Originally the idea of John D. Spreckels, the original coaster was built by a crew of 100 to 150 people in two weeks as the centerpiece of the Mission Beach Amusement Center (now known as Belmont Park). It reportedly cost $50,000 to build including the two 18 passenger trains and featured 2,600 feet of track. It opened for business on July 4, 1925. The coaster became very popular in the 1940s and ’50s but by the late ’60s it had fallen into disrepair. It closed in 1976.
In the early 1980s, people began calling for the demolition of the coaster, as it had been in disrepair and became a home for local transients. A date for the demolition was set, but a group of citizens calling themselves the “Save the Coaster Committee” headed by Tim Cole intervened and had the Giant Dipper designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1987 (National Register Number 78000753). Also known as the “Earthquake”, it is one of two large wooden scaffolded roller coasters with structural integrity that remain on the West Coast.
A few years later, the San Diego Seaside Company was formed to restore the coaster to operation. $2 million was spent on the restoration. New trains, manufactured by Morgan Manufacturing, seated 24 riders per cycle in six four-person cars. On August 11, 1990, the Giant Dipper was reopened to the public. The response was so strong that a second train was eventually added to the coaster.