|Darien Lake Theme Park Resort|
|Location||Darien, New York, United States|
|Owner||CNL Lifestyle Properties|
|General Manager||Chris Thorpe|
|Previous names||Darien Fun Country, Six Flags Darien Lake|
|Operating season||May through October|
|Area||980 acres (4.0 km2), 360 acres (1.5 km2) developed|
|Rides||34 (excluding water park) total
Darien Lake is a theme park resort located between Buffalo and Rochester in Darien, New York, United States, south of the New York State Thruway (I-90) on State Highway 77. After being owned by Six Flags from 1999 to early 2007, the park is now owned by CNL Lifestyle Properties and operated by PARC Management. It is the largest property in the PARC chain and the only one with campgrounds and an on-site, themed hotel.
In 1964, investor Paul Snyder opened a small campground and picnic area around a small lake, which would come to be named Darien Lake. Encompassing only a small fraction of what is now the amusement park, there were no rides, simply camping and picnic areas, a small baseball diamond, and other things you might find in a typical town or village park. In the early 1970s, Paul began to add an attraction base, the first of which was a pair of water slides over the lake.
Later in the 1970s and into the early 1980s, he added more attractions, creating an amusement park named Darien Lake Fun Country. Paul made a deal with HUSS Maschinenfabrik, turning Darien Lake into the North American showcase for the German manufacturer's new rides. Through this deal the park acquired rides such as the Pirate, Ranger, and the Corn-Popper (now Rodeo Round-Up), usually prototype models, for use in the park and to give HUSS a location to display the rides to other potential US and Canadian buyers. Also in 1982, a joint venture by Huss and Arrow Dynamics built and opened the park's first roller coaster, The Viper.
Funtime's first purchase was the Vekoma-built Giant Wheel Ferris wheel, the showcase of the 1982 World's Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee and the largest Ferris wheel in the world at that time, which was permanently installed in the center of the park. It still stands and was the icon of the park for many years. Entertainment was also added to the park, with the construction of the Tops Jubilee Theater (now the Wegmans Grande Theatre) and the Lakeside Amphitheater, a large-scale concert stage on the south side of the main lake, presenting big name acts including The Who, Alice Cooper, and Black Sabbath. The improvements continued throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, with the addition of a themed kids area, Adventure Land for Kids in 1987, and Grizzly Run in 1989. In 1990, the Barracuda Bay waterpark and the wooden roller coaster The Predator were installed. Around this time, Paul Snyder, who up to now still had a say in the park's operation, sold his remaining share of the park to Funtime, turning over all control to them.
In 1992, a new style of entertainment was demoed on the midway between Barracuda Bay and the Giant Wheel, a laser light show called Laser Light Fantasy ( now called LASER BLAST), which included laser graphics and fireworks. The show first premiered on the mid-way in front of Barracuda Bay in 1992.The show was permanently installed in the Lakeside Amphitheater in 1993, while concert events were moved to the newly constructed Darien Lake Performing Arts Center, which could hold nearly 4 times as many guests.
In 1995, growing regional park chain Premier Parks bought Funtime and its three owned parks. Premier dove right into changes and additions. In 1995, Adventure Land was replaced by Popeye's Seaport and all new kiddie rides in a different area of the park. A new waterpark attraction, Hook's Lagoon, took over Adventure Land's old location, along with the addition of the Crocodile Isle wave pool in 1997.
From 1996 to 1999, Premier would also install a new roller coaster each year, Nightmare at Phantom Cave in 1996, Mind Eraser in 1997, Boomerang: Coast to Coaster in 1998, and Superman Ride of Steel (the world's first Intamin Hypercoaster) in 1999. Nightmare was removed in 1998, however, relocated to another Premier-owned park, The Great Escape. In 1998, Premier purchased Six Flags Theme Parks, and began to rebrand its own parks as Six Flags. In May 1999, Six Flags Darien Lake opened under its new name, with a few major changes. Premier brought Six Flags' own character base, Looney Tunes and DC Comics, into the parks, renaming Popeye's Seaport to Looney Tunes Seaport, and added a new show in the vacant former Nightmare building, the Batman Thrill Spectacular.
