Arizona officials skeptical of Grand Canyon theme park plan

Posted Wednesday, May 31, 2006 9:09 AM | Contributed by Jeff

The idea raced through the Arizona Legislature and into law a year ago faster than a ride on the Cyclone: Create a special taxing district and build a large theme park on the road to the Grand Canyon. Wrest tourism away from Las Vegas, which has become the center for a majority of tour flights over the state's top tourist attraction. But municipal leaders in Williams and supervisors in Coconino County are losing patience with developer Mike Morgan and his Grand Canyon Northland Amusements and Entertainment investment group.

Read more from The Arizona Republic.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006 9:16 AM
Can anyone give me ONE SINGLE EXAMPLE of a successful park or major attraction that was built with the idea to 'catch or stop tourists on their way to X'?

When people are on their way somewhere, they want to get there. Attractions either need to be where people are, where they are going, or be a destination in their own right.

This is what drives me crazy about the Georgia Steamboat Landing (or whatever) park. The study says '20 bajillion people drive past this spot every year... let's build a park!'

Wednesday, May 31, 2006 9:23 AM
How about most parks in Central Florida? Pre-Disney World, most attractions in the region were intended to target vacationers on their way to the beaches of south Florida. Post-Disney, virtually every attraction was intended to 'catch tourists on their way to Disney World'. Only Universal Studios has matured into a destination in its own right.

Las Vegas is another place with lots of major attractions that successfully stop tourists on the way to the casinos.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006 9:52 AM
And pre-disney world, most of them were at best mediocre businesses. Post-disney world, there has been more success, because they fit TD's criteria of "where they are going." But, there have also been a lot of failures: Splendid China among them.
Wednesday, May 31, 2006 10:04 AM
But Northern Arizona already has a theme park...

Do they really need another one?

Wednesday, May 31, 2006 10:16 AM
What is that little place heading south on I-95? I don't even remember what state it is in...North or South Carolina or maybe Georgia...? For some reason I remember a bunch of signs and a big sombrero (sp?)! They had a mouse coaster (last time I visited) and a couple fair rides. The place was always packed when I used to go by it (circa 1997-1999 or so?)!

P.S. There is this rediculous water park (closed) in the middle of the desert outside of Barstow California that was obviously built to attract Californians heading to/from Vegas. I cringe every time I go buy because the slides look world class and the place looks good sized! It has been rotting slowly since I moved out here.
*** This post was edited by Jeffrey R Smith 5/31/2006 10:17:39 AM ***

Wednesday, May 31, 2006 10:19 AM
I just remembers the place was called South of the Border. It always seemed successful to observation!
Wednesday, May 31, 2006 10:20 AM
South of the border Jeffrey. It is a rediculous tourist trap, that actually brings in a good amount of people during the tourist season.
Wednesday, May 31, 2006 10:33 AM
South of the Border is kitsch at it's best. It's a good place to stop on the way to Disney World (which my family has done almost every time we've driven there). The whole charm of the place is the cheap souvenirs, tacky billboards, and racial stereotypes (Pedro) associated with the place.
Wednesday, May 31, 2006 10:44 AM
South of the Border is an hour stop, a great break when driving south to Myrtle Beach or Orlando. (Plus, with the billboards, how can you NOT stop)
That's not what this development (Or the steamboat place) is looking to be.

Thanks, Brian, for grasping my point.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006 11:00 AM
Jeff's avatar I think that if Vegas is sincere about getting away from the family thing and back to being marketed as a grown-up playground, there's certainly a market for this. They'd have to market the crap out of it though, as Arizona is hardly on my mind as a tourist destination.
Wednesday, May 31, 2006 2:36 PM
eightdotthree's avatar When I went to Vegas with my family when I was a teenager my dad and I left my mom at the pool and took a drive to ride Desperado. If it is a day trip I could see it working really well.
Wednesday, May 31, 2006 3:01 PM
Vegas is definitely moving away from the "family" thing they tried in the early 90s so I can see this working. Properly marketed, a theme park between Vegas and the Grand Canyon would definitely work. They're two of the biggest tourist destinations in North America.
Wednesday, May 31, 2006 3:13 PM
I would put it closer to the Grand Canyon. Sorry if this is blasphemous to the nature lovers (I like a lot of nature too), but after about an hour staring at the giant hole, there is not too much else to do. Parents with kids are not exactly prime candidates for donkey trails or desert hikes. Motels and pools are the only thing in the area to do…unless you head to Sedona.

