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Nostalgia Shop Owner Plans World's Longest Walk-Through Fun House

"Wild" Bill Ziegler is appearing before Middletown's Planning and Zoning tonight for approval of a giant, four-building family entertainment center, mini golf course and batting cages near the Cromwell line.

The owner of a nostalgia shop on Route 3 in Middletown is asking the city planning and zoning commissioners this evening to approve a special permit exception to add a four-building entertainment complex on the property.

Bill Ziegler, who runs at 1003 Newfield Street, has submitted plans to erect four buildings including a funhouse museum.

This is something he's wanted to do for his entire life. “When finished, it’ll be the world’s longest walk-through funhouse,” Ziegler says.

Tickets will be on a per-ride basis and affordable. "It's for the people," Ziegler explains. "I'd like to get kids off the Internet. It'll be for baby boomers, old-timers."

The concept includes a 2,800-square-foot museum, two 4,000-square-foot pole barns, a 1,200 square foot glass, or mirror, house; one acre for miniature golf and 1.5 acres for batting cages.

He’s hoping the funhouse will be open in mid-September and ticket sales will allow him, soon afterward, to build the additional portions. This endeavor has been an expensive one, Ziegler said. "It's cost me everything I have."

Each pole barn will house pretzel cars in a ride-through fun house.

About 10 years ago, Ziegler purchased Pretzel Amusement Ride Company cars from the Staten Island fun house in Beachland. "We went and took the all apart. We need to put a new facade on them," he said. They'll be reconstructed much like the original track ride, where people sit inside and wend their way through a "fun/scary" house with doors that open, lights and "tricks," Ziegler says.

The cars Ziegler has were build in the 1920s.

The idea is garnering public interest on Wild Bill’s Facebook page, where several commenters are amenable to having a place for families to enjoy.

Wild Bill’s sits on a 240,278 square foot lot in the Newfield Planned Commercial Zone, where maximum lot coverage regulations are 30 percent of the property. The proposed development would comprise only 12 percent of the land.

Planning and Zoning staff have expressed concern about Wild Bill’s sitting on a floodplain and on wetlands, which exist on the western half and just north of the property near Newfield Street. The pole barns and glass house proposals are on the 10-year floodplain, and Ziegler would need to obtain a flood area development permit before any building permits could be issued.

Still, Ziegler, who will speak this evening, doesn't anticipate a whole lot of opposition. "There are people who don't like how my building is," but they are the minority. Wild Bill's has a devoted fan base of folks who consider so-called "dark rides" their passion or yearn for the amusement parks of their childhoods.

The meeting is a 7 p.m. in Council Chambers and there will be a public session.

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