Originally called Mission Beach Amusement Center, this historical and active treasure of San Diego opened in 1925. At the turn of the century Sugar King, John D. Spreckels, was a spearhead for most of San Diego’s development, and he had his eye on the rising popularity of Mission beach. To promote real estate and his electric railway, he built this amusement center and it was a huge hit in the 30’s and 40’s.
The Giant Dipper Roller Coaster still stands as an iconic feature, is 2,600 foot long, made of wood, and was built in 2 months. The project cost around $150,000 and attracted hundreds of visitors. Along with other novelty rides, storefronts and large swimming pool were built in a Spanish style, mimicked after Balboa Park.
The Natatorium was also the main feature, later known as the Plunge Swimming pool. At the time it was the largest saltwater pool in the world, holding up to 400,000 Gallons of water, decorated in beautiful Spanish architecture. It was later turned into a freshwater pool when the salt started to corrode the infrastructure.
Almost a year after it’s opening, Spreckels died, and the amusement park went to the city of San Diego and was renamed Belmont Park in 1955. In the 60’s and 70’s, however, the entire park became an eyesore and was almost demolished. Eventually, the coaster shut down, and so did The Plunge for not meeting safety standard with decay in 1987.
Luckily citizens called for restoration, and private developers revamped the shopping center and pool while keeping some of the original space intact. It wasn’t until 1989 did the long project of restoring the Big Dipper start. It took 2 million dollars to complete its restoration and opened in 1990 with much skepticism if it would benefit the space at all.
With much luck and success, the citizens of San Diego supported the redesigned space and visited the park 3 times more than expected according to the analyst at the time. Today, it remains a popular place to visit while strolling along the beach, with the Rollercoaster still in operation. The site is surrounded by several shops for beachwear, desserts, and food with a carnival theme. Even major festivals are hosted annually at Belmont Park, making it a thriving historical treasure!