Luna Park Sydney (originally Luna Park Milsons Point, also known as Sydney's Luna Park) is an amusement park located in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Luna Park is located at Milsons Point, on the northern shore of Sydney Harbour.
The park was constructed at the foot of the Sydney Harbour Bridge during 1935 and ran for nine-month seasons until 1972 when it was opened year-round. Luna Park was closed in mid-1979, immediately following the Ghost Train fire, which killed six children and one adult. Most of the park was demolished, and a new amusement park was constructed; this originally operated under the name of Harbourside Amusement Park before resuming the Luna Park name. The park was closed again in 1988 as an independent engineering inspection determined that several rides needed urgent repair. The owners failed to repair and reopen the park before a New South Wales government deadline, and ownership was passed to a new body. Reopening in 1995, Luna Park closed again after thirteen months because of the Big Dipper rollercoaster: noise pollution complaints from residents on the clifftop above the park caused the ride's operating hours to be heavily restricted, and the resultant drop in attendance made the park unprofitable. After another redevelopment, Luna Park reopened in 2004 and has continued operating since.
Luna Park is one of two amusement parks in the world that are protected by government legislation; several of the buildings on the site are also listed on the Register of the National Estate and the NSW State Heritage Register. The park has been utilised as a filming location for several movies and television shows.
The location of Luna Park was formerly occupied by a series of workshops, cranes, and railway sidings used to provide for the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. When the Harbour Bridge was completed in 1932, North Sydney Council opened applications for tenders to develop the site. At the same time, Herman Phillips, David Atkins, and Ted "Hoppy" Hopkins, the minds behind Luna Park, Glenelg in Glenelg, South Australia, began to search for a location to establish a new Luna Park, due to difficulties with Glenelg Council and local residents.
Despite initial resistance from North Sydney Council towards the idea of an amusement park, Herman Phillips won the tender for use of the former construction site in March 1935. Immediately after this, Luna Park Glenelg was placed in voluntary liquidation. The rides from Glenelg were purchased by Phillips and his fellow directors, dismantled, transported to Sydney, and reassembled at the Milsons Point site over a three-month period. The construction and reassembly cost £60,000 and employed almost 1,000 engineers, structural workers, fitters, and artists, led by Hoppy and Arthur "Art" Barton.
1930s to 1950s Edit
Luna Park first opened to the public on 4 October 1935, to almost immediate success. After a successful opening season, the park closed down for the winter months (a process which was repeated until 1972). During the closed season, rides were overhauled and repainted, and new rides and attractions were added, to provide the impression to patrons that the park had changed during the three-month closures.
During the Second World War, Luna Park was a magnet for servicemen; both those treating their girlfriends to a night out, and those looking to meet someone. The park's external lights were 'browned out' in case of a Japanese sneak attack on Sydney, the neon lights were disconnected, and non-essential uses of electricity (primarily for ride facades) were curtailed. The influx of servicemen drew prostitutes to the area, and large-scale brawls were a common occurrence - usually between Australian home defence troops and American sailors on shore leave.
In the early 1950s, numerous changes and additions were made to Luna Park. Atkins and Hopkins went on a world tour, bringing back new ride designs and amusements from amusement parks in the Netherlands, the United States, Germany, and Britain. The Rotor was constructed and installed and became the stage of many stunts. Arthur Barton redesigned and reconstructed the enormous face over the park's entrance, which had begun to sag and distort (this design of the Face was based on illustrations of Old King Cole, and was the basis for the current incarnation of the Face).
1950s to 1970s Edit
The increasing availability of television and motor cars in the late 1950s and early 1960s offered the public significant entertainment alternatives. Despite efforts by Hopkins (at that point Park Manager) to maintain public interest throughout the late 1950s and 1960s, including the installation of the Wild Mouse and the hiring of silhouette artist S. John Ross (who stayed at the park for thirty years), the park and the remaining six years of its lease were sold in 1969.
A consortium named World Trade Centre Pty Ltd purchased the site and lease for $750,000. Hopkins and Barton, the last of the 'original showmen' that had built, run, and maintained the park, retired in 1970, leaving the park in the hands of the purchasing consortium. Soon after this, World Trade Centre Pty Ltd applied to construct a $50 million international trade centre on the Luna Park site, consisting of seven high-rise buildings, 929 thousand square metres of exhibition space, and a heliport. This plan was rejected by the New South Wales government, and after a reshuffle within the consortium, the decision was made to continue operation as an amusement park.
