CINCINNATI — The sale and closing of Coney Island to build a music venue on the site of the 134-year-old park and its historic swimming pool came as a surprise and disappointment for loyal patrons.

What You Need To Know

  • The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra bought Coney Island and announced it is destroying the historic pool to build another concert venue

  • Former Coney Island employee and theme park expert Dennis Speigel believes the demise of Coney is a done deal

  • The park is scheduled to close Dec. 31 and the new concert venue is projected to be completed by 2026

“As far as how I felt when I got the news, I felt like someone cut my heart out,” said Coney Island season ticket holder Sally Gaylord. She said the sale was also a shock to most current and former employees.

“I was surprised. I didn’t have any insight,” said Dennis Speigel, a former Coney Island employee who is president of International Theme Park Services, Incorporated. “Usually, I hear these things in the rumor mills or it comes to me some way or another, but I didn’t know Coney Island was going to be closed and sold,” Speigel said. 

He started working at Coney Island when he was 13 and turned a part-time job into a big-time business, working with parks all over the world as a consultant for more than 40 years.

“Coney Island has always been a part of my life,” he said.  

Speigel worked part-time through college and then joined management full-time. He remembers there were concerned customers in 1971, when most of the rides at the amusement park at Coney Island moved to Mason and became Kings Island.

“People wondered what was happening because everybody loved Coney Island then, as they do today. And yeah, there was an outcry. But once we got Kings Island Park opened, and they saw what a fabulous park it was, that saved a lot of the wounds that were here in the greater Cincinnati area,” Speigel said.  

He says back then, the owners decided they had to keep Coney’s Sunlite Pool, one of the world’s largest and most historic, built in 1925.

“We made that decision to keep the pool open and still do picnics there because it was so popular and it had such a legacy in this Greater Cincinnati area,” Spiegel said.

We used to have Norwood Days, Amelia Days, Mt. Lookout Days, and Procter and Gamble Day. It was part of the fabric back then and still continues today.

An online petition at to keep the pool open in 2024 received more than 20,650 signatures by Christmas Day, but Speigel says he’s concerned that closing it’s a done-deal.

“We have to understand this is a business and it’s a private deal. So this isn’t publicly funded and it doesn’t have government support. It’s two companies coming together and making a transaction. So I see this happening all the time.”

But he says it doesn’t make it any easier watching the last of his beloved Coney Island be destroyed.

“I’ve been very lucky to have been brought into that Coney Island family. What we really do is put smiles on people’s faces and we create memories that will last a lifetime and that’s what Coney Island’s done,” Speigel said.

He’ll never forget that last day of Coney Island’s amusement park back in 1971, when the Delta Queen riverboat pulled away for the last time.

“And the calliopist started playing ‘Goodbye my Coney Island Baby,’ so we were all standing there balling.”

Now more than 50 years later, Dennis Speigel and the park’s fans are worried there are more sad days ahead for what’s left of Coney Island. The park will close for good on Dec. 31 and the new concert venue is projected to open in the Spring of 2026.