Kings Island has changed ownership, made major strides in the last 50 years

Lenny Robinson said his father, William “Bill” Robinson, never talked around the dinner table about the largest project in his real estate career.

Back in the late 1960s, Bill Robinson and two partners, George Henkle and Bob Cantoni, played key roles in the sale of hundreds of acres in Warren County that later were developed into Kings Island, the mega amusement park that’s celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

“My dad’s fingerprints are all over it,” said Lenny Robinson, 67, a 1972 Middletown High School graduate and president of Robinson Commercial Realtors Inc. “He always said it was a very challenging, yet fun project.”

There was talk about developing the land into a major subdivision, Robinson said. But those plans were scraped and Taft Broadcasting Co. purchased Coney Island, a Cincinnati Amusement Park, for $6.5 million and then purchased 1,600 acres in Warren County for $3.2 million.

In 1964, Coney Island suffered from a major flood, the fourth largest on record. That flood led to the discussions about relocating the park away from the Ohio River.

A ground-breaking ceremony was conducted on June 15, 1970, two weeks before the first Major League Baseball game was played at Riverfront Stadium. The public voted to name the park “Kings Island” as a way to recognize the area of Kings Mills and its predecessor Coney Island.

The amusement park opened April 29, 1972 and the grand opening event was May 27, 1972.

Kings Island reopened for its 50th anniversary season on April 16, will follow by a daylong celebration on April 29. Then the park’s “Golden Celebration” events will begin May 28.

More than 2 million people visited Kings Island in its first season, which was double Coney Island’s attendance in 1971, its final year.

Kings Island cost $31 million to build. Remember this was in 1969. Admission was $6. Today it starts at $45.

Besides the 364-acre amusement park, Kings Island features a 33-acre water park.

In the last 50 years, the park has been owned by Taft Broadcasting, Kings Entertainment Co., American Financial Corp., Paramount Communications, and Cedar Fair, the current owners. Cedar Fair purchased Kings Island in 2006 for a reported $1.24 billion.

Now, 50 years later, Robinson said Kings Island has “put that area on the map” and created “a huge spark for the area.”

About the Author