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Q&AZ: What was Phoenix amusement park Legend City like, and why did it shut down?

Less than a decade after Disneyland opened in California, Phoenix got its own magic kingdom of sorts: Legend City. It was a short run for the Wild West theme park, which opened in 1963.

But the legend of Legend City lives on, and through our Q&AZ reporting project, listeners have asked for more details on the rise and fall of the mystical park.

Legend City featured Old West attractions like the Lost Dutchman Mine ride and the Legend City railroad. But it was also home to live performances of the beloved local children’s show “Wallace and Ladmo.”

Local resident Michael Tucker was among Legend City’s many patrons. “It was a great history, and if you were around that time, I think you really enjoyed yourself,” he said. “It was fun, it was a lot of fun.”

Over the course of its 20-year run, the park was passed between four different owners, all with different visions and motivations. Hot temperatures and bad decisions played a role in its demise.

But John Bueker, a Legend City historian, says Arizona simply did not have a big enough population at the time.

“I regard that as one of the primary reasons Legend City didn’t make it,” Bueker said. “It was built a little ahead of its time. The population in Phoenix in the early ’60s really wasn’t quite large enough yet to sustain a world-class amusement park, which is what Legend City aspired to be.”

The land — near the Phoenix Zoo — was originally bought for $5 million, and ultimately sold for $21 million. SRP offices now stand where Legend City once thrived, but the fond memories from the amusement park's patrons live on.

Andrea Barrios was an intern at KJZZ in 2023.