Saying Goodbye To Indiana Beach
UPDATE: It would appear reports of Indiana Beach’s demise were greatly exaggerated. A new owner has purchased the park and is hoping to reopen this year. Read all about it here. Still, our thoughts on its closing are fun to read, so go ahead and just imagine IB was still closing.
Last week, Indiana Beach Boardwalk Resort announced that they won’t be reopening this season and are closing for good. The park, located in Monticello, Indiana, about halfway between Indianapolis and Chicago, was home to five unique coasters. Rumors are floating around that its possible the park could still be sold, or that some of the rides could be sold off, but we figured we would still say goodbye to this unique park, which a bunch of us visited for the first time last year.
Eric: Wow, so Indiana Beach is closing. A bunch of us visited last Spring, most of us for the first time, and John went years ago. I’m glad we made it there before it closed, lucky timing by us, I guess. Are you guys surprised at the announcement?
John: The naive side of me is. I was aware of the park’s troubles in recent years following the changes in ownership. But to me, Indiana Beach was an exception of a park that transcended generations and was impervious to the changes in the industry and tourism in general. Ultimately, though, the park was a business. And businesses need to make money.
Andrew: You obviously never want to see a park close, and I agree with John — Indiana Beach was the kind of park that kind of transcended generations, and after 94 years, was still able to stay “afloat” on the shores of Lake Shafer. Sure, it’s a smaller park on the other side of the middle of nowhere, but having no real knowledge of that area of the country, yeah it caught me completely off guard.
Kyle: I always sort of took Indiana Beach for granted. It was a park that I had wanted to visit for over a decade and their roller coasters always enticed me, but despite being only 6 hours away, I only made it for the first (and possibly only) time. The weirder the coaster, the better for me. I was super bummed out to here of the park’s closing and losing some hidden gem-rides along with it.
Nick: Yeah, I always just sort of assumed the park would scrape by somehow. Was the campground also owned by the park? I kind of figured the campground and resort and lake activities would help keep the entire thing afloat.
Eric: I think I’m in a similar feeling to you guys. I don’t know if I’m surprised, because they clearly had some operational issues when we all went last year. But, at the same time, I don’t know there was any indication it would close. I wonder if it had a little too much crammed into the space for how much revenue they could hope to bring in. I feel like a lot of similar sized parks would have 2 or 3 coasters, not 5 or 6.
Eric: So, although there are some hopes that some of the rides might be saved, it’s up in the air. Of the big coasters, which one do you think you’ll miss the most, or are most thankful we managed to get on?
John: I was able to ride all of the park’s major coaster except for Hoosier Hurricane, which was closed. A beautiful photo of the coaster was included in one of my favorite coaster books that I read throughout my childhood. I was so excited to ride it. Given the unique nature of its layout, I fear it won’t be saved.
Andrew: Lost Coaster of Superstition Mountain is the kind of coaster that isn’t built anymore (and not just because CCI went out of business.) The level of “weirdness” with the elevator lift, semi-enclosed cars and the hairpin turns, is something that doesn’t get built anymore. It’s kitschy in the best way possible.
Kyle: I will second what Andrew said. Lost Coaster was one of several coasters that were on a must-do list for me. I would love to see more small, unique coasters like this pop up at some parks but I doubt we ever will.
Nick: The number of wooden coasters seems to be dwindling, with more removed than added here in the United States every year, so it definitely hurts to lose three wood coasters in one swoop. I can see Steel Hawg finding a new home somewhere else. Lost Coaster was super unique. But my favorite coaster at Indiana Beach was Cornball Express. The airtime with those buzz bars was really good in a few spots, the layout was fun, and the way they fit it into the park was awesome.
Eric: I’m with Kyle and Andrew. I think Lost Coaster is one of the most uniquely interesting coasters I’ve ever been on. Back in our post about the park from last summer I wrote that it made me sad CCI wasn’t able to make more weird things like this before going under. Now it looks like we’ll lose even this one. I’m going to also throw in Tig’rr coaster as well, just because of my great love for all Schwarzkopf coasters, and their growing rarity in the US.
