WEST MIFFLIN (AP) Kennywood Park, the western Pennsylvania attraction that has entertained young and old for more than a century, plans to increase its size by more than 50 percent in a bid to lure more visitors, park officials said July 6.
Much of the proposed 50-acre expansion, however, depends on the construction of a $2.5-billion toll road nearby.
Kennywood President Pete McAneny said a hotel and water park are possible, but beyond that it’s not yet clear what kinds or how many new attractions might be built as part of the expansion.
More than one million people visit Kennywood each year and McAneny said an expanded park could boost that number by 30 percent.
The park has hired architect Bruce Robinson of Cincinnati to work on the project. Robinson previously designed the “Lost Kennywood” section, a tribute to old amusement parks, which opened 10 years ago.
Kennywood Entertainment Co. bought 12 acres of a partially vacant shopping plaza and has agreed to buy the remaining 10 acres in the plaza and a 23-acre brownfield tract owned by Union Railroad. A few businesses, including craft and thrift stores, remain in the plaza.
Kennywood’s expansion depends on the completion of the Mon-Fayette Expressway, which currently runs approximately 35 mi. from Route 51 in Jefferson Hills in southern Allegheny County through Fayette and Washington counties. When completed, the highway would stretch 70 mi. from Pittsburgh to Interstate 68 in West Virginia.
“It’s a very, very important project that is critical for us,” McAneny said. “We need to tell people exactly what this means to us.”
He expects the completed expressway would turn Kennywood and two other properties owned by the company, Sandcastle Water Park in nearby West Homestead, and Idlewild Park in Ligonier, into regional entertainment destinations, attracting visitors from neighboring Ohio, West Virginia and Maryland.
The toll road is slated to run through much of the Monongahela River Valley where the park is now situated next to a much smaller state highway, Route 837.
The state plans to start buying properties for right of way in late 2006, said Tom Fox, Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission spokesman.
McAneny said he realizes it could be several years before the expressway is completed. The acquisition of neighboring land is the company’s attempt to get ready for it. Kennywood Park, which began business in 1898 as a trolley park and evolved into the Pittsburgh-area’s leading amusement park, sits on 93 acres in West Mifflin. The planned expansion would take the park into neighboring Duquesne.
If the expressway isn’t completed, Kennywood would go through with some of its expansion plans, McAneny said. But he said he’s optimistic the toll road will be finished.
“We’re pretty confident this is going to happen or else we wouldn’t be making these kinds of commitments,” McAneny said.