|The Grand Carousel at Quassy Amusement Park
|MIDDLEBURY, Connecticut, USA – Just a stone’s throw from the main office at Quassy Amusement Park is a construction site buzzing with activity – a daily reminder that this small, family-owned business is forging ahead during challenging economic times. “We’ve had to remain focused on our initiatives in recent years, despite what has happened economically,” Quassy owner Eric Anderson said recently while surveying work on the new wooden roller coaster being built at the park. “We’ve been fortunate in that our long-term goals in updating the property have not fallen victim to the economic climate.”
The birth of the “Wooden Warrior” roller coaster, scheduled to open for the 2011 season next spring, is a prime example of how the park has aggressively continued to reinvest in itself and the community during a timeframe when many small businesses have failed. “We’ve been here more than 100 years and plan on being here for many more to come,” noted owner George Frantzis II, whose family purchased the park in 1937. “We strongly believe that had we not made the decision a number of years ago to reposition ourselves as a business – including reinvestment – we probably wouldn’t be here today.” The roller coaster project was conceived several years ago as part of a five-year strategy Quassy’s owners embraced to set the stage for the park’s future. Despite some roadblocks, the park saw the first phase of the plan come to fruition in 2010 when it added a new family drop tower ride built in Europe. “Not only do new attractions bring people back to the park, they also drive in new customers,” Anderson said.
“Wooden Warrior” will have more than 1,200 feet of track, yet not be a “white-knuckle” experience.“We want children to ride their first roller coaster here at Quassy and do it with their parents and even grandparents,” said Frantzis.
With two large corporate-owned theme parks just minutes away from Quassy Amusement Park, the park has remained focused on its strategy to compete. “Everything we’ve done in recent years is geared toward family,” Frantzis said. “We know we fill a niche market in the region and really focus on that any time we are looking at new attractions.” Such was the case when the park unveiled its latest multi-year plan which included the drop tower and new roller coaster. When all said and done, the improvements being made under the new reinvestment plan will play to the tune of around $5 million.
In 2009 the park opened a new main ticket booth fashioned after the trolley station which once served the historic property. It was a testament that Quassy was ready to make good on its publicly-announced plans that new attractions would follow in the years to come. The new family drop tower ride went into production in 2009 with a custom theme conceived by the park as well as a computerized LED (light emitting diode) lighting system. It was an immediate hit with guests and set the stage for what was to come during the 2010 season.
The summer of 2010 turned out to be very successful for the park as dry weather prevailed and the park posted a banner year. Business was brisk enough that by mid-July Quassy had positioned itself to break ground for its new wooden roller coaster – admittedly the largest undertaking ever for the 20-acre park.
The construction crew was on location the first week of August, about a month ahead of the projected schedule, and the work began. “We had anticipated starting after Labor Day, so not to disrupt our day-to-day operations,” Anderson said of the coaster project. “As it turned out, our early start generated a lot more interest among our guests as they could see the surveying work being done as well as concrete footings being poured. We have used as many local and area vendors as possible to supply parts for the ride,” Anderson noted.
The multi-year reinvestment plan also calls for additional waterpark attractions, which could be in place in the next couple of years. Even though a seasonal business, Quassy Amusement Park claims a broad economic impact on local communities. “It’s a rite of passage in our local communities to work at the park when you are in high school,” Frantzis said. “We have had several generations from the same family work here throughout the years. We’re a vital part of the community when it comes to student employment.” Other area businesses such as hotels, restaurants, gas stations and shopping complexes also benefit from having the amusement park nearby.
As for the park and its future, the two hands-on owners agree that what has been taking shape in recent years is cause for optimism. “The park is generating a great deal of positive attention nowadays,” Anderson said. “We took the initiative to pave our way in times of uncertainty – setting the bar high for ourselves. We’ve been clearing the hurdles and are excited about what’s in store for the park and our guests.” “Each year there are fewer and fewer family-owned amusement parks left in the country,” said Frantzis. “We’re a survivor and for some very good reasons.”
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