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A weather-worn sign arches over the crumbling asphalt, and a for-sale sign is strapped to the pole nearest the road. The gate on a chain-link fence is padlocked and overgrown grass and weeds choke a view of what’s beyond.
The remains of Funtown USA are fading into the past, its go-karts and arcade games long gone.
But memories of the small amusement park are cherished among those who grew up on San Antonio’s Southwest Side, an area surging with job growth and new development driven by nearby Port San Antonio.
“I remember when they were building it, and we were so curious about what it was going to be,” said Grace Alingod, who lived nearby growing up. “At the time, my dad played softball at Kennedy Fields every Friday night, so we were able to see the weekly progress.”
Located at South General McMullen Drive and U.S. Highway 90, Funtown opened in the early 1980s, and while the exact date appears lost to history, Southsiders remember the anticipation.
“We were so excited when it was done and couldn’t wait to go,” Alingod said. “Being from the South Side, we had never seen a place like that, aside from Sunshine Park on Roosevelt.”
Sunshine Park, located at Roosevelt and Southcross, is one of various children’s amusement parks that have come and gone in San Antonio in the years leading up to the opening of Six Flags Fiesta Texas in 1992. Sunshine was open in the 1980s and had a rollercoaster and other rides.
Playland, at North Alamo Street where the Alamo Colleges headquarters now sits, was open from 1943 to 1980. Pear Apple County Fair, on Loop 410 near Bandera and Ingram roads, opened in 1993 and closed in 1997. But San Antonio’s oldest amusement park, Kiddie Park, founded in 1925, remains open at its new location near the zoo.
The shuttered Funtown, closed since the late 1990s, occupied a 2.5-acre property that has changed hands over the years. Hector Pena, who is listing the property on behalf of the current owners, Ferdinand and Marilyn Javier, said the amusement park was once owned by Jerry Arredondo, who declined to be interviewed for this story.
The Javiers opened the park again briefly in 2012 as a rehabilitation facility for patients needing physical therapy and pain management, but only for about a year, Ferdinand Javier said.
Tucked in a strip of land between the highway on-ramp and a McCoy’s Lumber and Building Supply store, the old park would be easy to miss if not for the vintage Funtown sign at the entrance, a row of tall junipers on its border – and Pena’s green-and-gold plywood sign advertising its sale.
Since the property went on the market for $475,000 in November, then lowered to $375,000, Pena has received several offers, but none attractive enough for the owners to accept. In 2019, the county tax assessor appraised the property at $156,450.
“Two [potential buyers] told me they wanted to reopen it as Funtown,” Pena said. Another wanted to use it for a welding and heavy equipment site.
Patricia Herrera, a lifelong resident of the Thompson neighborhood where Funtown is located, said she enjoyed the park as a teenager and later took her young nieces and nephews there. “They had a racetrack that was really popular – the young children could drive as well,” she said.
Herrera is a past president of the Thompson Neighborhood Association (TNA) and said she could envision an amusement park there again now that the area is growing again, with new homes and schools being built.
“I remember I was surprised that they closed it because it was always pretty busy and active,” she said. “But they just kind of abandoned it.”
Some speculated that the opening of SeaWorld San Antonio in 1988 precipitated the park’s closing while others, including TNA President Rudy Lopez, remember upkeep of the park was waning and that may have kept people away.
Lopez said that, as a teenager, he had a very competitive family, especially his brothers, so the first thing they would do when they got to the park was jump in the go-karts to race. He later took his nieces and nephews.
“We just had such a great time,” he said. “[Then] little by little, there were things [the park’s operators] weren’t keeping up with – that you couldn’t do anymore – so I think the interest was lost.”
Cristina Santoyo posted to Facebook that she remembers going to Funtown with her brother. “I would play video games inside while he practiced his swing outside” in the park’s batting cages, she said.
Felicia Flores also remembered going to the Funtown batting cages with her baseball and softball teams.
Olga Terrazas said they had all their family birthday parties at Funtown, and “we also went to small concerts there. A friend of ours who had a band played there.”
But memories of the go-karts stand out for most. Alingod’s husband, Chuck, said he would go on Friday nights as a freshman in high school and it was always packed with people.
The go-karts were fast because the track was so small compared to the North Side’s Malibu Castle, and the price to ride was “cheap,” he said. Malibu Castle made its debut in 1978 and closed in 2015.
But it wasn’t affordable enough for Grace’s family, she said.
“When we finally got to go to Funtown, we didn’t get to ride the go-karts, but miniature golf was the best thing ever,” she said. “I guess ‘no go-karts’ because my parents couldn’t afford them. Or maybe just me and my sis didn’t ride. I think I remember my dad trying with my brother.”
Perhaps they had a coupon. Jason Martinez said he remembers the discount coupons on the back of H-E-B receipts, making it free to take a turn on the go-karts or play a round of mini-golf.
Visible from the highway, a taller sign, faded and crumbling, remains in position over the graffitied cement walls of the old batting cages. Funtown it reads in block letters – and a fun town it was.