Doug Knight is now the official owner of the Giant Slide at the Illinois State Fairgrounds.
Knight said he and seller Scott Grunwald of Stacy, Minnesota, finalized the deal at the fairgrounds Saturday.
Scott Dahl, the director of the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau, confirmed the meeting and deal.
Knight, the owner and general manager of Knight's Action Park and Splash Kingdom, said he will keep the Giant Slide, which has been part of the Illinois State Fair since 1968, at the fairgrounds.
Owners of the Giant Slide have a lease agreement with the Illinois Department of Agriculture.
Knight was one of three people in line to buy the bright yellow Giant Slide, which is near the fairgrounds' Main Gate. Grunwald, who bought the slide in 2019, told The State Journal-Register that he wouldn't sell to any buyer who wanted to move the slide.
The selling price was $250,000.
It will become the centerpiece of a marketing campaign by the SCVB around the expanded Route 66 Experience at the fairgrounds ahead of the Mother Road's centennial in 2026.
The tie-in is that the east side of the fairgrounds is on the original Route 66, Dahl said.
"It feels good," Knight said about inking the deal. "I’m a little jittery. It’s like buying a new car, but only bigger.
"I have the wheels turning as to what I need to do to get it in a position to get it open and make a good showing."
Knight said he will be addressing a couple of paint patches and securing a new canopy for the top of the slide. He is also looking into modifying the fencing around it.
Knight said he anticipated meeting with Dahl on Monday.
"I am feeling ecstatic and grateful for Doug Knight and the city's support," Dahl said. "I'm looking forward to 250,000 visitors experiencing a 'Slide Down 66' between now and the 100th anniversary of Route 66 in 2026."
Grunwald did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
One of the new things coming to the slide: a Route 66 logo that Ace Sign Co. has already been contracted to add.
Last Tuesday, the Springfield City Council committed $30,000 annually over the next four years to help Knight staff and maintain the slide.
The idea is to open the slide to the public on Saturdays from noon to 6 p.m. through the end of August in addition to the State Fair run.
Knight said city's support was "the difference of the deal happening or not."
Knight said things could be in place for an opening by the beginning of July.
It's been over a decade since the slide, which is nearly 40 feet high and 130 feet long, had local ownership.
Dennis Herrington and three other Springfield businessmen bought the slide from the Bud Shymansky family in 1993. Two years later, Herrington bought out the partners. Herrington sold it in 2011.
The Giant Slide has been part of the State Fair's tradition for five and a half decades.
Former Gov. James Thompson made it a rite to go down the slide with his family each August after cutting the ceremonial ribbon. Several wedding parties have celebrated at the Giant Slide, and it's been the site of at least one wedding ceremony.
Knight said he knew other buyers were in pursuit of it, one of whom he directly contacted him. He tried to buy it in 2019, but admittedly got in on the deal late.
"There’s a market out there for it, but I’m committed to the city of Springfield to making sure we present the product the community wants to present," Knight said. "I’m a loyal guy, tried and true, and I’m sticking to my commitments. There’s no other way around it."
Contact Steven Spearie: 217-622-1788, firstname.lastname@example.org, twitter.com/@StevenSpearie.
This article originally appeared on State Journal-Register: Doug Knight purchases Giant Slide at Illinois State Fairgrounds