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Help sought finding teens who set fire at Joyland

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, August 21, 2012, at 3:44 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, May 6, 2014, at 12:47 p.m.

Joyland timeline

1947 – Brothers Harold and Herb Ottaway and their father, Lester Ottaway, buy a 40-acre tract of land in south Wichita and open Joyland Amusement Park. Attractions include a miniature train and wooden roller coaster.

1970s – Stan and Margaret Nelson – now Margaret Spear – buy the park.2004 – Joyland closes.

2006 – New operators reopen the park for a season, but lawsuits and noise complaints prevent the park from opening the next year.

July 13, 2010 – Stan Nelson dies.

March 2011 – Alex East starts the Joyland Restoration Project, a grassroots effort to purchase and renovate the park.

June 2012 – Restore Hope receives its nonprofit status.

More information about Restore Hope and the Joyland Restoration Project is available at www.joylandrestorationproject.org. Details on the project and donating are also on Facebook.

Fire officials are seeking the public’s help in finding three teenagers who may have intentionally set a fire at Joyland Amusement Park on Aug. 4.

Wichita fire Capt. Stuart Bevis said Tuesday that investigators have ruled that a fire in a storage building was arson. Bevis said witnesses reported seeing three boys in their late teens on bicycles leaving the area shortly before someone driving on I-135 called 911 after seeing smoke from the park, 2801 S. Hillside.

The two-story building contained some maintenance materials and supplies but was mostly empty, fire officials said. Bevis said the fire, which caused $15,000 in damage, started inside the building, on the north side of the park.

Specifics on materials used to ignite the fire have not been released.

The defunct amusement park closed for its final season in 2006 after park owners Margaret Spear and her late husband, Stan Nelson, had trouble with operators who had leased the park from them. It has since fallen into disrepair.

Local nonprofit Restore Hope is actively raising money and plans to purchase and renovate the park, which project leader Alex East estimates will cost $10 million.

The Aug. 4 fire is not the latest setback for Joyland, which has been the scene of past arsons, vandalism and thefts. Over the weekend, East, 18, warned that a group of kids collecting money going door-to-door on Restore Hope’s behalf is a scam.

Anyone with information about the fire or who may have seen the teenagers is encouraged to call the Wichita Fire Investigation Unit at 316-337-9146 or Crime Stoppers at 316-267-2111, if they wish to remain anonymous. People may also text TIP217 and information to 274637 (CRIMES) or submit tips online at www.wsccs.com.

Reach Amy Renee Leiker at 316-268-6644 or aleiker@wichitaeagle.com.

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