Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Blast From The Past - Canada's Wonderland Part 2

As construction continued many of the cultural institutions in Toronto including Ontario Place, the Royal Ontario Museum and the operators of the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) had major concerns that Toronto was not a large enough market to support more competition and this new theme park could put them out of business.

A local residential association was also against Wonderland being built, they felt the increase in traffic would decrease their property values. Many People in the Toronto area were concerned that the new park would be similar in aesthetics to a carnival or midway.

Taft was concerned about opposition, so a landscaped berm was constructed around the park to reduce noise and to help hide the large parking lot to appease the neighbors. And, Taft also flew some of the parks staunchest political opponents to Cincinnati to show them the positive impact Kings Island had on that community.

Another concerns was the cultural implications of allowing an American theme park to open in Canada. Many felt that it would be a "Trojan Horse" for American culture. To help negate these concerns Taft planned to open Frontier Canada, a section of the park which was to be devoted to Canada's history.

Early park maps show the Frontier Canada area encompassing land that is now Splash Works, White Water Canyon, the F/X Theatre and the southern part of Kidzville. The maps also included proposed attractions, which included a steam passenger train. While Frontier Canada was never built, several elements of the themed areas remain in the park.

Unlike its sister parks, Kings Island and Kings Dominion, it was decided during the early planning stages that centerpiece of the park would not be a replica of Paris's famous Eiffel Tower. Instead the park's designers chose to build a massive mountain, known as Wonder Mountain. Situated at the top of International Street, Wonder Mountain featured a huge waterfall and interior pathways which led visitors to a look-out point.

Canada's Wonderland was also responsible for changing the master development plan for the Province of Ontario. The government wanted the land north of Toronto remain agricultural.

Taft was able to convince the province to amend the plan, and the park secured infrastructure improvements (including a highway overpass and sewage systems) to be expanded and built out to the site. These improvements paved the way for increased development throughout the entire region.

Check out next week's Blast for the conclusion of our Canada's Wonderland construction coverage.

Click here for part 3!


Scott Simpson said...

Now *that's* the Canada's Wonderland I remember. Where did you find these wonderful pictures? I should go through my old black-and-white Polaroids and post them at Big Ass Superstar and send you folks a copy in case you want to post them here. It's so interesting to look at old Canada's Wonderland photos and see what the park looked like in its opening state, with the trees so small and the original themes intact. Well done! On to part 3.