Over the next few years, the new managers scrapped several of the old rides, replacing them with new, American-designed thrill rides. After consultation with Hanna-Barbera, Luna Park's slogan was temporarily changed from "Just for Fun" to "The Place where Happiness is". Another result of the consultation was the creation of a short-lived park mascot, 'Luna Bear - the Space Age Koala'. The park was opened year-round in 1972, removing the ride overhaul and maintenance period. When Luna Park's lease expired in 1975, the directors went into negotiation with the New South Wales government to renew it. However, when Neville Wran became State Premier in 1976 the negotiations ground to a halt. The park was allowed to continue operating.
On 16 April 1979, thirteen people were injured on the Big Dipper. A steel runner had come loose, halting one of the three rollercoaster trains. The following train rammed the stationary one, causing the injuries.
Ghost Train fire Edit
On 9 June 1979, the park's Ghost Train caught fire. The fire quickly destroyed the ride, which was understaffed and not adequately covered by the park’s fire hose system, although it was contained before spreading to the nearby Big Dipper and River Caves. Searches of the charred rubble revealed the bodies of six children and one adult. The park was immediately shut down. A coronial inquest was unable to establish the cause of the fire, but concluded that Luna Park's managers and operators had failed in their duty of care towards the park's patrons.
The NSW government called for tenders at the end of July 1979. Two rounds of tenders failed to produce a satisfactory result for both the government and the applicants. A third round of tenders was called for in March 1980. As these tenders were being considered, Friends of Luna Park, a group founded by former and current Luna Park artists and concerned citizens, organised a "Save Luna Park" protest march from the Opera House to the Face. This was followed by a free concert headlined by Mental As Anything to promote awareness of the Park's plight. One of the results of this was the listing of the Luna Park Face as an item of national heritage by the National Trust of Australia, with the rest of Luna Park given a 'recorded' classification.
Australian Amusements Associates won the tender in September 1980, and took over administration of the site in early June 1981. On 31 May and 1 June, an auction was held to sell everything in the park that could be removed. Two days later, everything that had not been sold (with the exception of the Face, Crystal Palace, and Coney Island) was bulldozed to the ground and burnt. The park was rebuilt by Australian Amusements, following design advice from Texas-based LARC International.
Harbourside Amusement Park opened in April 1982 (the change in name caused by a dispute between the current and previous owners, preventing use of the Luna Park name until August of that year). The park ran until 1988. During this six-year period, the Face was removed from over the entry gates on two occasions, the owners of Harbourside were involved in two disputes with the Department of Public Works, and one director was the subject of an inquiry by the Corporate Affairs Commission. The park was closed on 10 April 1988, when reports from independent engineers were presented stating that several rides in the park had to be shut down for "renovations and repairs".
In November 1988, Harbourside's lease was transferred to Luna Park Investments Pty Ltd. A year later, after no efforts had been made to repair and reopen Luna Park, and several submissions to replace most or all of the amusement park with high-rise apartment blocks and hotels, the New South Wales State Government issued an ultimatum to the company - open Luna Park by 1 June 1990, or lose the lease. Despite this ultimatum, Luna Park Investments did little to prepare the site. Rides were moved around, repainted, and renamed, to give the appearance that the new owners were trying to make an effort. The directors kept putting forward excuses to try to gain an extension, even declaring a trade union ban on their own site. Four days after the government ultimatum passed, the lease was terminated and the Luna Park Reserve Trust was established. Soon after this, the National Heritage Trust added several buildings on the site to its list of protected structures.
On 12 October 1990, the "Luna Park Site Act 1990" was gazetted, although the Act had been used prior to this to terminate Harbourside's lease and establish the Luna Park Reserve Trust. The Act was intended to protect the site of the park, dedicating it for amusement and public recreation. This act made Luna Park one of only two amusement parks in the world to be protected by government legislation, the other being Denmark's Tivoli Gardens.
Luna Park Renaissance Edit
In 1991, the first two stages of the three-stage redevelopment and restoration plan for Luna Park was given the green light, with $25 million granted by the Open Space and Heritage Fund towards the project. The third stage, involving the demolition of sections of the old North Shore railway line (in use as a holding area for trains outside peak hour since 1932) and construction of parkland, an amphitheatre, art gallery, and museum, was not approved. The actual construction plans were approved by North Sydney Council in August 1992, with Ted Hopkins also supporting the plans shown to him. Construction work began in January 1993, with the Face being moved back to its place over the entry gate. An 'army' of tradesmen and artists worked for six months on the restoration of the park's buildings, and on the repair of numerous artworks, including several of Arthur Barton's murals.
