Friday, March 18, 2011

Scott's Theme Park thoughts

If you were to peruse old posts on this blog, or click on the labels "Indoor Theme Park", "Cold Weather Parks", or maybe "Midwest Attractions" you might notice that it's been sort of a running theme of the blog that I play around with conceptualizing a high quality, year-round theme park in the upper Midwest, specifically in the Chicago area.

I believe that this would be a good location for such a venture, because of the population within driving distance, and because of the accessibility of the area via several means of transportation. There are two major airports in O'Hare and Midway, a proposed (but whether it will ever be build is a different story) third airport near Peotone. Two major highways crisscross here (I80 and I55), and Amtrack trains come through here as well. There is also a lot of land in the area that might be available.

The limiting factor is the weather. For 6 months out of the year, the weather here is unpredictible and not amenable to an outdoor park. The one large local amusement park, Six Flags Great America, is a 6 month outdoor park. There are virtually no other amusement parks in the area. Kiddieland closed, as did Santa's Village. You have to drive to Indiana (Indiana Beach), Michigan (Michigan's Adventure) or the Wisconsin Dells (a whole bunch of stuff) to find other amusement parks.

And there are virtually no "theme" parks. Legoland has an indoor facility in Schaumburg, which features a single dark ride, a 3D theater, a "factory experience", and a couple other things to do...not much for the almost 30 dollar admission price.
Other than that, there really isn't much. We can drive to Indiana to visit the Amish communities where there is themed dining and attractions in the form of an almost museum-like area. We can drive to Iowa, to Amana, where Amish also have tons of wineries, dining establishments and shops. We can drive to the Dells, where we can visit some themed water parks and other attractions. Or over to Michigan, where Nelis' Dutch Village and some other attractions are located in Holland.

So why NOT here? I can't see a good reason. We will fly to Florida or California and spend an entire week at Disney, in an immersive vacation where sometimes we don't ever leave the grounds of the resort. We don't always explore the surrounding area (well, actually *we* do...when we've gone to California we've always made it a point to drive to some of the attractions around the area - as far away as the San Diego Zoo or Hollywood, a bit closer, and seen some oceanfront towns also) so why do we need the beach a hundred miles (or less) away? The weather is great, but a lot of us from around here drive to the Dells to stay at a water park that offers us basically a waterpark. Artificial beach!

Assuming that I'm correct, and this area could support some sort of high quality themed park and resort, then I begin thinking about what it would look like. It wouldn't be Disney, obviously - I'm talking about ME designing this, not borrowing the Imagineers' work. It wouldn't be Universal, or movie themed. Could it be themed to life in the old days? Like the Holland, Michigan theme park, or the Amish communities? Well, yeah, but what about the weather?

I was thinking small at first, a single theme park and a hotel with a water park attached. But after reading Project Future, I decided that there was not enough in that concept to make the park a destination, and I'd need to expand the concept. So my next concept was for three theme parks, two hotels, a huge indoor/outdoor water park, a retail shopping and dining area, and a golf course.

Then I read Building A Better Mouse and thought about the cost of EPCOT in 1982. 1.2 BILLION dollars! Holy cats, that's a lot! And while my concept didn't call for quite the elaborate-ness of EPCOT's attractions, I was thinking of things that were on that order. Ride-throughs and simulators and boats and a coaster or two, with a few ideas where we'd be a bit more original in our presentation. (I'm not an engineer, so I was kinda thinking that if I get my own team of "imagineers" we'd come up with more cool stuff than I'd ever think up on my own...)

Now I'm thinking the whole thing needs to be downsized back to a much smaller initial stage. Back to the single theme "park", if you will, in the sense that Legoland in Schaumburg is a theme park. An enclosed building that can fit enough modestly sized attractions, with a low enough park ticket, to draw people from the area mostly, and hopefully get profitable quickly. Pay off the notes, then proceed with planning the more extravagant resort.

Think it's doable? I'd love to think so. But more likely it will remain a thought experiment, mostly worked out in my own notebooks and occasionally, like today, on the pages of this blog...



Anonymous said...

It's not in your neck of the woods, but the link below is for a proposed theme park/resort in my area (Houston).

They have some good ideas, but haven't been able to get financing so far. Phase 1 has been reduced to around $500 million to supposedly make it more palatable for investors. I believe the original plan was in excess of $1 billion.

Scott said...

Thanks for the comment. I think Disney had a leg up on us wannabe's because they didn't need to prove to anyone that the thing would be profitable. They just did it. (Well, WALT just did it.) Still, everyone thought it would fail. I doubt that there were venture capitalists (if such a thing existed) lining up to invest in his parks. Then of course, the more parks that fail the less attractive it becomes.

Thanks for the link, too! I'm going to get a look at it right about now!

Scott said...

EarthQuest looks really interesting. There are similarities between it and my own concept, oddly enough. (I'm not putting down too much info on my concept at this point...) Some of the concept art is very cool, and some of the ideas are also very cool. Thanks for pointing me in that direction...