Kennywood is already known for its historic setting and classic rides mixed with newfangled thrills.
So as opening day approaches for the amusement park just outside Pittsburgh, it is looking back and forward.
A new historical marker will greet visitors this season when it opens to the public May 4.
Founded in 1898 and named a National Historic Landmark in 1987, the park is paying homage to the builder of some of its first-generation roller coasters in a new garden by the entrance.
A historical marker dedicated Saturday in a ceremony by the Heinz History Center, American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) and the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission notes the contributions of coaster builder and amusement park entrepreneur Frederick Ingersoll.
While constructing coasters for other amusement parks around the turn of the century, Ingersoll was also building competing parks of his own.
His Ingersoll Construction Co. is credited as being one of the first to build and operate a chain of amusement parks in the country and spur the construction of roller coasters.
Around the turn of the 20th century, there were Ingersoll-owned and -operated Luna Parks in Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Mansfield and other cities including Mexico City. He also operated and owned parks under other monikers like Indianola Park in Columbus.
Before his untimely death in 1927 by his own hands after his company fell into financial ruin, Ingersoll was credited with building some 277 roller coasters in the midst of the heyday of the so-called trolley parks that were located along rail lines and offered a place for city dwellers to escape for thrills and respite.
The Lost Kennywood section built in 1995 at Kennywood is considered a nod to the old Luna Parks built by Ingersoll with a classic grand entrance, white lights that illuminated the night and an old-school water chute ride as its centerpiece.
This summer, Kennywood is also looking to add to its collection of old-time wooden roller coasters with a new steel one themed after the city's beloved football team.
"There’s no better example of our ongoing commitment to modern thrills and classic rides than what’s happening at Kennywood right now," said park general manager Jerome Gibas. "As we look ahead to an exciting future with Steel Curtain and Steelers Country opening later this year, we begin the season honoring the great history of amusement parks and rides in the Greater Pittsburgh area through the dedication of a marker to the man who built Kennywood’s first roller coasters."
Work continues on the new coaster so its opening date has not been set just yet, but the park still hopes to have it up and running this summer.
Steelers Country will be a new area of the park dedicated to the Steelers and football.
There will be themed games, food, shops and interactive areas to practice football drills and even touchdown dances.
The Steel Curtain coaster will boast a record nine inversions, a 197-foot-tall loop and reach a 220-foot-tall height. The coaster trains that have football-shaped seats will race along at 75 miles per hour across 4,000 feet of track.
The park is also working on finalizing its certification as an autism center that will include a sensory guide of each ride so parents can plan their trips ahead of time and have an enjoyable visit once inside of the park.
“When we looked at ways to improve guest service over the offseason, becoming a Certified Autism Center was at the top of our to-do list,” Gibas said. “Our mission at Kennywood is to provide the finest in family fun and entertainment, and ensuring we’re on the front lines in understanding and serving our guests who are on the autism spectrum is critical to achieving that mission.”
The park's 4-D Theater will once again show the "Thomas & Friends 4-D: Bubbling Boilers" movie but after 4 p.m., more adult fare will be offered with the "San Andreas 4D Experience" based on the movie with Dwayne Johnson as a rescue-chopper pilot trying to save his daughter after a massive earthquake.
For more information, visit Kennywood.com.
Craig Webb, who is looking forward to wearing his Browns T-shirt on the new coaster this summer, can be reached at email@example.com.