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NEWS: Joyland in Wichita, KS Could Become Apartments!

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Pair negotiates to reopen Joyland

Developers say they'll lease, restore and reopen the park, then buy it -- if they can turn it into an apartment site if the park fails.


The Wichita Eagle


Two developers want to rekindle the love affair between Wichita and Joyland.


They said Tuesday that they plan to reopen the 56-year-old amusement park on April 16, and they hope Wichitans will respond with open arms. If not, they say, they may decide to build apartments on the site.


Michael Moodenbaugh of Tacoma, Wash., and his partner, Robert Barnard of Tampa, Fla., are negotiating with longtime owners Stanley and Margaret Nelson to buy the park at 2801 S. Hillside. They would not disclose a purchase price.


Joyland has enjoyed a special place in Wichita history over the decades. Field trips there and annual end-of-school promotions formed fond memories for thousands of Wichita children. A ride on the wood-frame roller coaster was a heart-stopping rite of passage.


The park is a wreck, the buyers acknowledge. It has been shut down since August 2004 and was poorly maintained before that under then-owner David Rohr.


The Nelsons sold Joyland to Rohr in 2003 and reacquired it through foreclosure in December 2004. The Nelsons have been trying to sell it ever since.


Moodenbaugh and Barnard say they will spend $1 million to repair and upgrade the park and expect to have it ready to reopen in less than two months.


The roller coaster and Wacky Shack are sure to stay because they are the park's signatures, Moodenbaugh said. The kiddie rides have worn well, but other rides and structures must be evaluated for safety. Some will be gone when the park reopens, he said.


The partners plan to boost attendance by bringing in concerts and performances every weekend.


"The events will draw you in and the rides will keep you there," Barnard said.


But there is plenty of skepticism about their plans. Some have said that Joyland is too small, antiquated, set in a distressed neighborhood and hard to reach from the highway.


Thomas Etheredge, who is building a western-themed amusement park on I-135 in Park City, said Joyland will not compete with his project, which is scheduled to open in 2007.


"They are, at best, a family amusement center," he said of Joyland. "We are a major theme park."


Moodenbaugh and Barnard don't actually own the park yet. They say they will sign an agreement in the next week to lease the park from the Nelsons for three months.


They will buy the park if the Wichita City Council approves the rezoning of the 43-acre property to allow apartments. City officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday evening.


It's the ability to develop apartments on the land, they say, that has convinced their investors to lend them the $3 million to $5 million to buy and renovate the park.


He won't build the apartments, Moodenbaugh said, unless Joyland doesn't bring in enough money.

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Hey, April 16th is my birthday!

Anyways. I've never been to Joyland, but I've often thought that these small traditional parks are way more fun the the major parks. It would be a pity to see Joyland bulldozed for apartments, but I guess it makes sense from the business side of things. Oh well. What can we do?

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That Etheridge dude is a jerkoff...if he is not worried about the competition, then I wonder why he has tried on numerious occasions to buy off certain items from Joyland to keep a buyer from opening the park as a park. I personally saw him lurking around the parking lot at Joyland checkin out the coaster, only to run off once we drove up with Stan Nelson. What a jerk.

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They're all disappearing. Even when I was a kid growing up in the 1960s in central California, the only "traditional" park you could easily visit was Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk--and we never went because my parents thought it was just a hangout for "hippies" and "bikers" (sometimes, this was true). There used to be an old-time amusment park at Buckroe Beach in Hampton, Va., but it's long gone.

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It's a shame that a lot of the smaller parks are facing the axe. The amusement park business is almost completely saturated, and it's a dog-eat-dog world out there. Seems like there's a lot of smaller "old time" parks in trouble at the moment.


They're certainly not dropping like flies like a lot of parks did after the Wall St Crash, but it's worrying how many are biting the dust.

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  • 9 months later...

Yes, they did reopen. Everything was open except the coaster. They lost about 500,000$ repairing the park, and still plan to open next year. The coaster is supposed to get a new ALL WHITE paintjob, and it was renamed "nightmare". The concession building has a new roof/front thing, and the whacky shack doesn't smell like pee anymore. All the flat rides ran strong like they should, and the coaster has LOTS and LOTS of new wood, and still has the original skid brakes, and will be running 2 trains on the coaster next year. There is one train that was refurbished in about 1996 or so, and the 2nd train is one that sat on the storage track for a long time, and was pretty beat up looking.

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I went this past summer. The guys who lease the park were SUPER nice to me. They even gave me a walking tour of Nightmare...I mean actually on the structure. See my pics here:






I really hope they can get the coaster up and running. It looks like one that would easily rank in my top 20 or so.

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The park did ok I guess, but the only ride not open alot besides the coaster was the paratrooper. All the rides had the lights on them, and looked really cool at night too. I would reccomend going on a weekday though, since weekends can be a bit crowded. The coaster is a fun ride in the morning, awesome in the day, and TOTALLY INSANE at night. RCDB says it goes 50 MPH, but I think at night it can get up to 60MPH. The airtime on the last hill before the brakes is "bruise" airtime. No matter what, the back is always the best. Like I said earlier, I have seen it ride the upstops through the hills with the road wheel about 3 inches above the rail. It also has no seat divider, and uses a gravity load station. Oh yeah, and the coaster was smooth as glass.

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  • 6 years later...

^ Funny you should ask, just yesterday the old skee ball building caught fire...

WICHITA, Kansas -- A building fire broke out at the old Joyland Amusement Park Friday evening and investigators say this isn’t the fire time.


It happened in the 2800 block of South Hillside.


Joyland Amusement Park closed in 2004 and since then there’s been a history of fires and vandalism.


The fire burned for a couple of hours, but firefighters say it was contained to a two story building on the property.


That building used to house the skee-ball area.


“There’s a lot of memories burning right now,” said a male Joyland fan.


“It is kind of sad because I grew up going to Joyland and stuff,” said a female Joyland fan. “It’s the first time I’ve seen it on fire and stuff.”


Sedgwick County 911 dispatchers say the fire started around six Friday evening. Fire crews arrived on scene and reported seeing heavy black smoke.


“We use to come down here after school during the fall and have like a fun night down here and the schools would come down here,” said a male Joyland fan. “You pay one price and you can ride the rides all night long.”


This will be the fourth fire at Joyland in recent years. Joyland was set on fire back in 2009, 2011, and 2012.


Those cases were determined to be arson.


“We’ll have crews on the scene all night long just so they’ll be hotspots,” said Tammy Snow, Wichita Fire Department. “Some of the wall has collapsed down. Some of them are on the ground. It will ignite periodically so we’ll have crews on the scene all night.”


There were efforts to reopen Joyland, but attempts failed.


Investigators say no was hurt




I don't see this park ever returning.

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