Belmont Park in Mission Beach is bouncing back, reopening some of its most popular rides as San Diego County springs forward through reduced COVID tier restrictions.
“We are doing a phased reopening starting April 1,” said Steve Thomas, general manager for the historic, seven-acre beachfront amusement center, which has conducted limited operations throughout the pandemic.
“Given our staffing limitations, we are opening a few of our major rides on April 1, then progressively more in the weeks ahead. As we continue through the different color-coded tiers, we’ll be able to open up more and more things.”
According to Thomas, the popular rides being rolled out on April 1 include the iconic Giant Dipper roller coaster and Beach Blaster, as well as the Big Swing, the Tilt-A-Whirl, and the Bumper Cars rides.
“Our Go Karts, rock wall, ropes course, and mini golf course have been allowed to be open while we’ve been in the Red Tier,” noted Thomas, adding much of the park, other than restaurants, has been closed for 10 months since June 2020. “Our restaurants have been open in some capacity, whether it be take-out only or outside, the entire time,” he added.
This is the second time in Belmont Park’s 95-year history that it has had to temporarily close its doors for an extended time. Open since 1925, Belmont closed in 1976 before reopening in 1988. The historic Plunge Pool, a private membership club open to the public, officially re-opened on July 4, 2019, after being closed and renovated for five years.
Of Belmont Park’s return, Thomas said: “It’s been a challenge to get people to come back to work. But as we add staff, we can open up as quickly, and safely as possible.”
COVID has slowed, but not halted, Belmont Park’s revitalization.
“Our plan over the last handful of years has been to slowly bring Belmont Park up to a new level, which started with the Plunge Pool, the heart of the project, moving outward from there,” noted Thomas, but “COVID has been really impactful.”
As restrictions loosen, Thomas noted: “We’ll continue our improvement of the park, continue to refine it, given where it’s at – a prime piece of real estate next to the ocean and the bay. It deserves to be a beautiful property. And that’s where we’re headed with it.”
Added Thomas: “We’re always looking to update things. First and foremost, we’d like to add in a couple more rides where we can find space for them. We’re always trying to make things nicer, better, bigger. But right now, our plan for improvement is just to take the park from ordinary to exceptional in its current form. We intend to keep the quintessential boardwalk vibe, but give it some upgraded amenities.”
Thomas said Belmont enjoys numerous advantages other than its unparalleled location including a largely outdoor orientation with plenty of restaurant space, and no “pinch points,” bottlenecks due to limited entrances/exits.
“We’re very open and outdoors, and that has worked in our favor,” Thomas said.
Belmont Park and its iconic Plunge Pool’s history date back to the 1920s and wealthy sugar magnate John D. Spreckels, who was pioneering San Diego’s early development. To stimulate real estate sales and promote his electric railway, Spreckels built the Mission Beach Amusement Center, now Belmont Park, in 1925.
Originally known as The Natatorium, the Plunge swimming pool was constructed as a centerpiece of the park. After acquiring the lease to Belmont Park in 2012, Pacifica Enterprises and the City of San Diego negotiated a new lease in 2015 and entered into a partnership. Visit belmontpark.com for more information.