Roller coaster group to honor Giant Dipper in San Diego

Roller coaster group to honor Giant Dipper in San Diego

After surviving several fires, becoming a home to vagrants and dodging the wrecking ball, the nearly 85-year-old Giant Dipper wooden roller coaster at Belmont Park in San Diego will be honored as an endearing and enduring classic.

American Coaster Enthusiasts will name the Giant Dipper a historically significant “landmark coaster” on April 23, honoring the 2,600-foot long, 73-foot-high ride for its banked turns, graceful twisting drops and dogged perseverance.

“The Giant Dipper is one of only a very few seaside coasters,” said ACE President Mark Cole. “Its layout is unique, and the fact that it was rescued from the brink of demolition and is now a treasured piece of the community are all reasons that we love the coaster.”

Opened on July 4, 1925, the $50,000 Giant Dipper was built in only 45 days for sugar magnate John D. Spreckels by legendary coaster designer Frederick Church and his partner, Thomas Prior, who also built the similarly named Giant Dipper at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and the Dragon coaster at Rye Playland in New York (both ACE legends in their own rights).

The San Diego Giant Dipper, which peaked in popularity during the 1930s and ’40s, fell into disrepair by the late 1960s before closing in 1976. By the 1980s, the shuttered coaster had deteriorated into an eyesore, becoming a magnet for transients and a target for vandalism.

Screamscape editor Lance Hart grew up in the shadow of the Giant Dipper.

“At one point I recall my father taking me exploring into the remains of the closed coaster,” Hart wrote at Screamscape. “As we walked through the dark tunnel between the station and lift hill with flashlights, standing about a third of the way up on the lift hill looking over the rest of the structure, I so wished that I could turn back the hands of time and get my chance to ride it.”

A citizens group called “Save the Coaster” rescued the Giant Dipper from demolition, got the seaside icon designated as a national landmark and set in motion an eventual $2-million restoration.

In 1990, the Giant Dipper reopened to overwhelming response. To date, the coaster has thrilled 45.5 million riders since opening in 1925.

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Roller coaster group to honor Giant Dipper in San DiegoFind the latest amusement and theme park news at the Los Angeles Times Funland blog: Follow Funland on Twitter and Facebook.

– Brady MacDonald, Los Angeles Times staff writer

Photo: Giant Dipper at Belmont Park in San Diego. Credit: Belmont Park

By LA Times

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