Eric: What about the flat rides? I know a couple of us (Kyle and I in particular) loved the Shafer swings. It seems much more likely some of these could be saved. Which of the flats do you hope will be rescued and make it to another park?
John: I’m not much of a flat-ride guy, but the park had an impressive assortment. I hope that all of them are able to find a new home — I’m a sucker for seeing any ride, no matter how insignificant, end up in a scrapyard.
Andrew: I love a good dark-ride shooter from Sally Corp. Den of Lost Thieves was fantastic. I know that the 2-floor layout will likely be hard to replicate in another location, but stranger things have happened. I also hope there’s a future for their S&S Drop Tower. Those small drop towers are arguably more terrifying than their taller counterparts.
Kyle: Yes, Eric! The Shafer swings were the non-roller coaster favorite for me. There was something about swinging out over the water that made them so much better than your typical swing ride. I’d love to see another park purchase these and utilize them in the same way.
Nick: I think I like the small S&S tower almost more than some of the larger ones. I think it will definitely find a new home elsewhere. The views from the sky ride and the Ferris wheel will be missed and can’t be recreated at other land-based parks.
Eric: Any particular memory from our visit together or one of your past visits that makes Indiana Beach stand out? What will you remember about it in 5 years?
John: By far, Lost Coaster of Superstition Mountain was the most memorable ride (followed closely by Steel Hawg). Way back in 2001/2002, I was fascinated by its conversion from a classic mine dark ride into a small, compact wooden coaster. Pictures and videos don’t do it justice. It’s been over five years since I visited the park, and I still remember the ride like it was yesterday.
Andrew: Playing fascination, and never winning was fun. I will yield the rest of my time to Kyle and Nick on this question, haha.
Kyle: Ha! Yes, fascination was a blast! Why don’t more parks bring these back? I think the thing I will remember most about Indiana Beach is just its quirky nature and isolation. We will never see a park like this again. Nowhere else could you drive 30 minutes off the freeway, through cornfields, and end up at this strange oasis of a seaside park.
Eric: Yeah, I’m glad I’ve been to Knoebels and gotten to enjoy their Fascination games. I wonder if these could be moved to another park?
Nick: Aha, yes. What will I remember most? The great lengths Kyle and I went to get our Steel Hawg credit! The compact steel coaster, the only one we hadn’t ridden yet, was closed on Friday when we all visited. On our way back to Ohio from Six Flags Great America, we stopped by the park again on Sunday. Maybe we’ll tell the full story one day, but after many hours of trials and tribulations we finally got one ride on it. Now I’m really glad we went through all the trouble.
Eric: Lastly, assuming it does stay closed, what are you going to miss most about it? What were your favorite things about Indiana Beach from our brief visit? The saddest thing about losing it?
John: Though I visited after the change in ownership that I believe led to the park’s eventual demise, there was this gritty, timeless Americana character that was woven throughout the park. I remember the smells and tastes of the delicious fried fare (hi elephant ears). The beautiful lakeside setting. The saddest part, like with many parks that close, is that younger generations won’t be able to experience something that simply can’t be replicated.
Andrew: I’m going to miss its “weirdness” (not used in a negative way). It truly felt like the park was designed by someone playing Roller Coaster Tycoon, with everything on top of each other. As amusement parks become more corporate and “cookie-cutter,” these smaller unique parks are becoming things of the past. If you have the chance to visit a park like this, don’t skip it, because as last week proved, no amusement park lasts forever.
Kyle: I think John and Andrew have said it really well. There’s nothing that compares to experiencing a park like this. People loved the character of the roller coasters here and their odd layouts, but that was only due to the fact of where they were built. We won’t get coasters like this anywhere else.
Eric: It definitely felt like a weird throwback park. While there are some small parks like that still going strong, Indiana Beach felt uniquely “weird”.
Nick: In a world of corporate theme parks, Indiana Beach was a breath of fresh air. It really felt like stepping back in time to a different era. Everything about it was unique: the rides, the location, the atmosphere. Indiana Beach will be missed.
That’s our goodbye to Indiana Beach. We’re holding out hope there’s still a chance it gets saved, or at least some of its rides do. Did you ever get a chance to visit Indiana Beach? What will you miss about it? Let us know in the comments below.