2000 brought the reforming of Premier Parks, assuming their new name, Six Flags Inc. and a drop in the addition of new attractions. The next major attractions installed was Shipwreck Falls in 2002, replacing an old set of water slides on the east side of Barracuda Bay; and the Tornado in 2005.
2006 was a year of turmoil for Six Flags and its parks. For the 2006 season, Six Flags moved the Big Kahuna, a family-sized waterslide, from Six Flags Astroworld to Darien Lake and also moved the Batman: The Escape roller coaster from Astroworld into storage at Darien Lake, with possible plans to build it in the future. They also added an opportunity to meet with the entire Justice League at the park.
Only a month into Darien Lake's season, however, Six Flags began pulling back the Justice League from Darien Lake, and announced that Darien Lake, along with 8 other parks, was being considered for sale. Many parks throughout the chain, not just those for sale, also experienced other numerous changes and cutbacks throughout the summer.
In October 2006, after shortened operating hours and seasons, Six Flags officially announced that the parks were in fact being offered for sale as a package. Paul Snyder stated in a radio interview that he would have considered purchasing only Darien Lake back from Six Flags if they had allowed the parks to be sold individually.
In January 2007, Six Flags announced a potential sale of 7 of the parks to a new company, PARC 7F (officially called PARC Management). Six Flags chose to retain two of the parks it had originally considered for sale.
In April 2007, Six Flags completed the sale of Darien Lake and 6 other parks to PARC Management. Upon completion of the sale, PARC entered into a 50 year contract with CNL Income Properties, under which CNL would purchase the properties from and lease them back to PARC for operation.
Because of the timing of the final sale with respect to the park's opening, PARC was unable to make many major changes for the 2007 season. The biggest changes for the season were the addition of an all new show, Le Grande Cirque, which replaced the Batman Thrill Spectacular, and the removal of all Six Flags/Warner Bros/DC Comics related signage and references.
In January 2008, it was announced that Darien Lake will debut its first launched roller coaster, a Zamperla Motocoaster, in the 2008 season. The coaster to be installed is the exact same one that has been under testing and tuning outside Zamperla's factory in Italy and will be 1 of 2 of this type of coaster to be installed in North America. The other is located at Knotts Berry Farm.
PARC has also pledged to lower prices for admission in to the park which had escalated when the park was owned by Six Flags.
The Lodge on the Lake Hotel opened in 1998 with 160 hotel rooms, considered luxury rooms. PARC Management has mentioned a possible expansion in the future to create an indoor water park around the hotel, to attempt a year-round attraction. No official plans have been announced yet.
The park started as a campground and picnic area. While access to the original picnic area is no longer allowed to the general public, the campground still occupies its original area and has since expanded many times over. It currently consists of over 1200 campsites, roughly half of which are park-owned RV's that guests can rent, the rest are available for either guest-owned RV's or tent sites. By staying in the campgrounds, guests are allowed daily access to the park for the duration of their stay. A general store, two restaurants, a gift shop, and an arcade are conveniently located near the Lakeside Amphitheatre and the Boomerang for campground guests, though they are open to all park patrons.
The Darien Lake Performing Arts Center was opened in 1993 as a replacement for the Lakeside Amphitheater, where concerts had previously been held. The PAC, as it is commonly referred to, while owned by CNL with the rest of the park, is operated by Live Nation, not by the park itself. Major concerts are held here periodically throughout the summer, occasionally including a concert that takes place when the park is not open. Tickets for these events can be upgraded to Park Combo Passes, or just bought as standard concert tickets with no park admission.
Beginning in 2009, the park began holding concerts in the park, at the renamed Laser Stage, also still known as the Lakeside Amphitheater. These concerts are free to guests in the park.