Beach Haven — There’s a new lighthouse on the Island. Kind of.
The new 80-foot-tall Lighthouse Sky Tower ride made its official debut at Fantasy Island Amusement Park in Beach Haven last Thursday, as community figures and their families gathered around for the cutting of a bright red ribbon with colossal red scissors.
Eager faces of all ages anticipated the climb for seated riders which delivered the promise of a spectacular view, regardless of the seat. Fantasy Island owner Brian Wainwright encouraged guests to ride twice to experience the view overlooking the ocean as well as the bay. Squeals of delight and fluttering feet dangled in the air in excitement. A woman was overheard remarking, “I can almost see my house from here!” Seven-year-old Kristian Demopoulos, from Waretown, gladly climbed on for a second ride. “It’s fun,” he exclaimed. “You can see everything!”
“One of the first landmarks people see when they get to Beach Haven is the Giant Wheel,” noted Jan Quinn of Forked River, the park’s director of marketing. “The Sky Tower is even taller than the Wheel, and because it’s modeled after the lighthouse, it’s another community icon for LBI.”
The idea to customize the Sky Tower was introduced at the annual industry event. “We decided to theme it to the Barnegat Lighthouse, and design started in December,” explained Wainwright. His team has been actively working to bring the ride to fruition for the 2019 season. The ride was manufactured by Italian company Zamperla, which impressed Wainwright by delivering the Sky Tower within a tight time frame.
Of course, because the Barnegat Lighthouse (a must-see for any visitor to LBI) stands 171 feet tall, and takes 217 steps to climb, the Fantasy Island Lighthouse Sky Tower had grandiose aspirations. Thirty-one feet taller than its predecessor, the new ride takes just a few seconds to climb. The breathtaking view distracts riders from the invigorating plunge that follows. Those brave enough to ride received a T-shirt reading, “I survived the Lighthouse Launch!”
Wainwright’s family has enjoyed summers on LBI for decades, and he has been a full-time local since 1993. Until Wainwright acquired the amusement park last February, Fantasy Island had been a summer staple for his family since its opening in 1984. “We love it here. My youngest (son) would be here every day if we let him,” he laughed.
Team members confirmed that statement, endearingly referring to 9-year-old Austin Wainwright as “our future boss.” Austin shared that he enjoys being a part of Fantasy Island. “It’s fun, and I know everyone here.” Austin had the pleasure of trialing the ride prior to the ceremony, and looked forward to sharing it with the community. He exclaimed, “It’s my favorite ride! There’s a great view.”
Austin’s 11-year-old brother, Avery, delighted in the ride from a completely different perspective. “I really like it. I know how it works,” he shared enthusiastically. Avery was more interested in the engineering theory behind powering the ride. When asked if he plans to become an engineer someday, he responded, “Actually, I’d like to be a train engineer. I want to bring back steam engines!”
The rides are open Friday, Saturday and Sunday through September.
— Monique M. Demopoulos