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NEWS: Miracle Strip looks to expand to new location

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Miracle Strip at Pier Park has outgrown its space.


In its five years in operation, the park has been so successful that owners Teddy and Jenny Meeks are looking to expand — and bring back even more of the iconic rides and attractions from the original Miracle Strip Amusement Park, which operated on the beach from 1964 to 2004.


And there’s no room for the Starliner roller coaster in their current location.


The Meeks started off purchasing the original carousel from the old park in 2008 and have been adding to their vintage ride lineup ever since. They said the number one question patrons ask them is, “When are you bringing back the Starliner?”


Although the project is still in the planning stages, the Meeks hope to move their 11 current rides to a bigger space by next year and have the Starliner up and running by 2015.


Now, they are one step closer to doing that.


The Panama City Beach Planning Board approved a conditional use request Monday for the amusement park, which would be located on a 10-acre plot of land at 284 Powell Adams Road, not far from where the park is now.


Despite a written request from adjacent property owner Simon Property Group to delay the decision, the planning board unanimously gave the Meeks the go-ahead to move forward with the project, but they outlined a series of conditions to follow as it progresses.


The letter from Simon, the company that operates Pier Park, was submitted to planning board members before the meeting and expressed concerns from the company about traffic congestion, project design, fencing, security, lighting and potential effects on Pier Park that the park would bring.


The board’s approval requires rides be no taller than 81 feet, that the park follow the same design aesthetic as Pier Park, that all rides remain operable and in good repair, and that operators ensure the roller coaster does not infringe on safety parameters for adjacent business Panhandle Helicopter, which operates a helicopter landing pad nearby.


The project also requires a traffic impact study, and planning board members determined the surrounding environment would not be negatively impacted by the park.


The Starliner, a wooden coaster built in 1963, stands about 70 feet high and would adhere to the conditions set forth by the board.


The Meeks’ vision is to create not an amusement park, but a “park with amusements,” focusing on the area’s natural surroundings and adding unique art and landscape features.


“Our thought is that this is going to be a park for the community to come to and just enjoy with their families,” Jenny Meeks said. “The one thing we hear more than anything on this beach is that what you all have done is phenomenal for families. We have created that across the street; the only thing is we need more space.”


Initial plans also include the construction of a 52-foot tall iconic lighthouse attraction with a working signal light and viewing deck, and an 800-square-foot water play area with 24 interactive spray heads.


However, the Starliner would be the park’s main attraction, as it was at the old Miracle Strip Amusement Park.


After Miracle Strip Amusement Park closed its doors, the coaster was brought to Cypress Gardens Adventure Park in Winter Haven in 2006, where it operated as the oldest roller coaster in Florida until the park closed in 2008.


The Meeks own all of the Starliner’s original parts but would need to rebuild the coaster’s track.


Meeks said it would take about 10 months to rebuild the coaster to its original glory, with an estimated cost of $2.5 to $3 million.


“We knew Pier Park was going to come in against us today, and you feel like its David and Goliath,” said Jenny Meeks, who noted lease complications with Simon also fueled the desire to seek other options.


The Meeks said the next step is to begin conducting traffic studies and starting design plans for the park.


“Initially, we just wanted to make sure the planning commission approved the (conditional use) for the amusement park,” Jenny Meeks said. “We’re thrilled we jumped that hurdle, because that was a big hurdle.”

Edited by robbalvey
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  • 4 months later...
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Rebuilding a Panama City Beach icon is going to require a strong foundation built of community support — both literally and figuratively.


Since announcing plans to rebuild the old Starliner roller coaster, Miracle Strip at Pier Park owners Teddy and Jenny Meeks have received an outpouring of praise from park patrons, whose number one question always has surrounded the potential return of the wooden coaster.


To help defray the estimated $3 million cost of rebuilding the Starliner, the Meeks are selling personalized bricks that will be placed in the walkway to the coaster.


“It’s just to commemorate that it’s going to take a lot of people to get this coaster built, as far as support,” Jenny Meeks said. “We have a lot of the original parts that are in very good condition. We’re going to try to build it as close to the original design as possible.”


The original Miracle Strip Amusement Parkoperated on the beach from 1964 to 2004, with the 70-foot-tall Starliner poised as its main attraction.


“Since we’ve announced we’re bringing it back, we’ve had roller-coaster enthusiasts from all over the world contacting us,” Meeks said. “It definitely will put heads in beds in this community because people will come from around the world to ride this old, wooden roller coaster.”


The Meeks purchased the old park carousel in 2008 and have been adding to their vintage ride lineup at the 1.2-acre location at Pier Park ever since.


But adding new rides every year has left little space to work with, and the Meeks announced in February plans to move the park to a 10.5-acre site off Powell Adams Road, not far from the current location.


They expect to break ground for the new park this fall and open at the new location in spring 2014, moving the park’s 11 rides and adding nine more.


Although financing is secured for the first phase of the park, the Meeks still are seeking funding sources to rebuild the coaster. In addition to selling commemorative bricks, the Meeks also are working with a national sponsor and hope to gain support from the Bay County Tourist Development Council.


