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Wild West World is now closed

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^I don't see that happening.


Anyway, here's a new story released recently.

Wild West World got a one-week reprieve Thursday afternoon when a potential buyer and the park's creditors tentatively agreed to extend a deadline to sell the park.


In a story first reported on Kansas.com, Gaye Tibbets -- a Wichita lawyer representing Parks America -- confirmed that the California amusement park company and Wild West World creditors have approved an extra week for Parks America to make a bid to buy the bankrupt theme park.


If approved by U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Robert Nugent -- and Tibbets said she anticipates approval -- the extension would give Parks America until Friday, Oct. 5, to finalize its offer.


The developments came after the court's business day ended, so it wasn't immediately clear whether Nugent would hold a hearing today on the request.


It became apparent Wednesday, when the company's appraisers made a visit to Wild West World, that Parks America wasn't going to meet today's original deadline.


Nonetheless, Tibbets said earlier Thursday that her client still wants to buy the park.


"Parks America is working hard to meet the Friday deadline, but if things do not fall into place, it is optimistic that the creditors will agree to a brief extension," she said in an e-mail Thursday before the agreement was reached.


"Whether it can meet the Friday deadline will depend on a number of contingencies, including continued cooperation from Wild West World's creditors."


One of the park's creditors, Overland Park-based Bank of Blue Valley, sought and received court permission to seize its four rides Monday if today's deadline wasn't met.


If that had happened, it would have effectively ended efforts to sell and revive Wild West World.


Any ride seizure would kick off a liquidation of park rides, buildings and other assets that will strip the site for sale as development real estate.


As efforts to sell the park continue, sources close to the negotiations said there are several other looming deadlines to consider.


The park rides -- most of them portable -- will need to be winterized and mothballed by the end of October, a significant expense for a bankruptcy estate that has borrowed $200,000 from its major creditors since July for park security and maintenance.


And the ride sales market is in full swing, with a half-dozen bids already in place for individual Wild West World rides.


Parks America first materialized as a suitor in August, when the company submitted a "letter of interest to purchase" the park for $12 million.


That offer hasn't materialized, consistent with the statements of Parks America president Dale Van Voorhis, who said late September was the earliest possibility to complete due diligence on a bid.


Parks America officials spent two days in Wichita in late August, touring the park and sorting through its books.


After the trip, Van Voorhis said he remained interested in the park. Earlier this month, the company hired Hite, Fanning & Honeyman, Tibbets' Wichita law firm, to represent it in the negotiations.


The only other bidder was an unnamed Arkansas group that wanted park creditors to assume a stock interest in the new company, lawyers said. Their proposal never received serious consideration.

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Today is it.


It's time for a decision on Wild West World's fate, according to two lawyers involved in the case.


Offers are rolling in for the park's rides, Wichita lawyer Ed Nazar said Wednesday. He represents Thomas Etheredge's bankrupt theme park.


And the window to sell the rides is rapidly closing with cold weather approaching, he said -- although an industry expert differs on how quickly that window will close.


So if California-based Parks America can't come up with a workable offer this week to buy the park, Nazar said he is ready to move ahead with a liquidation.


Nazar has an ally in Bill Zimmerman, who said Wednesday that "the timing is about right" to begin liquidating the park. Zimmerman represents the park's unsecured creditors.


"I haven't polled our people, but my sense is that we've been willing to allow a reasonable amount of time for a sale," he said. "If not, liquidation."


The latest deadline for a sale offer, agreed upon last week by park creditors and representatives of Parks America, is Friday.


Wichita lawyer Gaye Tibbets, who represents Parks America, said Wednesday that her clients "are continuing work on an offer."


So are other amusement parks, which have made offers for six of the park's 24 rides, Nazar said.


"My market to sell the rides is closing," he said. "After Labor Day is the big time of year."


That's true to a point, said Gary Slade, publisher of the industry trade publication Amusement Today. But Slade contends Nazar has more time than he realizes to sell the rides.


"The market's not closing," Slade said. "It's actually just now opening up because we're leading into the trade show season. Parks have until January or February to make a decision on new rides, depending on how far north they're going."


The bigger issue for Wild West World, Slade said, is the "substantial" cost of winterizing unsold rides and other equipment -- another reason cited by Nazar to make a decision this week on the park's future.


That's a financial dilemma for a park that's already on its second $100,000 maintenance loan from its largest lender, First National Bank of Southern Kansas.


"You've got a lot of work there," Slade said. "You have to drain hydraulic fuel lines. You have to get vehicles off tracks, put stuff up so it doesn't rust. It's very labor intensive, and it's very expensive."


Parks America, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based amusement park operator, first surfaced in August when it submitted a $12 million "letter of interest to purchase" the park. Etheredge has contended the park cost $30 million to build.


Sources close to the negotiations think any final offer from Parks America will come in under the original $12 million figure.


It isn't clear how low an offer Nazar will accept. His office has begun preparations for a liquidation sale, including rides, the metal buildings that make up much of the park and the land.


Parks America officials spent two days in Wichita in late August touring the facility and pouring over its financials, and said they anticipated making an offer in late September.