Anyhow…I agree that this MAY work if done correctly. The other reason to put it closer to the canyon (main tourist part not West Rim) is that the weather up there is not so darn hot. Plenty of people travel to the area for their hour worth of awe and then head on down the road. Maybe they can be convinced to stay a day or two if the area had a nice woodie. :-)

Wednesday, May 31, 2006 3:23 PM
South of the Border sounds a lot like Wall Drug.

I never understood Vegas' push to be a family destination. Even when they were trying really hard, it wasn't. My next trip to Vegas is likely to be a fraternity reunion, and I'm not even bringing my wife to that one, let alone my kids!

Wednesday, May 31, 2006 3:36 PM
I'm still rather young, but the Grand Canyon has been on the top of my list for things to see before any amusement park out there for my whole life. I would think I would stop a park if there was one on the way back.
Wednesday, May 31, 2006 4:32 PM
janfrederick's avatar It's be ESPECIALLY nice if there was a terrain coaster that snaked it's way to the bottom. ;)

I know...ain't gonna happen. But I can wish right?

Wednesday, May 31, 2006 5:10 PM
South of the Border has one BIG draw to it, and that's fireworks. Many of you may live where they are legal, but for most people in the northeast, THAT was the big draw back when it first started, not to mention that it was the perfect rest stop as it's about halfway for us in the northeast if we are driving to Fla/Disney etc. Just over the border in South Carolina, people flocked for it's huge assortment of fireworks over the years. Since then other states (Pa comes to mind) that sell fireworks closer to home for us up here.

But it IS the perfect example of something built to capture people on their way to a destination. And it worked! Since times have changed it has too, offering everything one can imagine in a roadside "sideshow" if it were.......

Wednesday, May 31, 2006 7:07 PM
That defunct water park between Las Vegas and Barstow was called Rock-a-Hoola. The idea was that a resort would develop around the water park and its man made lake (Lake Delores Resort it was to be called). The problems from what I can tell were that...

1.) you see it close to I-15, but in reality the closest exits to it are miles away so its not even that easy to get to (so close yet so far)

2.) if water parks aren't your thing, its literally in the middle of nowhere (between Barstow and Baker) so theres not much else to do.

3.) the desert climate out there is pretty rough. hot in the day, cold at night, and not to mention the bugs...OH THE BUGS!

Not saying its impossible as other parks have faced bigger challenges.

Strange as it seems, this wasnt the first time someone tried to build a water park between here and Southern California...each time these things die. Would be nice to have something out there seeing theres tons of land. (DARN BLM!)

Its a shame they just left everything out there to rot. I remember when they first built it, all of us kids in Vegas were talking about it!

As for the Grand Canyon thing. It would cool to have it happen, but only if they do it in a way that they can sustain it. Having it as a gimmick wont keep people coming back.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006 7:07 PM
I believe that a better place for the park would be in Flagstaff which is a gateway community to the Grand Canyon. Since this community has an abundance of commercial tourist development already, it would not detract from the natural environment around the canyon itself.

The park should not only be aimed at tourists but also at the Phoenix local market. The key here is climate. Flagstaff has a climate much like cities in the northeastern US with mild summers, cold winters, and moderate rainfall. With the best weather occurring during the summer when school is out, the park could operate with a normal seasonal schedule. The trouble with Phoenix itself is the extreme heat during the summer which does not lend itself to effective operation of a major amusement park.

Flagstaff is located about 120 miles from Phoenix with travel time varying depending upon traffic conditions. This is, in general, a reasonable day-trip distance except when the traffic is extremely heavy.. One thing that could make the park more accessible to Phoenix would be an upgrading of I-17 with more lanes to relieve those summer weekend jam-ups as central Arizonians try to escape the heat.


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