THE 30-year-old “Big Swing,” the last of the original rides at the Jinjiang Amusement Park, will soon be shut down, bidding farewell to Shanghai locals.
“Out with the old and in with the new is what it takes for an amusement park. Always keeping fresh is the only way for us to attract a steady flow of tourists,” said Ding Yicheng, the park’s general manager.
Jinjiang Amusement Park, located on Hongmei Road and opened in 1984, is Shanghai’s first amusement park. Its giant Ferris Wheel has become a sort of city emblem, standing tall by the Humin Elevated Road over three decades.
Eighteen rides imported from overseas were considered first-rate at the time, including the Big Swing. The amusement park has periodically updated the facilities, and the Big Swing is the last original ride still standing. It will be gone by the end of this year.
“At that time there was no Metro or elevated road. My mom would take me to the park on holidays. Because it was in the southwest, we often spent one hour on the bus,” recalled Huang Juanyong, 30, a bank clerk.
“As the oldest ride in the park, the Big Swing, though under good maintenance, is still faced with the aging problem. In addition, some of its components are no longer made. It has to retire,” manager Ding said.
A replacement has not yet been decided upon, Ding said, but it won’t be a swing.
The city had no amusement park 30 years ago. When Jinjiang Park opened, it soon became a must-visit site for local children and a classic venue for almost every school’s annual spring and autumn outing.
“It’s no exaggeration that Jinjiang Park was the Disneyland in the minds of us kids,” said Fang Zhuoyun, 31.
With the opening of the Metro Line 1 in 1995, the park experienced its tourist peak. Statistics show that in 1995 it had 2.3 million visits.
Following the successful model of Jinjiang, amusement parks started to prosper in the city. In 1996, Shanghai Universal Theme Park was launched in Jiading District. The same year the American Dream Park and Fulu Beier Park in Wujiang near Qingpu District were opened to the public.
But the heydays were not long-lived, and the three parks all shut down several years later. Only Jinjiang Park survived, but it went downhill after 1995. The Ferris wheel was added in 2002, helping boost attendance, but it remained short of its golden days.
Now the park receives about 1,000 visitors on weekdays and 5,000 on weekends. During holidays, it can reach 10,000.
At the same time, new rivals have surfaced. The Happy Valley and Maya Water Theme Park, both in Songjiang District, and the Dino Beach in Minhang District are all becoming popular destinations.
They will all pale compared with the Shanghai Disneyland project under construction in the Pudong New Area. The world’s sixth Disneyland, and the first on China’s mainland, is scheduled to open near the end of 2015.
Happy Valley receives 30,000 visitors on holidays, while Dino Beach, which opens for less than three months every summer, once saw 200,000 visits within 80 days. The Maya Water Park just opened last year and has been a strong force in the city’s amusement parks.
The parks host various activities each season and offer their venues for TV shows, film shooting and national festivals, such as the China Joy and the China Hip-Hop Competition, to attract visitors.
Faced with challenges, Jinjiang Park is finding its way. The park introduces one or two new rides every year and eliminates old facilities. Magic Windmill, Motor Disco, Crazy Fly Wheel and various roller coasters are recently added attractions for visitors.
Every summer it launches night park and extends the open hours to 10pm. Visitors can enjoy a different park view and try new rides at night.
Last May it worked with local media to host a matchmaking party for 200 singles looking for their true loves.
“Amusement park operation requires high input, but it pays off in a long period,” Ding said. “An amusement park’s sustainable development is based on a solid capital chain and continuous upgrading of its facilities.”