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San Antonio Classic Kiddie Park Moves to the Zoo
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The iconic Kiddie Park has moved from its original downtown San Antonio location to the grounds of the San Antonio Zoo. 

The park closed July 4th and reopened October 18th. The original decision to close and move the park occurred because of development around its location, which limited parking and decreased visitors. Kiddie Park was appraised last year at $1.45 million.

According to San Antonio Zoo president and CEO Tim Morrow, “We are working diligently to ensure that this iconic children's amusement park feels as much like it did at its Broadway location and that it will more than meet the expectations of past, present and future Kiddie Park visitors.” Funds from Kiddie Park operations will go to support the San Antonio Zoo’s conservation mission. Morrow adds that the zoo plans to “honor and maintain its look and feel, while offering the same experience generations of visitors have come to know and love.”

Kiddie Park is hiring 45 current and eligible staff members; the zoo is doubling its parking availability.

Kiddie Park began in 1925 and was renovated in 2009. Despite the move, Kiddie Park preserved its 1920s look, keeping all the original rides, including the old-fashioned Ferris wheel, hand-carved Herschell-Spillman carousel and more.

Brent Conger, a co-owner of the park, says. “We all have a special place in our hearts for Kiddie Park and did not want to see it go…the zoo has decades of experience with ride operations; the train, their own carousel and an infrastructure that will greatly benefit Kiddie Park operations and the visitor experience.”

The nonprofit’s experience managing rides and a kid-friendly venue was appealing, Conger relates, however “Our biggest thing was keeping Kiddie Park alive.”

The zoo and Kiddie Park’s co-owners have a revenue-sharing agreement that will end in 10 years, when the zoo becomes the sole owner, Morrow explains. Money generated from the attraction will go toward a nonprofit focused on wildlife education and conservation.

Morrow stresses that Kiddie Park is an enhancement to the zoo. In addition to the regular park patrons, the attraction is expected to be a draw for people heading to the zoo. The zoo sees nearly 1.2 million visitors a year.

“It gives people a lot of options,” Morrow notes. “People will stay a little bit longer.”

When Kiddie Park’s original owners P.W. Curry, Tom Riordan and Rufus Walker built the park, the initial location was positioned on the outskirts of town; however the city has grown up around it and squeezed it with new construction such as a Shake Shack. 

Some of the first rides were pony and goat carts. The park’s still iconic miniature cars arrived in the 1920s. Miniature planes appeared in the 1940s, and park goers could also ride handcars, powered around a track with riders’ hand pedals. 

Then and now, the 1918-era hand-carved carousel, crafted by the Herschell-Spillman Co. from North Tonawanda, New York, arrived in 1935 and remains a long-time favorite attraction for park visitors. 

Other additions over time – along with the demise of the ponies and goat carts – included the “Little Dipper” roller coaster, which was added in the 1950s, along with a small boat ride.

Bob Aston purchased the park from Curry in 1978, managing it for two decades, and temporarily closing it in 2009, when it was purchased by Rad Weaver. Weaver, who had fond memories of the park from his childhood, fixed the park with the help of his wife Ashley Weaver. They got rid of the Little Dipper, adding tables for birthday parties and a large metal gate. The park reopened following renovations in 2010. 

“My hope is that the park is here for a long time,” Weaver says, adding that it’s considered a San Antonio institution in its own way. 

The park has preserved the look of its 1920s era founding, maintaining all the original rides with the exception of the Little Dipper. Along with these classic rides, including the carousel, the park has added new carnival games that include all the classic offerings such as a milk bottle toss and soda ring toss. Face painting is also available. 

With no height or weight restrictions on the rides for children ages 1-12, kids can ride on every ride in the park. Parents are also able to enjoy a ride along with their child on the carousel, the Helicopter, and the Flying Saucers rides. 

Guests can start booking birthday parties online on Kiddie Park's website.

The zoo has added a new 600-spot parking garage nearby to compensate for the parking lot space now used for the attraction.  

As visitors enter the park area, they’ll see the familiar arched sign from the 94-year-old Kiddie Park that marked the entrance to its former location. 

When the zoo first agreed to take over operations of the park, they had originally planned to place it near a bend of the San Antonio River, but the Brackenridge Park Conservancy objected; the current location should make it easy to find, and an excellent adjunct to the park. 

Former park owner Bob Aston is excited to see the rides in their new location and to see the wooden carousel up and working again. The carousel turns 101 this year, he says.

“It’s handmade, and there are very few of them,” he said. “They’re becoming unique. Those kinds of carousels are not in private parks. They’re in places like Six Flags, SeaWorld, big places, because they’re so expensive little parks can’t afford to buy one like that.”

Kiddie Park and its carousel has been preserved and found its new home.
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