Pacific Ocean Park
Vintage postcard circa 1959 showing the entrance plaza of Pacific Ocean Park
|Location||Santa Monica, California, US|
|Opened||26 July 1958|
|Closed||6 October 1967|
Pacific Ocean Park was a 28-acre (11-hectare), nautical-themed amusement park built on a pier at Pier Avenue in the Ocean Park section of Santa Monica, California. Intended to compete with Disneyland, it replaced Ocean Park Pier (1926-1956). After it closed and fell into disrepair, the park and pier anchored the Dogtown area of Santa Monica.
Pacific Ocean Park was a joint venture between CBS and Santa Anita Park. It opened on Saturday, July 28, 1958 with an attendance of 20,000. The next day, the park drew 37,262, outperforming Disneyland's attendance that day. Admission was 90 cents for adults, which included access to the park and certain exhibits. It was locally known by the acronym POP, (pronounced "pee-oh-pee"), as it was soon nicknamed and commonly used to refer to the name of the park, was also marketed as "Pay One Price", though other rides and attractions were on a pay-per-use basis.
Like Disneyland, Pacific Ocean Park found corporate sponsors to share the expense of some exhibits. Six of the pier's original attractions were incorporated into the new park, including the Sea Serpent roller coaster, the antique Looff carousel, the Toonerville Fun House, the Glass House and the twin diving bells.
Among a standard complement of carnival-style attractions and rides were the following:
- Westinghouse Enchanted Forest/USS Nautilus Submarine Exhibit featured a 150-foot (46 m)-long model of the atomic reactor section of a submarine.
- House of Tomorrow was themed like similar "looks at the future" featured at Disneyland's Tomorrowland and the World's Fair. Elektro, the talking and smoking robot from the 1939 World's Fair, was a prominent display.
- Sea Circus was included in the basic attraction price. Performing dolphins and sea lions played to audiences of 2,000 at a time. After the shows, visitors could feed seals in the Seal Pool.
- Diving Bells passengers were submerged underwater within dual diving bells that operated via hydraulic pistons. An underwater view of the tank was visible through the portholes. Similar rides also existed in single fashion at the Long Beach Nu-Pike and Coney Island's Astroland. The thrill of the ride occurred when the bell was allowed to surface. When the hydraulic pressure holding the bell down was released, the bell would shoot back up to the surface in dramatic fashion. The ride was manufactured by Martine.
- Ocean Skyway, built by Von Roll, consisted of bubble-shaped gondolas suspended 75 feet (23 m) above the surface of the ocean. Passengers were treated to a half-mile (800 m) trip out to sea and back.
- Union 76 Ocean Highway was similar to Disneyland's Autopia attraction. Visitors could drive miniature, gasoline-powered automobiles on a simulated highway.
- Flight to Mars was an audio-visual presentation that simulated a trip to Mars.
- Flying Carpet was a ride themed around the One Thousand and One Nights folk tales. "Flying carpets" suspended on an overhead track took visitors over an Arabian-themed diorama.
- Mirror Maze was a standard funhouse attraction.
- Davy Jones' Locker was another funhouse with a nautical theme.
- Flying Dutchman was a dark ride similar in theme to Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean, but without the animatronic figures.
- Deepest Deep simulated a voyage via submarine. Unlike Disneyland's Submarine Voyage attraction, Deepest Deep took place above water.
- Round the World in 80 Turns was an unusual combination of travelogue and thrill ride. Tub-like ride vehicles whipped sharply to the right and left to show travel scenes from around the world. The attraction was closed during the middle of the park's second season following customer complaints of nausea and neck and back pain.
- Safari Dark Ride was an interactive children's ride in which riders in miniature Jeeps used an electronic rifle to "hunt" animals in the African jungle.
- Mystery Island Banana Train Ride was considered by many to be Pacific Ocean Park's best ride. Passengers were treated to a trip aboard a tropical banana plantation train, complete with a simulated volcano and simulated earthquakes.
- Sea Serpent Roller Coaster was a wooden, 1926 Hi-Boy rollercoaster from the original pier.
- Mahi Mahi was a massive Stantzel Strat-O-Liner tower with rotating arms ending in jet-style cars, each of which held eight passengers. Six of these rides were manufactured, but none exist today.
