Following its closure in 2007, questions have swirled among northeast Ohioans wondering what would become of the former Geauga Lake Amusement Park site in the city of Aurora and in Bainbridge Township.
Fifteen years after the amusement park shut its doors, some of those questions have been answered. According to Industrial Commercial Properties (ICP), a Cleveland-based real estate development company, a Menards store and possibly a grocery store have been planned on the Bainbridge side of the site, along with a new apartment development.
A mixed-use development also is planned closer to the lake itself, which will be ringed by a boardwalk. Bloomfield Hills, Michigan-based PulteGroup is building homes in Aurora on land near what used to be the SeaWorld’s parking lot.
ICP bought 377 acres of the former Geauga Lake and SeaWorld properties from Cedar Fair in 2020 and has since sold a portion of the site to Menards and Vision Development, a multifamily development company based out of Columbus, Ohio.
None of the former roller coasters, rides, water slides and other attractions were left by Cedar Fair, which acquired the property in 2004, but remnants of those rides were left as of fall 2021. Cedar Fair also operates Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, about an hour west of Geauga Lake.
“Pretty much every foundation and footer for any of these rides were left in place,” says Jeff Martin, senior vice president of development for ICP. “We also had the wave pools that were underground.”
So far, he says, Grafton, Ohio-based Sitetech Inc.—the firm conducting the demolition on the site—has processed 52,000 tons of concrete and 10,000 tons of asphalt, and there’s more to come.
“We’ve come to a pause right now, and we’re actually pursuing demolition grant funding from the state [of Ohio],” Martin says. “There’s an active program out there right now that we submitted to earlier this calendar year, and we’re hoping to get a successful grant award in July.”
The grant, offered through the Ohio Department of Development, is specifically geared toward demolition projects, he adds.
So far, Sitetech has processed footers, walkways, parking areas, building foundations and slabs from about 40 acres of the site.
“A lot of that [377-acre property] is not developable acreage; there are wetland complexes around the lake, and there are deed-restricted areas,” Martin explains.
Sitetech started work at Geauga Lake in November 2021 and finished up the 40-acre area in April, says Sitetech Vice President Jason Friscone.
“We started demobilization at the end of April, and by May we were wrapped up with the recycling portion of the project,” he adds.
In addition to the aggregate recycled on-site, Friscone says the company recycled about 100 tons of metal from the site.
“There was no actual large steel left,” he says. “Whoever did the initial demo of removing all the above-grade stuff had already harvested all of that, so there’s only the steel that was the byproduct of processing it out of the concrete.” That was mostly limited to rebar and wire mesh, he adds.
A ‘huge undertaking’
The amusement park was an unusual project, one which Sitetech hasn’t often seen, says Friscone.
“We have actually done some work up at Cedar Point for various things, and that’s probably our only other exposure to demoing amusement parks,” he says. “Obviously, there’s not a lot of amusement parks that come and go … Everything has its own unique situation, and, in this one, I would say the uniqueness was just the massive foundations for some of the coasters and waterslides.”
The ride foundations were the most challenging aspect of the project, he says.
“On one of the coasters, I think the foundations were over 1,000 yards of concrete with 2-inch anchor bolts embedded in them,” Friscone says. “They spared no expense.”
Martin says he agrees that removing those foundations was a “huge undertaking.”
“The Texas Twister was probably the most challenging,” he says. “We had probably school-bus-sized foundations that supported that ride. There were hundreds of these roller coaster footers all over the place.”
Friscone says the ride foundations were “massive,” adding that many were equivalent to foundations found on large-scale buildings.
“Even on multilevel buildings … you don’t have massive foundations like this. These were almost caisson in nature.
“A large chunk of them were over 48 inches in diameter, and some of them were 8- and 10-foot,” he says.
The asphalt and concrete aggregate will be reused on-site without being sent to a plant for reprocessing, Martin says.
“We’ve crushed it into [Type 1 and 2] aggregate on site,” he says. “We set up one plant right there, and now there are huge, huge piles of aggregates out there that we’re going to be using for road base and utility backfill and, hopefully, base for our trail system around the lake. We’re going to find a way to recycle it and use it all on-site,” Martin adds.
Type 1 and 2 aggregates are roughly fist-size stones that can be used to create driveways for equipment and other site activities, such as a place to store material so it doesn’t get muddy, Friscone explains.
Getting the job done
Friscone says the company used a variety of excavators and attachments to process material for the Geauga Lake project.
A Komatsu PC490 was paired with a Genesis LXP processor, and an NPK breaker was mounted on a PC350.
“The really massive stuff you have to hit with a breaker to get it down to a size that’s under 2 feet thick,” he explains. “Once you get it to that size, you can grab it with those John Deere pulverizers and crack it down to basketball- or football-size pieces.”
The company also used two John Deere 450C LC excavators with Labounty CP100 concrete pulverizers to break up large chunks of cement.
After the concrete and asphalt is broken into smaller pieces, Friscone says it is processed by a Lippman crusher into aggregate that can serve as fill for different uses on the Geauga Lake site.
The recovered aggregate will then be used for “lay down areas” to build up out of the mud for more stable construction. It also can be used for backfilling trenches and excavation areas.
“[The recycled aggregate] is providing a clean area for you to construct your new facility,” Friscone says. “Instead of having dirt that you’re working off of, you can put that down and have a nice clean surface to work off of for staging your new materials … or you can park vehicles for trades parking. When you’ve got to get concrete trucks in for new foundations, you can lay this stuff down so that you’re just up out of the mud.”
Friscone also says some of the aggregates can be used as a base for walkways and utilities. Work on Bigger Dipper Road, a road bisecting the site between the commercial and residential/mixed-use sides, is underway, he adds. Although the on-site aggregate will not be part of the upper layers of asphalt, he says a portion of that will be recycled, as well.
“At the asphalt plant itself, they will mix in or blend in a percentage of recycled material, but they control that there at the asphalt plant,” he explains. “So, there won’t technically be any actual recycled product from this job site in the final product. But there will be a percentage of recycled content; all asphalt has a percentage of recycled content. Very rarely anymore do you get a true virgin mix where it’s all new.”
Many developers bid out demolition and infrastructure installation separately, but that was not ICP’s choice. Once the asphalt is crushed, Sitetech, which is unique because it handles the demolition part of the process and the installation of roads and utilities, will reuse the aggregate on-site, Friscone says.
“We do all types of commercial construction from the demolition ... to large-scale earth moving and underground utilities,” he explains.
“Our specialty is turnkey projects where people hire us to come in and develop all the infrastructure,” Friscone adds. “Sometimes, there are existing facilities that need to be demoed. We’re a one-stop-shop for that kind of work.”