The Phoenix rises in Coney Island during ribbon-cutting ceremony

July 1, 2021 Jaime DeJesus
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After months of anticipation, the official ribbon-cutting ceremony and grand opening of the Phoenix roller coaster, Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park’s newest ride, took place Thursday, July 1 at 10 a.m.

The grand opening came in the wake of Saturday’s “soft opening” of the ride, described as a “family thrill roller coaster.” The park’s management received the official green light at the last minute, much to the delight of thrill seekers. 

And according to the Vourderis family, the park’s owners, reviews have been overwhelmingly positive.

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The first 100 people who visited the park got to ride for free. Souvenirs and T-shirts that read “I Rode the Phoenix” were on hand, as were Vourderis family members, representatives of the  Alliance for Coney Island and elected officials.

Dennis Vourderis talks about the opening of the Phoenix.Photos courtesy of Jim McDonnell/Alliance for Coney Island Face

“When the pandemic hit, like so many, we didn’t know what to do, we only knew what we could do,” said co-owner D.J. Vourderis. “And as we are a family-run amusement park, we could provide a place, after such painful and trying times, for us all to heal. 

“We decided to go ahead with building the Phoenix because we believe in people, we believe in New York, and we love Coney Island and what it represents; a place where people from different walks of life, different opinions and ideals, can come together and remember what it feels like to smile again,” he said

“Congratulations to the Vourderis family on the official opening of the PHOENIX,” the Alliance of Coney Island posted on Facebook. “A monumental day for Deno’s Wonder Wheel Amusement Park and Coney Island!  We hope you have this amazing coaster on your list to ride this holiday weekend!”

The original announcement that the new coaster was coming was made in December 2020, during the pandemic.

The Phoenix was included on USA Today’s list of most-anticipated roller coasters of 2021. It was in good company, with Universal Studios Orlando and Legoland also on the list.

The Phoenix is 68 feet tall and features a speed of around 34 miles per hour. According to the Deno’s team, riders will feel like they are flying around the Wonder Wheel with views of the beach and Boardwalk. It features intense twists and turns.

Visitors ride the new Phoenix roller coaster.Photos courtesy of Jim McDonnell/Alliance for Coney Island Facebook

“The Vourderis family is delighted to invite everyone to the first ride at its grand opening,” said Steve Vourderis, the park’s other co-owner. “We cherish and honor the memory of our parents, Denos and Lula Vourderis, who started believing in and building up Coney Island in 1947.”

Alexandra Silversmith, executive director of the Alliance for Coney Island, was impressed with the new attraction.

“Nothing can be more appropriate than the Phoenix Roller Coaster rising from the ashes of 2020 and the pandemic after it upended our shores and the world,” she said. “The views and thrills on the Phoenix are truly phenomenal and unlike any other ride in Coney Island. Kudos to the Vourderis family for the investment and vision to bring this coaster to reality.”

Deno’s Wonder Wheel was preparing to celebrate its 100th anniversary last year with a slew of events. Due to COVID-19, the Vourderis family joined fans, elected officials and Coney Island historians on social media and YouTube to express their love for the Wonder Wheel itself, one of the country’s most famous ferris wheels. It was also featured during Macy’s 4th of July fireworks display.

This year, the park hopes to celebrate the anniversary the right way, with the Phoenix being the start.

“I rode the new and exhilarating Phoenix roller coaster in Coney Island! Kudos to the Vourderis family for this thrilling addition to the iconic amusement district,” said Councilmember Mark Treyger.

The Vourderis family during the ribbing-cutting.
Photos courtesy of Jim McDonnell/Alliance for Coney Island Facebook

Councilmember Mark Treyger discusses the opening of the new ride.Photos courtesy of Jim McDonnell/Alliance for Coney Island Facebook

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