People ride the Big Dipper at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in Santa Cruz, Calif., Friday, June 8, 2007. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
California’s oldest amusement park is preparing to become the first amusement park to reopen under the state’s new COVID-19 health and safety guidelines following a seven-month coronavirus closure.
The 1907 Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk plans to reopen in November after Santa Cruz County moved into the orange/moderate tier 3 risk level under Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy.
“We are making plans, but nothing is set in stone yet,” Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Marq Lipton said. “We don’t have an opening date yet. It won’t be this week. It likely will be in a couple of weeks.”
California issued separate reopening guidelines for small and large theme parks last week. Small theme parks with a capacity of less than 15,000 visitors can reopen in the orange/moderate tier 3 while large theme parks can return in the yellow/minimal tier 4 — which could leave major players like Disney and Universal unable to return until early 2021 or next summer.
Smaller theme parks can reopen open at 25% capacity or 500 in-county visitors, whichever is fewer, with admission by reservation only in the orange/moderate tier 3.
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk isn’t the only California amusement park permitted to reopen right now under the state’s guidelines. The Small World Park and Pixieland amusement parks in Contra Costa County could also reopen.
The Beach Boardwalk still needs to update its ticketing system to add the ability to make advance reservations, limit attendance and restrict visitors to Santa Cruz County residents.
The Beach Boardwalk plans to reopen in off-season mode with a limited number of 8 to 12 rides, about a third of the park’s 37 amusement rides, according to Lipton.
“It’s impossible to say which rides will be open,” Lipton said.
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk will become home to the first operating roller coaster in the state after more than seven months of amusement park closures. The contenders: The 1924 Giant Dipper wooden coaster and the 2013 Undertow spinning steel coaster.
Lipton expects at least one coaster to be operational when the park reopens. The Giant Dipper is typically closed for maintenance at this time of year. The Beach Boardwalk is also home to the Sea Serpent kiddie coaster.
The Beach Boardwalk’s 1911 Looff Carousel with its distinctive ring dispenser is expected to remain closed along with other indoor rides. Carousel riders on the outside carousel horses can grab rings from a dispenser while they spin and try to toss them into a clown’s mouth.
The Beach Boardwalk’s four dark rides are also expected to remain closed.
The waterfront amusement park also features a log flume, Tilt-A-Whirl, wave swing, bumper cars, teacups, drop tower and a classic Rock-O-Plane Ferris wheel.
Boardwalk shops and restaurants are already open in a limited capacity.
An announcement will be made on the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk website and social media channels when the park settles on a reopening date.
Small World Park is also permitted to reopen after Contra Costa County moved into the orange/moderate tier 3 risk level — but the park will wait until 2021.
“We typically would be closing this weekend,” City of Pittsburg recreation assistant director Kolette Simonton said of Small World Park. “We won’t be opening again until the spring.”
The 8-acre amusement park never opened in 2020. Small World Park has four rides — including a carousel and kiddie train.
Pixieland officials could not be reached for comment. The Concord kiddie park has seven rides, including a carousel, teacups and the Dragon roller coaster. A monthly calendar on the Pixieland website shows the park closed through the end of the year.