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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Wild West souvenirs on the auction block

BY BILL WILSON
The Wichita Eagle

The final pieces of Thomas Etheredge's failed Park City theme park will be sold at auction today.

It's the ultimate for Wild West World souvenir hunters, as literally everything that's left is being sold by park owners AEG Group, a Florida investment group that bought the park out of bankruptcy.

Want the Wild West World neon sign that has sat dormant along I-135 for three years? It's on the auction list.

Want Etheredge's executive bathroom fixtures from the park's administrative building? They're on the list. Want the Johnny Western Theater, the largest of the park's collection of metal farm buildings dressed up in Old West decor? It's available.

The auction begins at 9 a.m. at the Sleep Inn & Suites, 1075 Hopalong Cassidy Circle, next to the land where the park was open for two months in 2007.

The auction also is being conducted on the Internet at bit.ly/wildwestauction.

There are about 450 items for sale: 31 buildings on the auction block, 181 trees, more than 7,800 feet of fence, bathroom fixtures and small amounts of air-conditioning and electrical gear.

Auctioneer Eric Malone of Malone & Associates Auctioneers said everything must go as owners prepare to tear out the concrete and blacktop, and level the site off for an unspecified project. The Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma owns land adjacent to the park and wants to put a casino there.

"It's a pretty big site and when you start adding it up, there's a lot of stuff there," he said.

The two centerpiece items are the theater and the two-acre tract that includes the park's maintenance building that will be sold later, Malone said.

Once the auction concludes, some miscellaneous items will be sold at the maintenance building patio, Malone said.

"We certainly hope it goes as well as the Oct. 2 auction, where we sold air conditioners and breaker panels," Malone said. "The owners were very happy with that."

Bidders that day were from 19 countries.

"Man, freight shipping one of those big industrial air-conditioning units to Hawaii has got to be a killer," Malone said, laughing.

Etheredge is serving five years in prison for securities fraud after a Sedgwick County District Court jury found him guilty of misleading private investors.

According to documents from the park's bankruptcy proceeding, it became insolvent in late 2006 as Etheredge struggled with construction cost overruns and excess spending on park equipment. At about the same time, Etheredge began soliciting private investors.

The park opened in May 2007. The total debt on the park was $24 million. It closed two months later.

Etheredge blamed the rainy weather and construction cost overruns for the park's failure. However, theme park experts said it was poorly themed and developed with cheap, poorly repackaged rides.

Reach Bill Wilson at 316-268-6290 or bwilson@wichitaeagle.com.

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