Magic Carpet Icon Is Saved!by Charles Spillar on Oct. 06, 2009, under arts, Tucson Art
On Monday, October 5, the neon sign from the closed Magic Carpet Golf property on Speedway was removed and transported to storage. Within the next six months the sign is scheduled for restoration and to be reconstructed at a public location in the spring of next year. It took over 8 hours to remove it by the De La Cruz Neon Sign Company of Tucson.
The Magic Carpet neon sign was a beacon for the past 40 years to the popular miniature golf course. Hundreds of thousands of Tucsonans have enjoyed this unique facility and it had become an icon for Tucson before its closure in December of 2007.
All of the figurative statues, except for the Sphinx, have been saved and are now resting happily at businesses and homes throughout Tucson. The Magic Carpet sign is the last to be removed from the property and has been donated by Chapman Automotive to the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation that will be paying for the restoration and the erection of the sign at a public site in the future. The Valley of the Moon paid for the removal and storage of the iconic sign from some of the donated funds obtained from the golf statues.
This unique “folk art” neon art piece will be totally restored by the family owned De La Cruz Neon Sign company. They have had an office in Tucson since 1980 and the founder of the company, Juan De la Cruz, has been bending neon since 1957, It should look like new when they have completed the restoration.
To create a unique neon sign today of this size would cost between $20,000 -$30,000. The removed MCG sign weighed over 3000# and with the base close to 8000#. It was quite an education for me watching what is required for the signs removal. Looking at it from a distance you see a solid piece of artwork. Looking up close you realize it is a large number of pieces of sheet metal screwed onto a frame.
Inside the sign, there are at least 16 transformers weighing over 50# each. The bended neon glass illuminating the sign has a cost per letter of over $100 each. It runs about $12 per linear foot of glass material. If you look at the photo below you will see a detail no one knew existed prior to the disassembling of it. Prior to the neon being used in this sign there had been a large number of blinking lights used behind each letter. More research needs to be done to determine just how this sign originated.
The Magic Carpet Golf concept was created by the late Lee Koplin. This Tucson course in particular was built about 1970. Mr. Koplin has been given credit for changing the standards for miniature golf in America. Two of his original built courses still are operational in Florida. One in Panama City Beach, FL (originally Goofy Golf before the name change) http://www.agilitynut.com/minigolf/fl3.html and the other in Pensacola, FL <http://www.agilitynut.com/minigolf/fl.html > . There are others still in existence but these two were hand constructed by Mr. Koplin similar to our Tucson course.
Doesn’t it feel great to know we have been able to save a part of Tucson that has made it unique? In so many communities icons of the past are bulldozed over and destroyed for future generations. Our community did not let that happen here. If you want to see what Tucson’s Magic Carpet golf course looked like years ago visit: http://www.agilitynut.com/minigolf/az.html