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Joyland merry-go-round project gets concrete — and personal — at Botanica

This schematic design shows what the Botanica carousel will look like.
This schematic design shows what the Botanica carousel will look like. Courtesy of WDM Architects

The refurbished Joyland merry-go-round will be housed under a pavilion of glass and steel just west of the Downing Children’s Garden in designs being released as Botanica kicks off its capital campaign for the project.

“A New Home for Old Memories” is the theme for the campaign, which seeks to raise more than $3 million for the transformation of the Joyland merry-go-round to what will be known as the Botanica carousel, and for housing it.

The carousel will be a year-round attraction in a pavilion that will include a party room, a mechanical organ, restrooms and concessions. The project includes an adjacent Grand Lawn that will have seating for about 3,000 and a performance area large enough to stage the Wichita Symphony Orchestra.

The project is the next piece in Botanica’s expansion plans that also propose a future butterfly conservatory, a 400-seat event center, a second entrance to Botanica, and new parking lots.

But the carousel is the one piece that is already in process – the horses from the old Joyland merry-go-round are being restored, and volunteers are raising their hands to help with other aspects of the restoration work, Botanica director Marty Miller said this week.

“I think this is going to be a huge, huge addition,” Miller said of the carousel, which Joyland owner Margaret Nelson Spear donated to Botanica two years ago. “Of course that’s going to bring more people. It’s just one more step forward to helping Botanica be more self-sustainable.

“It’s a treasure, a treasure of our history that so many people remember, and people will be bringing their children and their grandchildren. ... It’s already created so much emotion.”

Miller grew up riding the merry-go-round, as did Marlene Irvin, who is restoring its 36 horses, and Dan Wilson, the lead architect on the project from WDM Architects.

The carousel that was an iconic fixture of the Joyland amusement park will have a new home at Botanica. (Oct. 16, 2015)

The total price tag for the carousel project is $3,639,200, and $507,450 has been raised so far. The campaign includes naming rights for the pavilion and surrounding gardens and many other things, such as benches, that can be found in the promotional brochure being distributed now.

“I’d like to raise the money within a year and build it the next year. That might be a little aggressive, but that’s our goal,” Miller said.

The restoration of the carousel and the building of the pavilion will be done simultaneously, Miller said. The merry-go-round has to be completely rewired because all the copper wire was stolen, and it probably will be lighted with LED bulbs. “We’ll have to do some major work on it. It’ll have a whole different look.”

The carousel pavilion – with walls that can be lowered and raised according to the weather – will be located to the right as visitors enter the children’s garden, to the west.

“It’s actually an overgrown wooded area” now, Miller said.

The carousel is 40 feet in diameter, and the pavilion will be about 6,000 square feet, Miller said. There will be benches inside, and seating outside under pergolas. It will be open Tuesday and Thursday evenings in the summer, when Botanica is open until 8, and also during the holiday season when Botanica has its Illuminations event.

The pavilion will be a steel frame building with a lot of glass and stone elements on the base and column areas, architect Wilson said. Many people were involved in the design process, and WDM’s original design, which was more contemporary, was transformed to meet the desires of the consultors, he said.

Margaret Nelson Spear and her husband, Gene, have been part of the planning process, Miller said. The merry-go-round was made in 1949 in New York, one of the rare ones from the Allan Herschell Co. that still exist with their original parts, Irvin said.

Louie the Clown, who “played” the organ at Joyland, will not be at Botanica, Miller said. “Everybody asks that question. There may be some surprise appearances.”

The Grand Lawn, which will cost $250,000 and whose location already has a bit of an amphitheater slope, will be directly west of the carousel and then north to abut Sim Park Drive where it curves between Botanica and Sim Golf Course. The area is currently fenced.

Cost estimates are not yet available on the other proposed additions to Botanica. An event center that would seat at least 400 is envisioned because “we’re already getting calls from people who want to have their 40th high-school reunion there,” Miller said. “And when they have a large group we don’t have the capacity for that.” The party room attached to the carousel will hold 80.

The carousel can open without additional parking, though that will be what he wants next, Miller said.

Botanica also will be working with nearby Cowtown on hosting dual events and also alternating bigger events so the area doesn’t get congested, he said.

Wilson said that the carousel project is unique because of the memories involved.

“I grew up in south Wichita. Part of that was being able to ride your bike to wherever you wanted to go back then,” including Joyland, Wilson said. His family is friends with the Nelson family who owned Joyland.

“It’s a real personal effort for me.”

Botanica unveiled its new Chinese Garden of Friendship Friday. It honors Wichita's friendship with its Sister City of Kaifeng. The Garden contains earthly elements that are essential to the traditional Scholar-type Chinese garden. It also features

Botanic Executive Director Marty Miller says he is optimistic Botanica's "Illuminations" will be a success in 2015, despite two-days-postponed opening. (Matt Riedl/The Wichita Eagle)

Hundreds attended Botanica’s Butterfly Festival on Sunday, May 31, 2015, which served as the opening celebration of the Cox Butterfly House. (Matt Riedl/The Wichita Eagle)

Annie Calovich: 316-268-6596, @anniecalovich

How to donate to the Botanica carousel

Donations toward the Botanica carousel can be made toward particular horses, starting at $2,500, and to naming rights of various items ranging from $200 to $1.8 million.

This summer, there will be a community raffle for donations of $20.

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