But as a court-imposed Sept. 28 offer deadline loomed last week, Parks America officials and Etheredge's creditors agreed on a one-week extension.


One of those creditors, Overland Park-based Bank of Blue Valley, has sought permission for two months to seize four rides it leased the park.


U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Robert Nugent has indicated that he will approve the bank's request if a firm offer isn't forthcoming because a decision on the park's future needs to be made "before the snow flies."

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if it wasn't for the weather, in theory, could this park could have made it? if so, how long?


I say it could have. at the least, the first year.


It probably could have. I believe a ton of people bought season passes. And they already had plans to install a 200 foot drop ride and a major coaster (GCI Woodie and Morgan Mini-Hyper were rumored) in the next two years.

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^Yeah, if they had been able to stumble along till the new woodie came, they might have made it, supposing nothing tragic happened, weather was good, and they re-aligned their business practices before the end of this season. Then again, who knows, that Etheridge was a total twit.


Anyway, I like how the rides seem to be flying out of the park. Surely PARC will pick up a few for FC, the frisbee and flyers would be good in particular.

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You know, this is kind of a sad and discouraging story. This park was someone's dream, and unfortunately it didn't work out.


But people should never give up. The man who envisioned Tokyo Disneyland had to deal with a very unfriendly and unreceptive Walt Disney, because Disney was furious over Nara Dreamland. However, he didn't give up, and about 20 years later TDL finally opened.

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  • 3 months later...
Wild West showdown


Thomas Etheredge's lenders reportedly are split over a new, low offer to buy Wild West World.


That split and the lenders' decision last summer to turn down an offer to acquire and operate the park has upset Park City officials.


It's time to strike a deal with the newest bidder, Park City officials say. The bidder's identity is unknown, but sources close to the bankruptcy call it a "legitimate amusement park operator."


"I think (Etheredge's) bankers are crazy," Park City Mayor Dee Stuart said.


"They're trying to cover their butts, and it's a huge mistake. Everybody comes out better if we find a park operator."


The offer reportedly grew out of the last-ditch sales campaign mounted by Grant and Bradley Tidemann of J.P. Weigand & Sons.


"I understand that the banks are trying to get out of this as best they can," Park City Administrator Jack Whitson said.


"But I feel like they better get used to this, because this is what's coming down the pike."


Also driving that frustration is the lenders' decision late last summer to turn down a risk assumption offer from the owners of Magic Springs, a Hot Springs, Ark., theme park.


The offer reportedly was an agreement to cooperate with Etheredge's lenders, with an agreement to pay the banks about $13 million -- well under the $24 million in debt on the park -- from future profits.


However, Stuart and Whitson said the Arkansas park committed to an immediate $5 million down payment, with $15 million in capital improvements over the first five years.


Magic Springs president Dan Aylward was out of town Tuesday and couldn't be reached for comment. Magic Springs isn't involved in the current round of talks, according to sources close to the bankruptcy.


But Park City officials wish they were.


"Hey, when you lend that kind of money to someone like Etheredge, you're taking a risk," Stuart said.


"But now that these banks have taken a risk with someone who clearly didn't know what he was doing, they won't take a risk with a company that's done this kind of revival twice before. Makes no sense."


Rex Reynolds, president of First National Bank of Southwest Kansas in Mount Hope, the lead bank in Etheredge's consortium of lenders, did not return calls Tuesday. The bank's Wichita attorney, Bill Sorensen, declined to comment.


Park City has a vested interest in the park's revival -- a $1 million interest in the parking lot and bridge leading to the park's entrance and the Johnny Western Theatre.


Without a sale to an amusement park operator, the city will be forced to market its property to developers, likely at a big loss.


"We're just waiting and hoping," Whitson said.


"It's frustrating for us, but the banks are the key players in this. They just need to realize that they're not going to get a lot of money out of the park unless they do a deal like the Arkansas deal.


"It's a risk, still a sort of investment, but we've all got a better chance of getting our money back."




The park that refuses to die. Being with the rides going back or sold, does this mean they will get some rides back or have new ones if the offer is accepted.

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  • 1 month later...

The park that won't die, it could possibly re open.




A Tulsa carnival company has signed a letter of intent to buy Wild West World for $2 million.


Spectacular Attractions, doing business as Murphy Brothers Exposition in Tulsa, also plans to spend $4.2 million to reopen the bankrupt park with about 35 mobile and permanent rides.


The entire $6.2 million deal -- which would include the park's 98 acres and existing buildings -- would be financed by industrial revenue bonds issued by the city of Park City. The park is north of Wichita along I-135.


A sale contract -- pending for six weeks -- remains unsigned as negotiations between Spectacular Attractions and lenders in the bankruptcy case continue, according to sources close to the park's bankruptcy.


Thomas Etheredge opened Wild West World, a $30 million western-themed amusement park, on May 5. He closed it and declared bankruptcy on July 9, leaving behind $24 million in debt.


Most of the park's rides have been removed and a series of auctions disposed of the remaining items.


The business plan


The prospective group is headed by Jerry Murphy, who runs Murphy Brothers, and former Wichitan Michael Chesser, a CPA and mortgage broker who is president and founder of Apartment Income Investors and the Chesser Mortgage Group.


