FANTASY ISLAND’S NEW OWNERS HAVE GENERATIONS OF LBI MEMORIES
When Brian Wainwright went to Fantasy Island Amusement Park as a kid in the early 1980s, he had no idea that the park would one day become a family business of his own. At the time, he was more focused on the 13-inch television you could get by accumulating a million points in the arcade.
He did know that LBI was someplace special. “Most of my childhood memories are from LBI, whether it was boating on the Barnegat Bay or going to Bay Village or to Fantasy Island,” he says. “It was a great connection for me and my parents.”
The park drew him back as an adult, whether to visit the arcade with his future wife Petrina or to return year after year with their sons Brady, Avery and Austin, who are now ages nine to 14. An Ocean County entrepreneur who built a one-person company into a wireless retailer with 80+ stores and 400+ team members, he began imagining what it would be like to be part of the business community on LBI. “I would daydream on what the park has meant for me and my family and couldn’t help wondering what it would be like to participate in a business like that.”
When LBI’s Florimont, Phillips and Frey families were ready to retire after 33 years as Fantasy Island’s owners, Brian and Petrina knew that they were meant to serve as the park’s next custodians – and in 2018 Fantasy Island kicked off its first season under their care.
On any given summer night, guests to the park can now see at least one of the Wainwright boys at work, often helping General Manager Matt Freed, making cotton candy or running one of the boardwalk games. Petrina spends hours in the token booths, and Brian seems to be everywhere in his role as CEO (that’s Chief Experience Officer!). And grandparents Dave and Sally Wainwright still like to visit.
The 2019 season will bring some enhancements to the park, known for its 18 rides, family arcade, ice cream parlor and boardwalk-style games. This year the park will have two new rides as well as upgrades to the ice cream parlor and bathrooms, and also changes to bring more boardwalk games to the front of the park and make the entrance more open and welcoming.
But more important are the things that will never change, especially the nostalgia and tradition that have kept guests coming back for generations. “As LBI has evolved, it was easy to be concerned that this beautiful piece of real estate could be turned into town homes,” says Brian Wainwright. “We want to preserve the memories that families have made here and make sure that future generations have a place to make their own happy memories.”
Keeping Fantasy Island vibrant means long hours not only for the Wainwrights but for all the park’s team members. That hard work is not without its rewards: the team gets to see every day what their effort means to others. As Brian Wainwright puts it, “When kids come in with big smiles and they’re all excited, it’s all worth it.”