Planners of a 300-acre rock ‘n’ roll theme park believe people are willing to drive to Eloy, brave the Arizona heat – and pay money – to board the Grand Funk Railroad, drive scale model Little Deuce Coupe 50s and 60s sports cars, get wet on the Hotel California flume ride, and buy a burger in the Haight-Ashbury restaurant district.
But they say they just need legislative permission to form their own government – and raise their own taxes – to make it happen.
Organizers of what’s been dubbed the Decades Music Theme Park, which could open in 2012, say this kind of facility would attract about 6 million visitors a year – about the same as Universal Studios in Florida, “which is pretty good,’’ said Peter Alexander, a consultant who has worked for Disney and Universal Studios.
He also said the location, next to the Eloy Municipal Airport, is ideal because of its proximity to Interstate 10 and the visitors who could drive there from the state’s two major metropolitan areas.
Backers anticipate a $60-a-day adult admission fee, and don’t believe the Arizona summer heat, which this year included a record number of 100-plus degree days, is a deterrent to a park where the rides are outside and there’s even an outdoor amphitheater.
Alexander said the “heat index’’ here – how warm it feels – is no worse in the summer than Orlando where Disney and Universal World have theme parks. And he said design features ranging from misting to canopies will help.
Other features include an artifical Mount Rushmore with the faces of rock and roll idols along with a themed hotel.
Publicist Jason Rose said as good as the financial prospects are, the park won’t be built unless owners can get legislative permission to create a special taxing district.
A 2005 law permitting formation of special taxing districts allows this new level of government to float its own bonds to both repay initial investors who would have to first put up at least $100 million, and borrow additional cash to expand the park beyond its initial $600 million price tag.
The reason is purely financial: These bonds carry much lower interest rates than borrowing on the open market, at least in part because the bondholders are not required to pay taxes on the interest. The bondholders would be paid off through the district’s ability to levy a special sales tax of up to 9 percent on everything that occurs in the park, from admission fees and restaurants to retail shops and a hotel, on top of any state or city sales taxes.
Alexander said his figures show there will be enough visitors, both from Arizona and elsewhere, to generate sufficient money to pay off those bonds. Investors will have to believe his figures to be willing to provide the up-front money to make the project a reality: The bonds are set up so they can be repaid solely from the revenues of the park, with no obligation on taxpayers to make up the difference.
The concept, being pushed largely by Phoenix native Marty West, already has been endorsed by several lawmakers.
“I think it’s something that has a lot of potential to bring in jobs, to bring in more tourism and really help things go out here,’’ said Senate Majority Leader Thayer Verschoor, R-Gilbert. He called the idea of a theme park “long overdue.’’
And Rep. John Nelson, R-Glendale, said it makes sense.
“If it works, they make money, we make money and a lot of people have a lot of fun,’’ he said. “If it doesn’t, it’s ‘no harm, no foul.’ ”