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I used to have this place classified as a race track but have since found out it was more of a fun park with putt-putt and a go-kart track. I will use this entry to document both the original Pasadena Ave location and the Dort Hwy Location as they had the same owner. I have posted an article about Henry Werner below from MLive and I am fortunate to have an account from his son also. The Pasadena location is long gone and according to Google, the Dort Hwy location is permanently closed as of 2022.
From Kris Werner
Opened in 1969, prior to that the facility operated as a miniature golf. Opening its first arcade July 20 1969. The facility had games, batting cages, mini golf. golf practice facilities, and a giant slide. Playland became Michigan's first video arcade, being the first to purchase and operate "Pong" in the early seventies. In the mid seventies, it was one of the top destination facilities in mid Michigan. In 1977 looking for a way to expand Henry Werner removed the golf driving range, shifting gears into the concession go kart business.
Praises poured in for the 1/2 mile track designed by an unknown county employee using road commission equipment. The instructions were simple; "drive like a drunk, make a big circle and end up back here". The whole design procedure took less than fifteen minutes. One karting publication called it "the best track on the eastern seaboard". I always scratched my head when I read the word "seaboard". In 1979 playland added the states first skate park and pro shop. The business was very busy as the video game industry took off.
In 1980 a second store was opened called Playland South. It is still in operation today on Dort Hwy. in Grand Blanc. In the early 80's the original Playland was sold. in 1986 Playland South changed it's name to Playland Park adding the states first slick track, still operated today. Also added in that renovation, monster miniature golf, a new 1/2 mile go kart track, and an ice cream parlor. In 1992 the ice cream parlor was closed and a pizza and birthday party restaurant called Starbucks opened. It still serves great pizza but it goes by the name Bonkers! due to confusion with the coffee company.
In 1996 they added Kiddie go karts for ages 4-7, and Naskart go karts. Two years later the Naskart karts where pulled and that track became a junior track. The business is still in operation today hosting many birthday parties, serving pizza, fun, go karts and miniature golf. In 1997 Playland opened it first haunted attraction which has been rated the areas top haunted house for 10 straight years. Developing a theatrical division called WWW.fearfest.net.
FLINT, MI – To most children and teenagers, the words "fun" and "work" are polar opposites.
But former Flint resident Henry Werner – known better by his nickname "Hank" -- proved fun and work could be one in the same in 1967 when he opened Playland, a place where children, teenagers and adults can drive go-carts and play arcade games.
"It's more of a hobby than a business," said Kris Werner, Henry Werner's son. "But we want to keep it because it's how we got there."
Henry Werner died Saturday, Aug. 24, of heart failure. He was 80.
In 1965, Henry Werner bought an area of land near Pasadena Avenue to build Playland, which housed go-carts, miniature golf, an ice cream parlor, pizza and arcade games – a lot of arcade games.
"We had at one point 250 pinball machines," Kris Werner remembers.
Though the Pasadena Avenue location of Playland would be sold in the early 1980s, the dream lived on as Henry Werner would set up shop in Grand Blanc, Playland's current location owned and operated by Kris Werner.
Kris Werner got his start in the family business picking up golf balls when he was eight years old. He said his father opened Playland with the mindset that it was important to have a place for kids to go.
"He was adamant about having something for kids," Kris Werner said.
Henry Werner operated under an entrepreneurial and money-oriented mind in the business, but there were times when compassion shined through, Kris Werner said. During one such occasion, an area school lacked the funds necessary to send underprivileged kids to the park for a field trip.
"It wasn't so much that he made money, but that the kids got there," Kris Werner said.
About two or three years ago, he said his father rounded up the grandchildren for a game of Pac Man.
"He loved playing games; he was part like a kid," Kris Werner said. "It's just who he was."
At different points in his life, Henry Werner opened bars, a race shop, convenience store and a retail battery business – most of which were in the Flint area.
He retired at 45, but his spontaneity didn't cease. Kris Werner remembered a time when his father had been with a group of five or six others at Playland and told the group "We're all going racing down that slide." Henry Werner was 45 at the time, and others in the group were around the same age.
"He was always doing something crazy like that," Kris Werner said.
Mike Wiley, owner of Wiley Amusements in Fenton, worked as a mechanic for Henry Werner at the age of 13, maintaining the pinball machines at Playland.
"I always really appreciate that Hank gave me some opportunities and camaraderie in life," Wiley said. "He was the kind of guy who always spoke his mind. He taught me a little bit about how to be a better man in that regard."
Wiley said Henry Werner's ideas and advice seemed crazy, but that in hindsight he was almost always right.
"He may have been a bit of an intimidating character to some, but he was a real good-hearted man and an honorable man," Wiley said.
The task of following in father's footsteps has been demanding for Kris Werner, as he says a lot of his father's decisions were based on "spontaneous, impulse buying."
"I feel like I'm running an icon business, like I'm taking care of it," he said. "If it wasn't for his desire to do something for kids, I don't think Playland would have happened in Flint."