By Tommy Ropp
Westside Park has been used by residents of Muncie for over 100 years. It made its debut as a small amusement park, and was well known and loved for its Triple Figure Eight roller coaster and skating rink. A few decades later, Westside Park became the recreational area that it is today. It is important to look at the changes that the park underwent in order to understand what attracts people to a park such as Westside. As time progresses, the idea of what makes a park enticing changes, as can be seen with the shift from amusement park to recreational space; with this in mind it is crucial that the modern day park is analyzed to ensure the public’s satisfaction.
Looking through the history of a park tells a story not only about the park itself, but the community of people at the time. In the early 1900s, Westside Park was a place for citizens of Muncie to congregate and partake in exciting activities without leaving their communities. It was home to Muncie’s amateur baseball club. The club attracted people from around the city to witness the relatively new spectacle of semi-professional sports. The Muncie Baseball Club charged attendees 5 cents to watch as they played against clubs from other cities in Indiana (Neel, 1989). Time passed, and the opinion of the public shifted from amusement to recreation and relaxation. Non-professional sports and community events took the place of the roller coaster and the skating rink in the mid-1930s. One man interviewed by the Muncie Star in 1975 saw this shift as the demarcation between an old and new Westside.
Through conducting research for this project, we have effectively created a snapshot of what Muncie and its parks are like at this point in time. The wants and needs of Muncie citizens are documented, and through photographs and video recordings we are able to look at the conditions of some of Muncie’s public spaces. Neither history nor theory would be able to fully describe or record the exact conditions of the city. Additionally, we are acting as a link between the people of Muncie and the local government. This has been done through conducting informal interviews with citizens we encountered in the parks, semi-structured interviews with Muncie’s park board members and employees, as well as surveys and research of historical documents and current park plans.
There is a strong link between a city and its parks, and there are certain aspects of parks that people want to see implemented. As previously mentioned, Westside park has gone through a series of changes throughout its history, and these changes coincide with social and political events. When Westside was first established, Muncie was an industrial city, and the park represents what the people needed at that point in time. Society today has become faster paced and people found that they needed a place to relax and recuperate, which resulted in Westside park becoming what it is now.
Triple figure eight roller coaster at West Side Park, (c. 1915), P.40, Spurgeon-Greene Photographs Collections, Ball State University.University Libraries. Archives and Special collections, https://dmr.bsu.edu/digital/collection/sg/id/1192.
Westside Park, (c. 1905-1908), S.005, Muncie and Delaware County Historic Photographs Collection, Ball State University. University Libraries. Archives and Special Collections, https://dmr.bsu.edu/digital/collection/MunHisPhoto/id/3849.
Neel, Richard Lee. “America’s Game in Middletown USA: Baseball in Muncie, Indiana, 1876-1953.” Order No. 8918501, Ball State University, 1989. https://www.proquest.com/dissertations-theses/americas-game-middletown-usa-baseball-muncie/docview/303725634/se-2?accountid=8483.