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Fantasy Island and Empire Adventures Inc.

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Thanks!  It seems to be far from done. I hope it reopens but if not, I hope Marineland across the river ends up relocating the Silver Comet.  It is such a great ride and would be such a great addition to their line up of rides.  

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Theyre out of their minds. Reminds me of the time people with pickup trucks wanted to relocate Geauga Lake's Big Dipper. These people have zero idea how much money its going to cost just to clean up and restore whats left, much less bring back rides. Spoiler alert.... its probably in the 10's of millions. They started a GoFundMe and raised less than $3k. 🤣 All theyre doing is creating false hope with the idiot public who thinks its going to be like flipping a switch. 

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I agree with that and agree that it would be stupid for Marineland to buy Silver Comet and I don't actually think that it will happen BUT Marineland is also run by insane people and nothing that they do would surprise me too much because the fact that something is an objectively terrible idea is not a deterrent to them.

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9 hours ago, Haymaker said:

Theyre out of their minds. Reminds me of the time people with pickup trucks wanted to relocate Geauga Lake's Big Dipper. These people have zero idea how much money its going to cost just to clean up and restore whats left, much less bring back rides. Spoiler alert.... its probably in the 10's of millions. They started a GoFundMe and raised less than $3k. 🤣 All theyre doing is creating false hope with the idiot public who thinks its going to be like flipping a switch. 

Totally agree!!  False hope.  Plus the parks and rides are deteriorating.  It's starting to look like SF New Olrleans!

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1 hour ago, ricklap77 said:

Totally agree!!  False hope.  Plus the parks and rides are deteriorating.  It's starting to look like SF New Olrleans!

There are no rides except for Silver Comet and a broken Ferris Wheel. The waterslides and wave pool werent winterized so theyre likely shot too. 

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Empire Adventures is officially disbanded



Black Bart is out. Marshall Dan is standing by. And those dreaming of a reopened Fantasy Island are still millions of dollars away from seeing it happen.

Last summer, a group of former Fantasy Island workers formed a company called Empire Adventures and announced its hopes to reopen the park, restoring a beloved Grand Island institution.

But that group, led by former Wild West shootout star Bill "Black Bart" Baldwin, seems to have disbanded. Now, former Fantasy Island maintenance worker Jay Wilcox, who stepped away from Empire Adventures, is moving forward with a Connecticut amusements operator in order to keep the dream alive.

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  • 2 weeks later...

So there are iaapa job listings from Indiana Beach looking for help in Buffalo NY.

The people on the memories page are so pie in the sky.  It's like they don't understand what due diligence is, have any business accolade, and the fact they are talking about it without Indiana Beach announcing anything seems very off to me.

The park is a mess. If they can prove me wrong that would be amazing, simply because I'd like to ride Silver Comet again... :)


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Gene Staples to the rescue?


Fantasy Island could make a comeback after all.

The owner of amusement parks in Indiana and New Jersey is close to finalizing a deal to lease the Grand Island property from owner STORE Capital, according to Grand Island Town Supervisor John Whitney.

Fantasy Island revivalists are big on plans, short on details

Whitney said he spoke Tuesday morning with theme park owner Gene Staples, who told him he is in the process of leasing the park. He also spoke with a representative from real estate investment trust STORE Capital who confirmed the news, he said.

Staples and STORE are still negotiating the long-term lease, Whitney said.

"It’s not done as far as I know, but it’s getting close," Whitney said. "It's very, very promising. We're a lot further than we were before."

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11 hours ago, LegendLover said:

Gene Staples seems to be saving parks left and right. I'm fully expecting Ghost Town in the Sky, Six Flags New Orleans, and Celebration City all to be next lol. 

Ill Be Back Jim Carrey GIF

Geauga Lake is next!  Woot!

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  • 4 weeks later...

Gene Staples finalizes lease agreement, waterpark may re-open as soon as July.




A portion of the former Fantasy Island amusement park on Grand Island could be reopened as soon as July, Town Supervisor John Whitney confirmed Thursday.

Whitney said a lease deal has been finalized between Chicago investor Gene Staples and Arizona-based STORE Capital, owners of the Fantasy Island property, which could allow for the opening of the water park portion of the amusement park by next month.

Whitney said Staples owns Indiana Beach Amusement Park and Water Resort in Monticello, Ind., and Clementon Park and Splash World in Clementon, N.J.

