Meet the man creating a mini theme park inside El Dorado Park

Long Beach resident Patricio Wolovich has long dreamed—both as a kid and as an adult working in film—of creating his own theme park. And now, the man is actually doing it, having acquired a special lease from the city of Long Beach to take over and manage a space in El Dorado Park where an 18-gauge train has been carrying imaginative and curious passengers for 25 years.

Previously dubbed Caboose Corners, the newly minted El Dorado Frontier is the ambitious brainchild of Wolovich, who not only responded to a Request For Proposala submitted by the City asking for an entity to upgrade the space, but is risking his time and a little bit of his life energy to create a tiny-but-mighty space that harkens to the origins of powerhouses like Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm and even Santa’s Village.

A drawing of the proposed El Dorado Frontier theme park in Long Beach shows the carousel and Main Street façade. Courtesy of Patrick Wolovich.

A drawing of the proposed El Dorado Frontier theme park in Long Beach shows the carousel and Main Street façade. Courtesy of Patrick Wolovich.

Wolovich took over the train operations from father-and-son team Tony and Greg Ruvolo, the pair who refurbished the entire train. The train was originally built in 1946, but after the duo discovered it in a yard in Colton, it took them eight years to refurbish it and lay down the track that currently exists at El Dorado Park.

Wolovich wants to take that spirit and elevate it—with his own hands.

“I’m a detail-oriented person, through and through—and Tony and Greg really laid the groundwork that would have been extremely difficult to create from scratch today,” Wolovich said. “While I’m not building something as grandiose as Disneyland—I don’t need or want to build something like that—I do appreciate details, and I’ll even admit I spend money on those details. I understand we have to generate revenue, but I want people to be able to see things and experience things that were otherwise not here.”

A drawing of the proposed El Dorado Frontier theme park in Long Beach shows the fort entrance. Courtesy of Patrick Wolovich.

A drawing of the proposed El Dorado Frontier theme park in Long Beach shows the fort entrance. Courtesy of Patrick Wolovich.

Using the train’s track as a boundary à la Disney, Wolovich will create what he hopes to be an experiential and educational enclave that focuses in on California and Long Beach history—with a bit of fantasy.

“We specialize in animatronics so we will have a giant, animatronic tree, The Golden Oak, that will specialize in telling stories to kids,” Wolovich said.

Add onto this a carousel, one of the first big features to arrive, and a mini Main Street filled with places to hang out, eat and drink, and you have yourself the El Dorado Frontier.

“I love this park, I grew up with this park—so it really isn’t about heavily changing it,” Wolovich said. “It’s about preserving as much as possible while creating a little something new.”

And Wolovich isn’t kidding when he says he is preserving as much as possible: Everything will be designed around existing trees, and given the strict boundaries of the space he’s provided, there will be no possibility for expansion.

He hopes, by next year, they will have a carousel and most of the park will be accessible. Within the following year, he hopes other features, such as The Golden Oak, will be up and running. Until then, the train remains in full operation.

“I’m a man who likes to get things done fast. It’s the nature of the industry I am in. But I also don’t want anything haphazardly done,” Wolovich said. “I just want Long Beach to have something special.”

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