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Luna Park fan Fox follows his heart

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http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/lun...l?oneclick=true Luna Park fan Fox follows his heart By Jewel Topsfield, Cameron Houston June 23, 2005 Trucking tycoon Lindsay Fox has added roller-coasters to his transport empire with the surprise purchase of Melbourne's iconic Luna Park for about $7 million. Announcing the deal yesterday, a consortium including the Fox family and other wealthy Melbourne business figures vowed to "restore the magic" of the fading fairground on the St Kilda foreshore. Mr Fox, 68, who grew up in nearby Windsor, said he remembered the excitement of his first visit to the amusement park as a six-year-old. "I always enjoyed the Giggle Palace, the Big Dipper, the River Caves, the Penny Arcades and most of all the smell of the crunchy waffles," said Mr Fox, one of Australia's richest men, with a fortune estimated at $950 million. He said the rejuvenation of Luna Park would be "a labour of love" for him and his family. "It is something that I want all Melburnians to be able to experience and for Luna Park to again be one of Victoria's great tourist attractions." Luna Park, which was inspired by the world's first Luna Park on New York's Coney Island, opened in 1912, with 22,319 people streaming through the iconic Mr Moon-face entrance on opening night. "We see this as a unique opportunity to bring back the charm of that period," Mr Fox said. "This will further the works recently completed on the restoration of the carousel, face and towers." Among those involved in Mr Fox's consortium, Luna Park Melbourne, are businessmen David Goldberger and David Wieland - who have amassed a fortune estimated at more than $500 million after a 30-year association that spawned businesses including Liberty Oil and Direct Factory Outlets. Mr Fox said the new owners would consider bringing back some of the old Luna Park rides as well as new attractions that would appeal to today's children. The 120 employees at the park will be offered continued employment, the transfer of accrued entitlements and recognition of prior service. Mr Fox said he would liaise with the community, Port Phillip Council and the State Government about the future of Luna Park. He said he had also lodged a bid to redevelop the adjacent "triangle" site, which is occupied by the Palais Theatre, the Palace Entertainment Complex and a car park. Port Phillip Council has received 15 expressions of interest to redevelop the prime foreshore site. Applications closed last Friday. The council has imposed stringent guidelines for the site, including the refurbishment of the art deco Palais Theatre and a new public space. It has ruled out any residential development and stipulates that the so-called "St Kilda-ness" of the precinct is enhanced. Mr Fox said the triangle site was one of the most neglected spaces in Victoria and he wanted to integrate it with Luna Park. Luna Park last changed hands in 1998, when two superannuation funds represented by BCR Asset Management bought the leasehold for $3 million. They spent a further $10 million on refurbishments and new rides. Despite the facelift, the park has failed to flourish and almost two years ago BCR put the lease up for sale. It is believed that two other consortiums - Australian Public Trustees and Andrew Rettig's R.Corporation - made offers of about $7 million for the theme park in the past six months before yesterday's announcement of the Fox consortium's purchase. Two super funds - the Australian Retirement Fund and the Retail Employees Superannuation Trust - previously owned Luna Park through BCR. Mr Fox's friend and former ACTU chief Bill Kelty is on the board of the Australian Retirement Fund. Luna Park has been dogged with controversy in the lead-up to its sale. Last month five children and and an adult were stranded on the Mad Mouse. Community group The Friends of Luna Park, which had been calling for BCR to sell up, yesterday said it was disappointed at not being consulted about the sale to Mr Fox. "Let's hope he puts his considerable money to good use in an imaginative and creative way that benefits Luna Park," said group spokeswoman Julia Murray. Rohan Storey, an architectural historian with the National Trust, said the purchase sounded welcome. "I am assuming he is buying it because he likes it and not because he thinks it is going to make money," he said. "The National Trust is pleased to hear that someone with a genuine love and interest in the park now has control." Luna Park is not Mr Fox's first investment in the precinct. He used to own the St Moritz ice skating rink, where he first met his wife, Paula, in 1955. The venue was destroyed by fire in the 1980s. - with Royce Millar

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Yes, this is good news. A leaseholder with both "heart" and more importantly, financial capital to make something of it, where BCR has left off. It will be interesting to see what happens come September when the consortium assumes control. No doubt the papers will be full of prospective development plans.

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This is really exciting stuff and it certainly sounds promising. Let's hope he actually does attempt to re-create some of the old attractions like the River Caves and Big Dipper. That would truly help the park to come alive again. The current owners of Luna Park Melbourne are similar to Luna Park Sydney's owners in that they were not willing to spend any big money on bringing back any of the classic attractions. They always claim to be interested in restoring the parks to their former glory but they refuse to do it with anything other than cheap 2nd hand carnival rides

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Let's hope this new plan goes ahead the way it has been described. It will certainly give Luna Park Sydney a run for its money and show the general public that a Luna Park can be so much more than just 2nd hand carnival rides stuck on a bit of asphalt. I'm looking forward to seeing this new incarnation raise the bar and in turn people's expectations

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Hey i would hate to break it to guys, but living just around the corner from Luna Park Melbourne, i believe that Sydney walks all over it! It would have to be the most unfun fun park i have ever been to. Metropolis (the wild mouse) is constantly closed, The Scenic Railway (there big dipper) is in great shape, but being built in 1912 it breaks down a few times a day and stalls (which is quite funny to see all the staff up on the track pushing it along, with the guy who drives the train screaming faster!) The park is tiny being limited inside the track of the coaster so i cant see it changing that much. What makes Sydney i would have to say is the Harbour backdrop, openess, and Coney island with Crystal palace. They make the place really appealling. Lastly Sydney has a happy face! melbournes is just down right scary! Just like Bart in the Simpsons...."Cant sleep, clown will eat me" Must be what goes through every childs head!

