Dodge Town play area set to reopen at Antioch Park after extensive renovation

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MERRIAM, Kan. -- For all the metro parents of tiny city-slickers, it's almost time to round up your kids and head over to historic Dodge Town.

The Antioch Park play area reminiscent of the Wild West is almost ready to reopen any day now after extensive renovations.

On Friday at high noon, Dodge Town seemed to be a ghost town. But Michael Dizney, Antioch Park manager, said it will be busy soon enough.

"We will have bus loads of kids here non-stop the entire summer," Dizney said.

Dodge Town at Antioch Park

Dodge Town has been a Johnson County staple since the 1970s, and this isn't the first time it's been redone.

"Things are always changing and everything, but we did build this one for sustainability to last for generations -- or two or three maybe," Dizney said.

For the last two years, the Johnson County Parks and Recreation Department has worked to design and create the nearly half-million-dollar project.

"Hopefully this will last 20, 30 years before having to re-do it again," Dizney said.

They added a covered train station, a train-sized playground and a new flat surfacing instead of the previous mulch.

But Dizney's favorite may surprise you.

"It's probably the decorative cows that we placed, but you can sit on them," he said. "I've tested all the elements here. Bessie's always a good cow name."

Dizney said Dodge Town is something families have done together for decades.

"You`ll have grandparents walking their grandkids up here, explaining to them how they used to play cops and robbers in Dodge Town buildings," Dizney said.

"I remember coming here as a kid," Glenda Ratliff said.

Ratliff came here as a young girl in the 1960s, and when she became a mom, she brought her son.

"That brings back really good childhood memories," Glenda's son Tadd Ratliff said. "We loved going through the little town and acting like we're in a little old western."

He can't wait for his daughter Clara to dust off her boots at Dodge Town.

"It's part of my childhood, so then I can share it with her and say, 'That's where Daddy used to play when he was a kid,' and you know, it's got such a nostalgia to it that its amazing," Ratliff said.

So y'all come back or maybe say howdy to a new tradition. Dodge Town is having a rope cutting at 10:30 a.m. April 7 complete with hot dogs, bandannas and badges for kids. Every little buckaroo will also be able to become an honorary Dodge Town deputy.

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