The Spreepark was once the only amusement park in Berlin, opened all year.
Built in the GDR (DDR) in 1969 around 1.7 millions people per year visited Spreepark from 1969 till 1989. At that time it was officially named VEB Kulturpark Plänterwald (Cultural park Plänterwald) and Kulti by the people. The 45m high Ferris wheel was the main attraction. A TV Show named Spuk unter’m Riesenrad (Spook under the Ferris wheel) made Kulti more popular.
After the German reunification in 1990, VEB Kulturpark was bought by Norbert Witte’s company Spreepark Berlin GmbH, although he didn’t have a good reputation among amusement park owners. The reason was an incident in 1981, when his merry-go-round had an accident. 7 people died and 20 were injured.
Nonetheless new attractions were built and visited by 1.5 million people. Some were bought from Mirapolis amusement park of Paris, which explains the French control panels of a roller coaster and the park train. Others were a waterway around the Ferris wheel, roller coasters (one with looping), two log fumes, a small stage, a Wild West village and an English village.
The ticket price was set 29DM (14,50€) for all attraction. Prices for each attraction were abolished.
In 1997 the downfall began. A Leasehold estate contract (Erbbaurechtsvertrag) – it lasted till 2061 – was concluded.
From 1999 on less visitors came and in 2001 there were only about 400’000 per year. The Spreepark GmbH filed for bankruptcy. Norbert Witte moved to Lima, Peru and took 6 of the main attractions with him. He had filed for personal bankruptcy. But even with the new amusement park he failed.
Since 2002 the park wasn’t open for visitors any more.
In 2004 Norbert Witte was sent to jail in Peru for 7 years, because he tried to smuggle 167kg of cocaine inside an attraction. Two years later his son joined him, but he had to rest in rail for 20 years. The reason was smuggling drugs as well.
In March 2014, Berlin bought the area back and paid around 2 million Euro. But it’s not decided yet, what will happen with the amusement park and the remaining attractions.
When I returned to Berlin after 4 month absence, I had to visit Spreepark. I thought it would be a good time, shortly after the owner had changed. So I went there on a cloudy Sunday with a friend. We both had been to Spreepark ourselves several times in our childhood.
I was relieved when I saw an entrance gate wide open, because I read there would be some security. But my friend convinced me to get inside. There we realized, that we were not the only one. Actually, it was really crowed – like in old times – with families, old and young people who were walking around, taking photos.
I wanted to enter the Ferris wheel, which still rotates when there’s enough wind. But that day it wasn’t, so I could only climb to the bearing in the middle of the Ferris wheel.
We spent about two hours and just when we left, some guards arrived and tried to empty the park from its visitors.