What would you do? Where's the best site in America for a new theme park?
A few weeks ago, we looked at the challenge of finding a site for a new attraction within an existing theme park
. Today, I'd like to challenge you with a larger task:
Where would you build a new theme park?
While dozens of parks add new attractions each year, a new park comes along in the United States only a handful of times each decade, if that. Choose the wrong site, and your multi-million-dollar capital investment may be doomed. And at the very best, you're drawing fewer visitors and making less money than you would have with a better site.
But what is a good site for a theme park? Answering that question is the challenge I present today.
I've been reading Chad Emerson's Project Future: The Inside Story Behind the Creation of Disney World, which tells in a clear and focused narrative the story of the Disney Company's decision in the 1960s to build in the Orlando area. I've also long been a fan of Harrison 'Buzz' Price's Walt's Revolution!: By the Numbers (hard to find), which digs deeper into the numbers and economics behind selecting attraction sites. Both books examine the factors that influence decisions on where to build a theme park - population, transportation, weather and existing tourist infrastructure (roads, airports, hotels, competition).
But a decision often rests on how you weigh those various factors.
Population: A large local population offers a large potential market for your park. But placing your park in a big city creates risk, as well. Advertising will be more expensive to buy. There likely will be other major entertainment options already for people in the area, against which you'll have to compete. Labor costs might be higher. And land almost certainly will be more expensive to purchase.
Transportation: Having a lot of people around is of no help if they can't get to your park. Disney put Disney World near Orlando because it was conveniently located near the junction of Interstate 4 and the Florida's Turnpike. Plus, Orlando had an airport (though it later would be rebuilt to accommodate Disney-driven crowds). You'll want to consider the location of Interstate highways and airports in deciding where to put your dream theme park. But easy access can overwhelm parks that aren't built up to handle large crowds.
Weather: Few people want to visit a theme park in the snow. Or on a cold or rainy day. Temperatures in the 70s and 80s (F), plus sunny skies, equal high theme park attendance. Unless you're going to build a very expensive dome over your park, a location with poor weather most of the year won't allow you to recoup your investment.
Tourism infrastructure: You'll make more money at your park if it is part of a multi-day vacation than if it's simply a day trip. But for people to make a visit part of a longer visit, they'll need places to stay - hotels, vacation rentals and campgrounds. You'll need to locate near restaurants, gas stations and other attractions (man-made or natural) that might entice people to stay for longer. But you don't want to be lost among the competition, either.
What's the right call? Move into a big metro area with temperate (not cold, but not too hot or humid) climate? Sure, but in the United States that means Southern California, and it already has seven theme parks competing for locals' business. Or Hawaii, but high air transportation costs make that a tough sell for many potential visitors.
So how much are you willing to trade off ideal weather for other factors? The Seattle area is large, growing and without a major theme park. But frequent rain makes visiting outdoor attractions such as roller coasters and shows less than appealing. It's dry in Phoenix, but the summer heat is oppressive. Miami? Similar weather to Orlando, but has Central Florida taken all potential theme park visitors away?
What about smaller, more out-of-the-way locations? There are plenty of Interstate junctions with decent tourist infrastructure, and no major themed park attractions. What about something near Albuquerque, New Mexico? Or Memphis, Tennessee?
Or do you build close to the Southern California or Central Florida clusters, and hope to divert some business from those parks? After all, the most likely visitors to a theme park are people who already enjoy and frequent parks. Why not go where they are already?
Again - everything's a trade-off. But developers who find the right mix, who do as Buzz Price and his team did a generation ago and weigh the various factors appropriately to determine which site would make the most money, can enjoy solid returns in this business.
So what would you do? Where do you think is the best site in America for a theme park?
I think just outside of Dallas Fort Worth would work because there is plenty of land, and plenty of workers. Also its in the middle of the country
North Texas would be a perfect spot for theme park. There is still lots of available land within an hour of the DFW area. There is no state income tax, the temp is mild year round (2011 being the exception as it snowed 3x's), and it is in the center of the nation accessable to both costs. I love disney, but can only visit every 2 to 3 years mainly due to the expense of the airfare, not the parks, themselfs. When you have to drop a grand just to get there, not much money left to spend in the parks.
