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Kan.’s First Theme Park on Schedule for May Opening

Sun February 11, 2007 - Midwest Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) Rainy weather might have kept Thomas Etheredge from riding his new Ferris wheel before Christmas, but it didn’t dampen hopes that Wild West World will be open by the May 5 target date.

Etheredge figures he’s still approximately 30 days ahead of schedule on his $30 million, 130-acre theme park — the first in Kansas — that he is building north of Wichita.

More than half a dozen of the 24 rides planned for the park are up and running, wooden frontier shops line the concrete “board walk” of Main Street, and the twisting concrete channel for the log flume ride is approximately half poured.

As soon as each ride is erected and tested, it will be sealed in plastic to wait out the rest of winter, Etheredge said.

“From concept to completion, it will be just a few days more than two years,” Etheredge said. “That’s unheard of for a new theme park.”

Len Soled, president of a New Jersey-based ride broker, Rides4U, who deals with theme parks around the world, agreed that construction of Wild West World has been surprisingly fast.

He also said the theme park will open at the optimum size.

“Twenty-four rides put Wild West World in a very good position,” Soled said. “Silver Dollar City [in Missouri] is adding nine rides this year to bring it up to 21. You’ll start ahead of that.”

Etheredge expected the park to attract 500,000 visitors from May to October in the first year and generate $15.5 million in revenue. He has conducted job fairs to recruit workers for the 400 jobs that need to be filled — most of them seasonal, but some that will be permanent.

“We expected a lot of students but we are also looking at a lot of senior citizens,” he said.

He also has brought in a talent scout from New York who specializes in theme park shows to find local talent for the park’s musical stages.

On top of that, he already has $750,000 in advance season ticket sales.

“I’ve never seen advance sales like that,” Soled said. “We’re going to bring a lot of excitement to Wichita.”

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