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Empire Adventures plan to reopen Fantasy Island

Amusement park company Empire Adventures hopes to reimagine, revitalise and reopen Fantasy Island, a theme park and water park located on Grand Island, New York.

Fantasy Island new york

Fantasy Island, which was owned by Martin DiPietro for 22 years, is a 75-acre amusement park. It opened in 1961 and suddenly closed in February 2020.

The Empire Adventures team has more than 60 years of amusement industry experience, as well as an understanding of how to bring back the destination.

The company is working on a 5-year plan to bring back Fantasy Island, and will spend the rest of 2020 making beautification efforts to park grounds.

Fantasy Island closed its doors in February 2020

Empire Adventures has a letter of interest for a 15-year lease from STORE Capital to operate Fantasy Island and make it “beautiful and fun again” (via Niagara Frontier Publications).

Empire plans to reopen Fantasy Island in summer 2021. Initial attractions will include the Silver Comet – the park’s wooden roller coaster, as well as kids, family and thrill rides.

Going forward, Empire Adventures will introduce new rides and attractions on an annual basis, eventually making Fantasy Island a world-class regional attraction.

The attraction’s closure came after Apex Parks Group of California announced that it was closing permanently and selling the rides and attractions.

5-year plan to bring back Fantasy Island

STORE Capital purchased the property from DiPetro for a reported $11 million in 2016, and Apex leased the park from STORE.

The property and rides of Fantasy Island reverted to STORE when Apex failed to make its loan payment on April 15.

Bill Baldwin, CEO of Empire Adventures, had worked at the amusement park as an entertainer. He teamed up with friend Jay Wilcox, COO of Empire Adventures, who also worked at Fantasy Island.

Baldwin and Wilcox discussed bringing the attraction back under local ownership and led by a team of former employees, before expressing an interest in purchasing the park.

‘We could make it beautiful and fun again’

However, Empire Adventures went for the 15-year lease agreement and is now seeking financial support after investors pulled out.

“Once we began negotiations, STORE gave us permission on May 22 to tour the park, so they gave the Sheriff’s Department permission to open the gates for us,” said Wilcox.

“What we saw was disgusting. We knew what a beautiful, fun place this was years ago and, despite the damage, we knew we could make it beautiful and fun again.”

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Bea Mitchell

Bea is a journalist specialising in entertainment, attractions and tech with 10 years' experience. She has written and edited for publications including CNET, BuzzFeed, Digital Spy, Evening Standard and BBC. Bea graduated from King's College London and has an MA in journalism.

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