Joyland Amusement Park (Wichita, Kansas)
Joyland Entrance, 2003
|Slogan||The Southwest's Finest|
|Location||Wichita, Kansas USA|
|Roller coasters||Roller Coaster (Nightmare)|
|Water rides||Log Jam|
Joyland Amusement Park is a former amusement park in Wichita, Kansas. It was in continuous operation for 55 years, from June 12, 1949, to 2004. The park was once the largest theme park in central Kansas and featured a wooden roller coaster and 24 other rides.
Today the site is abandoned, and most buildings and rides have been vandalized.
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.
- Reopening and closing
Due to economical troubles and safety concerns the park had to close for the 2004 season. Interest in the park sparked again in 2006 when a Seattle based company, T-Rex Group, leased the park to restore and open portions of the park. After financial concerns with the park, the T-Rex group did not open the park for another season. Joyland has now sat since 2006 without any maintenance and continually deteriorates.
- 2006 Restorations
In 2006 many renovations took place at Joyland, of which were focused more on the aesthetics of the park than actual ride safety. Roller Coaster did have $10,000 dollars worth of wood repairs done and was renamed "The Nightmare". The Log Jam, Joyland's 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 the park.
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. 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."
- Joyland restoration project
The Restore Hope organization got involved to regain support to rebuild the park with an emphasis on a community effort and involvement in the restoration process. The plan is 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.
- August 2012 fire
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 suspect arson.
Joyland featured more than 24 amusement rides, including:
- Round Up — a circa 1960 Hrubetz High Speed Circular ride
- Zumur - A Chance Rides Wave Swinger
- Dodge'm — Classic Bumper cars
- Log Jam - a Log flume style ride
- Giant Slide
- Ferris wheel
- The Whacky Shack - Dark ride
Joyland's 1949 era roller coaster, a Philadelphia Toboggan Company coaster designed by Herbert Paul Schmeck, is one of the last surviving original wooden ones, and is one of 33 surviving ones of only 44 original ones designated as an ACE Coaster Classic. Originally called simply Roller Coaster but for a time was renamed Nightmare, it has a 2,600 ft (790 m) track span, 80 ft (24 m) drop and 50 mph (80 km/h) top speed. It has 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 at Joyland. One scene in the film features several minutes of footage shot on the roller coaster.. The roller coaster is currently standing but not operating.
In addition to the miniature train and wooden roller coaster, Joyland had a Mammoth Military Band Organ, also known as a Wurlitzer Style 160. It was the largest of the Wurlitzer’s early band organs. 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. It represented the effect of a military brass band of 20 to 25 musicians. It was the largest available band organ from Wurlitzer at the time, and was designed primarily for the skating 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 skating rink. It was used to provide music for the rink. In the 1930s it went into storage. It was heavily water damaged and some of its brass parts were stripped off during World War II scrap metal drives. In 1948, Jess Gibbs of Parsons, purchased it and began the painstaking work of restoring it. In 1950 he sold the refurbished organ to the Ottaway family, who installed it in Joyland. They added Louie the Clown Organist, an automated clown who sits before the keyboard and "plays" it. Louie and the Mighty Wurlitzer have been a fixture there ever since. It creates a sound that resonates through the entire park. It is one of only two mammoth organs still in existence and, until the park closed, it was the only one in public view.
Joyland also features an original Allan Herschell Company designed Carousel, which was built in 1949. It has all of the original Carousel horses. It is disassembled at the end of every season, which has been carefully done for protection every year for the last 59 years.
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 Joyland specifically, as McKee is a native of Kansas.
- Joyland Amusement Park at the Roller Coaster DataBase
- Official Joyland Restoration Project Website
- Joyland Restoration Project Facebook Group
- Save Joyland Facebook Group
- Joyland Photos and Videos at JoylandWichita.org
- Archived copy of former Joyland website
- Joyland's Roller Coaster
- In-ride video of Joyland's roller coaster
- Joyland's Mammoth organ and Louie the Clown Organist
- Whacky Shack at Darkride and Funhouse Enthusiasts
- Daily Mail photos of derelict Joyland Theme Park
- Numerous photos of Joyland