Developer Plans Restoration After Acquiring Landmark California Amusement Park

Museum Sells Iconic Balboa Fun Zone in Coastal Newport Beach

The mixed-use Balboa Fun Zone has been an entertainment staple for more than 80 years in Newport Beach, California.


A local developer plans an extensive renovation after acquiring an iconic mixed-use amusement park with a history dating back 85 years in coastal Newport Beach, California.


Chartwell Real Estate Development acquired Balboa Fun Zone, at 600 E. Bay Ave., for $21 million, according to CoStar and public data. The waterfront entertainment center, which has a boardwalk, rides and games, and rental marinas, was acquired from Discovery Cube, a Southern California children’s museum based in nearby Santa Ana, California, in Orange County.


“The Fun Zone had not been actively marketed for sale for many decades, and therefore this offering was a true once-in-a-generation investment opportunity to own a piece of Southern California’s storied history,” said Lars Platt of brokerage Cushman & Wakefield, which represented the buyer and seller, in a statement.


Museum operators decided to sell the entertainment complex, also known as Discovery Cube’s Ocean Quest, in December 2020 amid financial challenges posed by pandemic-related shutdowns and capacity restrictions that hit the U.S. theme park industry particularly hard. The sale to Chartwell was announced in June and closed earlier this month.


Chartwell Operating Partner Henry Pyle, whose family has lived in Newport Beach since the 1960s, said his company will work with the city and local residents to upgrade and restore portions of Balboa Fun Zone, a staple of the city’s popular Balboa Harbor commercial district since opening in 1936 on the former site of a boat construction yard. It is among Southern California’s oldest amusement parks.


The property currently includes about 50,000 square feet of retail and entertainment space, a 25-boat marina and a 58-stall underground parking garage. As part of the purchase, the buyer has agreed to continue docking the children’s museum’s ocean-education vessel, the Dylan Ayres.


The past year was difficult for the U.S. theme park industry, which lost at least $50 billion in 2020 as pandemic closings and capacity limits cut attendance 50% to 70% for most major operators, according to consulting firm International Theme Park Services. Park attendance has rebounded this year, though the industry may not return to pre-pandemic levels until at least 2023.