Thursday, February 26, 2015

Last Guests of the Kings Island Resort



The amusement park next door was closed for the year, the resort for good. The final visitor's checked out months ago, but we were about to be the last guests of the Kings Island Resort.



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- The main lobby and former front desk.


Back in November 2014, I published a story about the closing of the Kings Island Resort and Conference Center (originally and still informally known as the Kings Island Inn). I had stopped by the hotel on it's final day of operation which coincided with the nearby amusement park's last day of the season. On that day, I made small talk with the general manager who had just locked things up.

The article featured photographs made while walking around the outside of the hotel and detailed the location's history and appearances in pop culture (along with the amusement park, it had been featured in episodes of The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family). Not long after our photos went up, local television stations rushed to quickly put out their own, yet condensed versions of the story.

Then an auction to liquidate the property's assets was announced and held.

Fences went up around the property.

News broke of a plan to develop luxury apartments on the site.

Demolition was imminent.

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- Main entrance.


As my ongoing "Kings Waffle" project will reflect, I'm regularly visiting the Mason/Kings Island area. I figured any day I'd start seeing the building come down. Despite all the time I spend nearby and after years of working at the amusement park, I had never actually been inside the resort complex. That was about to change.

I got an email from my friend Mike, an urban explorer based out of Dayton. Mike had received permission to visit the property before it was completely demolished. We worked out a day and met up in the hotel's parking lot one cold February morning. Part of the site was already being razed as we were given instructions on where it was safe and unsafe to go. We walked into the main lobby and down a long hallway.

In a way, Mike and I would get to be the last guests to visit the Kings Island Resort.

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- The Great Wolf Lodge, a contemporary direct competitor to the Kings Island Resort, stands directly across the street as demolition begins. 


The Kings Island Inn had opened with its neighbor amusement park in 1972. Themed to an alpine chalet, it wasn't just one of the few hotel options near the brand new park, but a year round resort experience unique to the region as well. Over the years, the resort would come to change along with the amusement park (see the original article for a more detailed history). The two existed under the same ownership, management and operation until 1992 when Cincinnati icon Carl Lindner sold the park to Paramount communications. I'm still not entirely certain, but sometime after this the hotel was sold off to an independent operator. Despite still retaining the "Kings Island" name, the park no longer had an official relationship with the amusement park.

The years went on and despite additional competition popping up, the Kings Island Resort and Conference Center remained. Online reviews were mixed: summer vacation regulars seemed to love it, while others panned the dated carpet and aging buildings. A former employee we ran into during our tour described things like this:

"Every summer we made lots of money. Every winter we lost money. Eventually we started losing more than we were making."

When Kings Island ramps up its rides and opens its gates this coming Spring, it'll be the first season in 43 years that the resort isn't across the street.

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As we walked through the hotel, you could see the original design amongst the attempt to keep things updated. Staircase bannisters reflected the long abandoned "alpine chalet" theme, while key cards and brochures advertised wi-fi.

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The rooms seemed to vary in how much age they showed. On the outer reaches of the building, rooms were equipped with burgundy carpeting and 70's era "retro" headboards. Closer to the main lobby, you could tell several of the rooms had been "modernized" over the years.

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Outside, a backhoe was already knocking down parts of the resort. Inside, demolition prep had begun. Piles of televisions, bedding and lamps remained - not lucky enough to have been bought at auction.

- Photograph by Mike Sopronyi

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- Ballroom/reception hall.


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- Hallway bordering one of the former restaurant seating areas.


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The kitchen that served the resort's two restaurants had been stripped of its grills and prep areas. An instructional menu remained on the wall, the floor was still slick.

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- Gutted kitchen.


Across the way, the pedestrian bridge connecting the main hotel with the indoor pool had been partially demolished to allow tractor trailers to pass through.

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- The former pedestrian bridge connecting two wings of the hotel and the indoor pool.


Inside, most of the pool's water had been drained:

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- Photograph by Mike Sopronyi


After walking the length of the main building and checking out room after room after room, Mike and I went out to the courtyard surrounding the hotel's outdoor pool. The same pool where they filmed the Partridge Family episode, the one where legendary Reds catcher Johnny Bench played a waiter:

- Legendary Cincinnati Reds catcher Johnny Bench as he appeared playing a poolside waiter in an episode of the Partridge Family that was filmed at the resort.


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- The outdoor pool.


Like I had written nearly three months ago, the vast size of the ground still astounded me. This place had really been something unique in terms of what it was and what it was originally intended to be. For some, their memories still live on in a facebook group.

We made our last photographs, gathered our gear and headed out to the parking lot. I found an old room keycard on the ground amongst some rubble. I stuck it in my wallet and kept it. There wouldn't be a front desk left standing soon to return it to anyways.


"The End of Suburban Cincinnati's Alpine Chalets:" the first QC/D article about the Kings Island Resort, which features a more in depth look at the building's history.

Special thanks to Mike, who made this update possible.

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Over the years, several of QC/D's urban exploration stories have focused on abandoned amusement parks: View all of the stories

Update | Oct. 22, 2017:

13 comments:

  1. Would love to get out and do some exploration myself before its all gone :-( Great article loved the history and the pictures!

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  2. Might want to double check your date when the amusement park was sold to Paramount Communications. I believe it was in 1992.

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    1. It was definitely 1992, thanks for pointing that out!

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  3. "the park no longer had an official relationship with the anusement park"

    great article really enjoyed the read and pics

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  4. Whew, man! Wind up a sad music box and then look through these masterfully shot pics! A good, healing cry to be sure. Goodbye, ol' Inn.

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  5. still remember the wonderful Christmas party my Dad's office held there back in the early 90's when they still had Winterfest at the park. Hate to see how much everything changes. Good Bye.

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  6. Thanks for the article. I've always lived in the area and passed it, but never was inside.Good read!

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  7. Nicely done set of memory triggers.

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  8. My family went to the Kings Island Inn on a "Stay-cation" when I was a kid in the early 80's. So many memories! Thanks for the great piece!

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  10. Kings Island Resort was a home away from home for me and my son and will be greatly missed. I was there the last night and those of us at the bar made a toast to the resort and its memories at closing time.

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  11. Loved this place went there every summer for at least a week with my family. Wish I could have walked it before demolition began but now really hoping to just go see the site before they build some stupid expensive apartments there which I believe is the stupidest thing they could do to that amazing property it was a super relaxing resort where you were safe and close to fun. My daughter will never get to experience the fun and joy I had there with my parents growing up what a tragedy.

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  12. I remember staying at the resort for 3 days every June, the week after school let out. That was probably 1976-1980. They would take us to the park on the double decker bus and I think we had a private gate so we never had to stand in line to get in. Good times.

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