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Old Posted Mar 19, 2007, 12:00 PM
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Daily News

Parks set on Coney ad-venture
Asks bids on rock-climb wall, trapeze

March 19th 2007

The Parks Department is taking a second crack at spicing up the Coney Island beachfront with action-packed activities after similar plans fizzled last season.

The agency is looking for contractors to operate "rock-climbing walls, rappelling walls, trampolines, ropes courses and trapeze," according to a request for bids released recently.

"Parks may also consider proposals for the operation of water sports activities, such as 'banana boat' rides or parasailing, as part of this concession," the document said. "The rental or operation of Jet Skis or any other personal watercraft, however, will not be permitted."

Bids are due in mid-April, but agency officials couldn't say whether things would be up and running by summer. A similar request last year drew no respondents, but the agency has increased advertising and outreach efforts.

"We're not sure why we didn't get responses the last time around - it might have been a question of people seeing the ads too late," said Parks Department spokesman Eric Abramson, noting that the agency is also "talking it up" to current Coney Island business owners.

The hope is that what is currently a lightly used parcel in Steeplechase Plaza near KeySpan Park just off W. 19th St. will become an extension of the amusements east of Stillwell Ave. - some of which have been cleared by developer Thor Equities as it bids to develop housing and rides in the area.

But there may be a deeper problem. Despite ongoing efforts to revitalize the neighborhood's amusement district and convert it to year-round operations, business is still very seasonal.

That could make it hard for an operator to recoup the initial investment required for a business - which one veteran operator estimated at roughly $1 million.

"It sounds like they would want a fortune just to go in there," said Rich Welter, a former Long Islander who now owns Sunset Watersports in Key West, Fla. "At 50 bucks for a parasail ride, you've got to do a lot of rides to make it happen."

Parks Department officials remain optimistic and have expanded last year's request to include Orchard Beach in the Bronx. Several bidders showed up for a site tour in Coney Island last week.

"People like all different kinds of recreation, and while Coney Island already has many offerings, this is just another avenue to increase the variety of our recreational offerings," Abramson said.
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