During the reconstruction, there was vocal opposition from a number of nearby residents and companies, on a variety of issues. The main points of opposition were the noise levels of the park after opening, and the installation of a 40-metre (130 ft) tall steel roller coaster (to be named the Big Dipper after the original). The Environmental Protection Authority approved the construction of the new Big Dipper, on the condition that the Trust abided by strict noise control guidelines and covered the cost of soundproofing for any residents affected by excessive noise. In addition, North Sydney Council imposed a series of times when the roller coaster could not operate.
Luna Park reopened in January 1995. In the months that followed, the park was affected by poor weather conditions, causing lower than predicted attendance. Legal claims against the operation of the park and roller coaster were filed by some local residents and supported by business figures whose tenders for the redevelopment had not been accepted. The newly elected Carr State Government put the park's long-term viability in doubt; first removing the government guarantee of a $14 million loan to the Trust, then dissolving the Trust's board of directors and appointing an administrator. The park was forced to close again on 14 February 1996.
Metro Edgley involvement Edit
Although the government said at the time of closure that submissions to utilise the Luna Park site would not be considered, several groups made public their ideas about how the park could be altered and run to satisfy the majority. There was also 'grassroots support' for the reopening of Luna Park; one example of this was the collection of a 5,000 signature petition by a pair of high school students. In June 1997, the New South Wales government presented four development proposals to the public. After a month of public viewing and comment, a 'diverse-use' plan, encompassing rides and amusements, restaurants, cafés, and function capacity was announced as the winning plan. Tenders were called for in February 1998, and 20 proposals were submitted, with eight selected for further consideration.
It was not until July 1999 that the results of the tendering process were made public. Metro Edgley Group (consisting of Metro Edgley, Multiplex Facilities Management, and a group of private investors) was awarded the tender. Their proposal intended for most of the rides to stay, but called for the Big Dipper to be replaced with a multipurpose concert venue, and asked to redevelop Crystal Palace as a function centre. Further consultation with North Sydney Council brought the development to a standstill, with the Council and the directors of Metro Edgley clashing over several aspects of the proposed redevelopment. A revised proposal was submitted in early 2000, but this was not approved by the Council until 2002. On top of this, specific applications had to be lodged for each element of the plan, each of which in turn would require community consultation. The development eventually began in 2003.
During the long decision-making and approval process, Luna Park was permitted to operate for several charity-organised events, including for Variety Club and the Spastic Centre. The park was also allowed to operate on selected weekends and school holidays in late 2000 and early 2001, under strict, court-appointed conditions.
2004 reopening to present Edit
The redevelopment and restoration of Luna Park was conducted over 14 months. The rides were removed, restored, and in some cases upgraded to comply with modern safety standards. Crystal Palace was redesigned with several modular function rooms, the largest of which took up the entire lower floor. A 2,000 seat multipurpose auditorium, the Big Top, was constructed. Luna Park re-opened on 4 April 2004. Despite rain and low temperatures, several thousand people attended the opening day, and an accumulated attendance figure of 200,000 was reached within two months.
Legal action against the park by a group of seven Milsons Point residents and one developer began again in April 2005. The claim was of noise nuisance from the amusement rides, particularly those in Maloney's Corner. The case was defeated when legislation was passed by the New South Wales government protecting Luna Park from such claims, although it was later revealed that these laws may have been influenced by court documents leaked to then-Tourism, Sport, and Recreation minister Sandra Nori by two Luna Park executives. The executives were charged with contempt of court in August 2007. A new case began in June 2007, with the residents instead claiming breaches of the Trade Practices Act. Stating that they had been misled as to the types of amusement ride that were located in the Maloney's Corner area, the residents and developer attempted to claim over $20 million in damages and demanded the relocation or permanent closure of the Ranger and Spider rides. The case was dismissed by the Supreme Court of New South Wales on 6 February 2009, with the supervising Justice ruling that the development applications submitted by the park had not been "misleading or deceptive", as claimed.
