The End of Libertyland

The End of an Era

Photo by Teresa R. Simpson

 

Libertyland was an amusement park in Memphis, Tennessee that was open from 1976 until 2005. The park was built on the existing Memphis Fairgrounds and incorporated several existing rides, including the Grand Carousel and the Zippin Pippin. The latter is known worldwide as Elvis' favorite roller coaster, and he was said to rent out the entire park for himself and his family and friends on occasion. 

In 2005, when owners threatened to auction off the most famous rides - the Carousel and the Zippin Pippin - a local activist named Denise Parkinson formed the group Save Libertyland.

Save Libertyland argued that by destroying Libertyland, the city was, in fact, destroying part of its history. The Zippin Pippin and the Grand Carousel are both on the National Register of Historic Places.

Save Libertyland organized protests and gathered signatures for a petition to save the park. They even attracted investors who were willing to revitalize the park, including T-Rex Entertainment who offered to lease the park for $10,000 per month. The offer was initially declined both by a city official and members of the Mid-South Fair Board. Now, though, the city is willing to consider such offers.

The group’'s second major victory came when they prompted the city to look into its own rights to the rides. After much research, the city attorney produced documents proving that the city owns both the Zippin Pippin and the Grand Carousel, forcing the Fair Board to take the two rides off of the auction block.

Despite these efforts, on October 29, 2005 Libertyland closed its doors forever due to financial reasons. The Zippin Pippin was sold to the city of Green Bay, Wisconsin in 2010. By that time, most of the rides and facilities had been torn down and demolished and the land cleared. The Carousel was kept in storage until 2015, when the Children's Museum of Memphis purchased the historic ride and had it refurbished.

The Grand Carousel reopened on December 2, 2017 inside a new Pavilion and events facility at the Children's Museum of Memphis, not far from its first Memphis home at the Fairgrounds. The Carousel will be open to the public daily from 9 a.m to 5 p.m. and rides are $3 per person.

Today on the site of the former Libertyland there is now a disc golf course, and a new tailgating area in front of the Liberty Bowl called "Tiger Lane". The future of the Mid-South Coliseum and the Fairgrounds in general is yet to be determined. 

Updated by Holly Whitfield in November 2017