At first glance, adding a Johnny Rockets to one of America’s oldest and most historic amusement parks like Kennywood might sound sacrilegious. Located just outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Kennywood not only prides itself in its own rich nostalgia, it’s also an actual historical landmark.
Nearly every single ride, restaurant and even bathroom is marked with a sign noting its historical significance in what started off as a picnic park at the end of a trolley line back in 1898. Unlike many other parks who try to manufacture a sense of nostalgia through expensive theming, Kennywood is Americana down to its core.
Even though Johnny Rockets is a chain of corporate restaurants, it does capture that spirit of nostalgia locked in a time capsule from the 1950s. And considering Kennywood hasn’t had a full service restaurant in 30 years, this too will serve as a part of the park’s history.
Instead of creating an entirely new building from scratch, Kennywood took the time to retrofit an existing structure into the new eatery. This space has had multiple uses from housing one of the old carousels to a soda fountain. Johnny Rockets has worked with the park to keep the look of the former building intact as much as possible.
Literally 24 hours before my visit, windows were installed to enclose the space and they were working on interior on the day of my visit. Originally, the idea was to lower the ceiling of this beautiful pavilion. However, thanks to Kennywood’s sense of history, they are leaving the ceilings just the way they were, with a few minor adjustments to bring it up to today’s building codes.
Even the basement, which was dug out by hand decades ago to house the mechanics of a carousel, will be used as storage for kitchen supplies and food. They are also adding restrooms to the building, in addition to the essentials like a prep kitchen and a grill.
A few weeks after it’s opening in June 2014, an outdoor patio area will be added for additional seating capacity for the busy summer months.
So what are your thoughts? Do you think Kennywood made the right decision in adding a corporate restaurant chain into the park? Or should they have stuck to their roots and created their own full service restaurant within the park? Let me know in the comments section below. Also, make sure to follow Theme Park University on Twitter and like our Facebook Page!