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What Happens in Garden Grove, Stays in Garden Grove

Hey if a west-coast International Drive didn't get the tourist development dollars flowing to this Orange County 'burb, perhaps a Vegas-style casino resort will.

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Published: August 18, 2004 at 9:46 PM

At least Garden Grove's setting its sights a little higher. That is, if you prefer the non-stop commercial tackiness of the Las Vegas Strip over the non-stop commercial tackiness of Orlando's International Drive.

Too bad for Garden Grove that Walt Disney's grad students tapped Anaheim as the best site for Walt's little amusement park. Ever since, the pols and developers in Garden Grove have watched with growing envy as its neighbor to the north banked billions in tax dollars from Disneyland's tourists. But jealousy's a great motivator. So Garden Grove's crafted one plan after another to siphon tourists -- and their money -- from Anaheim.

Of course, the Walt Disney Company's been driving tourists from Anaheim for several years. Garden Grove had slated a 70-acre theme park for its International Drive West [TPI coverage], its plan from two years ago to duplicate Orlando-style fern bars, mini-golf courses and T-shirt shops along Harbor Boulevard in an effort to suck the remaining dollars from local tourists' wallets. But now that city fathers have seen how well Disney's underdeveloped park has managed to scare visitors away from the area, they have changed course and leaked plans to go after a casino resort to anchor their planned tourist corridor instead.

Look, Mickey's a world-class talent at plucking its guests. But Disney's running a lemonade stand when compared to the money-sucking power of a Las Vegas casino. No one's queuing up to borrow 10 grand from Scrooge McDuck so they can give it back betting the over on the body count at Pirates of the Caribbean. A T-shirt shop's not gonna have much to collect from Garden Grove's tourists once its casino gets through with them. Especially when Garden Grove's rumored casino partner is Vegas impresario Steve Wynn.

To quote one TPI reader, "when in Vegas, always bet on black... and always bet on Steve Wynn." A Wynn casino, typically larded with excesses like Picassos and Maserati dealerships, doesn't settle for anyone's leftovers. Not even Disneyland's. So scratch this plan as just another attempt to build a better parasite. If Garden Grove's serious, the city's aiming a billion-dollar attack on Disneyland and Anaheim's family-friendly theme park economy.

Expect left-leaning Disney CEO Michael Eisner to get very chummy with California's Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger if Garden Grove's plan seems even close to getting state approval. (The governor would have to okay the sale of Garden Grove land to a California Indian tribe to enable casino gambling in the city.) Neither Disney nor Anaheim would accept quietly the development of a Steve Wynn casino within blocks of their billion-dollar tourist investment.

So how will Garden Grove react? The city's been craving Anaheim's visitors for years. It seems unlikely that it would just abandon this plan once Disney and Anaheim try to apply some political heat. Who knows? Maybe Garden Grove would cut a deal. We'll drop the whole casino thing if you promise to help us get our International Drive.

Gee, you don't think maybe that was the plan all along?

Anybody wanna buy a T-shirt?

Readers' Opinions

From Kevin Baxter on August 19, 2004 at 2:38 AM
I have a problem or two with calling Eisner "left-leaning." I don't think the man has the slightest interest in politics unless it affects his wallet. He has given freely to both Democrats and Republicans and is infamous for whining before Congress whenever they try to raise taxes on the rich. If pressed on actual issues that affect us regular folks, I honestly believe he wouldn't have an opinion either way.
From Jason Brumbaugh on August 19, 2004 at 1:47 PM
Personally, I'd love to see a casino nearby... not only is it closer than Vegas (and the San Diego casinos), but it'll put some much needed pressure on Disney to "up the ante" (so to speak).
From David Franzen on August 23, 2004 at 5:22 AM
Personally, I view Casino's as a cyclical fad. If it were not for the legislation to allow casino constuction/operation on reservations, we would not even be having this conversation.

The current fashion says that its okay to forsake buying Johnny new school supplies in favor of playing the slots a few more time. However, it's always been in fashion to spend money in the parks.

My question, what's going to happen to all these casino properties once the fashion dies out? Atlantic City sure recovered well from the last wave.

Wanna bet long? Bet on the themeparks to be around in 20, 30, even 40 years.

From Margie Monin Dombrowski on April 24, 2005 at 8:23 PM
I haven't been reading up on this and just came across this article today, so excuse me if I sound ignorant. But I grew up in the area and don't believe I'm incorrect when I say that when tourists come to the area, they're coming to OC or the Anaheim area in general. They're not just coming to see Disneyland and that's it. If anything, they'll visit both places. I don't see why the writer is making a big deal out of this supposed rivalry between Anaheim and Garden Grove. Yes, GG lost out when they could have had Disneyland, but they've been trying to take advantage of the fact that they're conveniently located down the street from Disneyland. GG has been blighted for a long time, but has been desperately trying to find ways to bring business and money into the city and this is one of the most likely ways to do it--tourism. I really don't see it as a scheme to siphon money FROM Anaheim.

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