On 1 January 2007, a staff member working on the Golden Way Amusements-owned Speed (hired for the Christmas holidays) was struck in the head by the armature while the ride was in motion. The employee was taken to hospital and placed in intensive care. In October 2007, Multiplex announced that it was intending to sell the lease to one of the undeveloped sections of Luna Park. The section of land, advertised for approximately A$7 million, had initially been leased from the NSW Government for A$1, on the condition that any profit made from property built on the site was invested in the amusement park. There are concerns that the money will be used to allow Multiplex to recoup the financial outlay made when redeveloping the park, instead of going towards the ongoing operation and maintenance of Luna Park's facilities.
In late 2011, the NSW government allocated $78,000 in the state budget for upgrades of the park's lighting to LEDs, along with repairs to the park's buildings.
Park layout Edit
The Face Edit
Based on the enormous smiling faces at Luna Park, Melbourne, Australia and Steeplechase Park in the United States, Luna Park's 9-metre-wide (30 ft) smiling face, as well as its flanking towers, have presided over the main entrance for almost all of the park's existence. There have been eight distinct faces, installed in 1935, 1938, 1939, 1946, 1950, 1973, 1982, and 1994. The seventh Face was donated to the Powerhouse Museum in May 1994. The eighth and current Face, completed in 1994 and carved from polyurethane, is based on Arthur Barton's 1950 "Old King Cole" version.
Stretching from the Face to Coney Island, the Midway has always been the main thoroughfare of Luna Park. The Midway, as it has always done, allows access throughout the main section of the park. It is the focus of many activities and amusements, and provides access to the Crystal Palace, Big Top, and Coney Island, along with the majority of Luna Park's permanent rides.
Crystal Palace Edit
Beginning life in 1935 as a dodgem hall and office space, the Crystal Palace has seen many uses over the park's history, including as a dance hall, a BMX track, a games arcade, and a restaurant and bar.
Since the 2004 reopening, Crystal Palace has been host to four of the seven rooms used by Luna Park's functions business. The main room stretches across the entire lower floor of Crystal Palace, and is often used for wedding receptions and other large social functions. The Midway-facing exterior of the building is host to numerous sideshow games, such as the Laughing Clowns, Crazy Crooners, and Goin Fishin'.
Big Top Edit
Constructed during the 2003 redevelopment on the site of the Ghost Train, the Big Top (originally to be named the Luna Circus) is a fully licensed, multi-purpose venue capable of seating 2,000 people (this capacity can increase to 3,000 for standing-only concerts). The modular design of the stage and seating allows the entire venue to be easily reconfigured for different event types, and the concrete building is heavily soundproofed to cut down on noise pollution. Examples of events run in the Big Top include concerts (including shows from Kylie Minogue's Anti Tour and the annual Come Together Music Festival), award shows and presentations (like the inaugural MTV Australia Video Music Awards or the live finals for the 2005-2008 seasons of Australia's Next Top Model), sporting tournaments (like the Australia Mixed Martial Arts Cage Fighting Championship and the 2013 Sydney Darts Masters), trade shows, and other large events.
Coney Island Edit
First constructed in 1935, Coney Island - Funnyland is the only operating example of a 1930s funhouse left in the world. Although some changes have been made over the years, the layout is almost identical to when Luna Park opened in 1935. The design was based on funhouses in Europe and the United States, and contains rotating barrels, moving platforms, large slides, and arcade games. Today's Coney Island is also host to the restored artworks of Arthur Barton (who started as one of 35 artists, staying with the park until his retirement in 1970,( along with photographs and memorabilia spanning Luna Park's 70-year history. The slides and amusements are the same ones first used in 1935, but modified to meet modern safety standards. The amusements were saved from the 1981 demolition by the 'Friends of Luna Park' action group, who purchased them for $9,200, on the condition that they remain in the heritage-listed building.
Maloney's Corner Edit
Named after Tony Maloney, a long-time Luna Park employee, Maloney's Corner was built on land purchased from the New South Wales government and the State Rail Authority during the 1994 development, so that supports for the Big Dipper could be built. During the 2003 redevelopment, this area was paved over and the Kids Rides, Ranger, and Spider were relocated here from the Midway, to provide room for other developments. In addition, temporary rides hired by Luna Park for use during peak periods (such as school holidays) are set up in this area.
Current rides Edit
This is a list of all rides in operation at Luna Park as of 2013. This list does not include independently-operated touring or temporary rides contracted to work at Luna Park during peak periods.
- Hair Raiser - A 50-metre (160 ft) A.R.M. Super Shot drop tower added to the park in 2013.
