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20 Favorite Pacific Park Moments

Published on May 5, 2016

Pacific Park will celebrate 20 years of operation and fun in the sun on May 26th, 2016.

In light of its 20th Birthday celebration, Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier will introduce a new Ferris wheel lighting package. Standing 130 feet above the Pacific Ocean, the nearly $1 million new Ferris wheel lighting package will increase colors displayed from the current 8 to 16.7 million color value combinations, offer higher resolution, greater color depth and faster “frames per second” display speed. The solar-powered Ferris wheel’s new programming and display software upgrades increase imaging speed from 3 to 24 frames per second to display dynamic, custom, computer-generated lighting entertainment in the evenings.

Here’s a look back at 20 of our favorite moments from Pacific Park history:

  1. Pacific Park opens on May 26, 1996, becoming the first amusement park on the Santa Monica Pier since the 1930s. The two-acre amusement Park anchors the seven-acre Pier with its nine-story tall Pacific Wheel Ferris wheel along with 12 rides, 14 midway games, an over the ocean food plaza and beachside retail. Pacific Park is the first and continues to be the only admission-free amusement park in Los Angeles.
  2. A star is born. In 1997 the first Hollywood production took place around Pacific Park and the Santa Monica Pier with the filming of Romey and Michelle’s High School Reunion. Now featured in more than 500 movie, television and music video appearances, the Ferris wheel with its nearly $1 million new lighting package will continue to be seen by millions and generate the type of Hollywood buzz it’s enjoyed over the last 20 years including top billing in the opening shots for NBC’s Tonight Show with Jay Leno, appearing in one of television’s number one programs, American Idol, on FOX and seen in the feature film Iron Man.
  3. Pacific Park and Southern California Edison Technology Solutions created the world’s first and still only solar-powered Ferris wheel in 1998. The Pacific Wheel Ferris wheel is a feature attraction at the two-acre oceanfront amusement park that generates more than 71,000-kilowatt hours of renewable photovoltaic (PV) power from the sun’s rays. In order for the wheel to operate, more than 650 PV modules were mounted on top of the Park’s loading area for its West Coaster roller coaster and its Midway games building. The PV modules generate the electricity needed to power the wheel. On cloudy days the Pacific Wheel is powered from conventional energy sources.
  4. It was 1999 when Pacific Park introduced Inkie the octopus, the lovable, huggable and memorable mascot to the two-acre amusement park. Standing more than six feet tall, Inkie can be seen wearing a signature purple costume that features a big smile, giant bright eyes, large tentacles and a colorful baseball cap with the Pacific Park logo. Today Inkie greets guests, event attendees and families throughout the Park and serves as Pacific Park’s ambassador to many civic, community and non-profit programs.
  5. Pacific Park loves moms and in 2000 the family-friendly Park began treating moms to a free ride on the world-famous Ferris wheel on Mother’s Day. This time-honored tradition has provided thousands of moms with special memories for families with their very own annual holiday spent the Pacific Park way – riding the Ferris wheel.
  6. Revisiting days of old, in 2001 Pacific Park introduced The La Monica Swing ride – reminiscent of the family swing ride on the Pier in the early 1930s. The La Monica Swing ride provided up to 24 passengers a nearly three-minute-long ride while whirling riders 20-feet above the pier deck in a circular motion. The family swing ride stood 40 feet high and during flight guests on the La Monica Swing enjoyed breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and Santa Monica Mountains.
  7. In just six short years, the Pacific Park Ferris wheel passed the 2 million riders mark in 2002. Guests rise 130 feet above the Pacific Ocean to enjoy spectacular views of the Santa Monica coastline, Catalina Island, Malibu and Palos Verdes Peninsula.
