January 2024

JE Dunn’s Worlds of Fun Project: Shaping Kansas City’s Future with Integrity and Determination

In the early 1970s, JE Dunn undertook a monumental task that would leave a lasting impact on the landscape of Kansas City. The project, commissioned by Lamar Hunt, the late owner of the Kansas City Chiefs and former chairman of Worlds of Fun, aimed to transform a 140-acre plot into an amusement park. The endeavor was far from ordinary, involving the construction of 60 buildings, around 20 special rides, and various recreational features. Bill Dunn Sr. recognized the magnitude of the project. He knew it would demand unwavering effort to complete it within a year. 

The budget was as tight as the schedule, so the Worlds of Fun team, led by President Jack Steadman, agreed to a guaranteed cost with a promise to return any savings back to the contractor. The external challenges, including the economic slump, soaring construction costs and unpredictable weather conditions, threatened the project’s progress at every turn. Despite these obstacles, JE Dunn Construction Company, led by project superintendent Charlie Wakeman, persevered and completed the ambitious Worlds of Fun project within the agreed-upon period. 

Upon completing the project, JE Dunn was entitled to receive $100,000 in savings from Worlds of Fun. However, Bill Dunn Sr. took an unconventional path, choosing to return the entire sum to the owner, Lamar Hunt, with the belief that the value of the job and the experience gained along with a very satisfied client was worth more than the money.  As a result of this generosity, Steadman was so impressed, he would go out of his way to advocate and encourage other owners to hire JE Dunn for their construction projects.  

In addition to setting a lasting example of perseverance and business integrity, JE Dunn’s involvement with Worlds of Fun has evolved into a legacy far beyond the original vision of Bill Dunn Sr. Initially conceived as Kansas City’s Family Fun Adventure, Worlds of Fun quickly expanded into a theme park larger than any amusement park in the Midwest. Today it spans more than 325 acres with unique themed areas, a record-breaking waterpark with Oceans of Fun, and the Worlds of Fun Village, an on-site resort featuring cottages, cabins, and RV sites. Starting with just 15 rides, the park now boasts 64 rides, slides and attractions in total. With a workforce of well over 2,000 employees, Worlds of Fun stands as the largest seasonal employer in the region. 

As Kansas City’s hometown amusement park, Worlds of Fun just completed its 50th season of providing thrill-filled entertainment for families near and far. The Worlds of Fun project stands as a testament to JE Dunn’s technical expertise, efficiency and commitment to ethical business practices. In addition, this project showcases JE Dunn’s dedication to making an enduring mark on Kansas City’s dynamic canvas. These skills and values have not only enabled them to construct physical structures but also to cultivate lasting legacies and memories within their community.