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High school student asks city council for $10 million to renovate Joyland

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, May 10, 2011, at 9:45 a.m.
  • Updated Sunday, July 1, 2012, at 6:42 p.m.

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Alex East, a 17-year-old junior at Northwest High School, asked the Wichita City Council on Tuesday to provide $10 million to help buy and renovate Joyland Amusement Park.

One day, he said, he hopes to restore the rides with help from taxpayer money dedicated to restoring historic facilities and reopen Joyland as a nonprofit amusement park.

But first he has to form a nonprofit, called Restore Hope, and raise at least $2 million to buy the property.

City funding seems unlikely given the city's financial struggles. But council members applauded his effort and pledged to help him reach out to people who could help.

"We don't get very many individuals your age that come to City Council with a plan that you're working on," Mayor Carl Brewer said.

East says he already has substantial support — more than 5,300 "likes" on Facebook.

Some TV stations are interested in his story, and he told council members that "Inside Edition" has contacted him.

It's a lot of attention for a 17-year-old who is still trying to establish a nonprofit that could accept donations.

But he has sought help from a few businesspeople and teachers at his school — and now City Hall.

He remains confident.

"Joyland is really only going to come back with the support of the community," he said after talking to council members.

East said he fell in love with Joyland years ago after riding the roller coaster. He has visited many amusement parks since then and said they are overcommercialized and don't have the same feel as Joyland.

The park opened in 1947 and has been closed since 2006.

Brewer asked council members to give East a chance to present his idea in one-on-one meetings. East said he's glad the council at least expressed interest.

Vice Mayor Lavonta Williams said she's glad to see East's passion and wished him success.

"Maybe Oprah will give you some money," she joked.

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