Wichita wants a replacement for Joyland, but economics may not add up

Posted | Contributed by Jeff

For a couple of years after Joyland closed, it looked as if the new owners might bring the park back to its former glory. But the more that the park has fallen into disrepair, the more it’s clear that if joy is going to return to Doo-Dah land, the city is going to have to start fresh.

Read more from The Wichita Eagle.

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Part of the problem is that everyone who wants to start a new amusement park thinks you have to build Six Flags and have a $200,000,000 amusement park on opening day.

I think if we are ever going to see any new parks open up we are going to have to have more people adopt the model that we are seeing across the country, as has been successful at places like Mount Olympus in Wisconsin Dells, Fun Spot in Orlando and Kissimmee, and most recently at ZDT in Texas, even places like Sluggers & Putters in Akron. Start with a limited FEC concept that is relatively inexpensive to build and maintain but that can be extremely profitable. Build the weekend, dinnertime, birthday party and corporate outing business. Do what none of these places seems to, and make sure you have top-notch catering. It needs not be fancy, it just needs to be *good* (think Del Grosso's here). Then start building a midway. Maybe a few kiddie rides, or even better a few classic flat rides. When the time comes, build a signature coaster. Build the park organically into the scale of park that the market can support.

It's a model that can work, and we're seeing it happen in a few places around the country. Dennis Spiegel will say in every interview that there hasn't been a successful new park built in the US in 30 years, but in the last 30 years we have gained a few successful parks, such as Fun Spot and Mount Olympus, and a few places that have been around forever have turned into major parks (that would be you, Holiday World...). They are not high-budget high-risk projects like Hard Rock or Wild West World, but they are effectively new amusement parks, and they are successful.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

    /X\        _      *** Respect rides. They do not respect you. ***
/XXX\ /X\ /X\_ _ /X\__ _ _ _____

Jeff's avatar

I don't know why everyone is in a hurry to quote Spiegel all of the time.

You're right, Dave, and the Fun Spot model of growth has been right on. Front loading a lot of development and expecting to make back the investment in a reasonable time isn't a reasonable expectation at all. Even small parks wanting to grow follow that path. Look at Holiday World... there's a reason they didn't build a B&M 20 years ago.

Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog

Castle Park in Riverside CA was originally a game room and miniature golf course. The late Bud Hurlbut built it up into a first class medium sized amusement park, with a lot of the details that he put into his rides when he was at Knotts. It was profitable too, as when Bud decided to downsize his operations after his partner suddenly died Palace picked it right up (the sale was something that Bud would say later he regretted doing).

slithernoggin's avatar

Raging Waves waterpark in Yorkville, Illinois, did an impromptu presentation at No Coaster this year (they were filling unexpected extra time in the schedule). They mentioned the park had just acquired 30 acres, are looking to expand their season and won't be able to do so with just water rides. (They wouldn't comment on whether their plans included a coaster.)

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