The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

City Park rides to ride off into the sunset

The 60-year-old rides have become too expensive to maintain over the years.
Tate Hildyard
City Park’s rides will be closing down at the end of this season. (Tate Hildyard/The Daily Iowan)

City Park’s amusement rides — including a Ferris wheel, airplane ride, small train, and carousel — will close for good on Sept. 23 after more than 60 years.

Having opened in 1952, the City Park amusement rides have been a summertime favorite for generations. Now, they’re set for their final go-around.

“They’re just getting to an age that they’re nearly impossible to keep maintained and to keep operational on a daily basis,” Iowa City Parks & Recreation Director Juli Seydell Johnson said.

The aging rides take an increasingly greater amount of time to maintain, she said, and even if the city had an unlimited staff budget, it would still be difficult to maintain the rides because parts have become difficult to find.

“We know the rides are well-loved, and people have ridden them for years,” Seydell Johnson said. “It’s just that the cost benefit isn’t there anymore.”

The city doesn’t have exact numbers on the amount of money the rides have generated over the years, but that they do usually generate enough to pay for the ride operators.

According to a press release, the city has owned and operated the rides since 1999, when it bought them the Drollinger family, who had operated the rides since they opened.

The rides have been a fun summer attraction enjoyed by children past and present for many years. University of Iowa student Austin Wu, who grew up in Cedar Rapids, said he spent time in Iowa City on the weekends because there wasn’t a large Asian community in Cedar Rapids at the time.

UI student Austin Wu and his late twin brother Sean ride an amusement ride at City Park in 2003. (Contributed)

He went grocery shopping in Coralville, went to a Chinese school in the basement of a church, and then went to the City Park rides, he said.

“I was just sad that they’re going away; I remember them well,” Wu said.

In place of the rides, the city will construct a new adventure playground. The Parks Department still has to plan the move, a process that will include community meetings late this summer and fall to decide what the playground will be like. The new structure will be planned this fall and winter and built next spring. While officials have yet to decide what the play structure will include, Seydell Johnson said, the department has a fairly large budget, so it will likely be big and may include some unique features that similar structures at other parks may not have.

Seydell Johnson said the new playground will be open whenever the weather allows for children to play outside, not just in the summer. The current rides are only open from 1 to 7 p.m. because of staffing requirements, but the new playground will be accessible during the mornings as well as into the evening.

As for the old rides, Seydell Johnson says that the city will auction them off, likely through a website called

Serena, a mother of a 7- and a 10-year-old, came from Coralville with her kids as well as a 9-year-old friend to go for a ride on the train on a nice Friday afternoon. She said although she is sad to see the rides go, she still sees her and her kids visiting the park to play on the new structure.

“I think we’ll definitely come if there’s a new playground,” she said. “We love to tour the different playgrounds in the area.”

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