The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

June 20, 2013

Worlds collide: Kansas City parks merge

By Dave Woods

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — There is a world of difference this summer at Worlds of Fun.

“We have combined both parks,” said Holly Gurley, director of marketing for the pair of Kansas City attractions. “Previously, every guest who went to Worlds of Fun of or Oceans of Fun had to buy a ticket that got you into either park. Now, each guest who buys a ticket gets admission to both parks.”

For decades, Midwestern families’ summer vacations have included Worlds of Fun, the theme park based on the book “Around the World in 80 Days.” A couple of Worlds of Fun’s longtime characters — Phileas Fogg, a Jules Verne-created character, and Nelie Bly, a real-life woman who emulated Verne’s Fogg — make regular appearances.

The pair appear together in period costume and interact with the park’s guests daily. With the combination of the two attractions, the pair’s responsibilities have doubled, and their century’s past garb are adapted to the park in which they playing.  

“The park’s costume department has gotten to create fun, turn-of-the-century swim wear,” Gurley said. “When they head over to Oceans of Fun, it’s really a fun time.”

Worlds of Fun marks its 40th anniversary in 2013. Two decades after its creation, Oceans of Fun, its sister attraction, splashed in near the book-based theme park. The two attractions soon grew together, and 2013 marks the combination of the two attractions and admission structure.

New thrills

Gurley said the combination of the two parks is great for families seeking a diverse experience.

“We are really excited,” Gurley said. “There’s not a part of Oceans of Fun or Worlds of Fun that didn’t get expanded or improved this year. Now, Oceans of Fun is just another cool section of Worlds of Fun, and the walls are down.”

The attractions at Worlds of Fun still thrill guests and turn guts upside-down and right-side up.

While roller coasters such as Mamba, Patriot, Prowler, Timber Wolf and Boomerang still thrill the park’s dry guests, new attractions on the park’s wet side add excitement to the attraction.

A couple of the park’s heritage rides are always crowded.

“I always laugh because the Finish Fling is still loved,” Gurley said. “It was an early ride in the Scandinavian area. Guests love the Rip Cord, too. Guests love the Grand Carousel and Planet Snoopy, as well.”

The biggest news at Oceans of Fun this summer is the new thrill rides, including a six-slide-high thrill complex that includes Predator’s Plunge, Gurley said.

“It’s three rides inside the complex that includes Aqua Launch tubes where you get in the tube, the life guard shuts the tube and you hear a count down,” she said. “Then the floor launches you down into a high-speed water body slide.”

Other water attractions are tube slides. Guests hop into an inner tube and slide down the logs, twisting tunnels into pools.

And Worlds has added a dinosaur exhibit. For an extra $5, Dinosaurs Alive offers 35 life-size, animatronic dinosaurs.

“Guests get to learn about where these animals lived and what life was like when they roamed the earth,” Gurley said. “It’s a very cool exhibit. It’s more than an exhibit or a ride.”

Family value

Both parks offer many opportunities for family fun, though Gurley said the Oceans side requires some planning — visitors must wear swimwear. The combination is a hit with visitors so far, she said.

“Both adults and kids have said they loved it,” she said. “Our guests from Joplin now get to come to Oceans of Fun without having to buy two (park) tickets, so the value has really increased.”