Parents, children, even politicians eager for Pullen Park revival

Posted September 15, 2011

— Raleigh's landmark Pullen Park, the fifth-oldest operating amusement park in the nation, has been closed to visitors for almost two years. But on Nov. 19, the sounds of concrete trucks will be replaced by carousel music once again.

The $6.3 million project included updates to old attractions and modern additions.

There are new boats on the lake, the updated version of a childhood memory special to Raleigh City Councilman Russ Stephenson.

"The boats would just go round and round and round," he said. "You got to steer, and there was a string to a big bell on the front of the boat, so you got to make a big racket," he remembered.

Pullen Park in Raleigh Pullen Park renovations nearing an end

The horses that ring the 100-year-old antique carousel were each sent away for a new paint job and new tails. Next week, they will be installed in a new, climate-controlled carousel house.

"if a grandparent brings their grandchild out to Pullen Park to say, 'This is my favorite animal. This is what I rode and it looks just like it did when I was a kid,' that's important," said Richard Costello, amusements director at the park. 

"I think we all had those great memories, and we wanted to make sure those memories were preserved," Stephenson said. 

The children's train will get new cars, and they will run on a new track. It will travel through a new tunnel and pull in to a revamped station.

At the playground, a climbing wall, spider webs and water and sand areas are new, as are misters to keep children cool on hot days.

Sarig Agasi, owner and chef at Raleigh restaurant Zely & Ritz, will run concessions in a new cafe featuring local, organic fare. 

The project was funded by a bond approved by voters in 2003. On the day of the grand reopening, amusements will open at 10 a.m., the park will be dedicated at 2 p.m. and entertainment will follow at 3 p.m. 


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  • WritNEWlaws Sep 16, 2011

    In this economy I cannot believe that so much money went to this park. I did paly there as a child but in my opinion... this is not a top priority. There are many children and homeless that go hungry daily and they could have used a helping hand vs this park.

  • holly3 Sep 15, 2011

    Just wanted to clarify that Sarig Agasi of Zely and Ritz is one of three partners teaming up to bring high quality but affordable food to the park. We plan to serve the comfort foods that people would expect to enjoy at this type of venue (yes, we'll have burgers and hotdogs) along with some unique seasonal specials (soups, salads, paninis, etc). While we will feature fresh, local ingredients, our menu will be fun and accessible. Please visit our splash page at for more information. We'll launch our full site closer to opening.

  • Frank Downtown Sep 15, 2011

    LambeauSouth: The reason for the high cost was because of the buildings for the historic train and merry go round. They were needed to protect this very important historic items. Otherwise, when you take that cost out everything is reasonable. It will help then last another 100 years.

  • LtDansMagicLegs Sep 15, 2011

    @LambeauSouth Park renovation was paid for a bond VOTED on by the public so obviously if the majority wanted the park renovated you're not going to find the majority crying about it :P

  • Hans Sep 15, 2011

    "Pullen Park is one of the reasons we came to the Raleigh area." - SueInNC

    Are you serious?

  • monet0645 Sep 15, 2011

    2 things spring to mind - 1) I sure hope they kept the stone seal (dolphin?)and turtle sculptures to climb on and 2) Zely and Ritz running concessions? Their food is good (not being critical of them at all) but when I think of concessions, I think of hot dogs, hamburgers and such not Braised Potato Gnocchi, Creamy Polenta and Oyster Stew.. I hope concessions will be affordable to those of us who don't have Glenwood South food budgets.. :)

  • LambeauSouth Sep 15, 2011

    My point before when I asked about the 6.3 million and who approved it was everyone has been moaning about the President dropping money into NC to rebuild the infrastructure that is obviously in disrepair and you all have no problem dropping 6.3 into a Park that should be privatized.

  • Nicsnanni Sep 15, 2011

    I heard it would be open at night, has anyone else heard that?

  • dwntwnboy Sep 15, 2011

    Those saying "what was the 6 million spent on"- well, EVERYTHING! From draining and cleaning up the lake, to tearing down EVERY building and building new, up to date and bigger buildings to handle the crowds that have grown over the years, a brand new carrosel building that is climate controled so that the 100+yr old animals can survive even longer, a new train station, new playgroud equipment, new parking lot with more spaces (MUCH needed- even though we lost some trees in the process), a new tunnel/garage for the train, not to mention the complete overhaul of the mechanism of the carrosel and not sure about new boats and any work done on the train at the moment, but if thats all they spent- they got A LOT done for their money and hey, SOMEONE was employed to do it!! Even better!! LOL

  • dwntwnboy Sep 15, 2011

    Wonderful to see this project almost finished!!! Pullen Park has been a wonderful gem in the downtown section of Raleigh for over 100 years. My grandmother - who is now 91- used to play in that park as a child, I also have fond memories of the boats Russ talked about in the article, and have taken my niece and nephew there before it closed for work so that they could experience what a wonderful and magical place Pullen Park is. Can't go wrong with a good park!!