In early 1900’s, Trolley Parks were all the rage in the United States. If you don’t know what a Trolley Park is, it’s a recreation park that was developed at the end of a trolley spur in a city or town to encourage ridership on the weekends – in essence giving people a reason to ride the cars (and spend money) on Saturday and Sunday. Those small parks were often near lakes, and eventually grew up to become full-fledged amusement parks. I am proud to say I started my career at one such park in New Hampshire, Canobie Lake Park.
Unfortunately due to that pesky invention, the automobile, people did not need to rely on trolleys as much for transportation, and the decline of the Trolley Parks began. Other economic factors were at play as well, and today only a handful survive.
Something occurred to me the other day, though, that got me thinking that there is a new generation of trolley parks popping up all over the country.
They are called FEC’s. Family Entertainment Centers. Some as quaint as an arcade and ice cream parlor, others as grand as mini-golf, go-karts, rides, games, restaurants, water slides… some are getting so big they are redefining the category of FEC. They are really small amusement parks.
Which tells me this: the market for a close-to-home, moderately priced attraction did not die with the Trolley Parks – it just went away for awhile. But now it seems to be back with a vengeance. With more and more “stay-cations” happening these days, a trip to the local FEC could be the perfect answer for an afternoon of merriment.
Of course the challenge for FEC operators is to ensure that their businesses do not fall out of favor like their predecessors. One significant advantage some of them have is that at least a portion of their attraction can be operated year round, even in colder climates.
So will FEC’s take the place of Trolley Parks? Have they already? What do you think?
Thanks for reading!