Sustaining Luna Park’s heritage – Just for fun for years to come!

From today, St Kilda’s famous Luna Park will charge visitors not buying ride tickets a nominal $2 to enter the Park.

CEO Mary Stuart said that Luna Park will ask all guests who enter the Park to wear a wrist band, with the $2 charge going towards heritage retention.

“We want to keep the fun happening for years to come,” Stuart said.

“Luna Park’s heritage retention costs continue to escalate with more than $10 million spent over the past 10 years. As Luna Park’s heritage attractions age, maintenance, repair and restoration costs go up a lot faster than the Great Scenic Railway.

“Contrary to popular perceptions, Luna Park receives no external funding. The revenue needed to fund heritage retention is significant. Luna Park turns 105 this month and, as it ages, preserving its unique character and heritage presents extraordinary challenges.

“Up till now, many of our almost 800,000 annual visitors entered Luna Park without buying an entry ticket. Unlike other theme parks and attractions on the Gold Coast, Luna Park sits on a very small footprint. It can’t expand physically and there is a limit to the number of visitors the Park can accommodate at any one time.”

Stuart said that, as part of this innovation, there would be no increase in the cost of ride tickets or unlimited ride passes, with the $2 entry fee incorporated in the ride ticket price.

“We want keep a visit to Luna Park affordable. When it opened in 1912, all visitors paid sixpence to enter. In today’s money, that is way more than $2! The new $2 entry fee will go towards the ongoing heritage restoration costs for attractions such as the Great Scenic Railway, the Carousel, Ghost Train and Mr Moon’s Face,” she said.

“Luna Park is a national treasure. It holds a special place in the hearts of Melburnians and is the most recognisable and most photographed ‘face’ in Melbourne. There are very few heritage amusement parks that have survived in the world and we have one right here!

“It is special – and it is incumbent on us to keep it that way for future generations. It would be a tragedy if it shared the fate of the original Luna Park at Coney Island, New York, which closed in 1946 and was replaced by a car park.”

St Kilda identity and RocKwiz host, Brian Nankervis, joined Mary Stuart at the announcement. In the early seventies, Nankervis’s church youth group organised trips to Luna Park.

“The highlight of the evening was the delicious inevitability of innocent canoodling in the River Caves. Stolen kisses and secret whispers in the dark. Couples who weren’t officially couples hopped into boats and emerged at the other end with memories that might last forever. Just for fun!”, Nankervis said.

“Luna Park is a fixture on the St Kilda landscape, a welcome symbol of frivolity and history, framing the skyline and filling the air with screams of delight.”

Nankervis said that the details of his first visit to Luna Park are a little hazy and fragmented.

“Toffee apples, palm trees, huge white teeth, the smell of the sea, rough hessian bags at the bottom of wide metal slides,” he said.

“I do remember the Ghost Train. Jerking around corners, slamming through walls, shuddering past fluorescent vampire bats, tombstones and skeleton suited Marlboro smoking ghouls who reached out for you before they got pelted with food or sprayed with saliva. Just for fun!”

Luna Park’s iconic 104-year-old Carousel is currently closed while a mechanical malfunction is being diagnosed.

“The Carousel has been closed since June due to affecting one of the bearings housed on the main shaft that carries the entire weight of the horses and rotating structure,” Stuart said.

“The cause of the problem is still being investigated. It’s a slow and delicate process. We need to dismantle individual components from the structure to get to the three separate bearings. The three bearings perform different functions and it appears that the lower thrust bearing has been carrying too great a proportion of the weight It’s likely this work will take several months and involve the manufacture or possible importation of parts from overseas once the issues are fully known,” she said.

“We don’t know how much this will all cost but it could take hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix. This is on top of the nearly $3 million spent on restoring the Carousel over 1999-2001. Every endeavour is being made now to ensure the Carousel remains a working museum piece for another 100 years,” Stuart said.

The Great Scenic Railway, which dates back to the opening of Luna Park in 1912, is the oldest continuously operating wooden roller coaster in the world. Because it is wooden, it is able to be progressively rebuilt. Heritage repairs and maintenance on the Great Scenic Railway cost over $1 million over 2016 and 2017.

“The Great Scenic Railway is like the Sydney Harbour Bridge,” Stuart said. “As soon as you finish painting and repairing it, you have to start all over again.”

Other heritage-listed attractions requiring ongoing preservation include the Ghost Train and Mr Moon’s Face and Towers at the entrance.

Luna Park celebrates the 105th anniversary of its opening on 13 December.

“This is an amazing achievement. The echoes of all of the laughter and delight of all of the people over those 105 years instils the very fabric of Luna Park,” Stuart said.