Did you grow up visiting Heritage Square every summer?
You probably took more than your fair share of trips down the famous alpine slide. Or perhaps you were a bigger fan of the mini golf course? Took a spin on the carousel? It might be time for one last visit. After a years-long hollowing out of Golden's Heritage Square — the Victorian village packed with old-timey shops that hemmed the carnival in — Heritage Amusement Park may be on its last days.
You could be forgiven if you thought it was already closed.
Even though the amusement park's lease isn't up until 2039, owner Alan Bader says landowner Martin Marietta is trying to push him out of business. He declined a buyout from the mining conglomerate in 2013, saying the amount wasn't acceptable and that he just wanted to keep the park open.
According to Bader, that's where the problems began. Martin Marietta Materials did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this story.
Marietta owns the neighboring Spec Agg Quarry, having purchased the land encompassing the mine and Heritage Square in fall of 2011. In the years that followed, things began to disappear. First to go was the Heritage Square Music Hall, hobbled by dwindling ticket sales. Although Marietta had nothing to do with the closure, the company has let the 1973-built opera house fall into disrepair.
Marietta later removed the sign for the amusement park, making it easier to simply drive by the entrance without seeing it. Bader's response was to put up a makeshift banner.
Things continued to escalate. Bader says Marietta demolished the park's public restrooms — he alleges that takes the park out of Americans with Disabilities Act compliance — and stopped maintaining common areas, forcing the hiring of a maintenance company to keep the park clean.
The list goes on. Instead of fixing a water problem at the park's miniature golf course, Bader says Marietta dug up a portion of the course and installed a sump pump. The needed repairs preclude use of the course's water features. He lays responsibility for several electrical and water disruptions at the company's feet as well.
Worst of all, says Bader, is the name. Once upon a time, the park used to be called Heritage Square Amusement Park.
In 2015, Marietta apparently told Bader that they owned the trademark for "Heritage Square," denying his use of it. Though a check of state business records shows the trademark expired September 9, 2011. The Colorado Secretary of State's office confirmed the expiration and that there's no new filing for the mark by Marietta. Bader says the forced rebranding to Heritage Amusement Park cost him even more business. By now, he claims a 40 percent blow to his bottom line, prompting a cut to hours and the use of services like Groupon to drive attendance.
In the end, Bader alleges a breach of lease. Marietta is seeking to evict the park, calling it unsafe. Their dispute has been in arbitration since June, with a decision expected late September 2017.
If he loses, Bader says he will have to liquidate the business.
If the park goes, a lot of history goes along with it. More than 60 years old, Heritage Square was originally hatched as the next Disneyland, shortly after the original was built in 1955. It was intended to be a space-themed amusement park on a grand scale called Magic Mountain. C.V. Wood Jr., the vice president and chief developer of Disneyland at the time, led the project, bringing on set designers from Disney and MGM.
Ultimately the planned Disneyland copy fell on tough financial times, closing in 1960. In 1971, it reopened as Heritage Square, complete with the surrounding Victorian village. Fast forward to today, with the amusement park as the final holdout, it remains to be seen just how long it can survive.