A farewell to Phantasmagoria

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Blogger Kirk Demarais of Secret Fun Spot has long been fascinated by Phantasmagoria, the dark ride at swiftly vanishing Bell's Amusement Park. He detailed his history with the ride, along with photos and sketches, in this entry from February 8.

As sometimes happens when you post something on a blog, he got a reply from someone else with an interest in the topic -- long-time Bell's electrician Buddy Stefanoff, who offered Kirk the chance to come look around inside the ride as it was being dismantled and packed to move. In the process, Kirk learned more of the history of Phantasmagoria and some of its intriguing secrets.

"Farewell" may not be the right word, actually. Toward the end of that second entry you'll find a sneak preview of a concept for a new dark ride at Bell's new location, wherever that may be.

On a related note, a couple of days ago my wife and six-year-old daughter were driving past Expo Square on 21st Street, and as they went past Zingo, my little girl -- and she's small for her age -- started talking excitedly about all the rides she could ride this year that she was too short for last season. That's when my wife had to break the news -- Bell's was going away. She sobbed the rest of the way home.

From my years of involvement with the Midtown Coalition of Neighborhood Associations, I know how relieved the immediate neighbors are that Bell's is going away. Personally I never wanted to see it leave entirely; I liked one Sunrise Terrace homeowner's proposal to have Tulsa County accommodate Bell's expansion toward the interior of Expo Square, along the State Fair Midway and away from the neighborhoods. Neighboring homeowners very reasonably wanted to prevent any encroachment into the open space buffer along the west side of the Fairgrounds.

There was a long legal fight to revoke the county's permission for Bell's to construct a new coaster closer to the neighborhood, and it was finally resolved this last year with a compromise. With Bell's gone, the neighbors won't have to worry about Bell's expansion plans anymore.

They will have to worry about whatever County Commissioner Randi Miller plans to put in its place. Oh, she says they don't know what's going to be done with the land, but you don't throw away a revenue source without something in mind to replace it. My intuition is that Miller has known what will be going in there since long before she announced that Bell's was being evicted, but she isn't yet willing to take the political flak for the decision.

(The neighbors will have more say over what will replace Bell's if the City of Tulsa annexes the Fairgrounds. Without annexation, only the County Commissioners and officials directly appointed by them will have a role in choosing the new use. With annexation, any change in zoning, any special exception, or variance would have to come through the City of Tulsa's zoning process, and would be more likely to be compatible with the surrounding neighborhoods.)

Would it have killed Miller and the Fair Board to give us just one more summer to say goodbye to the park as it has been for decades?

MORE: Kirk has a new post up about the White Lightnin' log flume ride.

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2 Comments

mad okie Author Profile Page said:

20 years ago this Memorial Day weekend, I took my now wife on our first date... it was to Bell's. We had plans to go back for our anniversary, that will not happen now. Instead we will be going out of town and spend our money elsewhere.

Bob said:

The Bell's Amusement Park vs. Tulsa County Fairgrounds Authority reminds me of:

Which came first, the Chicken or the Egg?

Bell seemed reluctant to invest in upgrading his amusement park. Was it always because he was unsure about whether he had a sure enough future at the Fairgrounds to realize a reasonable return on his investment?

So, Bell held off re-investing more money, and the viability of his investment declined as a result, revenue declined, and there we are.

There is no doubt that the Fairgrounds Authority membership knows what they want to do with the 10 acres currently occupied by Bell's.

At a minimum, they want to keep the concrete flowing, by erecting new and improved structures at the Fairgrounds that continue to line the pockets of their Connected Crony contractors and engineer/architects (Matrix/Steven Alter?).

Tulsa County Government = Den of Thieves.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on March 14, 2007 11:49 PM.

Tulsa 1957: "Where Beauty Is Everybody's Business" was the previous entry in this blog.

You mean it wasn't named to honor Lewis Meyer? is the next entry in this blog.

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