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Worlds of Fun opened on May 26, 1973, at a cost of $10 million. It was situated at the northern edge of a vast industrial complex in the bluffs above the Missouri River in Clay County, Missouri. At the time of its opening, numerous modernization projects across Kansas City were in progress including the opening of Kansas City International Airport, Kemper Arena and the Truman Sports Complex. Mid-America Enterprises, seeking to capitalize on the city-wide expansion movement, began construction on a new amusement park in 1969. The park was originally planned to complement a 500-acre (2.0 km2) hotel and entertainment complex, but a lagging economy during the park's early years derailed the idea.
In 1982, Oceans of Fun opened next door as the largest water park in the world. Also the same year, a sub-world "River City" was opened in Americana bordering the Orient. Screamroller was transformed into Extremeroller the following year, which featured stand-up trains instead of the original sit-down models making it the first looping, stand-up roller coaster in North America. Several years later in 1989, Worlds of Fun ended the decade with the addition of Timber Wolf, a wooden roller coaster that initially ranked high in several national polls.
2006: Patriot opens as the longest, tallest, and fastest full-circuit inverted roller coaster in the region. It was the park's largest capital investment on a single attraction at $14 million.
2008: For their 35th anniversary, Worlds of Fun added a festival called Oktoberfest.
2009: A new wooden coaster, Prowler, is added to the Africa section of the park. It receives the Golden Ticket Award for "Best New Ride of 2009" by Amusement Today magazine.
2010: Snoopy's Hot Summer Lights, a $1 million immersive light and sound experience, opens in the Europa and Africa sections of the park. Subway opens at Oceans of Fun.
2011: Planet Snoopy, an $8-million children's themed area, is added to Worlds of Fun featuring over 20 rides and attractions. An Illionscarousel called The Grand Carousel is added to the Scandinavia section of the park.
2012: A premium line queue system called "Fast Lane" is introduced.
2013: Oceans of Fun receives full integration with Worlds of Fun sharing one admission for both parks.
2014: WindSeeker – a 301-foot (92 m) Mondial swing ride at Knott's Berry Farm – was renamed SteelHawk and relocated to Worlds of Fun for the 2014 season.
The park takes its theme from the Jules Verne book, Around the World in Eighty Days. Worlds of Fun is divided into five major sections (Scandinavia, Africa, Europa, the Orient, and Americana). Rides, attractions, shops, shows, and restaurants are named according to the area theme. Guests enter the park in Scandinavia. In 1997 the Americana "main entrance" was closed for the creation of Grand Prix, so the "back gate" became the "main gate" ever since. The next world to the left is Africa, continuing in a clockwise roation, guest would then enter the Americana section, followed by the Orient. The Europa section is located in the approximate center of the circle.
Within Americana, lies the sub-section of Planet Snoopy (the area of the park specifically for young children). Originally added in 1978 as an expansion of Americana, over the years the grounds have changed its identity several times. Initially it was called "Aerodrome" (1978–86) with futuristic rides for adults, it then became a children's area called "Pandamonium!" (1987–97), then "Berenstain Bear Country" (1997–2000), and "Camp Snoopy" (2001–2010), and is currently "Planet Snoopy", new to the 2011 season. Past sub-sections have also included Bicentennial Square, River City, and Beat Street, which all have been absorbed back into Americana.
Despite the lack of an Australian/Oceanic section, the Australian-themed Boomerang roller coaster is incorporated into Africa.
Schussboomer (picture), (1973–1984), a ski-themed steel roller coaster with ten separate 4-passenger cars.
Screamroller/Extremeroller , (1976–1988), the first stand-up roller coaster in the Western Hemisphere. Its only season as a stand-up coaster was in 1983, after which it was reverted to the original sit-down style.
Incred-O-Dome, (1981–1997), an OMNIMAX-style theater where viewers could go on a virtual ride of, among other things, the Orient Express coaster. This appealed to visitors who did not want to wait in line or experience the real ride, as well as those with physical conditions which would prevent them from riding at all. The show was presented less than 200 yards (180 m) away from the actual ride.
Omegatron, (1986–2001), a six-story, upside-down thrill ride.
Orient Express, (1980–2003), the first roller coaster in the world to feature a batwing (then known as a "Kamikaze Curve"), now a common element in thrill rides. Also, it was the second roller coaster in the world to have two interlocking loops.
Python Plunge, a water-slide type ride where the riders would carry the raft up to the top themselves. There were two types of slides. One slide was open aired and went straight down, the other was a twisting tube.
Fast Lane is Worlds of Fun's new 'two line' system for 2012. For a cost between $30 and $50 (in addition to normal admission charges), visitors receive a wrist band that enables them to bypass the 'normal-wait' line and enter the 'Fast Lane' to significantly reduce their wait time.
In 2005 Worlds of Fun opened the first on-site resort. The campground is adjacent to the park, and is located "behind" Mamba. The Village has 22 cabins and 20 cottages and 82 sites for RVs, complete with electric and TV cable hook ups. Each cabin or cottage can fit 6–8 people.
“Snoopy’s Hot Summer Lights” which debuted in 2010 is an immersive light and sound experience starring the Peanuts characters. Snoopy’s Hot Summer Lights features over 2 million LED lights and a variety of audio soundtracks through the Africa and Europa sections of the park. Along the walkway there are replicas of Snoopy and other characters for guests to view. Snoopy's Hot Summer Lights was a one million dollar investment that uses special effects and sound design, custom designed for Worlds of Fun by Emmy Award-Winning RWS and Associates. Snoopy’s Hot Summer Lights opened for its original run on June 4 and ran through September 5, 2010.