Murphy said he's excited about the possibilities at Wild West World.


"Would we like to do a deal there? You bet," he said. "Have we? Not yet.


"But if we do a deal there, I'm extremely confident we can create a big facility that will be well accepted by the public."


A business plan obtained by The Eagle estimates $2.2 million in first-year profits, based on 150,000 season attendance, a $15 admission charge and average per-visitor expenditures of $25 to $32 daily.


It's a plan closer to what industry analyst Gary Slade, publisher of the trade publication Amusement Today, has insisted would work at the park.


"My years in this business tell me clearly that your property will not work as a theme park open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day," he said, as Wild West World was.


"It will work if it's run like Joyland, like a true amusement park open 6 to 11 every evening and maybe 2 to 10:30 on the weekends."


What the business plan doesn't include is something that Slade considers essential for the park's survival: some form of water entertainment.


The plan also would have the company operate the Johnny Western Theatre as a separate division, using it as a dinner theater and as a venue for performances by name entertainers.


It would be part of the group's off-season park plan, with in-season concerts and themed seasonal activities at Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.


The business plan also includes concessions to Wild West World's season ticket buyers, who likely won't recover their losses in the park's bankruptcy proceedings. Those ticket holders will get free or discounted visits or a season-pass discount.


The plan includes, Murphy said, an aggressive, professional marketing campaign, one of the major failures by Etheredge.


"There's been so much bad publicity about the park, and rightly so," Murphy said.


"You can be sure that if we can get this done, the people of Wichita are going to know exactly who we are and what we're going to do."


Tentative agreement with Park City


Murphy has met with Park City Mayor Dee Stuart and city administrator Jack Whitson.


The city has tentatively agreed to issue industrial revenue bonds to pay for the real estate and amusement rides, Whitson said, although the council hasn't voted on the issue.


The city also has tentatively agreed to abate taxes for 10 years on the real estate and improvements, and will allow Murphy to take over the 10-year, $100,000 payments on the parking lot lease.


"At this point, I think you can safely assume that if anyone comes forward who wants to turn that park around, the city's going to work with them," Whitson said.


Murphy is well known in the industry as a mobile carnival provider, working state fairs across the country. He provides rides, games, food and major events at the Tulsa State Fair and fairs in New Mexico, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and Tennessee.


Murphy's parents, John and Gladys, formed the company in 1957, merging in 1971 with T. Collins Shows.

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So pretty much:


-Owned by a fairground provider.

-Opens at night (which IMO would suck because crowds would be larger and unlike when WWW was open, you wouldn't get to go during the day when you were bored. I guess it could help the park save a little money )

-Lower admission fee ($15) Now that is something that will draw crowds unlike Etheredge's $25.

-MOBILE rides??? This place was enough of a carnival already! OMG that is a little depressing. Hopefully SOMETHING would be fun.

-This guy has experience. That is what a theme park creator in Kansas needs. And WWW is an example.

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Murphy is well known in the industry as a mobile carnival provider, working state fairs across the country. He provides rides, games, food and major events at the Tulsa State Fair and fairs in New Mexico, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and Tennessee.


That isn't a good sign IMO. This guy would probably bring in a couple of carnival rides, some games and food stands and call it a park. I rather see a park that looked the way it was, but better.


Does anyone know if the buildings are still standing?

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^I drove by the park yesterday. You can't really see much from the interstate, but to me it looks like the buildings are still standing. Just some rides are gone.


EDIT: This kind of reminds me of Wonderland Park in Amarillo, Texas. It opens late, and has a bunch of carnival rides and LOOKS like a carnival. I did have fun there none the less.

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  • 3 weeks later...



An Tulsa company officially signs a contract to buy Wild West World. Spectacular Attractions created a new company, Amusement Holdings to buy the park for $2 million.


Spectacular Attractions, a carnival company run by the Murphy Brothers Exposition wants to put another $4 million into the park including 35 new rides. Park City will issue at least $5.5 million in bonds to help buy the land and the rides.


A judge still needs to approve the sale. That won't happen until May 8th. In the meantime, the court will take objections and competing bids on the park.


Wild West World closed last year after being open for two months. Owner Thomas Ethredge spent $30 million to open the park.


Stay with Eyewitness News for more on this story later today.


I just hope they can pull it off with especially because they're doing mobile rides and a couple permanent ones.

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So Wild West World will now be like Pleasureland Southport but with western theming? Well it is nice that Wild West World has been saved, and hopefully the new owners will be able to run it better that the Ethredges. Does anyone know what happened to the coasters that used to be at the park, or are they still there. I bet some a Pinifari coasters might make it to this park, and who knows, maybe they'll get that wooden coaster in a few years.

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^It wasn't the weather


^^I agree. This can't be all that good. Mobile rides aren't all that great. I think this place is gonna turn out to be something like Wonderland Park in Amarillo, Texas. That place is fun, and it has big rides. But it's still a little ghetto.


^^^Both coasters are gone, flume is still up. I really don't hope its a Pinfari. I can only hope they would get a Deja Vu or something.

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