Excited for Kings Island opening this weekend? Not as much as Warren County officials are

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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King's Island announced they are bringing back their antique car attraction in spring of 2019. (video courtesy of King's Island)

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Kings Island opens for the season this weekend, and the local amusement park continues to be one of the primary factors in Warren County’s economic growth, according to the Warren County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The group recently said the attraction was one of Warren County’s most visited places in 2018, along with Caesar Creek State Park, the Little Miami Scenic Trail, Miami Valley Gaming, the Ohio Renaissance Festival, the Ohio Sauerkraut Festival and the Western & Southern Open.

It also scored “Best Hangout for Teens” and “Best Place for a Day of Family Fun” in the visitors bureau’s most recent “Best of Warren County” poll.

The economic impact of tourism in the county was most recently estimated as $1.24 billion, according to WCCVB spokesperson Scott Hutchinson.

That’s a steady increase from 2011 ($993 million), 2013 ($1.063 billion) and 2015 ($1.168 billion).

“Tourism is a leading industry for us here in Warren County and Kings Island is an outstanding draw, ranking among our top 10 most visited attractions,” Hutchinson said. “More than 12 million people visit Warren County’s attractions, hotels, shops and restaurants every year, and the money they spend here boosts our local economy in a tremendous way.

Hutchinson said the visitors bureau promises its tourism partners it will not disclose specific annual attendance figures. Kings Island, which is part of a publicly traded partnership with Cedar Fair Entertainment Company, does not release attendance totals or economic impact for Kings Island or any individual park.

As businesses grow, they invest in enhancements and such, which accounts for the indirect, WCCVB officials said.

There also is induced spending across all categories. As more employees are hired, they have more money to spend in the county.

Kings Island invested in a series of additions, changes and upgrades in advance of the 2019 season.

It returned a popular attraction Kings Mills Antique Autos, which features two-third-scale replicas of a 1911 Ford Model T motoring along a track alongside lush landscaping, water features and a covered bridge.

Located next to The Racer in the park’s Coney Mall area, the nearly 3-minute antique autos ride features nods to the park’s past and is comparable to the original “Les Taxis” antique car ride, which closed in 2004.

The feature was one of the most requested rides to be brought back to the park, said Mike Koontz, Kings Island’s vice president and general manager.

“(It) will bring back a lot of memories for those who rode the cars from the ’70s, when the park opened, to 2003, when the antique cars left,” he said. “Some of those (people) are now adults with kids and grandkids, so it’s going to bring back a lot of great memories.

Kings Island also gave a facelift to the iconic International Street near its main entrance for the first time since the park opened more than 45 years ago.

Crews installed more than 130,000 new pavers to enhance landscaping and updated building facades with fresh paint, detailed stenciling and each of the countries’ flags that the building architecture represents.

Koontz said bringing back antique cars and touching up International Street was “about nostalgia” and, in the case of Kings Mills Antique Autos, bringing people to a part of the park that fewer people visited.

MORE: Kings Island’s antique car ride was first driving experience for many kids

The park also replaced the Reds Hall of Fame Grille with Miami River Brewhouse, which features a gastropub-type menu crafted by Kings Island Executive Chef James Major.

Guests can enjoy beer on tap from local breweries as well as menu with 27 different choices, including selections previously unavailable at Kings Island.

A dozen selections from Miami River Brewhouse are featured on the park’s all-season dining plan.

“Everything’s fresh, everything’s as local as could be,” Major said. “We have a lot of great options and we figured ‘What are the other trends that are going on around town that we can bring out here for our fans who come into the park?’”

Major said he wants guests dining on Miami River Brewhouse to say to themselves “Wow, I can’t believe we’re in an amusement park.”

MORE: New restaurant, brewhouse set to debut at Kings Island

IF YOU GO: Kings Island’s opening weekend

WHERE: 6300 Kings Island Drive, Mason

Opening day for passholders: 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday

Opening day for the public: 10 am. to 10 p.m. Saturday

Closed: Sunday for Easter

New to the park this season: restaurant Miami River Brewhouse, ride Kings Mills Antique Autos

Promotions: Starting at 10 a.m. Saturday, guests on the first 40 trains to depart The Beast's station will score a commemorative T-shirt for the roller coaster's 40th anniversary.

More information:www.visitkingsisland.com

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