- Wild Mouse - A Wild Mouse roller coaster, Luna Park's Wild Mouse was first installed in 1962, and although it has been disassembled and removed on several occasions, it has always returned. After the closure of Wonderland Sydney in 2004, the Wild Mouse became the only permanent roller coaster in New South Wales. It is one of two wooden Wild Mouse rides left in the world, the other being at Blackpool Pleasure Beach in England.
- Ferris Wheel - Standing 35 metres tall, the 24 gondola Ferris wheel was introduced to the park during the 1982 Harbourside development.
- Rotor - Luna Park's Rotor was first installed in 1951. It was continually a popular ride until its demolition at the end of 1986. A slightly smaller Rotor was constructed during the 1995 redevelopment.
- Carousel - a carousel by John H. Rundle Ltd.
- Tumblebug - A 1988 HUSS Troika, the Tumblebug was installed in 1995. The ride, named after the Tumble Bug operated by Luna Park from 1935 to 1973, is the only one of its type in Australia.
- Dodgem City - An eighteen car dodgem hall, Dodgem City is the latest in a series of dodgem car tracks constructed in the park, beginning with the one inside Crystal Palace in 1935.
- Moon Ranger - The only HUSS Ranger in Australia.
- Spider - A HUSS Breakdance installed during the 1995 redevelopment, the Spider received its name from the park's 1938 ride.
- 2nd Tango Train - Reopened in 2016. Not replaced as said to be.
- Kids' Rides - Luna Park is also host to four rides designed specifically for children. These are:
- Whirly Wheel - A miniature Ferris wheel.
- Magic Castle
- Space Shuttle
- U-Drive - A 'train' of cars propelled around a small track.
Beyond the entrance to Luna Park Sydney
Previous rides of note Edit
- Big Dipper I - A wooden roller coaster constructed in 1930 for Luna Park Glenelg. Operated at the Milsons Point site from 1935 to 1981, when it was demolished and burned following the park's 1980 closure.
- Ghost Train - A ghost train operating at Luna Park from 1935 until it burned down in mysterious circumstances on 9 June 1979. Seven people were killed in the fire.
- Big Dipper II - A steel roller coaster constructed in 1994. Noise pollution complaints by a resident action group focused primarily on the Big Dipper, stopping its operation in late 1995. The loss of revenue was partially responsible for the park's 1996 closure, and in 2001 the ride was renamed Cyclone and relocated to Dreamworld. The ride is currently known as the Hot Wheels Sidewinder".
- Tango Train I - A Music Express. Was closed on 25 April 2016 to be replaced with another ride that is Tango Train II. The Tango Train will be dismantled and sold as parts.
- Flying Saucer - A 1988 HUSS UFO. Was closed in 2013 left standing but not operating.
In film and television Edit
Luna Park Sydney has been used as a filming location for sections of several works of film and television. In 1959, the entire park was used for Leslie Norman's film adaptation of Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, based on the play by Ray Lawler. Also, during this decade, sequences were filmed for the Six O'Clock Rock and Skippy the Bush Kangaroo television series.
In 1976, television soap opera Number 96 had the characters Dorrie and Herb Evans (Pat McDonald and Ron Shand), Flo Patterson (Bunney Brooke) and "Junior" Winthrop (Curt Jansen), visit the park, including scenes of them in Coney Island, eating fairy floss, and riding on the Big Dipper and the Topsy-Turvy House. This footage has been preserved in Number 96: And They Said It Would Not Last, a bonus feature on the DVD release of the feature film version of the show, Number 96: 2 Disc Collector's Edition.
Luna Park appeared in two episodes of the 1989 programme Betty's Bunch.
Following the 1996 closure of the park, Luna Park (in particular the Big Dipper) was used for a section of Our Lips Are Sealed starring Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. The 'memory sequences' in Farscape episode "Infinite Possibilities Part I: Daedalus Demands", material for the two-part '100th episode' of JAG, "Boomerang", and scenes for the Bollywood film Dil Chahta Hai were filmed at points between the 1996 closure and the 2001 removal of the Big Dipper. During this time, the documentary Spirits of the Carnival - The Quest for Fun was filmed about the history of amusement parks named 'Luna Park' in general, and Luna Park Sydney specifically. Following Luna Park's reopening in 2004, material was filmed in the park's Rotor for the 2006 film Candy. Luna Park was also featured in a few episodes for the Australian TV series Dance Academy.
It is also featured in Seventeen's Healing music video which was released on 16 October 2016. It was filmed when they went to Australia for their fan meeting (Shining Diamonds: Asia Pacific Tour) in both Melbourne and Sydney.