PANAMA CITY BEACH-- A piece of local history is poised to make a comeback in Panama City Beach.
The owners of Miracle Strip at Pier Park are preparing to rebuild the Starliner roller coaster. The Starliner's return will bring its rich history full-circle.
Ask anyone who visited Panama City Beach in the 60's, 70's, 80's or 90's what they remember most, and many will say the Starliner.
"They'll say we've been coming down here for several years out of Georgia and Alabama and Mississippi and Tennessee and they just can't wait till the Starliner is back online," said Miracle Strip employee Harry Adkinson.
That wait will soon be over. The owners of Miracle Strip at Pier Park are planning to rebuild the Starliner beginning this Fall.
"The first question out of their mouth is when are you bringing the Starliner back, and we've owned the parts to it since 2008," said Owner of Miracle Strip Teddy Meeks.
The last time the Starliner thrilled a passenger in Panama City Beach was 2004. That's when the original Miracle Strip amusement park shut down after 41 years of business.
Former local radio disc jockey Jim King was the last rider. King set a world record on the Starliner in 1980, for most continuous hours on a roller coaster.
After Miracle Strip closed, Cypress Gardens bought the Starliner, operating it for 2 years. When Cypress Gardens closed in 2008, Meeks managed to buy the Starliner. He's been waiting for the right time and place to rebuild the attraction.
That time arrived this Spring, when the Meeks' opened their new park next to Pier Park. The 80-foot tall coaster is unlike anything else in the southeast.
"It is a unique item, it is the oldest wooden coaster in Florida and there are only three companies in the world that build wooden coasters," said Meeks.
Even though they haven't even broken ground, Meeks said the Starliner is once again attracting national attention. "We're actually listed as the number four most unique ride coming in 2015 by the L.A. Times," said Meeks.
Meeks plans to break ground in late October, with the Starliner ready for riders by next Spring. The project will cost a total of $4 million.