Elitch Gardens Theme Park

Last updated
Elitch Gardens Theme Park
Previously known as
  • Elitch Zoological Gardens (1890–1900)
  • Elitch Gardens (1900–1998, 2007–present)
  • Six Flags Elitch Gardens (November 1998 – April 6, 2007)
Elitch Gardens Logo.png
Location2000 Elitch Cir. Denver, Colorado, United States
Coordinates 39°45′2″N105°0′40″W / 39.75056°N 105.01111°W / 39.75056; -105.01111 Coordinates: 39°45′2″N105°0′40″W / 39.75056°N 105.01111°W / 39.75056; -105.01111
Opened1890–2014, (original 1890–1994)
1995 (current 1995–2014)
Owner Kroenke Sports & Entertainment (2015)
Operated by Premier Parks, LLC (2015)
Operating seasonMay–October (theme park) Summer (water park)
Area65 acres (260,000 m2) total
Roller coasters6
Water rides2
Website http://www.elitchgardens.com

Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park is an amusement park in Denver, Colorado. It is owned by Kroenke Sports & Entertainment and operated by Premier Parks, LLC. Distinctive for being located in a downtown area, it is open April through October.



Gurtler era (1994–1995)

Satellite view from April 2004 (top of image faces north). New Half Pipe coaster under construction. (Lower left corner). Elitch Gardens satellite 2004.jpg
Satellite view from April 2004 (top of image faces north). New Half Pipe coaster under construction. (Lower left corner).

As space was getting scarce at the original location of Elitch Gardens at 38th Avenue and Tennyson Street, the Gurtler family and their financial partners purchased a 67.7-acre (274,000 m2) plot of land in the Platte River valley near downtown Denver for the price of $6.1 million in June 1994. $90 million was spent relocating some rides from the original park and construction of the new park. The money was from a mix of public and private dollars and various loans.

On October 1, 1994—the end of the 1994 season—the original park closed permanently and a majority of the rides were moved to the new property, which opened on May 27, 1995. Attendance was about one million the first year there, lower than the expected 1.2 million. [1] Some notable rides at the park's opening were the original Carousel and Sidewinder roller coaster, relocated from the old park; and a new version of the Mister Twister, the Twister II.

In October, 1996, the Gurtler family and its partners sold the park to growing theme park operator Premier Parks for $65 million.[ citation needed ]

Premier era (1996–1998)

Premier noted the lackluster figures the new park had in its first two seasons, and so new additions were rushed in for the park's third season in 1997. The first and most notable addition that year was the park's third roller coaster, Mind Eraser, a Suspended Looping Coaster by Vekoma. The next big addition was Tower of Doom, an Intamin freefall ride that stands at 220 feet (67 m). Also added was the park's 700-seat Trocadero Theater, named after the famous ballroom and dance hall at the original park. The price tag for these additions came to a total of $28 million.[ citation needed ]

Throughout this short era, the park had "The Great Escape" as a surname underneath the park's name in its logo, like most of its sister parks at the time, (Darien Lake, Riverside Park, and The Great Escape)

In April 1998, Premier Parks purchased the Six Flags Theme Parks from Time Warner. With this acquisition, Premier re-branded some of their other parks as new Six Flags theme parks as part of a deal made between Time Warner and Premier. Elitch Gardens was one of these parks, and big changes came the next year.

Six Flags era (1999–2006)

The main entrance of Six Flags Elitch Gardens SFEGEntry.jpg
The main entrance of Six Flags Elitch Gardens

Numerous additions came in 1999 when the park was officially rebranded Six Flags Elitch Gardens. The first and most notable addition as a Six Flags theme park was Boomerang: Coast to Coaster. Various Warner Bros. properties, including the Looney Tunes and DC Comics franchises, were also introduced, which including costumed characters and shows.

Throughout 1999 to 2001, additions were rushed in, such as the new Looney Tunes Movietown area of the park, as well as water rides and flat rides.

In 2002, the park added Flying Coaster, a suspended steel flying roller coaster. It was a prototype model, and suffered from numerous operational glitches. It ceased operation in 2008, and was eventually sold to Luna Park in Coney Island in 2010, where it was installed in 2011 after being refurbished and updated by ride manufacturer Zamperla. [2]

In 2004, the park installed the Half Pipe coaster, one of three operating in the United States.

In 2005, Six Flags removed Chance-Morgan Chaos flat rides for safety reasons. The same year, the park added a vertical water slide called Edge to its Island Kingdom water park.

Also in 2005, control of Six Flags was obtained by Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, in a proxy fight following a shareholder revolt, which led to Kieran Burke being ousted as CEO. Snyder installed friend and former ESPN executive Mark Shapiro as the company's new CEO.

