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San Diego's The Giant Dipper Celebrates 95 Year Anniversary

July 4, 2020

Although currently closed due to COVID-19, San Diego's iconic The Giant Dipper at Belmont Park celebrates its 95th anniversary today, originally opening on July 4, 1925.

The Giant Dipper at Belmont Park was designed and built by Fred Church and Frank Prior, who constructed the wooden roller coaster in less than a month. The entire Mission Beach Amusement Center, which Belmont Park was called at the time, was developed at a cost of $2.5 million by John D. and Adolph Spreckels to attract visitors and residents to the Mission Beach area, with the roller coaster as its main attraction. The ride was renamed the Roller Coaster in the 1950s, the attraction was given to the city of San Diego in 1954. On February 2, 1955, a fire severely damaged the Roller Coaster and killed the park's head mechanic. The ride was thereafter closed for 2 years until it was repaired and reopened on May 31, 1957.


The Roller Coaster was designated a San Diego Historic Landmark on December 7, 1973, and was renamed the Earthquake in 1976. The Earthquake operated until the park closed due to financial issues on November 28, 1976, when it was essentially abandoned for years. The ride was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on December 27, 1978. In August 1979, the ride was scheduled for demolition, but that was cancelled in April 1980. The Earthquake was damaged by two separate arson attacks on February 27 and March 18, 1981. In 1981, the Save the Coaster Committee was formed to save and refurbish the ride and acquired ownership of the Earthquake on August 18, 1982.


The coaster was designated a National Historic Landmark on February 27, 1987. In September 1989, the San Diego Seaside Company took ownership of the ride and changed the name back to the original, The Giant Dipper. The ride was restored and reopened on August 11, 1990. In 1997, local radio station Star 100.7 held a marathon on the ride where contestants rode the coaster for 12 hours straight for 11 days in a row. The marathon was so successful that the radio station held a second marathon on the Giant Dipper in 1998 which lasted an incredible 70 days. Winning contestants split a check for $50,000 in cash prizes.


The Giant Dipper is the 10th oldest roller coaster in the world, the last surviving coaster built in 1925, and one of only 3 surviving Fred Church designs. For more information on The Giant Dipper, visit belmontpark.com/ride/giant-dipper-roller-coaster.