Excerpt from Valley 101: A Slightly Skewed Guide to Living in Arizona, a collection of Clay Thompson’s columns for The Arizona Republic. (Originally published October 2, 2000.)
Q: What is Legend City?
A: Gee whiz, Legend City. We had forgotten all about Legend City.
For better or for worse, it is not “What is Legend City?” but “What was Legend City?” That 58-acre chapter in the Valley’s pop culture history closed in 1983, but there remains a certain age group of Valley residents who hold its memory in fond regard.
Legend City was an amusement park that stood near 56th and Washington streets. Actually, it was originally planned more as a Wild West theme park than an amusement park by investors who dreamed of a Disneyland on the desert. There was a steam locomotive running on a 1-mile track, an Indian village, a ghost town, a Mexican village, miniature golf, a roller coaster and other rides.
In some of its later reincarnations, it was also a concert venue. Compton Terrace was first located at Legend City. Alas, the theme-park idea was not a particularly good one.
The site was not large enough to be truly big-time, and Valley residents spoiled by Disneyland found Legend City lacking. Plus, crowds dwindled in the summer months when the idea of hauling the kiddies from ride to ride in 110-degree temperatures was not all that appealing.
In its first seven months, Legend City, developed at a cost of $5 million, lost more than $150,000. By the end of 1964, management couldn’t afford to print a financial statement for shareholders.
A series of optimistic management changes followed over the years and the park staggered on until 1983 when it closed for good. The site was purchased by the Salt River Project, which tore down the whole shebang and opened its headquarters there in 1991.