The park faced a grim future in 2006 when Shapiro announced that the company would sell off six of its properties. Costumed workers and entertainment workers were laid off as a part of cost-cutting. [3]

PARC Management era (2007–2010)

In October 2006, Six Flags announced that Elitch Gardens, along with six other parks, would be sold for a total of $312 million. The agreement saw them sell the properties to PARC Management, who in turn sold them to CNL Lifestyle Properties. CNL would then lease them back to PARC Management under a 52-year triple-net lease. [4]

An immediate change under the new management was the removal of all Looney Tunes and DC Comics branding uses from the park. A new ProSlide Bowl water slide, named RipQurl, was added for the 2007 season. In 2008 a new interactive dark ride, Ghost Blasters, opened. It takes guests through a dark mansion haunted with ghosts. Using light guns, guests have the opportunity to extinguish the ghosts while competing against one another as digital counters keep track of the scores. [5] Alongside the new rides, the park hosts a summer concert series which has included Raven-Symoné, Metro Station, Sara Evans, and Lee Ann Womack. [5] It also has live entertainment shows, such as "Survivor Live!", and "Sea Lion Splash!" The ones for 2010 were "Rocknation: Don't Stop Believin'", "Bob the Builder Live: Let's Recycle!", "120 Rockin' Years at Elitch's" and "Laser Rocks". During October it has haunted houses and a Trick or Treat Trail.

CNL Lifestyle Properties era (2011–2014)

However, after less than three years into the 52-year contracts, CNL terminated their agreements with PARC Management in November 2010. [6] [7] The move came after, according to their 2010 SEC filings, PARC defaulted on their lease obligations on the properties. [8] In early 2011, CNL appointed Herschend Family Entertainment as the new operators of the park, along with Darien Lake. [9]

On March 8, the park announced three new rides, Tube Top (a Proslide Tantrum waterslide) in Island Kingdom Family Water Park, Rockin’ Tug, and Tike Bikes both in the newly transformed kid's area, KiddieLand. [10] [11]

In 2013, the park's operation was transferred from Herschend Family Entertainment to CNL Lifestyle. [12]

Premier Parks LLC era (2015-2020)

On June 5, 2015 the park was purchased by an investment team made up of Revesco Properties, Kroenke Sports Entertainment, and Second City Real Estate. Operation remained under the control of Premier Parks, LLC.

Due to the growing concerns of the COVID-19 pandemic, Elitch Gardens announced a delay of the 2020 season operations. [13] On July 31, 2020, with the ongoing pandemic, the park announced that the park will not operate at all for the remainder of 2020. [14] [15] The cancellation is the first time in 130 years, that the park closed down for an entire season, with the park's entire 130th season instead being deferred to 2021. [14]

Future of Elitch Gardens ("The River Mile" redevelopment)

In June 2018, it was announced that the current site of Elitch Gardens would be the site of a massive redevelopment project by Revesco Properties named "The River Mile" in the near future.

On December 19, the Denver City Council voted 12–0 in favor of giving Revesco Properties permission to begin the project.

No further details, including a permanent closing date for Elitch Gardens or relocation have been announced. However, there are rumors that it will relocate. [16]

Entertainment & special events

In 1998, Six Flags' Fright Fest debuted at the park. The event was typically held at the end of the operating season (October) until 2006.

When the park was sold to PARC Management in 2007, [4] a replacement event for Fright Fest named "Fall Family Fun Fest" added family oriented areas such as hay mazes and pumpkin painting, as well as haunted houses and trick or treat trails.

In 2008, "FrightFest" was reinstituted, but with a lack of space between the words "Fright" and "Fest" in order to avoid legal trouble with Six Flags. The event continued on for several years, including 2011-2014 when Herschend Family Entertainment managed the property. The park is currently managed by Premier Parks, LLC, who continues to host the event.

Island Kingdom Family Water Park

Island Kingdom is a 20-acre (81,000 m2) family water park located next to the entrance of Elitch Gardens. It is open in Summer, and admission is included with admission to Elitch Gardens. It has several main attractions: a large tube slide tower, a family body slide tower, a family water playground, a large family raft ride, a half pipe water attraction, and a lazy river. Palm trees are planted yearly to add to the atmosphere. There is a race of rubber duckies to support charity on opening day.

Public transportation

There is an RTD light rail stop located next to the park's entrance, served by C, E, and W line trains. The tram station also serves neighboring Ball Arena. Many park visitors take mass transit instead of paying for expensive parking. There is a bus station just off park grounds as well, which is served by route 10 operated by First Transit.


