Visitors to the San Antonio Zoo this fall will have a new entertainment option in the form of the relocated Kiddie Park, which will open Oct. 18 adjacent to the zoo’s entrance, as well as a new 600-spot parking garage. 

The familiar arched sign from the 94-year-old Kiddie Park has accompanied the vintage rides from the amusement park’s old location on Broadway to Brackenridge Park. When the zoo agreed to take over operations of the longtime amusement park, it originally planned to put the 1920s-era attraction near a bend of the San Antonio River, but the Brackenridge Park Conservancy objected.

The zoo eventually moved Kiddie Park to a different spot in its boundaries, taking over a small parking lot near the roundabout by the zoo. Conservancy Executive Director Lynn Osborn Bobbitt said she would be attending Kiddie Park’s grand opening.

“The Brackenridge Conservancy had several more conversations with Tim [Morrow, zoo president and CEO] and the zoo representatives about our appreciation of them moving away from this sensitive area and bend in the river,” Bobbitt said. “The City was involved in the conversations and helped make that happen, too. I hope it will be successful where it is, and I’m looking forward to visiting the park.”

Bob Aston owned Kiddie Park for 30 years before selling it to Rad Weaver, CEO of McCombs Partners, in 2010. Aston said he’s ready to see the rides in their new location, but he’s most excited to see the wooden carousel up and working again. The carousel turns 101 this year, he said – a piece of history.

“It’s handmade, and there are very few of them,” he said. “They’re becoming unique. Those kinds of carousels are not in private parks. They’re in places like Six Flags, SeaWorld, big places, because they’re so expensive so little parks can’t afford to buy one like that.”

Aston’s mother-in-law celebrated her second birthday at Kiddie Park in 1929, he said. Aston added that seeing the zoo and City work to preserve the park is a great honor to the work he put into it.

“When I bought Kiddie Park, it was a roadside carnival,” Aston said. “You could walk into any ride, they didn’t have any gates or fences anywhere. I built all those fences. I turned it into an amusement park. And Rad and Ashley [Weaver] turned it into a corporate enterprise. 

“I’m the one person that lived Kiddie Park. I’m the only owner that lived that park, and I lived it for a long time. … I had a mobile home there with a trailer and a bed and a bunk bed. Once in a while, if it was too late to go home and I had the kids, we’d spend the night there.”

Morrow said the zoo did its best to maintain the authenticity of Kiddie Park.

“It’s going to look a lot the same,” he said. “We didn’t refinish the roofs or refinish the fences or the rides. They have aged and that creates a charm we didn’t want to diminish.”

Jackie Wang covered local government for the San Antonio Report.