Morgan's Wonderland


Morgan's Wonderland is a 25-acre non-profit accessible theme park in San Antonio, Texas for guests of all ages and abilities. The park, which opened in 2010 on the site of the former Longhorn Quarry, was developed by Gordon Hartman, a former homebuilder from San Antonio; his daughter Morgan, who deals with cognitive and physical challenges, inspired creation of the park.

Morgan's Wonderland

Entrance of Morgan's Wonderland
LocationSan Antonio, Texas, United States
Coordinates29.539°N 98.392°W / 29.539; -98.392
SloganWhere everyone can play!
OpenedMarch 3, 2010; 11 years ago (2010-03-03)
Operating seasonMarch - December
Area25 acres (0.10 km2)[1]
Websitewww.morganswonderland.com

Morgan's Wonderland is the first theme park of its kind in the world and has welcomed more than a million guests from all 50 states and 71 other countries.[1] Completely wheelchair accessible, the $34 million park features more than 25 elements and attractions including rides, playgrounds, gardens, an eight-acre catch-and-release fishing lake, 18,000-square-foot special-event center, 575-seat amphitheater, picnic area and rest areas throughout the park.

The organization's mission statement is: “To provide a safe, clean and beautiful environment free of physical and economic barriers that all individuals – regardless of age, special need or disability – can come to and enjoy,” and is often accompanied by the motto, “Where Everyone Can Play!”

Admission for guests with special needs is free; and admission fees for accompanying family members, friends, caregivers and the general public are nominal.

History


In 2005, Hartman sold his successful homebuilding business to establish The Gordon Hartman Family Foundation so he and his wife, Maggie, could pursue their dream of helping children and adults with special needs. During a family vacation, Morgan wanted to play with kids tossing a ball in a hotel swimming pool, but when she approached them, they abruptly took their ball and vanished. “I’ll never forget the look of anguish and dismay on Morgan’s face, so I decided there had to be a way to bridge the gap of misunderstanding about people with special needs. That incident was the tipping point for Morgan’s Wonderland and ultimately Morgan’s Inspiration Island,” Hartman said.[2]

On March 3, 2010, Morgan's Wonderland opened, followed by a grand opening celebration on April 10, 2010,[3] with NBA legend David Robinson and actress Eva Longoria as special guests.

On June 17, 2017, Morgan's Wonderland unveiled a major addition: the Morgan's Inspiration Island splash park.[4]

Awards and Recognition


Because of the emphases on inclusion, and accessible design, the Morgan's Wonderland and Morgan's Inspiration Island have earned national and international acclaim.

Awards and Recognition
Year Award
2017 World Waterpark Association- Leading Edge Award [5]
2017 Paralyzed Veterans of America - Barrier-Free America [6]
2017 Amusement Today - Park of the Year [7]
2018 TIME - World's Greatest Places [8]
2018 USA Today - Best New Attraction (Runner-up to Wonders of Wildlife) [9]

Attractions


The Off Road Adventure Ride

Rides are custom-designed to accommodate wheelchair riders. Adapted rides include the Wonderland Express train, with 0.5 miles (0.80 km)of track that wraps around the park's scenic lake; the Off-Road Adventure, where guests can drive all-terrain-type vehicles; the Whirling Wonder Ferris wheel, with a dozen brightly colored gondolas that rise up to 5+12 stories high for panoramic views of the park; and a carousel with horses and other animals. The latter sits flush with the ground, with “chariots” that move up and down as the carousel turns, giving those in wheelchairs the same sensation as guests riding horses.

The Wharf, which juts out into the lake, allows visitors to pilot remote-controlled pirate ships or do catch-and-release fishing for catfish or bass. The Sensory Village is a cluster of storefronts with activities to encourage imaginative play and stimulate all the senses.

There are also two expansive, shaded playgrounds and a variety of swings (including wheelchair swings).

The covered Picnic Place allows visitors the option of purchasing snacks and drinks at Morgan's Wonderland or bringing food with them to the park.

Entertainment


Interactive performance - 'Adventures of Captain Inclusion'
April 2018 Shakespeare in Wonderland - "As You Like It"

Morgan's Wonderland is designed for all visitors, and its live entertainment demonstrates and celebrates inclusion. On some operating days, there are meet-and-greets with park mascots and characters, live-action stage performances, interactive performances, and street performers.[10]

In late 2015, Morgan's Wonderland added The Wonder Squad to their in-park entertainment lineup. Composed of four super-heroes – accompanied by “super-eye dog,” Uno – The Wonder Squad is known for “turning disabilities into SUPER abilities.”

