Visions of a Circus at Coney Island
No, this is not the artistic rendering of a future Renaissance Faire at City Hall Plaza or some Bryant Park fashion-week event. It is the advance view, to be unveiled on Thursday, of the new tented circus that Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus will bring to Coney Island on June 18.
A press conference on the site, near Surf Avenue and West 21st Street, is to reveal that the new circus by the ocean — to be called “The Coney Island Boom-a-Ring” — will import an entire complex of big-top activity: a 2,300-seat air-conditioned yellow-and-blue main tent (currently being transported on a container ship from England), as well as food-court tents and animal open-house and performers’ tents — the better to exhibit the show’s 7 tigers, 7 dachshunds, 3 elephants and 29 performers (there will be 81 more backstage workers on the show).
Recently, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced the arrival of the Ringling touring show — called the Gold Unit, and distinct from its two touring shows for large arenas — as an ornament to his redevelopment plans for Coney Island. To revive the neighborhood’s historic amusement and entertainment area, the city is shepherding a plan through the public approval process that would establish a 27-acre entertainment district with 9.4 acres devoted exclusively to arcades, freak shows, roller coasters, Ferris wheels and other rides. There would also be hotels and 4,500 new apartments.
The circus, then, will be its symbol. “Usually when we have an opening night at Madison Square Garden, it’s all about us,” said Stephen C. Yaros, vice president of event marketing for Ringling in the Northeast. “But this opening night in June will be a celebration of Coney Island.”
He explained that aside from the estimated $10 million the circus is projected to pump into the economy over 12 summer weeks, “there will be grass-roots educational and library and community outreach efforts,” Mr. Yaros said, “and we will be hiring local contractors to clear the site, and our circus people will be living there.”
Of course, Thursday’s announcement will be all about the circus, too: not only the hoopla of political speeches — Brooklyn politicians and development officials are expected to participate — but also the ballyhoo that only a circus can bring: Clowns. A ringmaster. Clowns. An elephant. And, of course, animal-rights protesters, who have announced their opposition to the show.
“Ringling is excited because we’re making a long-term investment in the community,” Mr. Yaros said. “We’re hoping for a three- to five-year run in Coney Island by the sea.”
By Glenn Collins
New York Times