Keeper of the Plans

Derby's extravagant new dinosaur park opened this weekend. Here's what you need to know

Take a tour of the animatronic dinosaur park in Derby

(FILE VIDEO -- MAY 24, 2018) Field Station: Dinosaurs, the new animatronic dinosaur park in Derby.
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(FILE VIDEO -- MAY 24, 2018) Field Station: Dinosaurs, the new animatronic dinosaur park in Derby.

To those patiently waiting for the return of the dinosaurs: Your wait is almost over.

Field Station: Dinosaurs, a 14-acre dinosaur theme park in Derby, officially opens Saturday.

It features 44 life-size animatronic dinosaurs spread among three distinct areas of the park — "they roar, they breathe, they blink," assures Guy Gsell, executive director of the park.

"You will see we make this whole world disappear when you're in the park," Gsell said, gesturing from a nearby Hampton Inn to a QuikTrip. "We've created a hill we call Mount Derby; we have a lake; we've built a quarry. So when you're in there ... you really are sort of in that Field Station: Dinosaurs world."

It's the first major attraction to open in the Wichita area in the past few years — a park Derby leaders hope will become a regional draw.

It cost $6.5 million — paid for with a mix of private financing and with sales tax revenue bonds from the city of Derby. STAR bonds serve as financial incentives for private businesses to create tourist destinations.

The park has three main areas: its Dinosaur Path (the main attraction); an indoor "challenge course" with ropes; and "Jurassic Golf" mini-golf.

Tickets to the Dinosaur Path are $16.50 for adults 12 and over, and $13.50 for children 2-11. That admission includes access to the park, as well as all hands-on games and shows performed throughout the day.

It's set up as a scientific expedition: Guests walk around the dinosaurs and participate in games and various interactive activities along the way.

A local cast of actors have been hired to perform dinosaur-themed shows, sing dinosaur songs and, in some cases, operate dinosaur puppets at the park throughout the day.

"The shows are the heart and soul of the park," Gsell said. "We have shows for kids who don't know how to read yet and shows for grown-ups."

The dinosaurs featured in the park are ones that have been found in the Midwest region — specifically from Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, New Mexico and Missouri.

Kansas itself has been the site of many dinosaur discoveries over the years — though most of the species that lived in Kansas during that time were either aquatic or flying, as Kansas was mostly ocean in the time of the dinosaurs.

The park aims to educate people on Kansas' history as an important paleontological site, Gsell said.

"It's sort of the birthplace of modern paleontology," he said. "We tell that story about the early days of paleontology and some of the discoveries that happened right here."

The two other attractions at Field Station: Dinosaurs will be ticketed separately. The Challenge Dome rope course costs $12.50 for those 12 and older, and $9.50 for children 2-11. The Jurassic Golf mini-golf course will cost $10.50 for those 12 and older, and $7.50 for children 2-11.

Field Station: Dinosaurs is at 2999 N. Rock Road in Derby, just north of Patriot Avenue.

It will be open normally from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays through Sept. 9. Then, in the fall, it will be open from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays only from Sept. 15 to Nov. 25.

The Jurassic Golf mini-golf course will be open from 10 a.m.-10 p.m. whenever the park is open.

For more information, visit www.kansasdinos.com.

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