Politics & Government

City Hall approves plan to bring Joyland back to life as a different kind of park

A drone reveals what remains of Wichita’s beloved Joyland

Travis White, an FAA-licensed drone pilot in Neodesha, Kansas, recently captured new aerial views of Joyland, an abandoned amusement park in south Wichita.
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Travis White, an FAA-licensed drone pilot in Neodesha, Kansas, recently captured new aerial views of Joyland, an abandoned amusement park in south Wichita.

The Wichita City Council has approved a plan to bring some joy back to Joyland.

The council on Tuesday authorized the redevelopment of the site of the abandoned amusement park that once billed itself as the ”southwest’s finest.”

The plan calls for cleanup of the site and development of an event center, a paintball gun range, and one or more restaurants.

The new owners, Gregory and Tina Dunnegan, bought the Joyland property at auction for $198,000 in November.

They plan to marry the site with their current business, renting tents for special events.

“He’d like to make it an outdoor venue so people could come out and have a beautiful wedding,” said council member James Clendenin, who represents the area.

In a nod to the site’s long history as an amusement park, the Dunnegans plan to host some seasonal events with temporary carnival rides.

The paintball range will be open to the public, so hobbyists can go fight mock battles in a heavily wooded area of the site.

Clendenin said neighbors have been delighted to see the Dunnegans invest in the property, which had degenerated over years of neglect.

The 57 acres at 2801 S. Hillside was an amusement park from 1949 until 2006, when it shut down for good.

The site has deteriorated in the years since — subject to rampant vandalism, theft, and the occasional arson.

Rides were sold off or torn down and and a fire in August 2018 destroyed the Whacky Shack, a campy but locally iconic ride that had been enjoyed by generations.

“While much of this parcel is in the flood plain, there are many opportunities for development,” consultant Greg Ferris wrote in a proposal for the site last month. “They (the owners) envision temporary outdoor festivals and temporary amusement rides to capture the old flavor of Joyland. They would also like to utilize the existing building for events such as weddings and parties.”

The approval also includes a sign plan allowing several billboards along the western edge of the property adjacent to the 1-135 freeway and K-15.

The project plan was on the council’s “consent agenda,” among a list of routine business items that were approved with a single vote.

It was earlier approved 9-0 by the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission and 6-1 with one abstention at the District Advisory Board.

No protest petitions were filed.

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