New Bell’s Rekindling Fond Memories
By BOB LEWIS
An undeveloped, 102-acre tract of land in east Broken Arrow is slated to become the new home of Bell’s Amusement Park.
That bit of news came as an early Christmas present for legions of people who loved the original facility that was situated on the Tulsa Fairgrounds from 1951-2006.
Third generation park owner Robby Bell said the new site at Kenosha and the Creek Turnpike will be about 10 times larger than what they had in Tulsa and will include a kiddy area, a world-class arcade, its favorite rides and a 24-acre water park, which is about twice the size of Safari Joe’s H2O in Tulsa. When completed, Bell forecast the facility will attract 1-1.5 million people a year and like the original park will be a source of jobs for local high school students.
The family-owned operation began in 1948 when Robby Bell’s grandfather, Robert Bell, built a mini-train around his home in Tulsa and ran some children’s rides at the Admiral Twin drive-in. In early 1951, the Senior Bell launched his fairgrounds park with a small collection of rides and attractions that included the original mini-train. The first adult offering was a bumper car attraction in 1955. Then a Tilt-a-Whirl and mini-golf course were added. High on the favorite rides list were Zingo and Phantasmagoria.
It was operated by the founder’s son and Robby’s dad, Bobby Bell, before closing after 55 years in operation.
While some eastside residents have expressed concerns about the noise and traffic the new park may generate, most Broken Arrowans are welcoming it with open arms.
City Manager Michael Spurgeon said he’s pleased to have Bell’s as the latest investment in Broken Arrow. “When you live around 21st and Sheridan just down from Hoover Elementary, you spend a lot of time there,” he recalled. At the park’s announcement ceremonies, Spurgeon told reporters, “Some of my fondest memories go back to the time that I spent in that amusement park on the Zingo, which to this day, I’m still scared of thinking about riding again.”
Like Spurgeon, Dr. Eugene Peterson grew up a few blocks from the original Bell’s and has fond memories of the landmark. “I spent so much time riding Phantasmagoria I’m sure I left butt-prints on its seats,” he joked.
Pollard’s next-door neighbor was Bill McVeigh who proudly claimed the title of “world champion” on the park’s amateur golf course. “I must have played it a zillion times,” he recalled, “and got pretty hard to beat.”
Former Owasso resident Lesley Lang said, “To be honest, Bell’s wasn’t my cup of tea. But after seeing how much fun my niece, nephew and their friends were having, my perception changed.”
Marylou Evens said she has warm memories of the park because her very first real date was a visit to Bell’s. Over the years, she said she returned for school outings, company picnics and to share the fun associated with the place with her friends and family.
Jim Edwards grew up in Broken Arrow but like many of his friends spent a considerable amount of time at Bell’s. His favorite ride was Zingo. “There just weren’t many things to do in Broken Arrow in the 1950s and 60s,” he said, “but there was always Bell’s and we knew we would have fun there.”
Tulsa resident Barbara Trecek said simply, “I can’t wait.”
Initial planning is currently underway. No timeline for the start of construction and opening the amusement park has been announced.