  8. Pacific Park opened the all-new 4,500-square-foot Pier Pavilion in 2003, a one-of-a-kind over-the-ocean event location for private or semi-private parties, banquets and receptions. The Pier Pavilion is now the perfect site for a variety of events including corporate cocktail receptions and mixers, business lunches, film wrap parties and previews, sales incentive gatherings, and full-service banquets. A wide-range of events have been held in Pier Pavilion for clients such as Microsoft, Universal Music, The Simpsons television group, the William Morris Agency, UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital, Democratic National Convention and the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, among others.
  9. Pacific Park created PALpalooza in 2004 designed to assist Santa Monica Police Activities League, PAL, in raising money to maintain and develop programs and-or projects at their facility including cultural, educational and recreational type curriculums, which in turn help the children in the Santa Monica area. PAL provides free programs for more than 1,600 youths throughout the City. Each year Pacific Park hosts more than 500 youth from Santa Monica PAL and now California or CAL-PAL to a free day of fun, food and friendship; while family, colleagues and guests take part in raising funds through the proceeds of event tickets. To help offset operating costs, Pacific Park donates all food, games and rides for PALpalooza.
  10. Shiver me timbers – Pacific Park opens Pirates’ Pier Mini Golf in 2005 and is soon featured as “10 Great Places To Putt Up or Shut Up” in USA TODAY. Pacific Park’s over-the-ocean swashbuckling-themed Pirates’ Pier Mini Golf course was developed from stories of former pirates off the California coast from as far back as 1577. The legend was incorporated in the nine-hole miniature golf course with wily pirate lore, palm trees, wharf décor and even a shipwreck to navigate with a putter. Avast, situated 40 feet over the Pacific Ocean and under the California sun, Pirates’ Pier Mini Golf was pure family fun. Weigh Anchor!
  11. While celebrating its 10th birthday, Pacific Park’s solar-powered Ferris wheel was named “Best of America” by the editors of Reader’s Digest magazine. Guests on the Ferris wheel rise 130 feet above the Pacific Ocean to enjoy spectacular views of the Santa Monica coastline, Catalina Island, Malibu and Palos Verdes Peninsula. Also in 2006, the Ferris wheel passed the 3 million riders mark. In just 10 years the two-acre amusement park entertained more than 10 million guests, provided over 24 million rides on its 12 rides and awarded more than 1.9 million pieces of plush at the midway games. The Park also spun over 462,000 pieces of cotton candy, scooped more than 42,000 gallons of ice cream and brewed a perky 651,000 cups of coffee.
  12. Pacific Park continued to soar to new heights of over 55 feet to treat dads with a free ride on the West Coaster roller coaster on Father’s Day in June. Roller coaster riding dads weren’t disappointed with the oceanfront thrill ride on the West Coaster steel roller coaster that climbs to a height of more than five stories tall and trails from one end of the park to the other providing unparalleled views of the Pacific Ocean, Beaches and Pier.
  13. In 2008 Pacific Park introduced an all-new $1.5 million Ferris wheel featuring more than 160,000 energy-efficient LED lights that provide higher energy savings versus the 5,392 incandescent bulbs, while complementing the solar-power application. Pacific Park sold the previous Ferris wheel on eBay for $132,400 and shared half of the proceeds with Special Olympics of Southern California. The 10-day eBay auction generated 6 bidders, 35 bids, 32 pre-qualifiers, 9,342 watchers and nearly 400,000 page visits. Grant Humphreys, CEO of The Humphreys Company, in Oklahoma City was the Ferris wheel’s top bidder. Mr. Humphreys is a real estate developer that specializes in building walkable communities and the Ferris wheel will anchor one of his projects.
  14. Pacific Park joined in the celebration for the Santa Monica Pier’s 100th birthday celebration on September 9. The Pier was originally created in 1909 as a public utility to move treated sewage to the ocean. Later that year, the Pier opened to the public on California Admission Day, which was soon followed by the opening of the adjacent Looff pleasure pier, La Monica Ballroom and Hippodrome building and carousel. The ever-popular Santa Monica Pier Twilight Concert Series also turned 25 in 2009.
