CSO, MEMI buy Coney Island to build music venue

Coney Island is closing for good on New Year’s Eve to make room for a new $118 million music venue owned and operated by a subsidiary of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

CSO and Music & Event Management, Inc., known as MEMI, announced Thursday it acquired all assets of the Kellogg Avenue amusement park and pool owned by Coney Island Inc.

Coney Island Park will cease operations on Dec. 31, following the conclusion of its Nights of Lights holiday event.

In a joint statement, leadership of CSO and its wholly owned subsidiary MEMI noted a desire to create a “top of the charts” venue and “the nation’s best amphitheater.” They described the project as being a “complement” to the existing venues on the live music campus, Riverbend Music Center and PNC Pavilion.

“Now, with CSO’s historic success with Riverbend and PNC Pavilion, we are creating an expanded music, arts and entertainment campus for the region to drive artistic excellence and innovation as well as the local economy,” said Jonathan Martin, the CSO’s CEO and president.

End of an era for Coney Island

The decision to shutter Coney Island closes a chapter on one of Greater Cincinnati’s oldest entertainment destinations. The amusement park opened in 1886 and added Sunlite Pool in 1925.

Ownership of Coney Island Inc. thanked the park’s millions of patrons and employees for “wonderful memories” over the past 137 years.

“You made this a special place for all of us. But the time has come for this historic destination to offer new and different options for entertainment-seekers looking for fun and unique experiences,” Coney Park Inc. wrote in a release.

“While this was a difficult decision, we have the utmost confidence that MEMI and the CSO will bring new excitement to one of Greater Cincinnati’s most treasured locations.”

It isn’t yet clear what, if any, impact the sale of the park space will mean to Summerfair. The longstanding fine arts and crafts festival has taken place at Coney Island off and on dating back to 1977.

A spokesperson for MEMI said the organization is in talks with Summerfair. But a post on the Summerfair Facebook pages suggests its organizers are looking for a new home for the three-day festival.

“Summerfair has called Coney Island home for most of its 57 years. With today’s news of the closure of Coney Island will be seeking a new home and are excited about the possibilities,” the social media post reads.

“This new venue for Summerfair will help us enhance our artist and visitor experience. Summerfair will continue to be dedicated to sporting, visual, performing arts and greater Cincinnati.”

Bringing more music to Cincy’s East Side

The newest East Side music and entertainment venue will feature a best-in-class sound system, top-ended amenities and adaptable seating arrangement, including dynamic standing areas that cater to diverse concert-going preferences. Martin also promised the facility itself would have “architectural significance.”

The general goal is to create a design to maximize “all components of live outdoor music events,” according to MEMI CEO Mike Smith.

“We will attract a wider array of the live music industry’s most sought-after artists — as well as larger-scale shows — with a larger seating capacity, modern amenities, state-of-the-art sound systems and lighting, and first-class VIP and patron spaces,” Smith added.

MEMI has welcomed 17 million music fans through the gates at its various Ohio venues – Riverbend Music Center, PNC Pavilion, Taft Theatre and Taft Ballroom, the Andrew J Brady Music Center and the ICON Festival Stage at Smale Riverfront Park, and Rose Music Center in Huber Heights, Ohio.

The preliminary design for its newest music facility is in progress.

CSO and MEMI have set a target opening date of spring 2026. They plan to release more details and a specific timeline in the months to come.

“We are considering how to incorporate contemporarily appropriate and historically significant acknowledgments to the history of the location,” Smith said. “Stay tuned.”

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