Iowa City auctions off City Park amusement rides

The City of Iowa City is auctioning off the amusement rides at City Park, with mixed reactions from the public.


Thomas A. Stewart

The City Park carousel is seen on Monday, October 1, 2018. Iowa City is auctioning off various amusement park rides from the park. (Thomas A. Stewart/The Daily Iowan)

Paul Elwell, News Reporter

The city of Iowa City is auctioning off the historical amusement rides occupying City Park after more than 60 years of providing community members with a unique and memorable experience.

Juli Seydell Johnson, the city director of parks & recreation, said officials decided to retire the rides based on several factors. The equipment is outdated and difficult to maintain, she said, plus there is little access for people with disabilities, the rides are often closed because of flooding, and it uses resources that could better be spent elsewhere.

“Staffing and maintaining the amusement rides is just not feasible anymore,” Seydell Johnson said. “We spend more time and resources trying to keep the rides running than maintaining all of the trails in Iowa City.”

The rides were purchased and staffed by the Drollinger family in the 1950s and purchased by the city decades later. Since then, the city has run the amusement park. Now, the rides are listed on the website The current bid for the miniature train track is $25,050. Interested parties have until Oct. 19 to place their bids.

The city will begin using the funds to undertake smaller renovations, such as moving things away from the river because of the frequent flooding. Then, the city will build a new play area for children that will not need daily staffing or the level of maintenance the rides required.

Community members have exhibited mixed reactions to the decision, Seydell Johnson said. Tuesday night at the City Council meeting, Iowa City resident Kristine Taylor spoke of her desire to keep the rides in place. She talked with The Daily Iowan the following day, saying she has been going to the park since she was a child and now takes her two young children frequently.

“The rides are as old as my parents; it began in 1952,” Taylor said. “This is a historical piece of Iowa City so many families have enjoyed. All of a sudden, the city got rid of it.”

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Before knowing whether the rides were being sold, Taylor started a petition to the city to keep them in their original place at City Park. The petition has garnered roughly 142 signatures, Taylor said. She is going to continue her efforts to keep the amusement rides in City Park.

“I am certainly going to try,” she said. “A couple of city councilors would like to see it stop. One says it’s already a done deal. I am hoping to have the opportunity to talk about it more.”

While most of the conversation is being dominated by people who are too big to ride, Taylor’s 11-year-old son, Michael Taylor, spoke alongside her at the City Council meeting.

“People are building huge apartments,” Michael said. “I think they should take some money to buy new rides. Because we have so many hotels and apartments already, and I think we could do a fundraiser or something. They’re historical. We are destroying a lot of historical things in Iowa City.”

Unfortunately, keeping the rides open just isn’t an option right now, Seydell Johnson said. She said that with resources the equipment exhausts from the city, it just isn’t viable to keep the rides open.

“We’re all sad to see the rides go,” Seydell Johnson said. “We understand the special place it holds in people’s memories and hearts, but it’s time to move on so families can make new memories at the new park.