Dino park plans approved by commission

Field Station: Dinosaurs developer Guy Gsell, left, explains plans for the educationally oriented park to members of the Planning Commission as City Planner Justin Givens listens. Gsell says the development will be open for visitors by Memorial Day weekend.

Derby’s dinosaur park has taken yet another step closer to being a reality.

In the latest development, the Planning Commission approved site plans for the Field Stations: Dinosaur development, which will be on a 13.8-acre parcel at the northwest corner of Rock Road and Patriot Street in a STAR bond tax district.

Construction on the local and regional attraction, which is projected to bring in about 130,000 visitors a year, is slated to take place in March and April.

If that sounds like it’s on a quick schedule, it is. There’s a reason for the park to be able to get up and running rapidly and that’s because the bulk of the buildings will consist of former shipping containers.

“We used them in New Jersey with great success,” said developer Guy Gsell of his similar park on the East Coast. “They come pretty much ready.”

They do need to be painted and anchored along with placing electric power and water lines as needed.

Using the containers is not just for practical purposes, but to fit into the overall theme, which is to have the young visitors believe that scientists have just arrived on the scene and discovered dinosaurs.

“We have to make sure we get that defined,” Gsell said.

There will be a lot of landscaping and site work to do, such as laying out the miniature golf course. There also is a tri-level ropes course under a dome, which is being engineered and built in Michigan and transported here.

Of course, there are the stars of the show, the dinosaurs, and those are now being built in China and will be shipped to Derby.

While they’re coming from far away, the shipping containers are locally provided, as a company called Site Box in Wichita is providing 16 of them.

“I can’t believe the containers are coming from only a few miles away,” Gsell said.

It’s all scheduled to fall into place by Memorial Day weekend when the park is set to have its grand opening.

The final admission price hasn’t been set and likely won’t for awhile, Gsell said, although they will be around $15 a person, slightly less than the New Jersey rates.

Everyone pays the same price, he added. For a family of four, which is a typical visiting party, that would be $60 for what would range from a 3-1/2 hour visit to an all-day outing. That includes all the show, but not the golf or ropes course, which will be extra.

There also will be an all-encompassing pass called the Discoverer’s Pass that is now selling for $100. Gsell said it’s not unusual for visitors to come on a weekly basis. It’s not like a Disney park, which is usually a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

In comparison, the Sedgwick County Zoo is $15.95 for adults and $11.95 for children 3-11.

Gsell said to some, admission will seem expensive, others reasonable and to some, inexpensive, but he’s going to stick to the decided price point.

There also was an initial concept of overnight camping in the park, but that’s a feature that will come later.

“Right now we’re concentrating on getting the park open,” he said.

Among the details to iron out will be the signs. There will be signs helping visitors find the park and signs within the park, both part of a master sign plan.

One point of concern with the commission was parking.

Plans call for parking for 229 vehicles and six for ADA permit holders and one for an ADA van. There is no set regulation in Derby zoning rules for such a facility, so planners are going with the owners’ estimated daily attendance and experience with similar parks.

For special events that would overflow the lot, there could be provisions made to use other nearby lots and operate shuttle buses, much like Botanica does in Wichita with its annual Illuminations event.

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