- Whirl Pool was a centrifuge that pinned riders to the walls as the floor slowly lowered beneath them.
- Mr. Dolphin was another original pier attraction.
- Flying Fish was a miniature rollercoaster made by Carlos and Ramigosi. It was the first steel Wild Mouse roller coaster in the U.S.
- Carousel was the 1926-vintage Looff carousel from the original pier.
- Fisherman's Cove and the International Promenade were shopping, dining and souvenir areas that featured a number of international restaurants.
- King Neptune's Courtyard was a colorful walk under the ocean to view King Neptune's lair.
- Mrs.Squid, also known as the Ahuna Thrill Ride, was an Eyerly Octopus ride with a squid decor in the center. The ride had 16 tubs, each carrying two passengers.
- Mr. Octopus was a standard Eyerly Octopus ride with eight tubs.
- Space Wheels, a unique pair of double Ferris wheels, was manufactured by Velare Brothers. This attraction still exists and is owned by Drew Exposition of Georgia.
- Fun Forest was a children's area with mazes and slides as well as helicopter, boat, monorail and covered-wagon rides.
By January 5, 1959, Pacific Ocean Park had attracted 1,190,000 visitors. Although plans were made to add four new attractions, only two of these were completed at a cost of $2,000,000: Space Wheels and Fun Forest.
The park was used as a filming location for television shows, such as The Fugitive, The Twilight Zone and The Mod Squad, and films such as Gun Crazy (1950), Vicki (1953) and The Chapman Report (1962).
In 1965, Santa Monica began the Ocean Park urban renewal project. Buildings in the surrounding area were demolished and streets leading to the park were closed. As a result, visitors found it difficult to reach the park, and attendance plummeted to 621,000 in 1965 and 398,700 in 1966.
At the end of the 1967 tourist season, the park's creditors and the City of Santa Monica filed suit to take control of the property because of back taxes and back rent owed by the park's new owner since 1965. Pacific Ocean Park closed on October 6, 1967. The park's assets were auctioned off from June 28-30, 1968. The proceeds from the sale of 36 rides and 16 games were used to pay off creditors. The ruins of the pier became a favorite surfing area and hangout of the Z-Boys of Dogtown fame. The park's dilapidated buildings and pier structure remained until several suspicious fires occurred and it was finally demolished in the winter of 1974-75.
Other than a few underwater pilings and signs warning of them, nothing remains of Pacific Ocean Park today. A few miles north, the original Santa Monica Pier features a newer amusement park, similarly called Pacific Park. Today, the rides and attractions of the Santa Monica Pier include the carousel that is featured in the 1973 Academy Award-winning film The Sting.
- Stanton, Jeffrey (April 6, 1998). "Ocean Park Pier 1926-1956". www.westland.net. Retrieved 2019-08-07.
- Merritt, Christopher; Priore, Domenic; Wilson, Brian (2014). Pacific Ocean Park: The Rise and Fall of Los Angeles' Space Age Nautical Pleasure Pier. Port Townsend, WA: Process Media. ISBN 978-1934170526.
- Artsy, Avishay (July 23, 2014). "Remembering Pacific Ocean Park". KCRW. Retrieved 25 October 2016.
- Stanton, Jeffrey. "Pacific Ocean Park (1958-1967)". Venice History. Wesland.net. Retrieved 25 October 2016.
- Miranda, Carolina A. "The rise and spectacular fall of Venice Beach's Pacific Ocean Park". latimes.com.
- Merritt, Chris. "10 photos from L.A.'s long-gone Pacific Ocean Park, a day out by the sea you'll never enjoy". BoingBoing. Retrieved 25 October 2016.
- "Filming Location Matching "Pacific Ocean Park, Santa Monica, California, USA" (Sorted by Popularity Ascending)". IMDb. Retrieved 2020-09-21.
- Miranda, Carolina A. (July 28, 2014). "The rise and spectacular fall of Venice Beach's Pacific Ocean Park". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 25 October 2016.
- Jeffrey Stanton, 1987, Venice of America: Coney Island of the Pacific, Donahue Publishing: Los Angeles, CA, 1987, 176 pp., 1960s, Chapter 8: Pacific Ocean Park (1958-1967)
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