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Joyland encounters angst, then renewal

Several times it appeared there would be no holiday joy at the landmark Joyland Entertainment Center. City officials closed it in October, saying the structure had so many fire and building code violations that it was "unfit for human habitation."

But owner Walter Preston was able to renovate the portion of the building that houses the Crystal Playhouse Dinner Theatre in time for its scheduled Thanksgiving opening.

Two days later, heavy winds toppled the complex's 80-foot sign.

As the year drew to a close, things were looking up at 11225 U.S. 19.

Renovations had been completed on all but the outdoor hockey rink.

The enforced closure came after years of fighting with county code inspectors and, after the land was annexed, Pinellas Park inspectors.

The friction reached a head with construction of the dinner theater when city inspectors discovered that the work had gone far beyond the scope of the permits. Joyland became the only commercial building that Pinellas Park officials had closed for code violations in at least 22 years.

Those fights finally may be over for the gathering place for country music fans, dancers, rollerskaters and politicians for 40 years.