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Giant Dipper roller coaster celebrates 92nd anniversary

MISSION BEACH, Calif. -- Tuesday is our nation's 241st birthday, but it's also the birthday of a high-profile San Diego landmark: the Giant Dipper roller coaster in oceanfront Belmont Park.

One of San Diego's most notable and popular attractions, the historic Giant Dipper is marking its 92nd birthday Tuesday. The wooden roller coaster officially opened to the public on July 4, 1925 in the 33-acre amusement park, then Mission Beach Amusement Center, now known as Belmont Park. The coaster, with two, 18-passenger trains, cost $150,000 to build.

Belmont Park was developed by sugar magnate John D. Spreckels. The roller coaster was added to the park to provide recreation and amusement, and as an enticement to help Spreckels sell land in Mission Beach.

According to a Belmont Park spokesperson, the Giant Dipper is one of only two remaining antique wooden roller coasters in California.

By the late 1960s, the Giant Dipper had fallen into disrepair. It was closed in December 1976.

Plans were to tear the coaster down, but a Save The Coast Committee was formed rescuing it from demolition. The committee succeeded in having the coaster designated as a national landmark, and in persuading the San Diego Coaster Company to invest $2 million into restoring the ride, which re-opened on Aug. 11, 1990.

According to the Roller Coaster Database website, the Giant Dipper is 2,600-feet long and 73-feet high. Riders travel at 55 mph with rides lasting slightly more than two minutes. Riders must be at least 50 inches tall to secure a spot on the ride, which costs $6.

Besides the iconic Giant Dipper, amusements at Belmont Park include a Tilt-A-Whirl, a three-story drop tower (the Vertical Plunge), the Liberty Carousel and the Wave House Athletic Club with its manmade wave-generating machine, a miniature golf course and numerous eateries and attractions.

Belmont Park is typically open from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. daily.