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Coney Island and Sunlite Pool close permanently Sunday

woman and child on raft splash into pool from slide
Coney Island Park
Coney Island and Sunlite Pool will not reopen in 2024.

When Coney Island closes its gates after the final carload of visitors to Nights of Lights Dec. 31, they'll remain shuttered. The longtime Cincinnati amusement destination announced earlier this month it is closing both Coney Island and Sunlite Pool and permanently ceasing operations effective Dec. 31.

In a release, the owners state the property will be sold to Music & Event Management Inc. (MEMI), a subsidiary of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO), which already owns and operates Riverbend Music Center and PNC Pavilion directly next door.

"While this was a difficult decision, we have the utmost confidence that MEMI and the CSO will bring new excitement to one of Greater Cincinnati’s most treasured locations," the statement reads.

Shortly after the announcement on Dec. 14, MEMI and the CSO announced plans to build a $118 million music and entertainment venue on the Coney Island site.

RELATED: Coney Island Eliminating Rides To Focus On Water Park

"The new venue will include a state-of-the-art sound system, cutting-edge performance technology and best-in-class amenities, promising a new dimension of live music experiences at an architecturally stunning facility," MEMI says.

MEMI Vice President of Marketing Rosemarie Moehring tells WVXU Riverbend and PNC Pavilion will stay, with the new facility coming in next door.

"We appreciate the history that Coney Island has had, and we look forward to elevating the entertainment experience on on that site," Moehring tells WVXU.

The group adds, "MEMI aims to create 'the nation's best amphitheater,' positioning Cincinnati among top-tier cities and giving it a competitive edge in hosting major music acts. The entertainment complex will complement existing facilities on the live music campus — Riverbend Music Center and PNC Pavilion — and will usher in the future of the live music industry."

A posting on Coney Island's website thanks patrons for their support over the years and states everyone who has purchased a 2024 season pass will be fully refunded.

"We have been proud to provide a place where so many wonderful memories were created for families," the statement adds. "We thank the millions of patrons and employees from Cincinnati and surrounding neighborhoods. You made this a special place for all of us. But the time has come for this historic destination to offer new and different options for entertainment-seekers looking for fun and unique experiences."

Coney Island opened in 1886, and Sunlite Pool was added in 1925. The owners maintain the pool is the largest recirculating pool in North America. It was set to celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2025.

RELATED: New Edition, SWV and more to perform at 2024 Cincinnati Music Festival

Coney Island eliminated rides in 2019, noting at the time it was doing so to expand its water park. "Since 2016, we've invested more than $6 million into the Sunlite Pool," stated Rob Schutter, Jr., president and CEO of Coney Island, at the time.

You can read all about Coney Island's history on RonnySalerno.com.

Riverbend has long been plagued with flooding and other issues, and there have been ongoing discussions about upgrading it or creating a new Riverbend facility. MEMI reports the new facility is still in the preliminary design phase and more information is expected in the coming weeks and months.

"Our target goal, right now, for opening would be spring of 2026," Moehring tells WVXU.

"We look forward to putting Cincinnati on the map as a must-play destination for all artists. We're using the 'if we build it, they will come' mentality. We're really excited; we think that this venue is just going to draw artists to this region that may not have played before."

Updated: December 29, 2023 at 11:36 AM EST
This article was first post on Dec. 14, 2023 and has been updated.
Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.