When a new attraction replaces a classic ride, decision makers quite often face the quandary of what to do with the old attraction. They can try to sell it, scrap it, or do what Pacific Park in Santa Monica, California, did recently: honor the retiring ride with a high-profile sendoff.
The Sea Dragon swinging boat ride formerly of the renowned Santa Monica Pier near Los Angeles received quite the sendoff. After giving more than 12 million rides over 27 years, the bright green swinging-ship ride flew away to make room for an updated version of the original attraction.
In March 2023, the ride’s 26-foot-long, three-ton vehicle went on display on the deck of the Santa Monica Pier so visitors could bid their fond farewells and safely capture photos.
“Guests shared their fondest memories of the ride by submitting videos, photos and texts regarding their experience,” says Nathan Smithson, director of marketing and business development at Pacific Park. “We received quite a few postings.”
However, the memories are not the end of this dragon’s tale. Pacific Park is owned by Premier Parks in Oklahoma City, and when another Premier Parks property—the City Museum in St. Louis—learned of the ride’s retirement, they set out to acquire the dragon-shaped ride vehicle.
“When we received the notification about the removal of the Sea Dragon at Pacific Park, we couldn’t turn down the chance to bring it to City Museum,” says Katy Enrique, the museum’s director of marketing and sales. “Leave it to us to find a creative way for kids to interact with a defunct ride, even if there are no formal plans from engineers and architects!”
The move from the Pacific coast inland to the Mississippi River captivated attention as the old Sea Dragon flew under a helicopter from Santa Monica Pier to the Port of Hueneme, where it was loaded on a truck for its voyage to St. Louis. After a cross-country trek east, the ride vehicle arrived just blocks away from the famed Gateway Arch, where it was placed in the museum’s parking lot. As of May 1, the museum still hasn’t decided what to do with the former swinging vehicle following the influx of ideas brought forth by various departments within the museum.
Until a consensus is reached, the ride vehicle will remain grounded. “Will it head up to the rooftop? Or maybe cantilever off the side of the building? Or be part of another project that has not been dreamt up yet? Anything is possible here, and isn’t that weirdly wonderful?” says Enrique.
Back in California, a new swinging-ship attraction created by Chance Rides replaced the Sea Dragon at Pacific Park. The new $1.5 million updated version of the original attraction operates in the same footprint of the original, with an array of fresh features. These include wind generators and misters to give the feeling of riding a dragon right above the ocean; shaking seats that mimic blustery seas; and customized music and audio effects. The new attraction also boasts LED lighting that outlines the swinging ship and its 40-foot-tall support beams.