Back in the early ’70s, we were approached by some venture capitalists with an idea for an amusement park similar to Disneyland. Only this amusement park would be built in the Heartland of the United States in our home state of Iowa. An amusement park on the prairie? Truthfully, we were a little dubious it would go.
However, construction of Adventureland Park began in the spring of 1973 in Altoona, Iowa, northeast of Des Moines. Adventurland Park was originally scheduled to open in July 1974. But a tornado hit the park early that summer and delayed the opening until August of 1974 instead. Its biggest attraction has always been it’s wooden roller coaster ride, the Tornado, which opened in July 1978. The Tornado actually lists as one of the top 10 roller coasters in the world. So Jack’s dream wasn’t all pie in the sky after all.
The tornado was a significant setback to have happen during the opening season. That year was a financial catastrophe, but by the following summer, Adventureland got off to a thrilling financial ride of its own. Who’d have thought that an Adventureland Park on the prairie could be such a draw? But it filled a niche and still does.
Besides the amusement park, Adventureland includes Adventureland Inn with two tropical courtyards, three large pools, a swim-up bar and two spas. The hotel has 187 rooms and suites, conference and meeting rooms and two restaurants. In addition to the hotel, there is a family campground with electrical hook-ups. One of the perks of staying at the hotel or campground is free trolly rides to the park.
Since its conception, it continues to make improvements: adding “Outlaw Gulch,” a western themed area, built on 12 acres in 1993; the “Space Shot: in 1999; the “Splash Over” in 2006; and a new water area called Adventure Bay, built in 2008, featuring Kokomo Kove. It currently features over 100 rides, shows and attractions.
In 1983 the original entrepreneur of this creative vision, Jack Krantz bought out the other investors and Adventureland is now a family-owned enterprise. I definitely wish I had been one of those original investors when Jack began his buyout. It would have been a righteous page in a retirement portfolio.