Archive | February, 2010

Zippin Pippin collapses while being dismantled

The Zippin Pippin has taken its last ride in Memphis, partially collapsing Thursday before being dismantled for sale to Green Bay, Wis.

“A section had fallen down, and they decided to lay down the rest of the Pippin,” said Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mulroy, president of Save Libertyland! Inc., the nonprofit group negotiating the sale of the century-old roller coaster to Green Bay.

Mulroy said that while Green Bay is buying the rights to all the Zippin Pippin’s material, most of the wood, which has been exposed to the elements since the Libertyland amusement park closed in 2005, could not be used.

Green Bay is acquiring the name, design and configuration of the roller coaster, Mulroy said.

“They’ll be able to say the only Zippin Pippin in the world is in Green Bay,” he said. “Some of the wood is salvageable. Some of it isn’t. They’re still trying to figure that out. Frankly, Green Bay may only use a small portion of that wood.”

During an afternoon news conference at attorney Leslie Ballin’s office Thursday, Mulroy said the sale of the vintage ride is proceeding. The mayor of the Wisconsin city will take the proposed purchase to his parks committee next week, with full city council approval likely in March, Mulroy said.

“They want to get this deal finalized in 60 days,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ballin, who said he has been doing pro bono legal work for Save Libertyland for several months, admitted there was a “difference of opinion” with the city of Memphis over who owns the Zippin Pippin right now.

Save Libertyland claims it is the current owner, but the city — which supports the group’s efforts to sell the roller coaster to Green Bay — says it owns the Zippin Pippin until it is taken apart and stored.

Mulroy said a dispute over how he came to be in control of Save Libertyland was a meaningless side issue.

“The important thing is what is going to happen with the Pippin,” he said.

Denise Parkinson, who formed Save Libertyland in 2005 with Mulroy and other concerned citizens, claims Mulroy, whose high-profile work with the group helped him land his District 5 County Commission seat in 2006, dropped her from the group and put himself in control of the organization when filing paperwork with the state.

If the sale to Green Bay is completed, Save Libertyland would receive a “five figure” amount for the Zippin Pippin. Nonprofit groups like Save Libertyland can pay officers like Mulroy a salary, but the county commissioner said he won’t take any payments. He said he would like to use the funds to commemorate the historic nature of the Zippin Pippin and Libertyland.

Mulroy is up for re-election to his commission seat. The county primary is May 4 and the general election is Aug. 5.

“I hope it is clear that there is no ulterior political nor financial motive on the part of Commissioner Mulroy, as his past four years work have simply been for the good of Memphis,” Ballin said in a statement.

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Zippin Pippin to Wisconsin

Although there is still no official confirmation, the Zippin Pippin will likely be moving to Wisconsin. According to the Associated Press,

“MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) – If the mayor of Green Bay, Wis., gets his way, the old wooden roller coaster Elvis Presley loved to ride will be rolling north.

The Commercial Appeal reported Mayor Jim Schmitt and Green Bay’s parks director Bill Landvatter were in Memphis on Monday, looking over the Zippin Pippin, which is being dismantled.

Schmitt didn’t disclose the asking price, but said most of what he anticipates his city paying would be to move the coaster to Beach Bay Amusement Park.

It’s being disassembled after the closure of Libertyland amusement park in 2005 and the planned redevelopment of the site.

Schmitt said he’s talked to city engineers and said “this can happen.”

Schmitt said he would recommend his city “work diligently” to acquire the Pippin and move it.”

Click here to see new photos of the Zippin Pippin.

Update from Memphis’ mayor:

“This morning, I met with Mayor Jim Schmitt of Green Bay, Wisconsin to discuss the potential sale and relocation of the Zippin Pippin roller coaster Mayor Schmitt and members of his staff have been in Memphis since yesterday afternoon and spent this morning on the Fairgrounds examining the roller coaster up close, prior to meeting with me in City Hall. While both of us have a number of due diligence steps left to take, the conversation was tremendously encouraging. By all accounts, Bay Beach Amusement Park in Green Bay sounds like it would be a wonderful new home for the Pippin, and I plan on doing everything I can to help the process move forward. This is a wonderful opportunity for both of our great cities, and we are hopeful that it will lead to something of great mutual value and benefit for all of our citizens.”

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Final Zippin Pippin photos

I said the last time I went to Libertyland that I would not return. I seemed to be at peace with the park’s demise and was ready to move past the troubling time. However the recent news of the Zippin Pippin brought me back to what was Libertyland. The following photos show what little is left.

It’s hard to imagine that an amusement park once stood here.

A piece of a red building and Zippin Pippin’s structure can be seen in the distance.

Once again, looking at what is left through a chain link fence.

I’m not sure what’s left for them to keep trespassers from.

At first one might not realize anything wrong with this photo. However, a closer look gives an onlooker a much sadder picture.

The turnaround now sits dormant, awaiting the decision from a possible buyer.

Now I’m no expert, but it doesn’t seem as if this dismantling process was done with “care”.

Granted, this wood would have to be replaced regardless, but it’s still depressing to see this historical ride in such a dismal state.

These splintered beams were once supporting the nation’s second-oldest roller coaster.

I hope if the Zippin Pippin cannot find another home, that pieces of the ride will be given away. It would be the least the city could do.

It’s a true shame that this is what it has come to.

My first ride on the Zippin Pippin sparked my interests in roller coasters. I remember very little about it, other than a few of the drops… seeing the person’s head in front of me the entire ride… almost hitting that tree next to the first drop. I remember later being too afraid to ride the coaster… riding the coaster with some of my best friends… and then standing beside new friends in order to try to save it.

Zippin Pippin, a piece of not only Memphis history, but American history, has certainly left it’s mark on those who were fortunate enough to experience it.


John Stevenson

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