Wednesday, April 06, 2005

I-80 Amusement Park

by Kyle Michaelis
Taking a short break from political mumbo-jumbo to discuss an issue of even greater importance: amusement parks. It appears developers are planning to announce the building of one near Mahoney State Park.

The OWH reports:
Steve Minard, president of Metro Omaha Theme Park LLC, said in a press release that he would announce a project "that will excite people across the state."

The press release includes a statement from U.S. Rep. Lee Terry of Omaha: "This is an exciting announcement that will add to the quality of life for Nebraskans by adding family-friendly year-round entertainment."

Terry was unavailable for comment Wednesday. A spokeswoman, Jen Rae Hein, said Terry has been "loosely involved" in the project for about a year. She said he likes the project because it would encourage economic development...

A bill on the floor of the Legislature could boost such a project. Legislative Bill 500 would allow for creation of special entertainment and tourism districts, where projects could qualify for sales and lodging tax incentives to help fund construction...

State Sen. Abbie Cornett of Bellevue, who sits on the Revenue Committee, said the developers talked with her about the bill and possibly using it to build an amusement park between Omaha and Lincoln along I-80.

Is it just me or does this whole idea have DISASTER written all over it? You know, I love amusement parks and think they're generally unrivaled as a great way for kids to spend a summer day with family. But, getting a thing like this to work in this day and age, starting from scratch, is pretty damn diffiult and takes no small bit of magic.

Economic development in the middle of nowhere rarely lends itself to this sort of magic. This bridging of the Omaha and Lincoln markets has been tried before with the Outlet Mall that has generally failed to attract from either. I fear an amusement park would fare similarly, except it's much higher operating costs would never allow it to scrape by as the Outlet Mall has done.

It might just be better for all involved to realize that Kansas City and its Worlds of Fun are just too close by. The relative low population density of the Midwest doesn't lend itself to expensive amusement parks serving every metropolitan area. I say be happy with and support the great Henry Doorly Zoo.

What's saddest about all this is that only 12 years ago, Omaha had a quality amusement park with unbeatable location that city leaders and the Omaha World-Herald would not support redeveloping. With minimal efforts to save Peony Park, a grocery store and apartment buidings now stand in place of its roller coaster and water slides. Should tax money really go towards replacing such a resource, when so many millions could have been saved by simply expanding and improving the original site?

Ah, but then downtown Omaha would be without one more Hy-Vee, and we couldn't have that, now could we? For all the talk of government waste (much of it certainly justified), here's a prime example of the free market performing just as stupidly and devoid of reason.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really think that the people we have elected to have the power in Omaha, have taken leave of their senses. I am one that spent time at Peony Park, a landmark in our city, oops! use to be landmark. I am thinking the new train of thought is if it's not broken then it must be torn down so we can turn around and raise taxes more so we can all go deeper in debt and make something sort of like we torn down. Come on hasn't anyone learned from the BIG mistakes regarding the civic center and ballparks? Oh wait, we have to try to keep up with cities like KC, Denver, NY, and others like them. Let's see yep, crime is up and we are going down the tube in debt. That pretty much sums it up. Only thing left to say is not only is the leaders and crazy people in power taking Omaha's good citizen down they are taking all the outlying towns, and country folk with them.


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