Monday, June 18, 2012

Blue Sky: Kings Island Entrance

The Kings Island's Amusement Park is one of Cincinnati's many city jewels.  Not only is it a major Midwest entertainment venue that attracts millions of visitors to the area each year, but it's also a locale rooted deep in local history.

Early Kings Island postcard (197x). 
Click to view larger, via Cincinnati Views.

There are volumes of information about this on bookshelves and online, but the short story is that Kings Island is an incarnation of old Coney Island (the original version, on the Ohio River banks in Anderson), relocated to the broad, floodless acreage in Mason.

Coney's history can be traced to 1867, but by the mid 1960s, not only did old Coney run out of expansion room, but the river consumed it regularly, and luckily, local media-conglomerate Taft Broadcasting (who had recently bought Hanna Barbera, and wanted an attraction to showcase its characters) swooped in and bought the park.  On the advice of Roy Disney, Taft bought 1600 acres of land to construct its new home, and in 1972, Kings Island (formed from the name of the area, Kings Mills, and in honor of old Coney Island) opened to great fanfare.  And the rest is history (+).

Anyway, the subject of today revolves around the entry gates which are original to the park.  It's a grand behemoth of 70s-era architecture that, while still relatively beautiful and well-kept (and reminiscent of that grand time when the park opened), could potentially use a facelift.

So, heeding the call from others, I decided to throw together a few concepts of what a change might look like.

In reality, this would be renovation of a structure that still looks OK, still serves it's purpose adequately, and would probably not result in substantial revenue increase for the park (unless maybe part of an overall park theme upgrade).  So, sidestepping the associated costs that would come with a complete tear-down-and-rebuild, I just explored several overlays to the existing structure.

THE PROCESS (Note: Click all images to view larger.)

First, homework and concept development:

Kings Island Entrance Gate overhead (2011).
Those blue ticketing / metal detectors prior to the entrance are now gone.

• Reflect the history of Kings Island, through the original intent of a fully themed amusement park (themed lands with corresponding architecture and design elements).
• The front entrance, which sits on International Street (buildings lined with Italian, Spanish, Swiss, and German motifs), should be either American or French-inspired to create a matching international-style bookend with the Eiffel Tower.
• The mansard roof of the existing structure fits with the French-born, US-prevalent, nostalgic Victorian Second Empire architectural style.  This style is also seen in various structures throughout the park - including the oldest ride in the park, the Grand Carousel.
• Pull details from the original Disneyland gates, Hong Kong Disneyland gates, Kings Island's Carousel, among other traditional sources.

After research and finding an appropriate style that tied together Kings Island's history with corresponding visual elements, I laid down some quick visuals & notes to form the basis of the renovation concept.

Next step, sketch of the structure before-and-after:


Then, after a rough ink over the sketch, complete the template with more exacting measurements and final line art:

On to color!  In this case, it's a marker rendering:


The initial draft (above) is my favorite, but other iterations were created for test and comparison (see an edit of the first draft + a second version with color changes).

Acknowledging Cedar Fair's propensity for a bright palette - seen in the new Soak City Waterpark gate and other places - that second render reflected that (plus their brand colors).

One step further showcases a little more money put into an overhaul of the front gates to literally reflect the architectural style of the Soak City's gates.  First, new line art, then wrapped with corresponding hues:


So that's it for now.  Other items included in this exploratory were detailed illos + orthogonal views, which may be updated here later upon scanning.

• Review the whole process at my Blue Sky: Kings Island Entrance gallery.

• Sources for the history of the parks: Coney Island History, Kings Island Central, and Kings Island Park History.

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