GRAND ISLAND, N.Y. (WKBW) — Big news for fans of Fantasy Island. A Chicago investor confirms with 7 Eyewitness News that he now has control of the popular summer staple and is moving forward with plans to bring new life back to the closed amusement park.
Gene Staples, the CEO of IB Parks & Entertainment, who has been negotiating a lease for Fantasy Island, says in an email to 7EWN that his group is "excited to now be part of the Grand Island & the Niagara Regions Business community, and very much looking forward to rejuvenating this historic park and creating an amazing family entertainment and tourist destination for people to enjoy for years to come."
Staples says his team is pushing to try and find a solution to have the water park portion of the park open this summer. The full park is expected to be open in spring of 2022.
It's welcomed news to April Kaiser of Grand Island. She had season passes to the park as a child, and now had them for her family. This year, she bought season passes to Darien Lake, but said she misses the local convenience.
“All the kids could, you know, come back together, and families, you know, can hang out with each other,” Kaiser said.
Staples confirmed by phone that a lease for Fantasy Island has been finalized that "allows us to run the park as we do our other parks, and ensure that we are going to be here in Buffalo, Grand Island, and the Niagara Region for years and years to come."
Staples has experience in breathing new life into old amusement parks. His group purchased Indiana Beach Amusement and Water Park in 2020. "There is something special about a vintage amusement park. It's mult-generational." "There is something special about that that is dying in America that we are looking to help preserve. It's something that needs to be preserved as part of American history. "
Staples says that he anticipates sending out a press release within the next week to outline "our official timelines and rebranding of the park"
Fantasy Island announced it was closing in 2020.
Grand Island Town Supervisor John Whitney says bringing the amusement park back in any capacity would be a big boost for the area.
"It would be a tremendously big deal, not only for Grand Island, but for the entire region," he said.
Whitney pointed to nearby restaurants, gas stations, and KOA Campgrounds as places that could benefit from a return of Fantasy Island. He said that park generated a lot of sales tax, but does not have an estimate because he said the sales tax is not itemized by business.
Whitney said Staples mentioned the possibility of adding a new rollercoaster to the park. The Town Supervisor said there were about four different parties interested in the property.