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Lake Compounce

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Lake Compounce
Statistics

Location

USA Bristol, Connecticut, USA

Owner

Parques Reunidos

Size

332 acres (134.4 hectares)

The Legend: In 1684, Native American Chief John Compound, of the Mattatuck/Tunxis tribe, along with several tribal members signed a deed using their fingerprints, which gave the land of “Compound’s Lake” to a group of white settlers, including John Norton, for a small sum of money and some miscellaneous items of virtually no value. Legend has it that when Chief Compound found out, he either drown in the lake while trying to cross it in a large kettle or drown himself. The name of Lake Compounce is believed to have derived from this parcel of land, “Compound’s Lake.”
Lake Compounce, located in Bristol, CT and the neighboring town of Southington, CT, is now the oldest continually operating amusement park in North America, having operated since 1846. What began as a “picnic park” in 1846 would slowly evolve into one of the premier “traditional” style amusement parks over the next decade and a half.
The first use of Lake Compounce as a picnic park began when a Bristol scientist by the name of Samuel Botsford was allowed to conduct experiments in electricity (though there were also explosions) on the land. Drawing spectators to the area, the owners built paths around the lake, set up picnic tables, built a gazebo for lakeside concerts, and allowed swimming and rowing on the lake.

© Lake CompounceOver the next few years, the park began doing summer barbeques to draw in families and other groups, added a hand-powered revolving swing, a ten-pin bowling alley, and pool tables. Soon after, in 1851, Issac Pierce joined Norton to form the firm of Pierce and Norton. In 1875, the firm successfully petitioned to become part of the town of Bristol, and a sheep roast was held in appreciation of the legislators who helped.
It was in 1895, with the opening of the Casino and the Bristol and Plainville Tramway Company, which provided public transportation, the park finally began to grow up. The hand-carved Carousel was opened on Memorial Day, 1911, at a cost of $10,000, and in 1914 opened the Green Dragon, the park’s first electric powered roller coaster. The Green Dragon was replaced in 1927 by the still-operating wooden Wildcat, designed by Herbert Schmeck, built by Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters, and rebuilt in 1986 by Dinn and Summers.

© Lake CompounceA Cris Craft speedboat was purchased in May 1929, paying for itself by July of that year. As the 1930s progressed, the Casino was expanded to include a wall-less dance floor, windowed walls, a high arched ceiling, and the “Starlight Ballroom” which would house famous “big bands.”
The next major addition to the park was a miniature steam railroad in 1943, designed by actor William Gillette (Sherlock Holmes), where it carried over 100,000 passengers around the lake during its inaugural year of operation. The park would continue to grow through the 1940s and 50s, having local entertainers appear weekly at the Lake Front Stage, and adding a paddleboat and 18-hole miniature golf course, however no major attractions would be added until the 1960s.
In 1966, the Norton family acquired the full ownership and operation of the park from the Issacs, and continued to do so for the next two decades. Between the years of 1962 and 1985, the park made virtually no new additions to the park. At this time, in 1985, the Hershey Corporation bought the park from the Norton family and renamed it Hershey Lake Compounce. Just two years later, after an infusion of flat rides were added, Hershey sold the park and it returned back to its roots.

© Lake CompounceThe year 1986 marked the beginning of the “decade of the roller” for the park, but not because of the ride additions to the park. Instead, it was a metaphor for the financial troubles and ownership changes the park would experience, including Hershey and the Joseph Entertainment Group. The parks reputation at this point was all but ruined, and competition from the new nearby theme parks did not help the traditional park out any.
In April 1996, the park’s future suddenly looked significantly brighter when the Kennywood Entertainment Company took over management of the park. KEC was a family-owned company that operated three traditional style parks, similar to Lake Compounce, in Pennsylvania, including Kennywood.

© Lake CompounceIn 1997, the park saw a $24 million investment which included more than 20 new rides. All of the rides already at the park that could be salvaged were repaired and reopened, including the 1927 Wildcat. Most importantly, the park saw the addition of its first two roller coasters since the short-lived Roll in the Dark (1979-1982), the pint-sized Kiddie Coaster, and the Vekoma Zoomerangshuttle coaster. The following year saw the addition of a water park, Splash Harbor, at the lakeside park.

© Lake Compounce In 2000, the park would finally receive the one addition that would finally put it on the map to more than just locals and the avid park enthusiasts, the wooden terrain-hugging Boulder Dash. Built by Custom Coasters International at a cost of $6,000,000, Boulder Dash has been named as a top ride by Amusement Today’s Golden Ticket Awards, and continues to rank on many enthusiasts top 10 lists. A re-tracking of the coaster in 2007/2008 has solidified its spot as a top wooden coaster.
The next few years would see smaller additions to the water park, such as Mammoth Falls family-raft slide and Clipper Cove themed water-play area, and family rides, such as Garfield’s Drop Zone and the American Flyers.

