Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Blast From The Past - The Frontier City Wildcat

Located in Kansas City Missouri, Fairyland Park opened in 1923. The park had a Ferris wheel, a swimming pool, bumper cars, a shooting range, and even a petting zoo. There were picnic facilities, wild animal acts and name bands played in the big ballroom every evening, except Mondays. The Skyrocket designed by John Miller and built by Harry Baker was the park's original roller coaster.

Segregated until 1964, the park was even involved in the Civil Rights movement Admission to blacks came only after protest marches, demonstrations and arrests for blocking the entrance.

A section of the Skyrocket's back turnaround was destroyed by a windstorm in 1966 and knowing that a new park, Worlds of Fun, was under construction, the Brancato family, who owned Fairyland decided to build a new roller coaster. Opening in 1967, the Wildcat was the park's biggest ride. The wood track/steel structured coaster was designed by Aurel Vaszin and Edward Leis, and built by the NationalAmusement Device Company.

For awhile the new coaster helped the park compete with Worlds of Fun. Keeping their admission at fifty cents and parking free compared to Worlds of Fun's admission, five bucks plus parking, helped as well. But despite these efforts attendance was dwindling.

During the winter of 1977-78 the park suffered major storm damage and never reopened. To this day locals wonder if the damage was the true reason for the permanent closure, or if it was a convenient excuse. The Brancato family tried to redevelop the Fairyland property as a variety of businesses, a swap meet and a zoo were mentioned. But the the park would never again entertain guests.

After the park's closure the Wildcat stood on site for eleven years,and some remnants of the park were there as late as 1998. The American Coaster Enthusiasts had lobbied unsuccessfully for years to save and relocate the Wildcat. In 1989, after a lot of sweat, tears, and fund raising, the Wildcat was dismantled and moved piece by piece to Frontier City in Oklahoma City Oklahoma.

The Wildcat had to be modified significantly to fit into the new site at Frontier City. And, only one of the ride's two NAD three bench three car trains (sans headlights) were used by Frontier City. By the late 1990s, the park purchased two new three bench three car PTC trains, to ease wear and tear on the track. Sometime prior to the 2004 season one of these new PTC trains is believed to have been sent to a different park.

Today, there is still a small plaque in the rides queue covering the history of the ride and honoring ACE, for one of the greatest the preservation efforts of all time.