Legend City: A Failure in Its Own Era
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.
Yes, poor sad Legend City. I always wanted to go, but Mom wouldn’t drive that far. Got there finally with my cousins and it reminded me a little bit of Knotts Berry Farm, which is still around. I remember it was just too darn hot to really have any fun, so I didn’t push after that. Didn’t actually put it together that Compton Terrace was sited on the same spot!
We went to Legend City several times since it was so close to our home. We enjoyed Voda Kay Van Dyke very much – she was very special to the children and us grown ups liked her very much as well. And of course she went on to become Miss America. What a nice place to take the family for all to enjoy and we were sorry to have it close.
I had my Tempe High School graduation party there, in 1970, all night! Riding the Ferris Wheel watching the Sun rise!
In 1975, I worked there (when the park was shut down) as security, keeping vandals, thieves and looky-loos from sneaking in from the adjacent ball park.
Of course, Wallace and Ladmo used to appear there and do little films for their TV show there!
Man I would go there all the way from here in Tuba city, just to visit legend City. I wish there was a nother place like it jeremy from Hopiland thanks.
I loved Legend City, loved seeing Wallace & Ladmo there, liked the Old West theme. Knew it wasn’t anything to compete with Disneyland, but didn’t care because it was fun anyway. The heat was the real killer, though. I never drive by that area without remembering Legend City fondly.
And now, even Compton Terrace 2.0 is gone, replaced with a dirt bike racing track.
I like collectabls of Legend City. They are hard to find, but I did find some orginal postcards in great shape today at the Antique Outpost, 10012 N. Cave Creek Rd. in Phoenix. Phone # 602-943-9594. Call before you go as they only had a few left.
I went to Legend City every year on my birthday.
In the late 80’s, i went to a lot of concerts at Compton Terrace.
They seemed closed the right times of the year to be open. Should have just kept their doors open year-round like Tombstone. They had more activities, more patrons, and fewer actors than Tombstone too, yet Tombstone lives. A shame they wasted away to bad management. An even bigger shame there is now talk of putting an amusement park at I-8/I-10 in the middle of nowhere. Seriously people? Re-open Legend City instead. That’s a great location.
Tombstone is a real city though. They have had a population of >1,000 since the 60’s.
Sorry… 87 acres located at 52nd Street and Washington Street. Never been here have you?
Man I loved and went to Legend City every chance I got saved my allowance just to go with my older siblings never missed a Time too bad Salt River Project have to buy us out too bad we couldn’t afford to keep it up even though the heat was hot it was always so where to go then they took that away and the wax museum then we had nothing to go to so sad I wish we can rebuild Legend City I would go and take my grandkids and my grandkids .. ????✌
I went to Legend City many times the first year it was opened. My dad worked there so I could get in free. It was a great park in it’s day and could have survived with better management. They tried to open too early in the day in the hot summer time so too many hours with poor attendance. I believe they spent all their money and then some building the park and just expected it to start paying for itself right away.
Went there all the time. Great girl pick up place. Wallace & Ladmo were always there on stage. We went in the evenings so the direct heat was not really an issue. It was hot but anyone that has grown up here has no problem with it. Miss it.