In 1972 TAFT Broadcasting Company had just opened their first theme park, Kings Island, in Mason Ohio, followed quickly by Kings Dominion in Dowswell, Virginia, and were looking to expand their portfolio.
Canada was quickly chosen for the new venture based on it’s lack of comepetition in the theme park area. During the initial planning many places in Southern Ontario were considered including Niagara Falls but it was decided that a patch of farm land in what was then called Maple, Ontario would be ideal.
Due to it’s close proximity to major highways, and to the ever growing population of the Toronto region, Maple proved to be a perfect spot to start building. Unfortunately it wasn’t as straight forward as TAFT had hoped.
Prior to the construction, many people came forward to protest the idea of a theme park, including the operators of Ontraio Place, The ROM in downtown Toronto, and The Ex – a seasonal fun fair held on the shore. Many felt that the area could not keep up with yet another big billed attraction, and those stepping forward to protest felt their business would suffer as a result of Wonderland’s construction.
There were also concerns from people over the ramifications of an American company building in Canada, as well as members of the city of Maple itself – who felt a theme park would contribute to increased traffic in the area, as well as adding a eye sore to the city’s landscape.
Provincial laws were also not on Wonderland’s side. While the area of Toronto, and those areas to the east, were earmarked for expansion and development, provincial lawmakers wanted to keep the area North of the city as a green area, and devoid of any major development.
TAFT was concerned about the extremely vocal opponents of the park, and therefore flew various people and city councillors out to Cincinnati to see the positive effects a successful theme park can have on the community.
All their efforts seemed to pay off, because on June 13, 1979 then Ontario Premier Bill Davis pushed the plunger that set off an explosion on the site hence commencing the initial construction of Canada’s Wonderland.
The construction of the park would take nearly three years, and cost $120 million dollars. The initial design and plan for Wonderland came from Bruce Robinson, a 31 year artist born in Canada, but raised in America. In addition to developing the direction of attractions, and landscaping for the park Bruce would also oversee the design, and execution of the entire park. VISIT HIS OFFICIAL WEBSITE HERE
Concept art brochure, used to advertise the park. Notice the inclusion of Frontier Canada. This was a planned section of the park set to celebrate the history of Canada, but never came to fruition. It later became the White Water Canyon section of the park.