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Carousel Operator Poised to Get Contract Extension


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By Jorge Casuso

April 2, 2024 -- Arguably the most nostalgic and iconic attraction in Santa Monica will be kept going 'round and 'round for the next five years under a contract the City Council is poised to approve on Tuesday.

Santa Monica Pier Carousel
Santa Monica Pier Carousel (Courtesy of Pacific Park)

Roth Management is the sole bidder for the $1,541,152 five-year contract to operate and maintain the Pier Carousel, built in 1922 and housed inside the 102-year-old Looff Hippodrome, a designated National Historic Landmark.

The City's contract with the California-based company, which has operated and maintained the Carousel since 2001, expires on July 31, according to staff's report to the Council.

Roth Management "is responsible for managing all aspects of the Carousel’s day-to-day operation, including providing trained employees, maintaining safety records and permits, and depositing ticket revenue with the City," staff wrote.

"In addition, the operator is required to perform specialized services relating to paint restoration, repair of damaged pieces, performing inspections and preventative maintenance of the carousel mechanism."

Built by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company, the 102-year-old carousel, which features 44 hand-carved horses, was designated along with the Hippodrome building as a Los Angeles County historical landmark by the U.S. government in 1975. The carousel was rebuilt in 1990.

Called "a timeless relic of seaside fun" by Fodor’s Los Angeles Guide, the carousel -- which also includes "one rabbit, two sleighs, and one sought-after goat" -- has long been a tourist destination.

It remains "a nostalgic gem among the over-developed and commercialized Santa Monica Pier," according to Fodor's Guide.

The carousel -- which is accompanied by music from a calliope -- has been featured in film and television, although not always as part of Santa Monica.

"The Mother Muffin Affair," an episode of the 1966-67 television series The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., features a climactic action scene on the carousel, although the setting is London.

Its most famous screen appearance -- in the 1974 best picture winner "The Sting" -- the hippodrome is where Henry Gondorff, played by Paul Newman, "lives and works, operating a carousel with his girlfriend," writes The Hollywood Reporter.

"But there’s no Pacific Ocean behind it," The Reporter notes. "Rather, the Chicago skyline looms in the background -- the handiwork of a matte painting by Oscar-nominated artist Albert Whitlock."

The Request for Proposals (RFP) to operate and maintain the carousel was posted on the City's website on January 19.

"Although only one bid was received, staff believes the price is appropriate for the scope of services to be provided and that Roth Management’s proposal is highly responsive to the RFP criteria," staff wrote.

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