Monday, July 20, 2009

Kiddieland Closes in September

This NOT just in...but I thought I'd drop a quick blog entry about it.

Kiddieland, one of the oldest kid's amusement parks in the country, is closing for good in September of 2009. This park is located in Chicago suburb Melrose Park, right next to the horse races at Maywood. It's been in business for over 80 years now. I went there when I was a kid, a time or two, and we've taken our kids there several times until they got spoiled by the grandeur of Disney and grew up too much to really appreciate the rides there.

Let me tell you a little about the park: It has one roller coaster called the Little Dipper, an old looking wooden ride that for some reason is more fun than similar sized rides at, oh, say, Great America. It has a smallish log flume ride, an "Autopia" style old car ride where you or your kid drives a vintage car around the track. It has a train ride, quite undersized but still rideable for adults, which goes through the parking lot and then weaves around the property, through a tunnel with a low clearance. It has a number of rides for toddlers. It has a vintage carousel, and then another German Carousel where riders mount cars, trucks, bikes and motorcycles, and even rockets. There are some spinny rides and an old-ish Ferris Wheel. And, a real plus to the value, the park offers free sodas all the time. Believe me, on hot days this could be a godsend.

Apccording to the article in the Chicago Tribune fom July 12, 2009, there is a dispute between sides of the family: Mom (daughter or daughter in law of the founder, Art Fritz) and brother own the land and have refused to renew the lease of Kiddieland, apparently because the land should be more valuable than the lease provides for, on the one side, and her children (Fritz's grandchildren) on the other side, as owners of the park. Apparently the park has been profitable, charging around 20 bucks for an adult admission (IIRC, it's a little less than that), less for kids, and there's always a promotion going on. So it's closing, and the rides are up for sale.

Apparently the owners would like to sell everything intact, as a whole, to one buyer who might open another "Kiddieland" somewhere. (If I had any money I'd consider trying to open an amusement park down around where I live in Chicago's southwest suburbs...that is, if my wife let me...)

One interesting story in the article in the Tribune: When Walt Disney was planning his Disneyland park, he called Art Fritz to possibly discuss those plans. Fritz had the sort of park that Walt was considering building - fun for the whole family. Fritz, however, had no interest in discussing things with Walt, telling him he was "too busy to get involved with that. He made his park and Walt should make his own. He kind of blew him off", says one of the grandkids.

One less option for family entertainment in the Chicago area. It will be missed.

Here's the link to that article:  Kiddieland's Farewell Summer

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