Bell's Amusement Park

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Bell's Amusement Park
Location Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S.
Coordinates 36°08′04″N 95°55′52″W / 36.13444°N 95.93111°W / 36.13444; -95.93111Coordinates: 36°08′04″N 95°55′52″W / 36.13444°N 95.93111°W / 36.13444; -95.93111
Owner Robert Bell
Opened 1951
Closed 2006
Operating season March through September
Rides
Total 17
Roller coasters 1 John Allen Wooden Out-and-Back
Water rides 1 Log Flume, 2 Water Slides

Bell's Amusement Park was an amusement park located in Tulsa's Expo Square, part of the Tulsa County Fairground in Oklahoma. It operated for 55 years before closing in 2006. The park was especially known for its large wooden roller coaster, called Zingo, designed by John C. Allen[1] and built in 1966–68.[2][3]

History[edit]

Robert Bell built a miniature train around his Tulsa house in 1948, and for a time ran children's rides at the Admiral Twin drive-in.[4] In March 1951, he started the amusement park at the Fairgrounds [5] with a small collection of rides and amusements including a three car train and a Shetland pony ride. This would later grow into a family-owned amusement park with several dozen rides and attractions.[6]

The park was forced to relinquish its position at the Square at the end of the 2006 season when the county did not renew its lease.[7] The reason given for the park's removal was nonviable business plans, although Bell's asserted that the 2006 season was the most successful the park had seen for years and expansion plans were underway.[8] The park paid $135,000 to the Expo in 2006 and a total of $12.5 million since 1951.[9] The midway for the Tulsa State Fair was provided by Jerry Murphy, owner of Murphy Brothers Exposition. The carnival company was granted, in 2006, a 10-year, non-competitive contract to operate the Tulsa State Fair midway. The 2006 contract included the right of first refusal to expand Murphy's operation into the Bell's tract during the State Fair, if Bell's was no longer a tenant.[10] Following the closing of Bell's, the 2007 Tulsa State Fair saw a 7% drop in attendance and a 29% hit on midway ticket sales.[11] Some vendors told the fair board that the board's decision not to renew Bell's lease was the reason for the drop, and there were some reports that the loss of Bells accounted for some of the drop.[12] The Fairgrounds CEO said that they did not have any theories at the time to account for the drop.[13] Attendance was up in the recession of 2008 from 2007, according to the Tulsa World.[14]

The park announced plans to move elsewhere, but the rides remained in a warehouse.[14] Other locations around Northeast Oklahoma were considered for a new home,[15] but the park was not rebuilt. In November 2008, Sally Bell ran unsuccessfully for Tulsa County Commissioner.[16]

In 2010, Wagoner County, Oklahoma negotiated a deal with the Bell family to potentially place the park in Coweta, Oklahoma. On May 25, 2010 Robbie Bell signed a 50-year lease (with a 25-year optional extension) with the county. This deal depended on the voters approving a quarter-cent tax increase to finance building the park; it was to go on the ballot in July 2010. But, after two of the three Wagoner County commissioners raised concerns about whether the plan was financially viable for the county, the commissioners removed the question from the ballot by a 2-1 vote.[17]

Early in 2012, the Bell family installed a few rides at the Tulsa Saturday Flea Market.[18] As of August 2013, additional attractions had been installed and Robby Bell III (grandson of the founder) said he had plans to continue restoring more of the old park's rides.[19]

Wildcat roller coaster malfunction[edit]

On April 20, 1997, mechanical failures on the Wildcat roller coaster caused a car near the top of a chain hill to disengage and roll backwards, colliding with another car. The accident killed a fourteen-year-old and injured six others.[20] The Wildcat was disassembled following the accident and was afterward relocated to Jolly Roger Amusement Park in Ocean City, Maryland, where it operated for a year under the name "Avalanche."[21]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Scott Rutherford, The American Roller Coaster (MBI Publishing Company, 2000), ISBN 978-0760306895, pp. 103, 125. Excerpts available at Google Books.
  2. ^ Canfield, Kevin (May 11, 2007). "Built to last, a king of coasters is coming down". Tulsa World. Retrieved 2013-04-28.  (pay site)
  3. ^ Bryan, Emory (January 10, 2011). "Bell's Roller Coaster Hits The Auction Block". KOTV-DT. Retrieved 2013-04-28. 
  4. ^ Lloyd, Jennie (October 5, 2011). "A Ride to Remember Robbie Bell resurrects kidsí rides in West Tulsa". Urban Tulsa Weekly. Retrieved 2013-08-13. 
  5. ^ "Bell's Amusement Park co-founder dies; service slated". Tulsa World. July 4, 2007. Retrieved 2013-08-13. 
  6. ^ Morgan, P. Casey (July–August 1986). "Bell's Amusement Park". Oklahoma Today 36 (4): 19ff. Retrieved 2013-08-13. 
  7. ^ "Tulsa County seeks warrant after Bell's Amusement Park taxes go unpaid". Tulsa World (World Publishing Co.). 2007-07-20. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  8. ^ "Bell's Says Tulsa County Treating Them Unfairly". KOTV (Griffin Communications, LLC). 2006-10-11. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  9. ^ "Bell's Amusement Park Lease Expires". KOTV (Griffin Communications, LLC). 2007-07-20. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  10. ^ "Something Fishy at the Fairgrounds". Urban Tulsa Weekly. 2007-04-07. Retrieved 2012-07-24. 
  11. ^ "Fair Attendance Down, Preliminary Figures Show". KOTV (Griffin Communications, LLC). 2007-10-08. Retrieved 2007-08-11. [dead link]
  12. ^ "State Fair Revenue Down". KOTV (Griffin Communications, LLC). 2007-10-04. Retrieved 2007-08-11. [dead link]
  13. ^ "Bell’s Amusement Park is gone, but the crowds remain at the Tulsa State Fair". Tulsa World (World Publishing Co.). 2007-10-02. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  14. ^ a b "News On 6 Investigation: What Really Happened To Bell’s Amusement Park?". KOTV (Griffin Communications, LLC). 2007-08-30. Archived from the original on 2007-10-13. Retrieved 2007-08-30. 
  15. ^ "Amusement Park Icon Coming Down". KOTV. 2007-03-25. Archived from the original on 2007-12-23. Retrieved 2007-10-10. 
  16. ^ Krebiehl, Randy (February 21, 2009). "Sally Bell elected head of Tulsa County GOP". The Oklahoman. Accessed 2013-04-28.
  17. ^ Morgan, Rhett (June 10, 2010). "Wagoner County pulls vote on Bell's". Tulsa World. Retrieved 2013-04-28. 
  18. ^ "Bell's Amusement Park rebuilding slowly but surely". KOKI-TV. April 2, 2013. Retrieved 2013-04-28. 
  19. ^ Hylton, Susan (August 12, 2013). "New Bell's amusement park in the works". Tulsa World. Retrieved 2013-08-13. 
  20. ^ "Labor Commissioner Issues Interim Report on Amusement Park Accident" (Press release). Oklahoma Department of Labor. 1997-07-03. Retrieved 2006-08-31. 
  21. ^ "Avalanche". Retrieved 2013-04-15. 

External links[edit]