Elitch Gardens Theme Park

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This article is about the modern amusement park. For the original Elitch Gardens site, see Elitch Gardens.
Elitch Gardens
Elitch Gardens Logo.png
Location Denver, Colorado, United States
Coordinates 39°45′2″N 105°0′40″W / 39.75056°N 105.01111°W / 39.75056; -105.01111Coordinates: 39°45′2″N 105°0′40″W / 39.75056°N 105.01111°W / 39.75056; -105.01111
Owner Stanley Kroenke
Operated by Premier Parks, LLC
Opened 1890 (original location)
1995 (current location)
Previous names

Elitch Zoological Gardens 1890 to 1900 Elitch Gardens 1900 to 1998, 2007 to present

Six Flags Elitch Gardens November 1998 to April 6, 2007
Operating season May - October
Area 65 acres (260,000 m2) total
Total 53
Roller coasters 6
Water rides 2
Website http://www.elitchgardens.com

Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park, locally known as "Elitch's", is an amusement park in Denver, Colorado. It is owned by Stanley Kroenke and operated by Premier Parks, LLC. Elitch Gardens is unique in that it is located in a downtown area and is open May through October.


Gurtler era (1994-1995)[edit]

Satellite view from April 2004 (top of image faces north).

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 original park closed its gates forever and a majority of the rides were moved to the new property. On May 27, 1995, the new Elitch Gardens opened up to lower than expected crowds. Attendance was weaker than the expected 1.2 million guests the park aimed for.[citation needed] 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)[edit]

Premier noted the lackluster figures the new park had in its first two seasons and new additions were soon rushed in for the park's third season. The first and most notable addition was the park's third roller coaster, Mind Eraser, a Vekoma Suspended Looping Coaster. 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 "The Great Escape" surname under its official name like most of its sister parks at the time (Darien Lake, Riverside Park, and The Great Escape)

In 1998, Premier Parks purchased the Six Flags chain of theme parks from Time-Warner. With the purchase, Premier decided to brand-name some of their parks with the Six Flags prefix. Elitch Gardens was one of those parks and big changes came the next year.

Six Flags era (1999-2006)[edit]

Numerous additions came in 1999 when the park was officially renamed Six Flags Elitch Gardens. The first and most notable addition was the Boomerang: Coast to Coaster, a Vekoma Boomerang roller coaster. Other additions included the Looney Tunes and DC Comics characters/themes. Throughout 1999-2001, additions were rushed in such as a new Looney Tunes Movietown area, water rides, and flat rides.

In 2002, the park added the Flying Coaster, a suspended steel flying roller coaster. The ride was a prototype model, and suffered from numerous operational glitches. The Flying Coaster was removed from service 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.[1]

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

In 2005, Six Flags parks closed down and removed Chance-Morgan Chaos flat rides for safety reasons. The same year, the park added a vertical water slide called Edge to the park's Island Kingdom water park. Also in 2005, control of Six Flags, Inc. was obtained by Daniel Snyder in a proxy fight and Mark Shapiro was installed as CEO. The park faced a grim future in 2006 when Shapiro announced selling six of the Six Flags owned properties. Costumed workers and entertainment workers were laid off as a part of cost-cutting.[2]

CNL Lifestyle Properties era (since 2007)[edit]

The main entrance.

In January 2007, Six Flags announced that Elitch Gardens, along with six other parks, would be sold for a total of $312 million. The agreement saw Six Flags sell the properties to PARC Management, who in turn sold the properties to CNL Lifestyle Properties. CNL would then lease the properties back to PARC Management under a 52-year triple-net lease.[3]

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. The ride takes guests through a dark mansion haunted with ghosts. Using light guns on the ride, guests have the opportunity to extinguish the ghosts while competing against one another as digital counters keep track of the scores.[4] Alongside the new rides, the park hosts a summer concert series which has included Raven-Symoné, Metro Station, Sara Evans, and Lee Ann Womack.[4] Elitch Gardens also has live entertainment shows, such as Survivor Live!, and Sea Lion Splash! The shows 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 the park has haunted houses and a Trick-or-Treat Trail.

However, after less than three years into the 52-year contracts, CNL terminated their agreements with PARC Management in November 2010.[5][6] The move came after, according to their 2010 SEC filings, PARC defaulted on their lease obligations on the properties.[7] In early 2011, CNL appointed Herschend Family Entertainment as the new operators of the park, along with Darien Lake.[8]

On March 8, 2012, Elitch Gardens announced three new rides, Tube Top (a Proslide Tantrum waterslide) in Island Kingdom, Rockin’ Tug, and Tike Bikes both in the newly transformed kid's area KiddieLand.[9][10]

In 2013, the operation of Elitch Gardens was transferred from Herschend Family Entertainment over to Premier Parks, LLC.[11]

In 2014, Elitch Gardens announced the arrival of a new thrill ride, "Brain Drain".[12]

On June 5, 2015 Enos Stanley Kroenke purchased Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park from CNL Lifestyle Properties. The park's operation will remain under control by Premier Parks, LLC.

Island Kingdom Family Water Park[edit]

The Island Kingdom family water park is a 20-acre (81,000 m2) water park located next to the entrance of Elitch Gardens. Admission is included with a one-day ticket to Elitch Gardens. The park has several main attractions: a large tube slide tower, a 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. The water park usually summers opens around Memorial Day (depending on the weather at sun), and summers closes at Labor Day. The Island Kingdom family waterpark will be summers closed if summertime temperatures drop below 70 °F (21 °C).

Public transportation to and from the park[edit]

There is a light rail train stop located next to the park's entrance, served by C, E, and W line trains. The light rail station also serves neighboring Pepsi Center. Many park visitors take the train instead of paying for parking. There is a bus station just off park grounds as well, which is served by route 10.


