and at Knoebel’s (as Twister) after an attempt to relocate the coaster failed. Mister Twister was torn down on January 25, 1999 and ended an era of white knuckles. Many remains of the old park still exist today, such as the carousel building being used as a picnic area and the theater, still standing although deteriorating. The old Elitch Gardens area is currently being redone into a neighborhood, with a portion becoming a city park and another part becoming a retail center.
Over the winter of 1994, thrill rides migrated down to downtown Denver to the new site of Elitch Gardens. Along with old favorites came new rides as well. The first major addition was a modified clone of an Elitch Gardens classic, Twister II. Designed by John Pierce, whose previous works included Six Flags Fiesta Texas’ Rattler, the ride was a taller, faster, yet tamed down version of Mister Twister. Another new ride was another roller coaster that was short lived, the Run-Away Train. The ride was relocated from Germany and was a Mack Blaurer Enzian powered coaster. The new park also featured a new icon, a 360 foot tall observation tower that gives a view of Denver and the Rocky Mountains. Other new rides include Disaster Canyon, an Intamin river rapids ride, and various flat rides. Rides moved from the original park include Sidewinder, Wild Kitten (Herschell kiddie coaster, now Great Chase), the Carousel, and the Big Wheel.
© Elitch GardensThe big day finally came on May 27th, 1995, Elitch Gardens reopens at its new home in downtown Denver. The Gurtler family had high hopes for the park during its first season in its new location, however the dream was broken. Attendance was weaker than the projected 1.2 million guests the park expected. During the mid nineties, growing park chain Premier Parks began purchasing regional amusement parks across the country. Eventually, in October 1996, the Gurtler family sold the park to Premier Parks for $65 million.
Premier went hard to work on improving the new Elitch Gardens to make it something that would wow guests in. The park removed some of its attractions during the off season, which included the removal of
© Elitch GardensRun-Away Train. What was in store for next season? The first major addition was a major new coaster that was a first in the area. Mind Eraser, a Vekoma Suspended Looping Coaster, opened up on June 2nd, 1997 as the Rocky Mountains’ only inverted coaster. Another notable addition was the park’s free fall ride, Tower of Doom. Designed by Intamin AG, Tower of Doom lifts riders up 250 feet into the sky before plummeting back down. Also added was the park’s water park, Island Kingdom, bringing a multitude of slides and wet attractions making the park “Two parks in one.” Another major water ride opened, a shoot-the-chutes ride known as Shipwreck Falls. And for a touch of history, the park also opened up a 700 seat theatre, the Trocadero Theater. More flat rides came in 1998, including one of the first Chance Aviator installations, Aviator (now Batwing). Also added in 1998 was a brand new kids section, StarToon Studios (now Looney Tunes Movie Town).
In 1999, the park underwent another big change. Premier Parks purchased Six Flags and many of Premier’s parks were rebranded with the Six Flags prefix. Elitch Gardens was transformed into Six Flags Elitch Gardens and numerous attractions and rethemes were made. The first major attraction added was the Boomerang, a standard Vekoma Boomerang roller coaster. The Aviator flat ride was given a Batman theme and became Batwing. Lastly, the park’s Kiddieland section was transformed into Looney Tunes MovieTown. With the new additions, Six Flags Elitch Gardens became one of Denver’s star attractions for families and tourists. In 2007 Six Flags sold the park to CNL Lifestyle Properties, who in turn who leased to back to PARC Management until 2011 when CNL Lifestyle Properties ended the lease with PARC Management and now the park is operated by Hershchland Family Entertainment. A more detailed description of the history under the various owners/managers follows.
© Elitch GardensAdditions slowed down during the entrance of the new millennium. But in 2002, the park opened up a first of its kind prototype roller coaster. Flying Coaster opened up as Zamperla’s first Volare roller coaster. Flying Coaster has many significant differences between flying roller coasters by B&M and Vekoma. The ride features a spiral lift hill with a compact, wild mouse-like layout featuring two barrel roll inversions and numerous twists and turns. To this day, the ride remains to be the area’s only flying roller coaster and remains a hit with guests.