I'll offer two options:
Houston would be perfect...and that is why it is getting Earth Adventures...massive theme park, waterpark conference center, hotel and shopping district. Roughly the size of the Disneyland resort, it will feature themed rides that was described in press releases "of Disney quality" and E ticket rides. There are new interstate roads, Two major airports, cruise line ports in Port of Houston and nearby Galvetson. Perfect weather, central location and 4 million residence in Houston alone.
If I had to build a new theme park I would locate it at Columbia Missouri. One of the main reason I think this is a good spot for a new theme park is cause it would be in the middle of two theme parks, Worlds of Fun at Kansas City MO and Six Flags St. Louis. And the town could handle the tourism since they have MIZZOU football games and other major sporting events there.
1: Houston, TX. 3rd larges city in America, lacking a major theme park.
I would put one in south florida because there are no parks located there
Eastern Long Island. If you're looking for a theme park to visit near New York City there's a few you could consider: Great Adventure, Hershey, Dorney. Yet all of these are pretty far away and all require you to travel by car or bus. I'm thinking specifically of attracting visitors from one of the biggest cities in the world, most of whom do not own cars.
I would say Arizona as well due to the pretty nice weather, plenty of land, and enough of a clientelle.
Uh.. how about Phoenix, AZ? It's the greatest city in the world! Temperatures range from 75 degrees to 121 degrees. Perfect for the traveling theme park enthusiast! It also helps that it never rains... We have low wages in Phoenix so less money is spent on our staff! Phoenix also happens to be the 5th most populated city in America (I did not research this fact so don't press me).
It would help Phoenix's prospects if the state's elected leaders would not do things that cause the state to be the subject of international boycotts every decade or so.
My most intriguing possibility would be...
I live right over the border from New York City in Connecticut, and the only easy option is the little, classic Rye Playland. The next closest is Lake Compounce, an hour away. And both Six Flags, (NE and GA,) are over an hour and a half away. It would have been really great if a theme park (Disneyland East?) had gone in where the 64/65 Worlds' Fair was.
One of the top prospects on my list would be Nashville. I would put the park just south of town around Franklin, south of where Opryland used to be. Nashville has three major interstates (I40,I24,I65) intersecting right outside it's city limits. There's a lot of money in that town, a good deal of tourism already, and a fairly isolated market that only has Dollywood a couple of hours to the east as major competition. Most other major parks are 4-5 hours in any given direction. Given that the city economy is anchored by health care and the music industry as well as other healthy companies, it didn't take a terribly large financial hit from the economic downturn. It wouldn't have to be country themed at all, contrary to what some may think.
I think San Antonio Texas. While there are theme parks already in the area, they are not so all encompassing that another park/resort area could survive here. This area has a proven tourist basis and I think another park could thrive here, especially if it is well themed, built, and managed.
How about to solve all those eather issues you enclose the park in a building
A family-oriented park, a la Legoland, could do very well in the San Francisco Bay area. The current offerings leave a lot to be desired, the weather is temperate, and there's a gigantic population base.
Outside of Charleston SC.........A History Theme Park , something different that would appeal and attract while learning about our past.........close to the most appealing Southern City in our country .........
Phoenix is just too brutally hot in the Summer. You can have a theme park but people won't enjoy it as much since its REALLY hot from May-August. It's a shame since its a huge metro area but its temps don't help. I like the previous suggestions of Albuquerque and St.George,Utah. I vote for Roswell,New Mexico. The weather is good and the city is growing. Not to far from Albuquerque, Lubbock,DFW,Ok City,Denver,Amarillo,Northern Mexico, and El Paso. Roswell won't happen but it would be pretty cool to have a theme park with rides and shows based off of UFO and extra-terrestrial theming.
I think Austin Texas would be a great new themepark location.
Nashville, for many of the reasons people have already stated plus.........
I'd like to see a small, family style park someplace in Hawaii, probably on Oahu or Maui. It would have to stay true to the culture and not be too exploitative. It would be great weather, has a very established tourist/resort base, would bring many needed jobs... It would be nice to have one themed to the culture specifically.