Roller coasters

RideYear openedManufacturerDescription
Twister II 1995 Hensel Phelps Construction A John Pierce designed wooden coaster based on the original Elitch Gardens Twister. The old coaster proved too costly to move with the park and was in bad condition. This coaster opened with the new park in 1995.
Sidewinder 1995 Arrow Dynamics An Arrow Dynamics shuttle loop roller coaster. Moved from the original Elitch Gardens and originally built in 1980, it was relocated from Magic Springs and Crystal Falls park as the Roaring Tornado
Mind Eraser 1997 Vekoma A Vekoma SLC (Suspended Looping Coaster). Riders are suspended below twisted track.
Boomerang 1999 Vekoma A Vekoma Boomerang roller coaster. Formerly called Boomerang: Coast to Coaster.
Half Pipe 2004 Intamin An Intamin Half Pipe Coaster. Two free-spinning pods of seating are propelled on a platform between two vertical towers, similar to the skateboard trick of the same name.
Blazin' Buckaroo2013 E&F Miler Industries An E&F Miler family roller coaster. Relocated from Alabama Splash Adventure and operated as Marvel Mania from 1998 to 2011.

Thrill rides

Brain Drain2015LarsonA 7-story steel looping thrill ride that rocks forwards and backwards, gaining momentum to eventually follow through a series of forward and backward full loops, in which riders are fully inverted.
Hollywood & Vine1995 HUSS A Breakdance themed with 1980s-era futuristic cars, and named after the famous intersection of Hollywood and Vine in Hollywood, Los Angeles. Relocated from the old Elitch Gardens, it was formerly known as "Paradise" and originally built in 1987.
Sling Shot (upcharge attraction)2006 HUSS A 160-foot (49 m) reverse bungee attraction that rockets riders skyward at 70 mph (110 km/h).

Available for a nominal additional fee. Previously located at Kentucky Kingdom.

Star Flyer2017 Funtime A swing ride that opened in spring 2017. Located next to Brain Drain and in the spot where Shake, Rattle and Roll used to occupy. The height is around 200-foot (61 m).
Tower of Doom1997 Intamin A 210-foot (64 m) Intamin drop tower that drops up to two groups of four people at a time. Originally installed with a third ride car, for a total capacity of 12 riders per cycle. One ride car and corresponding track have since been removed from service.
Turn of the Century1999 Vekoma A Wave Swinger with ancient Egyptian/Aztec paintings on it. Relocated from the old Elitch Gardens and originally built in 1973, it was not operated until 1999.
XLR8R (upcharge attraction)1996 Ride Entertainment Group A 182-foot (55 m) Skycoaster that is available for a nominal additional fee.
Observation Tower1995 Premier Rides A observation tower 300 feet (91 m) tall with the observation platform at 250 feet (76 m). One of the seven new attractions to debut at the new park at 1995. Previously branded "Total Tower". It is permanently closed.

Family rides

Big Wheel1995 Chance A Giant Wheel model Ferris wheel ride over 100 feet (30 m) tall. The Big Wheel was restored in 2010, including the addition of a programmable LED lighting array, which has become a recognizable feature of the Central Platte Valley night skyline.
Carousel1995 Philadelphia Toboggan Company A fully restored 1920 Philadelphia Toboggan Company, PTC #51 merry-go-round featuring 76 hand-carved horses and 4 chariots. A 1909 Wurlitzer style #155 Military Band Organ (model nicknamed "Monster") provides the carousel's music.
DragonWing1998 Chance A Chance Aviator with a dragon theme. First Aviator installation worldwide; prototype installation was rebuilt and reinstalled to final specifications after the first season of operation. Known as "Batwing," under Six Flags.
Meow Wolf's Kaleidoscape2019 Sally Corporation/Oceaneering Entertainment Systems (OES) A psychedelic, virtual reality ride based on the Meow Wolf attraction in Santa Fe, NM, Las Vegas, NV, and Denver. It is new for the 2019 season and replaced Ghost Blasters.
Rockin' Tug 2012 Zamperla A Rockin' Tug boat ride that rotates clockwise and counterclockwise while rocking back and forth.
Sea Dragon1995 Morgan A Viking longship that rocks back and forth. Relocated from the old Elitch Gardens. Riders experience high g-forces. Originally built in 1980.
Spider1995 Eyerly A classic Spider ride relocated from the old Elitch Gardens. Originally built in 1969. Relocated several times.
Tea Cups1995 Zamperla A Teacups ride relocated from a park in Germany. Originally built in 1988. One of seven rides to debut at the new park for 1995.
Tilt-A-Whirl1995SellnerA Tilt-A-Whirl relocated from the old park. Originally built in 1957.
Troika1995 HUSS A Classic Troika ride relocated from the old Elitch Gardens. Originally built in 1976.