  15. Summer got a little cooler at the beach in 2010 with the official opening of Pacific Park’s two newest rides for kids – and their families. The over the ocean, popular amusement park added Inkie’s Pirate Ship and Inkie’s Wave Jumper to its roster of family-share rides that also includes Inkie’s Air Lift, SIG Alert EV and Sea Planes. Inkie’s Pirate Ship is a swashbuckling-themed, family-fun ride that lifts mateys to-and-fro in a clockwise and counterclockwise motion for an all-out, sea-like adventure on this grand pirate ship! And catch a wave on Inkie’s Wave Jumper, the family-style, pier-top surf ride that rotates in a clockwise motion while riders “jump” up and down, and bounce around, just like riding a wave.
  16. In 2011 Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier confirmed the sale of Pacific Park to CNL Lifestyle Properties, Inc., a real estate investment trust based in Orlando, Fla., that owns a portfolio of 122 lifestyle properties in the United States and Canada. CNL Lifestyle Properties purchased the ground lease and physical assets of Pacific Park. Santa Monica Amusements continued to operate the Park led by current CEO and General Manager Mary Ann Powell along with her existing management team. The well-established group has over 120 years of combined industry experience and more than 50 years combined management experience specifically at Pacific Park. The structure of the sale allowed Powell the option to purchase the operating interests in Santa Monica Amusements within a year of closing, which she did and renamed the unit MAPCO in 2012.
  17. What goes around comes around and that’s especially true for Los Angeles Police Officer Gus Martinez as he set the Guinness World Records title of 25 hours on the world-famous Ferris wheel on June 1, 2012, at Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier. The previous Guinness World Records title was 24 hours and 30 minutes set in Dublin, Ireland, in October 2011. Pacific Park joined Special Olympics Southern California (SOSC) and Southern California Law Enforcement to raise awareness and funds for SOSC while setting the new world-record for the “Longest Ride On A Fair Ground / Theme Park Attraction.” Martinez remained in the Ferris wheel gondola throughout the record-setting period and was periodically joined by Jason, his son and SOSC athlete. Additional family members, friends and law enforcement officers also rode along and cheered him on each minute of the way.
  18. Rising to the top of the Ferris wheel crop, in 2013 Pacific Park’s Ferris wheel was selected by Travel + Leisure magazine as one of the “World’s Coolest Ferris Wheels.” In its story lead, Travel + Leisure states, “Some of these cool recent versions put a high-tech spin on the Ferris wheel concept. Santa Monica’s Pacific Wheel, for instance, uses a solar-powered design and glows in neon by night….” The Ferris wheel selection continues, “Introducing the only entirely solar-powered Ferris wheel in the world. The original was sold on eBay in 2008 and replaced with an identical wheel sporting the same solar-powered design and waterfront location. Nightfall brings a fantastic LED light show made possible by 160,000 energy-efficient LED lights that cover the wheel.”
  19. When lookin’ for love, look no further than a turn on the Ferris wheel, so says USA TODAY in 2014. The national newspaper named Pacific Park’s Ferris wheel a “can’t-miss spot” in its review of The Romantic Places for Couples in Los Angeles.” Couples rise 130 feet above the Pacific Ocean to enjoy romantic views of the Santa Monica coastline, Catalina Island, Malibu and Palos Verdes Peninsula. Love also shines bright with the Ferris wheel’s 160,000 LED computer-operated lights featuring romantic colors and patterns.
  20. Score one for the little guy – so to speak as Yahoo! Travel announced in 2015 its “The Best Amusement Park in Every State” with Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier taking top honors in California. Yahoo! states, “We have a national love affair with water slides, bumper cars, and screaming rollercoasters. There is nothing that completes our summer travel agenda quite like a visit to an amusement park. Whether you like tiny home-grown parks or gargantuan theme parks, Yahoo Travel has got you covered. We went in search of the most amazing amusement parks the country has to offer in each state. Here is our list to keep you park hopping from coaster to coaster.” Pacific Park, the two-acre amusement park with its 12 rides, 14 midway games, an oceanfront food plaza and beachside retail shops was recognized as: “In a state so packed with great amusement parks, Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier stands out for fun, atmosphere, and the sheer joy of playing on this famous landmark.”

Here’s to another 20 years of fantastic memories!

Feature image courtesy of @@nrnpics.