Playland Speedway History

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PLEASE NOTE:  Some of these images are HUGE!!  They may take a LONG time to load with a dial-up connection.

Playland Speedway was originally a dog track.  The dog track was started by none other than infamous gangland czar Meyer Lansky, who in 1941, spent $50,000 building the Council Bluffs dog track and grandstand.  The Dodge Park Kennel Club was it's name. He ran dog racing in 1941, 42 and 43, until the mayor shut it down. 

The facility sat idle until it became a dirt track in 1947.  The name was Frontier Park back then.    In 1948 an amusement park and midway were added, including a 3/4 mile long roller coaster! The track was now called "Playland Bowl". In 1949, it was called "Playland Park Stadium".  Whatever the name, some of the finest Midget Racing in America took place here involving some of the best racers in America.  "Organized" stockcar racing began in 1950. The track was paved for the  1954 season. 

In 1956  the NASCAR Short Track Championship Race was held in C.B. The entry and time trial sheet is on this site.  I was going to add it to the history page, but it deserves it's own page!  If you didn't know about this race, wait till you see who was there!  Thanks Lee Ackerman of the Nebraska Racing Hall of Fame for the sheet.


Sixty acres of the park were condemned by the state to build the I-480 bridge in 1964-66.  The 3/4 mile long wooden coaster was demolished.  The bulk of the major rides were sold at auction.  Some would later go to Frontier City in Oklahoma City, a park the Sluskys owned.  It is still there.

When the track reopened in 1966, rides included the Wild Mouse, bumper cars, Tilt-A-Whirl and of course the usual midway games.  It was a great place to go as a kid.  

The "Bronco" class was introduced in 1967.  The season started with 12 broncos and it ended with 60!  Per Abe Slusky, Playland Speedway's biggest year, based on car count and attendance was  1968. 

Many  people don't know that the Slusky's bought an amusement park in 1969.  Run by Howard Slusky, it was called Frontier City and is still in operation in Oklahoma City.  The Slusky's sold the park in 1980 or 81 to Tierco (now Premier/Six Flags).

I was a California Marine when the track was closed in October 1977.  

Many famous local racers graced the racing surface of Playland Speedway during it’s history. Tiny Lund, Bud Burdick, Glen Robey (8-ball), Elvin “Junior” Heiman (66), Dick Gappa (77), “Wild Bill” Martin, Dave Chase (31), Paul Zdan (10), Frank "the Flying Dutchman" Vandoorn (30), Larry Brown(16) , Bob Matson (71), Larry Jiskra (70), Sonny Miller (109), Ron Tilley (56), Russ Dilley (22), Ron Hoden (65),  John Beaman, Frank Prideaux (67), Mel Sorensen (93), Bob Jura (72), John Ernest (73),  Jerry Boyd (52), Ron Wolfe “the Asphalt Animal”(76),  Chris Hoeppner (84), Bob Rollins (80), Claude “Sonny” Brown (67) and of course my personal hero, my Dad, Al Franks (89) who wasn't famous at all.  You'll find many names on this site. 


These photos and articles were taken from the Nonpareil and World Herald papers and placed in a scrapbook provided by Bob Matson.

Click on text links or pictures for articles:

Various views of the old park

Roller Coaster Database info on the old park. 

Gasoline alley and track entrance

From Larry Osborn: Dan.. here are 2 pictures I found that shows Playland in 1952. That was the year of the big Missouri River flood. Thought you might think it was interesting.  first picture and  second picture.

Playland resumes racing after construction.

Demolition for I-480 construction

Playland re-opens as a race track only facility

History of Playland with Lee Barron's comments

Historical article on dog track beginnings

May 1,2003 article about Playland, published in the Council Bluffs Business Journal.  Written and sent to me by Richard Warner.  Thanks Richard! 

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Historical articles and items from Frank Vandoorn.

Pre-1970 season article on upcoming changes.  Click for bigger picture. 

1971 Playland Programs from Larry Osborn

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1972 Articles from Larry Osborn-  The STRIKE YEAR!

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Historical articles and items from Frank Vandoorn.

1974 Mel Sorensen Interview from Sun Newspaper 

Contractor Takes Over Playland Speedway

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Front and back of L&G era flyer. (front) (back)

Playland constructed an 1/8 mile track for 1976 Modified Midgets

 Races cancelled by protests and fights!

Article on local drivers, Kosiski, Martin, Zdan, Chase

Last race at Playland

Last Playland Flyer...   Goodbye and Thanks!

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Article on demolition of Playland (part1) (part2)

Article on Playland reunion held August 12,1995. (part1) (part2)


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