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After 40 years, Wheels Family Fun Park could become a Durham-owned recreation center

After 40 years, the Wheels Fun Park in Durham is closing -- but it might have a bright future of serving underserved populations in East Durham and helping prevent crime.

Posted Updated

Sarah Kreuger
, WRAL Durham reporter
DURHAM, N.C. — Wheels Fun Park is a Durham institution that has been providing family fun for decades, offering go-karts, mini golf, a skating rink and more.

But now the Durham icon is for sale.

After 40 years, the Wheels owner said it's time for her to retire.

However, that doesn't mean the fun park will stop bringing entertainment to the Durham community. In fact, Wheels might become a recreation center for underserved members of the surrounding community.

Even better, the new source of activities and fun for the community's kids could help combat crime in East Durham, which is considered a high crime area.

Wheels Family Fun Park in Durham is being sold after 40 years.

Becky Olbrych, the owner of Wheels, approached the City of Durham about purchasing the facility and 8 acres of surrounding land.

During work session earlier this week, Durham City Council added the possibility of purchasing Wheels Fun Park to their agenda.

"The city has been interested in the Wheels site for recreation," said Tom Dawson, Asst. Director of Durham Parks & Recreation.

"This site could fit some of Durham’s fondest wishes," he said, "It's a great opportunity to serve the people of East Durham.

Dawson said a final decision will be made by city council on November 16.

If chosen, the site will be used partially for an aquatics facility, which was recommended for East Durham in the Aquatics Masterplan.

Once the city obtains the site, they plan to hire a consultant to help with the design and lead a community engagement process to help plan how to better fit the facility into the Park system.

As part of this 'community plan,' they will be asking for the public's ideas and suggestions.

"That will help answer our questions about what to keep, improve or change," said Dawson.

This would also include a discussion about whether or not to keep the roller rink. Dawson said he suspects there will be a lot of interest in keeping it. Plus, Durham Parks & Rec already uses it for their My Durham Teens program and School Age Care programs.

"Don’t give away those skates yet," said Dawson.

Many residents have years of fond memories attached to Wheels. One East Durham resident shared their own excitement and ideas for the project, saying, "I am looking forward to the change and growth in the area. I want them to keep the skating rink and race cars, and also more food variety."

"I think everybody knows Wheels and has a lot of emotional connections. I think it's a very good passing of the torch from private recreation folks to the public recreation folks," said Dawson.

Olbrych said it’s been a pleasure to serve so many generations of Durham's community.

"We’re going to miss everybody!" she said.

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