Entrance in 2003, before the sign was removed in June 2014
|Slogan||The Southwest's Finest|
2801 S Hillside,|
|Roller coasters||Roller Coaster (Nightmare)|
|Water rides||Log Jam|
Joyland Amusement Park was an amusement park in Wichita, Kansas, United States. It was in continuous operation for 55 years, from June 12, 1949 to 2004, closing permanently in 2006. It was once the largest theme park in central Kansas and featured a wooden roller coaster and 24 other rides. With its closing, the only remaining amusement park in Kansas is Schlitterbahn Kansas City. On July 1, 2016, the new owners started to tear it down.
The park was founded by Lester Ottaway and his sons Herbert and Harold to serve as the home for a miniature 12-inch (300 mm) gauge steam locomotive that Herb Ottaway had purchased in Fort Scott, back in 1933. The train had been part of a defunct amusement park there and was originally built by the Miniature Railway Company of Elgin, Illinois, between 1905 and 1910. By 1934, Herb Ottaway, who worked as a race car builder, had fully refurbished and restored the steam locomotive and cars and began transporting the miniature train to county fairs in western Kansas and eastern Colorado. Ottaway soon built a track for his miniature locomotive around the Manitou Springs, Colorado, racetrack and operated the train there for some time.
The current location of the park came into existence on June 12, 1949, primarily to give Harold's miniature locomotive a permanent home in Kansas. It was originally located at 1515 East Central in Wichita (between New York and Mathewson streets) but soon moved to its current location at 2801 South Hillside. After Lester Ottaway's death in the mid-1950s, his three sons, Herbert, Harold and Eddie, continued running it as a family operation.
The Ottaway brothers retired from the amusement park business in the early 1970s and sold the park to Stanley and Margaret Nelson. Stanley died on July 13, 2010, at the age of 87. He and Margaret were the driving force behind the park for over 30 years and a large percentage of its current rides, including the Bill Tracy-designed prototype Whacky Shack dark ride, added in 1974, come from the Nelsons' time as owners. Though there are a few Whacky Shacks still in use across the country today, this classic two-story dark ride was the last known project of Tracy's, as he died in August 1974, just a few months after its completion. In addition, the original miniature train retired with the Ottaways and was replaced with the first-ever C.P. Huntington miniature train. It carries serial number 1 from the factory.
The Ferris wheel, manufactured by Eli Bridge Company and operating there since its 1949 opening, was the site of an accident in mid-April 2004 in which a 13-year-old girl fell 30 feet (9 m) from it and was seriously injured. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission investigated the accident.
Due to economic troubles and safety concerns the park had to close for the 2004 season. Interest in it sparked again in 2006 when a Seattle-based company, T-Rex Group, leased it to restore and open portions of it. After financial concerns, they did not open it for another season. Since 2006, it stood empty, unkept, and deteriorated. Since its closing in 2004, it has been subjected to numerous incidents of vandalism and looting. Nearly every building is covered with graffiti, and the vintage sign from the top of the roller coaster has been stolen in 2009. The administration offices have also been destroyed. Park owner Margaret Nelson was quoted as saying, "We're sick. Our hearts are just sick. It's not easy, not easy."
In 2006 many renovations took place at the park, of which were focused more on its aesthetics than actual ride safety. The roller coaster had $10,000 dollars worth of wood repairs done and was renamed "The Nightmare". The Log Jam, the only water ride, had pumps replaced and systems checked. The noticeable difference to the park after the 2006 restoration was the baby blue and pink paint that covers it. The Restore Hope organization got involved to regain support to rebuild it with an emphasis on a community effort and involvement in the restoration process. The plan was to restore it within the next few years and begin a five step expansion process to help it grow and become an integral part of the Wichita community.
On August 4, 2012, a maintenance building in the park caught fire. None of the rides were damaged and the fire was subdued in 30 minutes. Police suspected arson.