The Indiana park and campground had been family-owned from 1926 to 2008, before changing hands and being sold to Apex Parks Group in 2015. Apex closed the 95-year-old park in 2020.

Apex Parks Group bought Fantasy Island from Martin DiPietro for $11 million in 2016 and leased the property to STORE Capital. Apex operated the park before closing it last year and removing most of the rides.

Two months later, Apex filed bankruptcy and defaulted on its lease payment, which ended up reverting the park's contents to STORE Capital.



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  • 2 weeks later...

New "major attraction" roller coaster for the former Fantasy Island next year. New park name to come as well


New Fantasy Island owner plans 'classic, vintage' theme park

Samantha Christmann

Jun 26, 2021 Updated 36 min ago

A new name, new attractions and, by next month, an open waterpark.

That's what new owner Gene Staples says is in store for Fantasy Island.

Chicago-based amusement park owner is close to a deal on Fantasy Island

The owner of amusement parks in Indiana and New Jersey is close to finalizing a deal to lease the Grand Island property from owner STORE Capital, according to Grand Island Town Supervisor John Whitney.

First though, extensive damage from vandalism throughout the park will need to be repaired. That process has already begun, and a security team made up of off-duty police and sheriff's officers is in place to keep new vandals out.

"They kicked in every door, 90% of the windows were smashed. Sinks, toilets that were in good condition and recently replaced all smashed by kids and people coming in, and for no good reason except to be destructive," Staples said.

The damage is largely from so-called "urban explorers" from outside the region who have broken into the park – some of them documenting their exploits on YouTube.

Word has gotten around in online forums – inaccurately – that the park is abandoned. Staples' team just finished removing graffiti from the water park – which took five people two weeks to complete – and is trying to get the word out that the park is being refurbished – not abandoned.

"It's no different than someone who would hop the fence or try to break into Six Flags park or Cedar Fair. You can't just come in and not have repercussions," he said.

The park will be renamed, mostly because there is another theme park called Fantasy Island in New Jersey, Staples said. The new name is under wraps for now, but will better represent the Western New York region, he said.

A policy instituted under Apex that rankled budget-conscious families – the prohibition of coolers and outside food – will stay in place. But the money from food and drink sales will go straight back into the park for many years to come, he said.

"It's a really difficult thing because I understand that change is very difficult for people," Staples said. "But you also have to recognize that a big part of the experience of going to the park, and a big part of our revenue base that helps bring in new attractions and keep things fresh and improve the park is a derivative of in-park sales."

Along those lines, the food and beverage program at the park will get an extreme makeover, as Staples partners with local restaurant owners to give families more options than traditional theme park fare.

But that won't happen until next year, when the amusement park itself is slated to reopen. Staples will spend the winter getting ready for the reopening, working with ride brokers and friends in the amusement park industry to buy rides for all ages from around the world.

After Apex closed the park last February, most rides were dismantled and sold. All that remains are the Ferris wheel and the Silver Comet roller coaster – both of which need repairs, Staples said.

The new rides will be more fitting for the medium-sized park, he said, describing Fantasy Island's former attractions as "carnival rides" from different eras that "didn't fit the park." The plan is to bring in rides that "look like they belong," he said.

"Our brand is bringing back that classic, vintage amusement park that has the lights, the smells, the sounds, the feel that you're stepping into a timeless relic," Staples said. 

Without spilling many details, Staples said the park will open with one new roller coaster that will be a "major attraction." Staples is also a fan of classic Allen Herschell rides and Hampton brand rides from the 1940s, '50s and '60s. 

Staples' company Indiana Beach Holdings, which operates under his family's Chicago-based real estate investment firm E.A. Staples, also owns Indiana Beach theme park in Indiana and Clementon Park and Splash World in New Jersey.

Cooped-up patrons flocked to Indiana Beach last year, even during the Covid-19 pandemic, Staples said. He expects the Grand Island water park to be similarly well attended this summer now that Covid-19 restrictions are lifting, even though the park is early in its transformation.

"We just ask that people be patient and bear with us," Staples said.

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Buffalo News Q & A with Gene Staples

Fantasy Island's fans have all eyes on Gene Staples, scrutinizing everything the new owner does at the Grand Island amusement park, which was gutted by its previous owner.

Staples hopes to tap into that passionate and sometimes critical following for guidance as he and his team remake the park that has been a treasured part of Western New York for decades.

A veteran of the U.S. Navy, the Chicagoan has worked in the telecom industry for years, most recently as a consultant with his family's real estate investment firm, E.A. Staples & Associates.

