Joyland Amusement Park opened in Wichita, Kansas on June 12, 1949, and was in continuous operation for 55 years. The park closed in 2004 when its owners experienced financial difficulties due to declining attendance.
The park was founded by Lester Ottaway and his sons Herbert and Harold, to serve as the home for a miniature 12-inch (300 mm) gauge steam locomotive that Herb Ottawayhad purchased in Fort Scott back in 1933.
The current location of the park came into existence on June 12, 1949, primarily to give Harold’sminiature locomotive a permanent home in Kansas. It was originally located at 1515 East Central in Wichita (between New York and Mathewson streets) but soon moved to its current location at 2801 South Hillside. After Lester Ottaway’s death in the mid-1950s, his three sons, Herbert, Harold, and Eddie, continued running it as a family operation.
The Ottaway brothers retired from the amusement park business in the late 1960s and sold the park to Stanley and Margaret Nelson.
The park was showing its age when the Nelsons shut it down in mid-2004, with many attractions requiring extensive repairs. In 2006 the Seattle-based T-Rex Group who were instrumental in turning around a pair of small parks in Washington state, leased it from them and temporarily reopened it with plans for a complete refurbishing. Nevertheless, financial problems continued to plague it, and it did not reopen after the 2006 season..
Since the park closed in 2004, it has been subjected to numerous incidents of vandalism and looting. Nearly every building is covered with graffiti, and the vintage sign from the top of the roller coaster has been stolen. The administration offices have also been destroyed. Park owner Margaret Nelson was quoted as saying "We're sick. Our hearts are just sick. It's not easy, not easy."
Stanley Nelson died on July 13, 2010, at the age of 87. He and Margaret were the driving force behind the park for over 30 years and a large percentage of its current rides, including the Bill Tracy designed "Whacky Shack" dark ride, added in 1974, come from the Nelsons' time as owners. Though there are a few Whacky Shacks still in use across the country today, this classic two-story dark ride was the last known project of Tracy's, as he died in August 1974, just a few months after its completion.
Recently Restore Hope, a project founded by local Wichita resident Alex East, has stepped in to regain support towards rebuilding the park with an emphasis on a community effort and involvement in the restoration process. The plan is to restore it within the next few years and begin a 5 step expansion process to help it grow and become a integral part of the Wichita community.
On Saturday, August 4, 2012, a maintenance building in the park caught fire. None of the rides were damaged and the fire was subdued in thirty minutes. Police suspected arson.