In the middle of June 2014, the iconic parking lot sign and marquee was sold to the Historic Preservation Alliance of Wichita and Sedgwick County. It was dismantled, removed for local storage, and eventual restoration.
On February 19, 2015, the Wichita Police Department announced the return of Louie the Clown, the animatronic clown that used to play the park's Wurlitzer organ. He had gone missing over a decade prior and was found in the home of Damian Mayes, a former park employee. In 2008, Wichita police received a tip that Mayes, who had maintained Louie and the organ, had Louie, but he denied knowing his whereabouts.
The roller coaster was extensively damaged by a windstorm on the morning of April 3, 2015, including the destruction of large portions of elevated track. In mid-April, Roger Nelson, the son of park owners Stan and Margaret Nelson, told reporters, "We are in the process of tearing it all down", referring to the roller coaster and the remaining buildings on the site. He had announced the previous week that the Preservation Alliance had purchased a number of the park's marquee attractions, including the Whacky Shack building and a horse and buggy ride, and was negotiating to purchase the full-size train caboose that was stationed at the west end of Frontier Town. On July 23, 2015, the components of the roller coaster which remained standing were demolished.
On July 1, 2016, the new owners started to tear the park down.
The park featured more than 24 rides, including:
The park's 1949 era wooden roller coaster, built by Philadelphia Toboggan Company and designed by Herbert Paul Schmeck, was one of the last surviving original wooden coasters. It was one of 33 coasters remaining of the 44 designated as an ACE Coaster Classic. Originally called simply "Roller Coaster" but for a time renamed "Nightmare", it had a 2,600 ft (790 m) track span, 80 ft (24 m) drop and 50 mph (80 km/h) top speed. It had the distinction of being the only remaining coaster in North America using vintage rolling stock with fixed lap bars. The film King Kung Fu was filmed on location at several locations in the Wichita area, including here. One scene features several minutes of footage shot on it.. It was extensively damaged in a windstorm in early April 2015 and permanently dismantled shortly thereafter.
The park had a Mammoth Military Band Organ, also known as a Wurlitzer Style 160, which was the largest of Wurlitzer's early models. It was built around 1905 by the DeKleist Musical Instrument Works and was sold by the Rudolph Wurlitzer Company. It contained 486 wood and brass pipes and used two perforated paper music rolls, producing the effect of a military brass band of 20 to 25 musicians. This particular model was designed primarily for the roller rink industry. In 1915, it was taken back to the Wurlitzer factory and modified into a Wurlitzer Style 165. It was sold to W.P. Brown of Coffeyville, who owned and operated the Silurian Springs Bath House, which also featured a roller rink, for which the organ provided music for several years. In the 1930s it went into storage; it was heavily water damaged, and some of its brass parts were later stripped off during World War II scrap metal drives. In 1948, Jess Gibbs of Parsons, purchased it and began the painstaking work of restoration. In 1950 he sold the restored instrument to the Ottaway family, who installed it in the park. They added Louie, an automated/animatronic clown who sat before the keyboard and "played" it. Louie and the Mighty Wurlitzer had been a fixture there ever since, creating a sound that resonated through the entire park. It was one of only two mammoth model organs still in existence and, until the park closed, was the only one in public view.
The park also features an original Allan Herschell Company designed carousel, which was built in 1949, and which still has all of the original horses. It was disassembled at the end of every season, a process which had been carefully performed for protection every year beginning in 1951. In May 2014, it was announced that Joyland owner Margaret Nelson Spear had donated it to the Botanica in Wichita, with plans for a full restoration.
Elements of the park have been captured on the cover of the Andy McKee album, Joyland. The artist was given the theme of an "abandoned amusement park" and used imagery from it specifically, as McKee is a native of Kansas.
A rock band called Scepter wrote a song and video called Joyland about the park from their childhood: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=11&v=JMunwLkh0Yc
The main peak of the Joyland roller coaster was toppled during a storm that rolled through the Wichita area early Friday morning.
Archives of former websites (containing numerous photos):