COWETA, OK -- More than three years after it lost its lease with Tulsa County, Bell's Amusement Park has signed a new lease with Wagoner County.
Robby Bell, the grandson of the park's founder, signed a 50-year lease with Wagoner County Monday morning at the regular meeting of the Wagoner County Commission.
The deal is contingent on Wagoner County voters approving a quarter-cent sales tax increase on the July 27th ballot.
Wagoner County would use the money generated by the tax to acquire property where it would locate the amusement park, an expo center and other attractions.
The county commissioners had to approve the resolution to place the issue on the ballot at least 60 days before the election. With that deadline approaching on Thursday, they approved the resolution Monday morning.
Bell said he has high hopes the issue will pass, because he thinks the entire development would be good for Wagoner County, but also so that his family could get back to what he says it does best. "I'll feel I'll be normal again. You know, I was born to do this. We were made to be amusement park people."
Bell said Wagoner County Commissioner Tom Vincent approached him about five weeks ago with the proposal to re-open the park in Coweta.
Vincent said the county has actually been working on it for about a year and a half. He says the whole idea is to have what he calls a mini-Tulsa Fairgrounds, including Bell's, an expo center, fairgrounds and even an animal shelter.
Vincent said Wagoner County wanted to go with Bell's because he said it's a reputable company that's been around for years and it's family-oriented.
Bell hasn't had time to draw up any plans for the park, but said it would take a while to get it fully operational again. "Zingo will be back," Bell said, referring to the park's iconic wooden roller coaster.
Bell still believes he and his family were not treated fairly by Tulsa County elected officials.
The amusement park was forced to leave the Tulsa County fairgrounds after its lease there expired in November of 2006.
The Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority, better known as the Fair Board, allowed the lease to run out without ever taking a vote on it.
The Fair Board is made up of the three Tulsa County commissioners, as well as two appointees selected by the commissioners. All five seats are now occupied by different people.
Parts of many of the rides from the original Bell's are stored in warehouses near downtown Tulsa. The wood from the Zingo roller coaster has been stored in an undisclosed location near Tulsa after it was dismantled.
Bell promised that Zingo will be back, eventually, if the sales tax increase passes. He said he's also toying with the idea of opening the park without a general admission fee. He said the original park had no admission fee from 1951 until 1985 and it worked very well.