If there's one thing consistent about Lagoon - the only amusement park along Highway 89 between Canada and Mexico - it's likely the constant change that takes place there.
Some rides have come and gone, the park has expanded dramatically over the years, and more expansion is planned.Other than the wooden roller coaster and the carousel, the only thing that has remained the same is that people still go to Lagoon to have fun. From the "Fun spot of Utah" theme in days past to the modern themes of "Your brand of summer fun" and "There's only one Lagoon," the park is one of the most visible man-made developments along U.S. 89 - with the 10-story high Colossal Fire Dragon coaster ride and its antique-looking wooden roller coaster.
Peter Freed, his brothers Dan and Robert, and Ranch Kimball leased Lagoon from the Bamberger family, the park's original owner, in 1946. Kimball had previously worked for the Bambergers. Lagoon only had eight rides and a few games back then, and the men had to clear large weed patches left over from the park's inactive years during World War II. Extensive painting and remodeling also was completed. Development was slow but steady.
Income from the park was low at first, and only the Freed's finance company and a ranching business kept the brothers going. In the 1950s, the Freeds bought Kimball's share in the park. In the 1980s, Lagoon Corp. began buying the park from the Bambergers and now owns the park and land.
A big setback came in November 1953 when a fire of unknown origin destroyed the fun house, ballroom, cafe, the west side of the midway and a portion of the wooden roller coaster.
However, the Freeds vowed to rebuild the park, and it was open six months later, minus a fun house. It seems that after that, the pace of the park's development picked up, despite the spiraling purchase prices for new rides. Rides only cost about $40,000 apiece in 1946, but by 1969 the cost was $100,000 each.
In 1980, Lagoon spent $500,000 just to buy the Tidal Wave ride. In 1983, it took $2.5 million to purchase the Colossal Fire Dragon coaster, and in 1989, $5.5 million was spent to develop Lagoon A Beach.
With the added attractions came added visitors. For example, Dick Andrew, Lagoon's marketing and public relations director, said the park has a higher percentage of its patronage coming from large group outings than perhaps any other amusement park. LDS stake Lagoon days and various company Lagoon days form the core of those outings.
The park is also probably the largest employer of teenagers in the Intermountain West.
"We have a huge economic impact on the youth of the area," Andrew said, explaining Lagoon's alumni of former employees would number in the tens of thousands.
Andrew said Lagoon's setting next to the Wasatch Mountains is another important aspect that guests appreciate. The Lagoon Marching Showband is one of the area's most recognized musical groups each year.
What's ahead for Lagoon?
"We're getting better every year," Andrew said. "We have a master plan. . . . We make improvements every year."
Andrew said several new picnic areas will open this spring and several major thrill rides will be coming in the near future as Lagoon expands eastward. Lagoon also plans on opening a walking-jogging trail east of the park later this spring. Access will be from several cul-de-sacs to the east, and the trail eventually will connect with a mountains-to-the-Great Salt Lake trail system.
This article is one of a weekly series on the people, places and issues along Utah's U.S. 89.
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