I walked away impressed Tuesday after three hours with Jerry Murphy, the Tulsa businessman who wants to revive Wild West World.
And if you’ll excuse a bad paraphrase, I know Thomas Etheredge. And Jerry Murphy’s no Thomas Etheredge.
That’s a good thing. I found very little of the huckster’s bluster in Murphy, just a simple plea for Wichitans: Give me a summer to put a new brand on the park and I’ll show you a good time.
Murphy, who’s got five decades of experience running carnivals and water parks, proved quickly to me he knows where Etheredge went wrong: There are plans for at least one roller coaster, trees and canopies to provide shade on what turned out to be an asphalt broiler, higher-quality food and longer-term plans to add a small water park.
And there also are plans in the works to reach out to the season ticket holders who invested in Etheredge, through discounts and ticket tradeouts that haven’t been firmed up. The park will be repackaged, and it looks like Wichitans will have a chance to select its theme in a public contest.
Murphy admitted that he looks forward to the challenge of rehabilitating the park’s image. But he can’t do it alone, and if Kansas.com is a barometer, Wichitans remain very bitter about the failed theme park. Will Wichitans give Jerry Murphy a chance?