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Yes one thing I had previously overlooked was Sydney's great Coney Island funhouse. VERY unique and nostalgic. (gotta love the Turkey trot) Even for North America, this building and the activities inside it are very unique and pristine, and all the artwork. I'm sorry though, I must dissagree with you, the Luna Park Melbourne face oozes with much more character and realism than Sydney's manic cartoon ;)

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Comparing the 2 parks at this stage is pretty pointless. They both have 1 or 2 remnants of heritage significance with the rest of the park being made up with 2nd hand carnival rides. I think it will be a very different story when Luna Park Melbourne gets its upcoming 're-birth'. Hopefully it will become a true fun park in the spirit of the old Luna Park's and then the best park will be obvious to everyone

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I had nothing better to do last Sunday afternoon, so a mate and I headed on down to St Kilda and ended up spending some time at Luna Park. All the rides were operating, except for Metropolis. We rode Scenic Railway, twice. The Scenic Railway ride is one I have been on many times before. We were seated toward the back of the train and had a whole bunch of young kids mainly screaming like mad the whole ride - my mate made a remark to me saying 'this is just like in the movie Vacation!!', I was therefore named Rusty throughout the day. We were fortunate to have been given the right riders on board, people who liked to scream. It was a really good ride. The second ride we got was in the front seat (didn't want to ride the back of train again), and it was quite average. This time, the riders were older, and the people behind were annoying and did not stop talking!!! The train slowed right down, the track was getting wet from some light rain and we almost didn't make the last section of hills. We also went over to the Enterprise, but it looked closed. It wasn't! The operator was just hiding away in the booth. Some other riders stepped in the entrance line (the line was empty), then, like magic, the operator decided to show up and let us all on. It was a shame to see that the guy operating this classic wasn't doing a good job of it. We only went once on the Enterprise, I love this ride but have been on it way too many times to get excited. Next, it was over to Pharoah's Curse. Technical problems held up the ride before us, so we had to wait. We got on, but becuase of some fault they made us have to sit restrained and wait, wait, and wait for a mechanic to fix it (ouch those lap restaints can hurt after a while!!!). Pharoah's Curse does run a little slow for my liking, which seems to be the case every time I ride it. Guess I am just too used to the Ranger/Kamikaze rides? Although I could do without those over the shoulder restraints (Pharoahs wins in this regard, even if they do hurt your lap a little). I couldn't be bothered with anymore rides, and the park was near closing and our parking ticket was about to expire. Overall, Scenic Railway was the best of the bunch, especially with all the young kids screaming. The excitement of the kids along with their screams added so much atmosphere to the ride. I am really looking forward to seeing what developments take place after the September take over. The Park does need a major overhaul. Oh, and when we left, it was getting dark and I looked back at the Luna face all lit up. It looked great! Nothing scary there. ;)

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What were the crowds like? Surely the park must be declining in popularity fast. With all the recent media reports about problems with the rides and the fact that the current owners are selling up I am sure this would keep people away. I know if I had kids I wouldn't be taking them there in its current state. I may be wrong though, as the general public can behave in unpredicatable ways sometimes. I would imagine a lot of people will be waiting to see what happens with the new park

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If the park got a Zipper, I know it probably wont. it would do soo damn well! just by looking at how well it does at the St Kilda Festival, having the ride there all year round would be soo awesome! it is definetly my fave thrill ride! LOVE IT! chris

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GoBoi, the park was not packed, that was for sure! Although, considering we arrived there late - approx 3:30pm, and the sky was overcast with some light rain, there were more people than I would have expected. I think most people were leaving as we arrived, I could be wrong? Hussrainbow, I would LOVE a Zipper at Luna Park too, even if it were just for the school holidays. I doubt it will happen though. If the park is going to survive as a major attraction, then it needs something special. Something so amazing people will travel here just to be a part of Luna Park Melbourne. Replacing old carnival rides with new carnival rides is not the best they could do with such great historic landmark. Luna Park needs something big. Intamin make some great compact and spectacular coasters, how about the developers consider Intamin? I am sure I have read someone else on these forums mention this before..?

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Well I can't see a brand new high tech coaster being put in, but I wouldn't mind seeing the Galaxy leave....We have the Taipan, and I see that coaster enough, whether it being Sydney, Melbourne Show or Rye. Id love to see a nice new Huss ride, maybe a Jumping or Frisbee. That would be totally awesome! chris

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What were the crowds like? Surely the park must be declining in popularity fast. With all the recent media reports about problems with the rides and the fact that the current owners are selling up I am sure this would keep people away. I know if I had kids I wouldn't be taking them there in its current state.
I think this is really really disappointed... With all the recent media reports about problems with the rides ?, who here has known of a media report to be 100% true? and ALL?? would that be two? or is there something else going on at my work place that I dont know about?... Like i said really disappointed maybe Im wrong but you seem to link, the tech difficulties and the selling of the park, let me make it nice and clear, as in lots of big business deals, the park was back on the market shortly after it was taken over by BCR, none of that is private information, and if as much attention was paid to the business pages as it is to the tabloids people may be better informed out there. I guess I just expected people of this forum to be a little more open minded about the industry.. but then again thats just my two cents :(

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