  • Inspired by the real-life Morgan Hartman, Morgan is the heart of the Wonder Squad. Her cognitive delay is matched by her powers of love and healing. And her emotional gifts let her soar with wings like a butterfly.
  • Rocket has always believed that "just because you can't walk, doesn't mean you can't go wherever you want to go." A mechanical genius, Rocket built his own super-powered wheelchair to get around. He's the fastest on the scene, and his wit's is as quick as his wheels.
  • X-Ray has been blind since birth, but that doesn't stop him from seeing the good in everyone. With the help of his super X-ray goggles and his "super-eye dog," Uno, he's ready to charge into action and save the day.
  • Even with cerebral palsy, Jette has no trouble moving in style (thanks to a fashionable set of jet-powered crutches designed by Rocket). She's the brains of The Wonder Squad, and always tells people to think before they act, because "Every power needs a plan."

GPS adventure band


Morgan's Wonderland uses radio-frequency identification technology within its GPS Adventure Bands and two Location Stations. Each arriving guest is offered the option to wear a GPS Adventure Band; each band has a unique identification number that is electronically assigned to the guest and his or her group. Scanning the band at either Location Stations displays the exact location of each group member.[11]

The band also enables guests to take part in electronic activities. For example, scanning the band at the Auto Shop in the Sensory Village will enable a guest to use a finger to “paint” an onscreen vehicle and forward the finished graphic to an email address. Similarly, scanning the band at the Off-Road Adventure will result in the taking and sending of a photo of riders in a vehicle to the guest's email.

Sponsorships


Toyota Plaza in Morgan's Wonderland

On August 28, 2012, Toyota was named presenting sponsor of Morgan's Wonderland.[12] Various wheelchair accessible vehicles adapted by Toyota can be seen on display in the park.

Educational Programs


During the school year, Morgan's Wonderland hosts Community-Based Instruction (field trips) for elementary aged students. During Community-Based Instruction, stations are set up throughout the park offers an activity that corresponds with mandated Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) requirements.

The park also works with Cub Scouts in helping them complete requirements and electives, and it serves as a Girl Scouts Community Partner. All scouts who visit the park with their groups receive complimentary Morgan's Wonderland patches.

In 2017, Morgan's Wonderland began The Wonderland Inclusion Tour, a road show that allows the park to spread its mission of inclusion and understanding into the community. Shows include dance parties, interactive puppetry, and anti-bullying presentations.

Wonderland, Texas


Morgan's Wonderland is the anchor of an area called Wonderland, Texas. Attractions include the South Texas Area Regional Soccer Complex, Toyota Field, which is home to San Antonio FC, the Children's Rehabilitation Institute of Teletón USA (CRIT USA), NEISD's Heroes Stadium, Morgan's Wonderland Sports and Morgan's Inspiration Island. The area also incorporated The Academy at Morgan's Wonderland, which closed in 2019.[13]

CRIT USA

The Children's Rehabilitation Institute of TeletónUSA, or CRIT USA, is the only Teleton effort located in the United States. It is a non-profit rehabilitation center for children with neurological, muscular or skeletal disorders and injuries. It opened in November 2014. [14]

Morgan's Wonderland Sports

Morgan's Wonderland Sports opened in June 2021.[15] The facility is 3-acres and provides wheelchair-accessible courts and fields including, tennis courts, softball fields, a football field, a volleyball court, and a basketball court. The development of Morgan's Wonderland Sports cost $3-million and was led by Gordon Hartman. [16]

South Texas Regional Adaptive and Para Sports (STRAPS)

South Texas Regional Adaptive and Para Sports (STRAPS) is a program for athletes with physical disabilities that began in 2012. The program offers a thirteen sports such as wheelchair soccer; wheelchair basketball; pickleball; and goalball, a sport similar to soccer for visually impaired athletes. The group now operates out of Morgan's Wonderland Sports.[17]

Morgan's Inspiration Island


Shipwreck Island
Will's Hang 10 Harbor

On June 17, 2017, Morgan's Wonderland opened an accessible splash park called Morgan's Inspiration Island. The attraction covers over 3 acres (1.2 ha). It features five tropically themed splash pads. In addition to a collection of colorful sea creatures, Rainbow Reef provides heated water for individuals who do not enjoy or who cannot physically tolerate non-heated water. Calypso Cove offers a musical rain garden, while Will's Hang-Ten Harbor has a large, continuous water wave as part of its surfer motif. Shipwreck Island resembles a pirate's paradise, and Harvey's Hideaway Bay is the site of a giant jungle tree house. Morgan's Inspiration Island also features an accessible River Boat Adventure ride.

