Breaking Ground on Worlds of Fun 50 Years Ago

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Breaking Ground on Worlds of Fun 50 Years Ago

Chris Foshee |
January 15, 2021

The year was 1969 and the vision of Worlds of Fun was just a glimmer in the eye of Lamar Hunt and Jack Stedman. Lamar had successfully co-founded the NFL, the Kansas City Chiefs and Hunt Midwest, and would now shift to his next entrepreneurial talents to his next venture, bringing an amusement park to The Heartland.

Lamar Hunt founder of Worlds of Fun with his wife Norma Hunt and his son Clark Hunt

Lamar Hunt thought of Worlds of Fun as being a gift to the community, but it was also a time of rapid growth in Kansas City. The 1970’s saw a boom, with the construction of Kemper Arena and the KCI Airport being just two examples. As any successful businessman knows, strike while the iron is hot, and hot it was.

In November of 1971, construction would officially begin on Worlds of Fun. At a press event held at the site, on the back of a flatbed truck – 3,000 balloons were released as the first round of dynamite exploded into the ground. Worlds of Fun had officially broken ground and would be the future home to countless cherished memories for years to come.

Worlds of Fun construction becomes underway in 1971

Designing the Worlds

Prior to breaking ground, Randell Duell was recruited to design Worlds of Fun. The Lurary, Kansas native was a former MGM Studio art director turned accomplished amusement park designer, with other works including Carowinds, Kings Island, Kings Dominion and California’s Great America.

Artist rendering of the original Worlds of Fun design and concept

“We want no mad people,” Duell would say. “What we do want is to please them so much that they leave there with a smile, thinking, ‘my, what a good time we had.’ This is our basis for our whole design.”

That concept paved the way for what Worlds of Fun would be built to become. 

 Building the Worlds

500 acres of premium land stood as blank slate for the vision of many to become a reality. Early accounts estimate the project was a $20-million investment, and today, it is still one of the largest projects in Kansas City history.

It would take 17 months to complete the construction of Worlds of Fun and its original 60 buildings and 20 rides. Local Kansas City companies JE Dunn and Burns & MacDonnel were responsible for the general contracting and engineering of the park. It took:

  • 200 boxcars of lumber
  • Three miles of plumbing
  • Three acres of roofing
  • 35 miles of electric wiring

Worlds of Fun Construction Photo Gallery 

Take a stroll or scroll through these early pictures of the park's construction. Recognize any rides, locations or Worlds of Fun attractions

Workers assemble various Worlds of Fun attractions

Worlds of Fun history is made by building one of the parks iconic bridges

Building Worlds of Fun

Worlds of Fun constriction in 1972

Worlds of Fun History 

Worlds of Fun celebrated its grand opening on May 26, 1973 with Stanley McIlavaine as the park's first GM. From vision to conception, we are thankful for all the hard work and dedication from those involved in making Worlds of Fun the Kansas City icon and landmark it is today.