Through the years, a lot of care has gone into the continual evolution of this Lee’s Summit icon. Learn more about what distinguishes it from other entertainment venues, and join the fun as they celebrate a milestone this summer!
In 1991, the view at Colbern Road and 291 Highway was vastly different than it is today. Back then this area was undeveloped, still a peaceful rolling countryside on the outskirts of Lee’s Summit. No Campbell Middle School, no library, no Paradise Park.
The area caught the attention of a young couple at the beginning of their lives together. Jon and Juli Ellis were twentysomethings at the time, with an idea.
“There wasn’t as much to do in Lee’s Summit for fun back then,” explains Juli. A trip to Florida inspired the Iowa State agricultural education major Jon, who had a passion and gift for landscaping.
“He was inspired by what he saw there at a mini-golf course: a lush garden with a waterfall feature. He thought maybe he could create a place that was both beautiful and fun back in Lee’s Summit.” So they purchased the 14 acres and set aside 2 for a mini golf course that they worked side-by-side to create and called it Putter’s Paradise. That heart-and-hands commitment from the Ellis family is what sets Paradise Park apart still today.
“Jon designed every hole. He pushed the dirt and did everything,” Juli says. “We planted thousands of shrubs and trees. (There were more than 10,000.) Jon dug the holes, I put the plants in place, he covered it.” His young crew and Iowa family members came down and helped, each bringing their expertise to the project.
The new destination felt so far from civilization, Juli says Jon was concerned. “He said, ‘Do you think they’ll find us?”
People did indeed.
Always with an eye to continual improvement, Jon guided the development through the years and eventually the couple made a major investment in expanding, with a vision to create a rich place for families to connect through fun and adventure. They began construction of Paradise Park in 2002, and opened the summer of 2004.
An innovative and distinguishing feature of the new addition was the Children’s Edu-tainment Center (CEdC), which became Juli’s passion. She discovered the half-education, half-entertainment concept at an amusement industry conference. A CEdC facilitates parent-child relationships through engaging in activities together, enhances communication skills, and facilitates play so important to development. “I thought, ‘This is so cool! We need an edu-tainment center!’” she shares.
The Family Entertainment Center offers older kids and adults a variety of activities, anchored by the Foam Factory, Rock Wall and Bumper Cars and outdoors includes Go-Karts, Laser Tag, Mini Golf, Batting Cages and a picturesque venue for “backyard” concerts and events. Every detail of every offering is designed with great intentionality and a core belief in the value of people and relationships, delivered by staff who really care and go above and beyond to make sure every guest’s experience is excellent.
“Our whole purpose is to create a fun place that is safe and clean for families and friends to have a good, wholesome family experience,” says Jon. “While simple on the surface, that means we’ve invested a lot of thought and time in cultivating the structure and culture that supports that goal.”
They are constantly creating new attractions, the latest being a mission-based laser tag arena in the old fire station on the north side of the property.
“We are excited to offer this new and exciting experience we’re calling Operation Laser Tag,” says Jon. “Our vision for the Park is to continue to grow and work to deliver the latest and greatest family fun within our collection of family entertainment attractions.”
Jon and Juli are still actively involved, and the Paradise Park family includes a great leadership team and hundreds of teens each year. It’s become a place where not just families but also businesses, schools and organizations come to build camaraderie and make memories.
Lee’s Summit Chamber President Nancy Bruns shares, “Paradise Park has been an integral part of this community from the beginning and is a wonderful attraction for Lee’s Summit. It’s truly amazing how many events they have held to benefit the chamber, the schools and the other nonprofits in the community. The transition from Putter’s Paradise to Paradise Park was a huge financial investment and we are so blessed to have them in Lee’s Summit.”
From a manicured mini-golf course and driving range on the outskirts of town, to a thriving facility where tens of thousands of people of all ages come to connect through fun, Paradise Park has become the heart of our community, a place where so many of us have made memories for a lifetime. Thank you, Paradise Park!