I’ve been hearing about Joyland Amusement Park back in the news lately so I decided to do a quick search on it to see the reason why.
For those of you that don’t know Joyland was an amusement park that opened up here in Wichita in 1949. Most of you Wichitans who are familiar with the city’s history would know it would end up on south Hillside. It was home to such rides as the Whacky Shack, The Logjam and the “white” wooden rollercoaster that looked as if it was built when Wichita was incorporated in 1870. (I had to look that fact up; it did not come from common knowledge). The park would close its doors in 2005 to little fanfare. At least in my circles, it didn’t seem like a big deal.
After a sale and a couple tries to look into re-opening the park, it still sits there in sadness to this day.
Fast-forward to now. I read on Kake.com that a high school junior. Yes, you read right. A junior in high school is looking to reopen the park as a non-profit. According to Kake, this would not be the first non-profit amusement park in the nation. Arnold’s Park in Iowa currently operates like that.
The high schooler, Alex East, and Wichita State (Go Shox!) student, Kira Johnson, have started the Joyland Restoration Project. They are trying to raise $20 million to reopen the park as a non-profit organization. From an article on saw on Butler’s The Lantern, 1.5 million dollars is needed to purchase the park and to file the non-profit taxable forms.
They hope to make the park a retro 50s theme park. If the park fails to come together after April 2013, the money they have raised will go to the local charities in Wichita that are best for the overall community.
Wow. Lofty goals and I wish them the best. While I’m skeptical about it all, I certainly wish them the best. I think a low cost, effectively ran park would be able to survive in Wichita. Many people are probably thinking about the neighborhood Joyland is located in. I really think it will be fine there but many people won’t. Security will have to be addressed. People’s perception of the area will play a major factor regardless if theres enough security there. But there is a market for it and it has to be done right which I will stress over and over. Remember Wild West World? Was not done right plus they had some bad luck with lots of rain. Wichita though, in my opinion, cannot support a big amusement park. Plus Wild West World had so many other things going wrong with it. Joyland has to be kept on a smaller scale.
I have my memories of Joyland. I remember going there after receiving grade cards for “Report Card Night”. That was also over 20 years ago for me. I was probably 8 or 9 at the time. I remember going through the Whacky Shack sitting in the little car wondering what was going to scare me. I can remember getting splashed by the Log Jam. I can remember looking at the rollercoaster thinking “I’m glad I’m not tall enough to ride that thing. That way I don’t have to make up an excuse why I’m scared to ride it.”
Now I’m not the demographic Joyland would be aiming that. I’m just not “amused” my amusement parks anymore. My idea of thrills do not include rides, they include sitting in Koch Arena during the final minutes of a Shocker/Bluejay game. They include driving up to Harrah’s and taking a hit on 15 with the dealer showing a Queen. They include taking a lactose pill and heading over to Orange Leaf and wondering if the pill will save me. BUT there is a demographic for Joyland. There is a generation of Wichitans who have never been and I’m sure would love to. And if Alex and Kira can succeed in raising the funds to reopen Joyland, I think it can be a success. There really is true competition for Joyland in Wichita. The two All Star sports do not count. Not many big thrills or rides there unless they start letting customers run out on the driving range and try to avoid golf balls.
The rides there are outdated and not up to par with your Six Flags and Disney theme parks but people shouldn’t expect that. The rollercoaster according to the project website along with all the other rides are all stable but just need reinforcement.
The group will go to the City Council on May 10th according to the site, so I’ll be on the lookout to see how that goes. For more information head to their project website: http://joylandrestorationproject.webstarts.com/ – The site could use a little more information and looks to be behind on their fundraising dates but you will get the gist of what they are trying to accomplish.
So if Joyland opened up, would you go? Would you take your kids?
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Happy Dining All.