Meeks said they expect to begin rebuilding the Starliner in fall 2014 and have it up and running the following spring. Once the coaster is built, it will be the oldest wooden roller coaster in the state and the only coaster on the Gulf Coast.


“This is something that would be an icon returning to Panama City Beach,” Meeks said. “I want it to be a step back in time. … In today’s world, with all the hustle and bustle, we are still needing that family time that is just so rare.”

You can purchase a brick here: http://www.ms-pp.com/Starliner.html

Edited by jedimaster1227
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  • 9 months later...
Would this be the first time a woden coaster has been relocated twice?


Does it count as a relocation if it's essentially a new ride this time around, possibly with some recycled parts to save money?

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I wonder just how much of the original materials they'll even use for the coaster. This layout it pretty radically different from what I experienced at Cypress Gardens.


It really is great to see this park working towards long term success with an investment like this. I just hope they have enough land to continue to expand on if they do find that success.

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Would this be the first time a woden coaster has been relocated twice?


Does it count as a relocation if it's essentially a new ride this time around, possibly with some recycled parts to save money?

No. Not at all. Looks like they are just building a new ride with the same name. Honestly, this is much better. I never thought Starliner was very good in the first place and this layout looks a lot like White Lightning, which I really like!


So I look at this as a WIN!



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^Glad I'm not the only one who thought the new Starliner looks like a White Lightning cousin. If it rides similar to White Lightning, we should be in for a really fun, fast-paced, and out-of-control ride. Now it may not be an intensity monster of a woodie, but it sure looks extremely re-rideable and able to put a smile on anyone. Some people out there are a little butt-hurt about not relocating the original for "nostalgic value," but it looks like they are getting something really special as a replacement. A brand new coaster is going to help a park a lot more any day over a relocated "okay" coaster.

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^ Starliner was, IMO, "not good" - it wasn't thrilling and offered about as much enjoyment as something like Wolverine Wildcat. In short, it was a totally "forgettable" ride - I'm very happy to see the park go this direction. Why open up a mediocre ride for "nostalgia" when you can build something much better?

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I did enjoy that bit of airtime inside the dragon tunnel on a night time ride back in '04. Flew up and was surprised to come down on the seat divider if I remember right. This new version looks even better, and I hope they incorporate the dragon tunnel but not holding my breath.

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  • 11 months later...

The Starliner is probably the most underrated coaster I've ever ridden. It's airtime was phenomenal, sometimes violent, but that's what made it a blast. There are wooden roller coasters that are engineered more gracefully these days, but for a basic out and back coaster only White Lightning really tops it out of what I have ridden. I can imagine in a better location than Cypress Gardens, where it was crunched right next to the road, it would be a more interesting ride.


I think a GCI redesign would be great too, but I wish more people appreciated Florida's original wooden coaster.

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  • 5 months later...

Unfortunately, the new Starliner will not appear until 2017, if ever:




The prospective new owners see building an observation wheel as the profitable way forward: “This (observation) wheel is about $7 million, and Starliner is about $4 million,” [the current owner] said. “It just makes sense to do the wheel first. There are so many more people who can ride that than the coaster.”


Although the current owner says the coaster is still 'planned', it's clear this isn't the priority anymore.


I hope the wheel helps make the coaster dream a reality someday...

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That's really unfortunate. It sounds like the park hasn't been quite as successful as I thought it would be in its new location. The original owners had a great vision, but I think they lacked the critical mass they needed to make a complete park successful. Starliner should have been there from the get-go. It just isn't enough of a draw otherwise from what they already had at the other location.


I've always pointed to this park as an example of how Bell's could make a comeback, so I hope they pull through and eventually get the coaster up.

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  • 2 months later...

Sadly, it looks like the dream of a new Miracle Strip is now dead:


UPDATE: Miracle Strip evicted for failing to pay rent



News Herald Reporter


Posted Nov. 23, 2015 at 5:30 PM


PANAMA CITY BEACH — A popular Beach amusement park is being evicted from the property it is leasing as the landowner alleges the company owes more than $328,000 in back rent.


William R. Dozier, the owner of the property at 284 Powell Adams Road, and BGWDS Holdings LLC filed a lawsuit for eviction and damages in circuit court Oct. 27 against Miracle Strip Carousel, a company owned by Jenny and Teddy Meeks. William Dozier is not related to County Commissioner Bill Dozier.


The amount owed is more than the annual rent on the property, according to the lease, and the plaintiff’s lawsuit also asks for attorneys’ fees.


The park has been closed since September; the Meeks’ website at the time said the business was “transitioning to new ownership.”


On Oct. 27, a summons was delivered to Jenny Meeks, registered agent for the company, stating a lawsuit had been filed against her and that she had 20 calendar days to respond.


“If you do not file your response on time, you may lose the case, and property may thereafter be taken without further warning from the court,” the summons states.


But on Wednesday, a default judgment was entered against Miracle Strip for “failure to answer or respond to plaintiffs complaint” as required by law, the court documents states.


The Meeks could not be reached for comment Monday.



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