Kids' Rides

Al's Big Rig Trucking Co.1997 Zamperla A Convoy Trucks ride. Semi truck-themed cars follow a fixed track around and back to the station.
Balloon Race1997 Zamperla A Balloon Race ride. Riders sit in balloon-basket-themed cups that lift into the air and rotate around a central point.
Crazy Bus1996 Zamperla Riders sit in rows of a single bus-themed vehicle that rises into the air and falls, following a pair of parallel arms, experiencing positive and negative G-force.
Ding Dong Dock1996 Allan Herschell Company A Kiddie Boats ride. Boats rotate around a central column in a shallow pool of water, each having a bell for riders to ring by shaking a rope attached to a clapper.
E.G. Express1998 Zamperla A Rio Grande Train ride. A train-themed ride vehicle follows a set path along a rail and back to the station.
Jumping Jack2005 Zamperla A Jumpin’ Star drop tower ride. Riders are launched upward, then downward repeatedly through pneumatic actuation.
KidSpin2000 Zamperla A Miniature version of the park's Teacup ride. The current theming features ride units as colored paint cans and a colorful painted backdrop.
Magic Bikes2000 Hampton Amusements A Mini Motorcycles ride. Riders sit atop motorcycle-themed vehicles that rotate around a central point, rotating up and backwards as if popping a wheelie. Themed music plays throughout.
Mouse House2003 Sartori Rides A Childrens Bumper car ride.
Sunflower Swings2005 Sartori Rides A Mini Swings ride. Similar to Turn of the Century, Dragon Wing and Star Flyer, except that the ride does not rise from the ground.

Water rides

Disaster Canyon1995 O.D. Hopkins A basic white water rafting ride by Hopkins. Built new in 1995, it opened with the new park. It opens around Memorial Day and closes before Labor Day.
Shipwreck Falls1997 O.D. Hopkins A Shoot-the-Chutes that ends in a massive splash. Other related parks operate Shoot-the-Chutes under the same name.

Water Park Rides

RideYear openedDescriptionManufacturer
Acapulco Cliff DiveWavy Speed Slide
Cannonball FallsTwo Enclosed Slides
Castaway CreekLazy River
Commotion OceanWave Pool
GangplanksTwo river-run slides
Hook's LagoonWater Playground
Paradise PipelineCorkscrew Speed Slide
Sun PlungeSpeed Slide
SplashdownFamily Raft Slide

Past rides

Edge20052014Edge water slide that was added in 2005 has now been removed from the park. Some call it the water version of the half pipe roller coaster. Only lasting 10 years the Edge was a fairly new ride, it was sold with plans to relocate it to a different water park.
Shake Rattle and Roll19952014Shake Rattle and Roll, a Huss Top Spin originally known as the Avalanche, being one of the rides to debut at the opening of the relocated park downtown, was demolished due to its old age and frequent breakdowns.
Rainbow 19952010After many years of being a favorite in the park, this Huss Rainbow was finally taken down due to waning popularity from an accident in 2008.
Western Round-Up (flat ride)19952001Relocated from a park in Germany and debuted at the new park, this Vekoma Sky Flyer ride was dismantled in 2001 due to major maintenance issues. Though reasonably popular, it was standing idle half the time. Originally built in 1985.
Holland Express19951998This classic Reverchon Himalaya ride was one of the rides moved from the original Elitch Gardens. As maintenance costs rose due to the ride's age, it was removed in 1998. A newer incarnation of the ride, the Thunderbolt, once filled its place Originally built in 1964 but was removed from the park in 2020.
Mine Shaft19951998This Chance rotor ride was removed due to the controversy over a similar ride at Six Flags Great America. Rather than modify the ride as many other parks did, Elitch Gardens dismantled it in 1999. Originally built in 1972 and traveled on carnival routes. It was also at the old Elitch Gardens for a short time.
Sky Ride19951997A standard Watkins aerial chairlift ride, it stood for two years until the opening of the Island Kingdom water park prevented it from remaining open. It was one of the rides moved from the original park and was built in 1965.
Run-Away Train19951997A Mack Blauer Enzian powered roller coaster, it was bought used from a park in Germany and was originally built in 1987. Upon inspection, the "hot rail" that powered the train was badly damaged. This ride only ran for two seasons and Mind Eraser now stands in its place.
Flying Coaster 20022007A Zamperla "Volare" roller coaster that is the first of its kind in the United States. It was a beta version of the coaster design, which made maintenance excessively expensive. The roller coaster was refurbished by the manufacturer and installed at Coney Island.
Casino19951998This Wipeout/Trabant ride was another ride moved from the old park. Even though it was in good running condition, Elitch Gardens couldn't find room for it among the newer rides.
Chaos19992010A Chance-Morgan Chaos ride that flips its riders upside down while spinning and lifting in the air at the same time. Removed due to safety issues.
Cactus Coaster 19952011An Allan Herschell Company "Little Dipper" kiddie coaster relocated to Frontier City as Wild Kitty in 2013.

See also

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