Wheelchair guests are allowed to privately transfer out of their chairs into waterproof chairs. This gives them the opportunity to enjoy the splash park and not risk damage to their personal wheelchairs.[18]

Guests using the Tilt and Space Chair

Wheelchair Valet


Equipped with three types of waterproof wheelchairs, Wheelchair Valet is home to seven accessible changing rooms, Hoyer lifts, and adult-sized changing tables for guest use. Wheelchair users have the opportunity to transfer into complimentary waterproof wheelchairs, as well as free waterproof bags for ventilators and O2 water-collar covers for guests who need to cover tracheas.

Morgan's Inspiration Island offers tilt and space chairs, manual/rigid chairs, and PneuChair pneumatic wheelchairs in multiple sizes.[19] The PneuChair, a waterproof motorized wheelchair that runs entirely on compressed air, was developed by the University of Pittsburgh's Human Engineering Research Laboratories (HERL).[20]

See also


References


  1. Bates, Claire (4 August 2017). "How one man built a $51m theme park for his daughter". BBC News. Retrieved 4 August 2017.
  2. www.ted.com. "You Only Are Disabled in an Environment that Makes You That Way". yout. TEDx Talks. Retrieved 23 July 2018.
  3. News, A. B. C. "American Heart: Creating a Theme Park for Those With Special Needs". ABC News. Retrieved 2021-07-25.
  4. "Everyone Is Welcome at the World's First Accessible Water Park". The Mighty. Retrieved 2021-07-25.
  5. "Multiple Leading Edge Awards for WhiteWater at the 2017 World Waterpark Association Show". Blooloop. 2017-10-19. Retrieved 2021-07-14.
  6. Deakin, Liz (May 3, 2018). "Paralyzed Veterans of America Honors San Antonio-based Luna Middleman Architects with 2018 Barrier-Free America Award".
  7. "The Golden Ticket Awards | Presented by Amusement Today". The Golden Ticket Awards | Presented by Amusement Today. 2017-09-09. Retrieved 2021-07-14.
  8. "The World's 100 Greatest Places of 2018". Time. Retrieved 2021-07-14.
  9. "Best New Attraction Winners (2017) | USA TODAY 10Best". 10Best. Retrieved 2021-07-14.
  10. Martin, Deborah. "Morgan's Wonderland Boosts its Entertainment Offerings". San Antonio Express News. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  11. Shaw Brown, Genevieve. "World's 1st fully accessible water park opens in Texas". ABC News. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  12. "Toyota Announces Presenting Sponsorships of Morgan's Wonderland, New Scorpions Stadium". Toyota USA Newsroom. 2012-08-28. Retrieved 2021-07-25.
  13. "Special-Needs Schools with Ties to Morgan's Wonderland to Close in June". San Antonio Report. 2019-01-10. Retrieved 2021-07-25.
  14. Dimmick, Iris (2014-10-31). "Photo Gallery: CRIT USA Opens to Serve Children with Disabilities". San Antonio Report. Retrieved 2021-07-25.
  15. Mendoza, Madalyn (2021-06-29). "$4 million sports complex by Morgan's Wonderland now open in San Antonio". mySA. Retrieved 2021-07-25.
  16. "Morgan's Wonderland announces $3 million ultra-accessible sports complex". InPark Magazine. Retrieved 2021-07-25.
  17. Andy Knaggs 08 Oct 2019. "Morgan's Wonderland expanding with disability-friendly sports facility | Leisure Opportunities news". www.leisureopportunities.co.uk. Retrieved 2021-07-25.
  18. Villafranca, Omar. "Father creates special water park named after his daughter". CBS Evening news. Retrieved 6 July 2017.
  19. Rosenburg, Tina. "A Place to Play, on Wheels or Feet". nytimes.com. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  20. "PneuChair Unveiled at Water Park". herl.pitt.edu. University of Pittsburgh.