Budapest Telegraph

Budapest Zoo absorbs most of the territory of bankrupt Amusement Park

Saturday Oct 5, 2013

Tibor Pethő | Source: Magyar Nemzet

Once a crowd-puller and a pride of Budapest, the Amusement Park has gradually lost its appeal. The Zoo will acquire most of its area and will use it to display subtropical fauna and flora in a spacious glasshouse. The territory of the Zoo will grow from 11 hectares to 16 but it was 18 hectares at the end of the 19th century. As the Roller Coaster, the carousel, the grotto train are considered historical monuments, they will stay.

Founded in 1951, the Amusement Park as we know it closed in early October 2013. Its halcyon days gradually ended in the late 1980s when the standards of its services started to decline. After Hungary’s transition to market economy the Amusement Park slipped into the red and in 2010 it went bankrupt. It could only carry on with a bailout from the Municipality of Budapest. Even though the price of a ticket was raised to nearly HUF 5000 [three times as high as a movie ticket] it could only limp on with continued subsidies from the local government. Standards slipped to those of countryside fairs.

Year by year the Amusement Park defaulted on its debts. The drastic fall in gate money was the main cause why the rides could not be modernized. A few years ago the Zoo started leasing a section of the Amusement Park that was set aside for toddlers.

It is little known that the Zoo’s expansion is nothing more than returning it the area it once possessed. Zoltán Hanga, spokesperson for the Zoo, who has told journalists that flocked to see the last day of the Amusement Park that there are some legal obstacles to uniting the territory of the two entities. There is a street between them, which is public space. The municipality has to find a way to connect the two institutions and perhaps footbridges will have to be built for the purpose.

A theme park dedicated to fairy tales will be established along the borderline of the two by 2017. There will be an adventure castle on the theme of Hungarian fables, a farmstead with typical Hungarian animals, a bird hospital and a horse stable that children can visit.

The subtropical fauna and flora will be shown on the area that is now much of the Amusement Park. The facility will be a closed ecological system (a biodome), which is like a vast glasshouse. It will cover two hectares of land and its height will range between 20 and 40 meters. It will include an aquatic safari, adventure routes, recreational equipment and fish tanks. The facility will be heated with thermal water from neighboring Szechenyi Bath. The theme park and the biodome, the latter called Pannon Garden, are to be inaugurated in 2017.

What will remain of the Amusement Park? The carousel, which is about a hundred years old, the Roller Coaster, a scenic waterway for boats, the grotto train that evokes scenes from poems by Sandor Petofi (1823–1849), the timber building above the bumping cars and the wall of the old shooting gallery. The public will probably get access to them in spring 2014. Nothing is known about the fate of the other rides. They will be offered for sale in one lot and what remains will probably be dismantled.

“What about the Ferris Wheel?” I ask from Hanga. “It has been in continuous operation in the City Park since 1862. We would miss it,” I almost implore. “It will probably stay, depending on its technical status,” Hanga answers. He adds that the rotating barrel might also stay. He is eager to convince us that the Zoo, the new owner of the area, will do its best to preserve as much as possible from the olden atmosphere of the City Park.

The creation of the new facilities of the Zoo might be delayed if the construction crews find uncharted gas or other mains in the ground beneath the old Amusement Park facilities.

[Abridged version of the Hungarian original.]

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