© Elitch GardensThe park’s next big addition came in 2004 as another unique roller coaster opened up in the park. America’s only half pipe roller coaster, Half Pipe, opened up. Designed by Intamin AG, Half Pipe is a compact launched roller coaster that puts riders into a unique snowboard type train with two rings of seats in the middle. The train is then propelled by LIM’s (Linear Induction Motors) and launches up between two vertical spikes, topping out at a height near one hundred feet. The rings of seats spin around and create some positive and negative G-forces at the same time. No two rides are a like on this unique roller coaster, and Half Pipe remains to be a hit at the park.
In 2005, the park opened up a new water slide in their water park. Surprisingly, not a Tornado, but Edge, a unique half pipe styled slide by Water Fun Products. Also, Chaos was removed due to its upkeep costs and safety reasons. But 2006 spells out more big news for the park. Six Flags goes under new management by Mark Shapiro and in mid 2006, the park is up for sale for a price tag of $170 million. Jobs were cut and the park's future seemed uncertain until January 2007, when a new company known as PARC Management started up and bought most of Six Flags' properties for sale, which included Elitch Gardens, Darien Lake, and other smaller parks in the purchase.
Despite the takeover, the new management did not skimp-out on adding in a new attraction for the 2007. The first new attraction CNL would add came in the form of a ProSlide Bowl for the waterpark named RipQurl. In 2008, they added the Ghost Blasters, an interactive “shooter” dark ride, which gives the guests a chance to use their “Boo-blasters” to extinguish ghosts in a haunted mansion. It was also the parks first year with a major summer concert series, and the introduction of a number of shows such as Survivor Live! With the new ride came the removal of another as the park’s Zamperla “Volare” coaster, Flying Coaster, the first of its kind in the US, was shut down. It wasn’t until 2010 though that the last of the track, supports, etc had been removed. As a prototype for Zamperla, the ride simply suffered too much down time and maintenance to be relied upon any longer.
Over the next two seasons, 2009 and 2010, the park saw no new rides added to the park, causing some to scratch their heads. Suddenly, in late November, things seemed to turn even darker for the park, when CNL terminated its lease agreement with PARC to operate Elitch Gardens and 17 other locations when PARC defaulted on their lease obligations. Things were not over for the park though, and in early 2011, Herschend Family Entertainment Corporation (HFE), owners of Dollywood, Silver Dollar City, and Wild Adventures took over management of Elitch Gardens and Darien Lake.
The only change in 2011 was the late removal of the Huss Rainbow ride, which had been suffering from low popularity since an accident in 2007. For the 2012 season, new management decided to bring in some new rides for both the amusement and water park. Island Kingdom Water Park saw the addition of Tube Top, a ProSlide Tantrum waterslide, while Elitch Gardens saw the addition of the Rockin’ Tug and Tike Bikes (relocated from Darien Lake) in the newly renovated KiddieLand.
From days gone “bye” at the old location to the new thrills in downtown Denver, families and thrill seekers in Colorado and neighboring states know that if they wanted a day of summer fun, they would find it at Elitch Gardens.
Present Roller Coasters (7)Edit
|Blazin' Buckaroo||E&F Miler Industries||Family||2013||Open|
|Cactus Coaster||Allan Herschell Company||Kiddie||1995||Open|
|Half Pipe||Intamin AG||Shuttle||2004||Open|
|Twister II||John Pierce||Wooden||1995||Open|
Past Roller Coasters (7)Edit
|Flying Coaster||Zamperla||Flying||2002||2007||Scream Zone|
|Mr. Twister||Philadelphia Toboggan Company||Wooden||1964||1999||No|
|Runaway Train||Mack Rides||Powered||1995||2004||No|
|Toboggan Slide||Philadelphia Toboggan Company||Wooden||1904||1925||No|
|Wildcat||Philadelphia Toboggan Company||Wooden||1936||1999||
|Wild Mouse||B. A. Schiff & Associates||Wild Mouse||1960?||1994||No|