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Is there room for the $2 billion American Heartland Theme Park, Disney and Silver Dollar City?

Excitement continues to swirl around a new theme park planned for Oklahoma that developers say will give families another option to Disney. Others say the nearby Silver Dollar City already has a corner on the market in the region.

The $2 billion American Heartland Theme Park planned for the northeast corner along Route 55 near Venita, will be about the same size as Disney World’s Magic Kingdom when it opens 2026.

“Our whole objective is to bring family entertainment and value to the world,” said Larry Willhite, CEO of development firm Mansion Entertainment Group, according to “The Hill.”

The 125-acre park will offer rides and attractions across “six distinctly American lands” to be known as Great Plains, Bayou Bay, Big Timber Falls, Stony Point Harbor, Liberty Village and Electropolis. The park also will offer “restaurant-quality food” throughout, according to a news release. In addition to the theme park, developers also plan to build what it calls the largest campground in the central United States on an adjacent 30-acre lot, comprising 750 RV spaces and 300 cabins.

“Oklahoma is excited to welcome American Heartland Theme Park and Resort,” Rep. Rusty Cornwell, R-Vinita, said. “Located on historic Route 66 just west of Grand Lake, the development will attract visitors from around the world to experience and celebrate the rich cultures and hometown values America has to offer.”

The attraction is expected to draw almost five million guests each year, including an estimated two million from out of state. “And our main goal is to make it affordable,” founder and chief creative officer Gene Bicknell said. “So a family of mom and dad and a couple of kids, you know their whole dream is to take their kids to a park of this type.”

Industry experts have doubts the park will draw the numbers they contend. Dennis Speigel is a consultant and former president of the largest international amusement park trade group.  He’s tallied the numbers and says there are not enough people in the region to sustain such a park. He also mentions Missouri’s Silver Dollar City, which is yearly ranked as the nation’s best theme park.

Speigel said the 5 million yearly visitors is unrealistic and, if attained, would make it thte 10th most popular park in the entire nation. That’s more than Six Flags, SeaWorld, and other better known brands. Silver Dollar City, a patriotic and, fans say, Christian-friendly park in Branson, attracts only 2.2 million visitors each year, though they are perhaps the most loyal theme park fans in the country.

Still the American Heartland Theme Park believes they can carve out a niche and differentiate themselves from Silver Dollar City and, more importantly, Disney.

A portion of the revenue from the park will be earmarked for various charities. “We have a record of helping orphans and people all around the world getting education and improving their lives,” he said. “I hope this park will help generate that for this area and many more to come in the future.”

But, Silver Dollar City (SDC) also donates millions a year to charities across Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.

And like SDC, it will also include other features such as lodging options.

The development will open in phases, with the RV park scheduled to open first in 2025. The 125-acre theme park is scheduled to begin operating in 2026.

“I’m not going to say anything is easy at this magnitude, but we have not had any hurdles,” Willhite said. “The state has been wonderful, and we also know we are going to face other hurdles as we grow and it comes to fruition.”

–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice

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