MELROSE PARK, Ill. (CBS) – Starting Wednesday, Chicago area residents will be buying bulk groceries, furniture and appliances on the site where they once enjoyed rides on the Little Dipper and the Galleon.
A new Costco warehouse store opens Wednesday at 8 a.m. The store is located at 8400 W. North Ave. in Melrose Park on the footprint of the iconic Kiddieland amusement park, which closed last year after 81 years of operation.
The Melrose Park Costco is one of three set to open in the Chicago area this week. A store is opening in Bolingbrook on Thursday, and another opens in Mettawa on Saturday.
Melrose Park Mayor Ron Serpico said during the summer that he welcomes the 175 or so jobs the Costco will bring at first, and an expected doubling of the tax money that Kiddieland generated.
But the loss of what at the time was Chicago’s oldest amusement park was a bitter pill to swallow for generations of Chicagoans.
Kiddieland closed in September 2009, after property owners Shirley and Glenn Rynes, the daughter and grandson of original Kiddieland owner Art Fritz, opted to not renew the lease to the amusement park owners/operators.
The amusement park was owned and operated by other descendants of Fritz.
The remaining structures on the Kiddieland site were demolished this year. But the park sold some of its rides to other parks around the country before auctioning off the rest in November, allowing some of its parts to live on elsewhere.
Six Flags Great America in Gurnee snagged The Little Dipper, a vintage wooden roller coaster built in 1950 – 21 years after Arthur Fritz first opened the amusement park. The Little Dipper now resides in the Yukon Territory section of Great America.
Most of the Kiddieland train has been moved to the Hesston Steam Museum in Indiana.
But while parts of the amusement park remain now in other places, many Chicagoans decried the loss of one of the last in a dying breed of amusement parks. And Kiddieland is not the first to be replaced by a retail complex.
• The historic Riverview amusement park at Western and Belmont avenues closed in 1967 after 63 years in operation, to the shock and disappointment of generations of Chicagoans. A shopping center called Riverview Plaza now occupies the site, along with the Belmont District and Area police station, and a DeVry University campus.
• Hollywood Kiddieland was a small amusement park at Lincoln Avenue and McCormick Boulevard, which was not affiliated with the Melrose Park Kiddieland. After closing in 1975, it was replaced by an expansion of the adjoining Lincoln Village shopping center, including the Lincoln Village 1-6 movie theater which has itself since closed.
• Funtown, at 95th Street and Stony Island Avenue, closed in 1982. The sprawling Stony Island Plaza shopping center now stands in its place, although it didn’t open until 17 years after Funtown closed.