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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Developer Eyes South Phoenix for Amusement Park

On March 17, Phoenix Councilmen Michael Nowakowski and Michael Johnson held a public meeting at the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center to seek feedback on a possible amusement park and entertainment complex near 19th Avenue and Lower Buckeye Road.
The site under consideration is part of a 290-acre, city-owned landfill, as well as property from several surrounding sand and gravel operations.

“We’re really, really in the early stages,” emphasized Nowakowski of the 488-acre project proposed by Catalyst Land Holdings LLC. Although

Official plans aren’t drawn up yet, an initial concept includes indoor snow and outdoor water parks, a thrill-ride component, as well as several family-oriented restaurants and shops.

According to Charles Holinka, a spokesperson for Catalyst Land Holdings, possible construction is still five to 10 years away and would cost more than $2 billion. Furthermore, additional options are being considered to complement the theme park, including a baseball facility and hotel.

“From our standpoint, we’ve targeted this area, but we’re not certain what’s going where,” Holinka said. “Phoenix is a family-oriented place – we need to provide more reasons to be here than just shopping and golf.”

Given the proposed park’s location along the Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area, Sarah Porter, executive director for Audubon  Arizona, said she and members of her organization would welcome a development as long as it’s compatible with the natural surroundings.

“We’re eager to work with the developer to provide any assistance we can to help make sure the development is an enhancement to the great investment Phoenix has already made,” she stressed.

Porter added there are many development options that could enhance the habitat and economically revitalize the area, including creating “the greenest entertainment park in the world.”

Holinka assured residents the proposed development would be as complementary to the Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area as possible, with features such as solar power and possible underground parking.

Partial funding for the project would come from a $1 billion bond bill signed in 2005 by then- Gov. Janet Napolitano. The legislation was intended to help a private investment group build theme parks in West Phoenix and Williams, in Northern Arizona.

Since neither park was ever built, the location in South Phoenix is being considered. But, according to the “theme park” bill, an investor group must come up with $500 million before any bond money is released.

If constructed, Holinka estimates the park would employ as many as 3,000 people.

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