© Lake CompounceIn 2003, however, the park would see another major thrill-ride addition with Down Time, an S&S Power Turbo Drop. The tower stands 185 feet tall, dropping riders down at over 50 mph with the help of the push downward that the Turbo Drop provides.
Since then, the park has continued to solidify itself as a traditional-style family park, adding a variety of kiddie/family rides, updated shows and dining venues, and has made multiple additions to the water park. This includes Anchor Bay, the Swan Boats (removed in 2007), and the Starlight Theater.
In 2006, the park decided to add another thrill ride to the mix in its effort to blend the old with the new. The attraction was called Thunder ‘N’ Lightning[/i], a multi-million dollar S&S Screamin’ Swing that catapulted riders up to 100 ft at 60 mph, pulling up to 4Gs as they swung.

© Lake CompounceIn 2007 the park added Zoomer’s Gas N’ Go, a 1956 Corvette themed powered car ride that carries youngsters along a 1,000 road trip. Unlike the old-fashioned style car rides, the cars are powered by a low voltage undercarriage system, rather than gas. The Rainbow Riders children’s balloon ride was added to the Garfield’s Circus World section of the park, moving the Caterpillar Train to a new location in the park. The park also added the Compounce Cabana Boat to replace the Mark Twain Sternwheeler, transporting guests across the lake to the rapids ride and picnic pavilions.
Later that year, Parques Reunidos bought the park from the Kennywood Entertainment Company. The park opened that in 2008 with several internal and park improvements and a refurbished Ghost Hunt ride, as well as a re-tracked Boulder Dash, which instantly renewed its popularity again.
In 2009, the park received Wipe Out from sister park Kennywood to replace the departed Musik Express. The park also added the Tunnel Twister body slides for its water park and the Jolly Jester, and pint-sized pirate ship. As the park heads towards the future, hopefully it will continue to keep its balance between tradition and high-tech thrills, and continue on as the nation’s oldest, continually operating, amusement park.
The park saw no new additions for the 2010 season, but did see the loss of one of its more unique rides, the Rotor. The wacky spinning ride which stuck riders to its walls using centrifugal force since 1997 was removed from the park, but rumor had it a new ride would be taking its place. In 2011, the Rev-O-Lution, a Zamperla mega-disk’o ride, took over the Rotors former home. The Ferris Wheel was closed much of the season to allow modifications to be made to the ride, adding in additional restraining devices to the gondolas, and the Wave Swinger was updated with an all-new energy-efficient LED lighting system.
Though the park had been planning for years on expanding its Splash Harbor waterpark to nearly double its size, it required moving nearby Mount Vernnon Road to allow the expansion, at a cost of $3 million on top of the waterpark. When it began to look like things might not happen quickly enough, Lake Compounce began working on other plans, plans for a new spinning coaster to be added. Then in April 2011, things worked out for the water park and road work finally began. By 2012, the park started adding new rides to Splash Harbor, such as the four-lane Riptide Racer body slides.
While Lake Compounce officials have stated their current focus is on completing the major expansion of Splash Harbor, they also confirmed that the spinning coaster project was still near the top of their wish list. After over 160 years of existence, and over 100 years of operation as an amusement park, Lake Compounce shows no signs of struggle or slowing, a feat many other smaller and more traditional-style parks could only hope for before their demise.

Present Roller Coasters (4)Edit

Name Manufacturer Type Opened Status
Boulder Dash Custom Coasters International, Inc. Wooden May 21, 2000 Operating
Ride Name Here Ride Manufacturer Name Here Ride Type Here Opening Date Here Current Status Here
Wildcat Dinn Corporation Wooden 1927 Operating
Zoomerang Vekoma Shuttle June 27, 1997 Operating

Past Roller Coasters (?)Edit

Name Manufacturer Type Opened Closed Relocated
Ride Name Here Ride Manufacturer Name Here Ride Type Here Opening Date Here Closing Date Here The Park That This Ride Was Relocated To (If It Wasn't Relocated, Just Type "No")
Ride Name Here Ride Manufacturer Name Here Ride Type Here Opening Date Here Closing Date Here The Park That This Ride Was Relocated To (If It Wasn't Relocated, Just Type "No")
Ride Name Here Ride Manufacturer Name Here Ride Type Here Opening Date Here Closing Date Here The Park That This Ride Was Relocated To (If It Wasn't Relocated, Just Type "No")

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