Atlanta, GA (metro area) could support another park as long as the developers create a different experience than that of SFOG. There was a failed attempt to develop a theme park and shopping complex on the opposite side of town from Six Flags, somewhere near Lithonia/Conyers; it failed due to lack of funding. There were also rumors many years ago that Busch Gardens might build a park in the Cartersville area (30-mi north of Atlanta) if the proposed Outer Perimeter (later Northern Arc) Highway were built. Anheiser-Busch owns a great deal of land there near its brewery. Unforunately the Northern Arc project was tabled years ago - and Busch Gardens has since changed hands as well. But given the overwhelming crowds at SFOG, clearly the Atlanta Metro-plex could support another theme park option - maybe a Sea World-type attraction?
Someone mentioned San Antonio, TX above. I second that. First it already has Sea World and Six Flags Fiesta, so it has some proven themepark traffic. It has lots of empty land in the outskirts just waiting to be developed. It isn't as opressively humid during the summer months like Houston and the other gulf cities and during the winter months it is at the worst sweater weather. It is already a major tourist draw thanks to the Alamo and the river walk.
The U.S. is such a great place, so many locations would obviously be suitable, but New Orleans would get my vote
I know the EXACT SPOT I would build. At the old Mercado property on International Drive. Mercado was demolished a couple of years ago -- to make way for a project consisting of two hotels and a retail center. The project couldn't find financing and so the land (like 50 acres) sits empty.
Mercado is a lousy location! How many good projects have gone there to die? Guiness Book of World Records. Hard Rock Vault. Is Titanic even there anymore?
I'm sorry but "Mercado is a lousy location?" Sitting in the middle of I-Drive within walking distance of thousands of hotel rooms is a "lousy location?"
OK, call me crazy but The Coast of South Carolina would be incredible. Not too cold so you could run a longer season than some. Also for example if you build near Myrtle Beach possibly off the By-Pass there is easy access, beautiful landscape, and the tourists spend several days at a time in that area and would be happy to celebrate in a well developed park that marketed itself correctly. Heck if you put a Hyper there you could even see the ocean while riding but still be protected from the worst weather events. I know other amusement projects have failed, but like I said a porperly developed location would be incredible. Shucks you could even work out bussing from the grand strand and guests would never have to drive to the park.
I still think that the Grand Strand of South Carolina is a money location too. The debacle of Hard Rock/Freestyle park is due to money, management, and planning, not location. Specific location? maybe but 15 million tourists a year and nice weather almost year round begs for a good theme park. Myrtle Beach is way too popular to not have a theme park, and there is a lot of empty low country land around the area.
Being that I live in Houston, TX, my first choice would naturally be here. However, I don't really believe here is the best spot. Sure, there's an absence of a major theme park since Six Flags pulled out. (BTW: The land still sits empty where the park was) Regardless, I just don't think this is the best location. Not that it doesn't meet the criteria of decent weather for most of the year, and plenty of land, but I just don't think of Houston as a tourist kind of town. However, I am looking forward to the Earthquest Adventures, if it ever gets off the ground. They were supposed to break ground last year, but I think they're still hurting for investors.
As a Dallas-ite, I would say San Antonio, TX. 7th largest city in the U.S., so it could support a theme park. There is a Sea World there, Fiesta Texas, Schlitterbahn is not far away... and the Alamo and the Riverwalk. Excellent hotel infrastructure. And far enough away from the Gulf to avoid hurricane issues that might plague Houston or Galveston. The tradeoffs- heat, but not any worse than FL. It's actually pretty temperate. There might be too much local competition for a new park.
Someone mentioned Austin... totally forgot about it, but it would be an excellent location too... I'd rank them:
I've though about West Florida (the Panhandle) as well as anywhere in Louisiana, Alabama, or Georgia. Fair weather year-round, lots of workers, established interstates, and little competiton from other amusments
Let's think like a theme-park company:
The Arizona Tourism Board proudly presents:
Phoenix, AZ needs a theme park. It is already a major tourist destination. Tons of people visit for the Grand Canyon and Spring Training.
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