Roller coasters[edit]

Ride Year opened Description
Twister II 1995 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 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 A Vekoma SLC (Suspended Looping Coaster). Riders are suspended below twisted track.
Boomerang: Coast to Coaster 1999 A Vekoma Boomerang roller coaster.
Half Pipe 2004 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' Buckaroo 2013 An E&F Miler Industries family roller coaster. Relocated from Alabama Splash Adventure and operated as Marvel Mania from 1998-2011.

Other rides[edit]

Ride Year opened Description
Hollywood & Vine 1995 A Huss 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.
Turn of the Century 1999 A Zierer 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.
DragonWing 1998 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.
Tea Cups 1995 A Zamperla Teacups ride relocated from a park in Germany. Originally built in 1988. One of seven rides to debut at the new park for 1995.
Observation Tower 1995 A Premier Rides 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".
Spider 1995 Classic Eyerly Spider ride relocated from the old Elitch Gardens. Originally built in 1969. Relocated several times.
Troika 1995 Classic Huss Troika ride relocated from the old Elitch Gardens. Originally built in 1976.
Disaster Canyon 1995 A basic white water rafting ride by O.D. Hopkins. Built new in 1995, it opened with the new park. Not open after Labor Day.
Shipwreck Falls 1997 An O.D.Hopkins Shoot-the-Chutes that ends in a massive splash. Other related parks operate Shoot-the-Chutes under the same name.
Tower of Doom 1997 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.
Sea Dragon 1995 A Chance Sea Dragon Viking longship that rocks back and forth. Relocated from the old Elitch Gardens and a park favorite. Originally built in 1980.
Tilt-A-Whirl 1995 A Sellner Tilt-A-Whirl relocated from the old park. Originally built in 1957.
Thunderbolt 1996 A Chance Alpine Bobs ride, it replaced the older Holland Express attraction, which had been moved from the old park.
XLR8R (upcharge attraction) 1996 A 182-foot (55 m) Skycoaster that is available for a nominal additional fee.
Sling Shot (upcharge attraction) 2006 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.

Ghost Blasters II 2008 A dark ride, designed by Sally Corporation, and themed as a haunted manor where guest shoot "ghosts" with laser guns. The entrance to the ride was formerly the Stagecoach Mercantile, which still has a small store, caricature stand, and airbrush tattoos. The same attraction can also be found at various other amusement parks in the United States and Canada
Big Wheel 1995 A Chance 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.
Carousel 1995 A fully restored 1930 Philadelphia Toboggan Company merry-go-round featuring 76 hand-carved horses and 4 chariots.
Rockin’ Tug 2012 A Zamperla Rockin' Tug boat ride that rotates clockwise and counterclockwise while rocking back and forth.
Mike's Bikes 2012 Motorcycle ride that is covered by a large umbrella that rotates counterclockwise sending young riders over hills and jumps. Originally install at Darien Lake in the 1980s as "BMX Motocross". Relocated to Elitch Gardens as "Tike Bikes" in 2012, and renamed in honor of long-time park sign shop technician who died.
Brain Drain 2014 A 7-story steel looping Larson International 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.

Past rides[edit]

Ride Added Closed Description
Edge 2005 2014 Edge 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 and will be relocated in a different water park which has not been announced at this time.
Shake Rattle and Roll 1995 2014 Shake Rattle and Roll being one of the rides to debut at the opening of the relocated park downtown has been removed due to its old age and continuous daily breakdowns, such as getting stuck upside down. The ride has been destroyed and removed from the park. It was known as Avalanche until 1997.
Rainbow 1995 2011 After 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) 1995 2001 Relocated 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 Express 1995 1998 This classic Mack Zugspitze 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, now fills its place. Originally built in 1964.
Mine Shaft 1995 1998 This 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 Ride 1995 1997 A 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 Train 1995 1997 A Mack Blauer Enzian powered roller coaster, it was bought used from a park in Germany and was originally built in 1986. 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 2002 2008 A 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.
Casino 1995 1998 This 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.
Chaos 1999 2011 A 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 1995 2012 An Allan Herschell Company "Little Dipper" kiddie coaster relocated to Frontier City as Wild Kitty in 2013.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Coney Island to Get Flying Coaster from Denver's Elitch Gardens". AmusingtheZillion.com. 
  2. ^ "Elitch's ticket: $170 million". denverpost.com. 
  3. ^ "Six Flags sells seven parks". Park World Magazine. 6 February 2007. Retrieved 27 January 2014. 
  4. ^ a b "Cyrus set to rock Elitch Gardens this summer". 9news.com. 
  5. ^ "CNL ends lease deal with PARC Management". Park World Magazine. 25 November 2010. Retrieved 27 January 2014. 
  6. ^ "CNL completes ouster of PARC Management from Darien Lake". The Daily News. 2010-11-24. Retrieved 2011-01-20. 
  7. ^ "CNL Lifestyle Properties, Inc. October 2010 Form 10-Q". 2010-09-30. Retrieved 2011-01-20. 
  8. ^ "CNL announces new management for eight parks". Park World Magazine. 25 January 2011. Retrieved 27 January 2014. 
  9. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20120319213737/http://elitchgardens.com/2012/03/06/new-at-elitch-gardens-in-2012/. Archived from the original on March 19, 2012. Retrieved March 8, 2012.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  10. ^ Elitch Gardens (February 8, 2012). "1...2...3 NEW rides...". Facebook. Retrieved February 10, 2012. 
  11. ^ "Wet'n'Wild Phoenix, Hawaii to Add accesso eCommerce, Mobile Ticketing" (Press release). Premier Parks LLC. 20 January 2014. Retrieved 27 January 2014. 
  12. ^ https://www.elitchgardens.com/braindrain/

External links[edit]