Miracle Strip Amusement Park opened in 1963 with the Starliner Roller Coaster as it’s main attraction. Located across from the beach in Panama City, the park did not look like your average theme park and resembled the traditional seaside boardwalks of the past. The park featured many of the typical rides you would find at any carnival nowadays including scramblers, bumper cars, a carousel and a haunted house. Some of the rides, such as the Abominable Snowman and Dante’s Inferno, were enhanced by placing them in dome structures and adding lighting effects, temperature changes, smoke effects and music.
In 2003, it was announced that the park would close the following year due to lack of interest, loss of money and increased expenses to keep the rides maintained and running. Many of the rides were either sold off or disappeared, some being found and reopened under the same name. Any of the remaining structures or rides that weren’t sold were later demolished.
In 2008, Pier Park opened down the street where Miracle Strip once stood, an open-air dining, entertainment and shopping mall. Teddy Meeks, a wholesale jeweler, sought to put a carousel in Pier Park. After much searching, in 2009, he found not only a carousel, but the original carousel from Miracle Strip which has been sitting in storage on the old Miracle Strip property since 2004.
After a year in operation and officially named “Miracle Strip“, Pier Park approached Meeks with the idea of adding a ferris wheel. He looked for the park’s original ferris wheel which he found out was moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee and was also not for sale. Deciding on the next best thing, Meeks found an exact make and model of the ride in California. Soon after, the last two remaining rides from the Miracle Strip property, a 1985 Zamperalla Balloon Race and a 1952 Allen Herschell Red Baron plane ride, were bought and added to Pier Park.
In October 2010, news outlets reported that Teddy and Jenny Meeks along with two other partners had bought the Starliner roller coaster for $2 million and has started efforts to rebuild it. More recent sources though have reported that the Starliner sits in storage in Palmetto, FL and is still up for sale as of September 2012. The current owner, Ridewerks, have considered donating the Starliner train to the National Roller Coaster Museum but also said that another possible option was that Pier Park was still interested in maybe one day rebuilding the coaster.
Photographer: Jason Koertge
Year Taken: 2009