A lifelong fan of amusement parks, Staples bought Indiana Beach last spring, a nearly century old amusement park in Indiana. Like Fantasy Island, that park was previously owned by California-based Apex Parks Group, which closed and dismantled it.

Earlier this year, while out shopping for new rides and attractions for Indiana Beach, Staples bought New Jersey's 114-year-old Clementon Park & Splash World. Staples owns all three parks under the company IB Parks and Entertainment, where he relies on his four sons – ages 15 to 23 – as a sounding board.

It was around the time of the Clementon Park purchase that Store Capital, owner of the land underneath Fantasy Island, approached him about taking on the park.

"We weren't really looking for a third park, but I flew up, fell in love with the area, the island, the unbelievable location," Staples said. "Hearing stories and the love for the park, it's really something special."

Now, Staples is readying the water park to open in mid-July, and will open the park in phases under a new, yet-to-be-revealed name.

Q: How did you get interested in amusement parks?

A: I've always loved them. I always loved taking the family on trips to amusement parks. I grew up going to amusement parks.

When Indiana Beach was closing in February of last year, the same time Fantasy Island was closing, my son Alex brought it to my attention. I decided to reach out and see if there was something we could do to save the park and make the acquisition.

Q: Do you think there's pent-up demand from people wanting to get outside?

A: Our Indiana Park is doing absolutely fantastic this year. We couldn't be happier. We had a tremendous year last year, even with Covid. And then a lot of those guests that didn't come last year are really returning this year.

In Indiana, we did extensive rehabilitation to the park and the park's infrastructure. We really spent a lot of money on cleaning up the park and it has paid off exponentially. So, we're having a fantastic year.

We're expecting New Jersey to have a pretty good year as people learn the park is back open.

Q: What condition was the park in? You've said there was extensive damage from vandalism.

A: It's really sad to see because a lot of it was unnecessary vandalism and destruction.

The park, infrastructurewise, is in pretty good condition. It's just a lot of stuff that, if vandals had not done what they did, would have made our lives a lot easier and allowed us to invest more money in what the fans of the park want, versus cleaning up the mess left behind.

It's unfortunate but, nevertheless, we're pushing forward. We knew the hurdles.

Q: You're not trying to be Darien Lake.

A: We look at the Six Flags and the Cedar Fairs of the world and, you know, they help complement us. My family and I love going to those parks, and we think that people like a variety of experiences. It's a very close-knit industry and we look at all the other parks as our friends.

But we're trying to be a medium-sized operator of medium-sized parks that are truly family friendly.

Q: What is it you like about the old-fashioned Allan Herschell and Hampton kiddie rides?

A: We feel they are amazing, timeless. They're attractive to kids and their families but also, from a maintenance standpoint, they're built incredibly well.

They're built to be repaired – not disposable like a lot of things are in this day and age. Their lifespan, for the most part, is indefinite. As long as they're cared for, they can be restored like a classic car. 

For the advanced family with teenagers or tweens, they're looking for something a little more thrilling than that. And we hope to provide it so a family with kids from three or four years old all the way up can go here together, and everyone gets a little something. 

Q: I think people were relieved to see that an amusement park fan was coming in and not a hedge fund.

A: This is not a short-term project for us. We're putting our own real money and investing into Grand Island. I get that it's a huge part of the history of Grand Island, and that's what we're looking to preserve and take forward for years to come. 

This summer when the water park opens – we didn't have a lot of time to do everything we would want to do. So, you know, we hope people understand that our main goal is to get things open, and then listen to the feedback that our team hears and sees online, and take those comments – good or bad – and apply them to the 2021 season, where we have an entire winter to do renovations and revamp the park into what we think it should be.

I think that's the biggest part of our formula: We do watch the videos on YouTube and read the comments on social media. That is where you get the benefit of being a family-run park by someone who comes from outside the industry but has been a well-versed attendee for years.

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Water park area re-named "Splash World"


GRAND ISLAND, N.Y. (WIVB) — The company that purchased the Fantasy Island property has been busy trying to get it ready for the 2021 summer season.

Project directors with Indiana Beach say they’re getting very close to opening the water park for guests. With the former setup, visitors would have to cross through the entire property to get to the water park.

Now, Tom Crisci with Indiana Beach, says they will have a separate entrance for visitors, which will lead directly to the attractions that are open at Splash World that will be right off the main parking lot.

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