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Could downtown amusement destinations be the wave of the future?

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Ok now im not talking about taking a typical Six Flags and putting it downtown. Im talking about a new concept that may evolve from downtown entertainment complexes. Could we see downtown amusement parks in our urban cities? Lets talk about what a downtown amusement park would look like.

1) these urban entertainment parks would only be about a block or two in area, maybe more depending on the city and availabilty of land but the average size would be about a couple of city blocks.

2) the urban parks would have some of the same attractions and rides that you would see at a normal themepark but it wouldnt have a themepark feel to it. In fact I wont even call them theme parks. I\'ll coin the name \"entertainment parks\" These parks wont have bright colors and cartoon characters walking everywhere with goofy looking architecture. Instead The parks would have GENUINE architecture that would reflect its urban surroundings.

3) A typical entertainment park could have a few indoor roller coasters, virtual rides and some other rides that you see at theme parks. But the focus goes beyond just rides. The downtown entertainement parks would have a central park like plaza surrounded by restaurants, bars, nightclubs, comedy clubs and could even include a dinner theater and a restaurant music venue. A movie theater would serve as an entertainment anchor. The entertainment park would include a high-rise hotel with convention facilities. Basically the concept of an \"entertainment park\" is a hybrid of a theme park and urban entertainment complexes.

There are obsticles in making a project like this work. One is the availabilty of land. It may be difficult in some cities to find two full city blocks available for development and rise land values in downtowns could make such projects not feasible in some cities. However developers could take adavantage of brownfield areas of downtown that are ripe for redevelopment. This concept is a good idea because with rising fuel costs, people are doing less traveling and they are staying closer to home. Disney has been toying with the idea of urban entertainment complex with hotel in big cities across the country (not like Disney Quest) but I dont know if those plans include amusement rides. Last year even my home town of Greensboro was being considered for a mega project that would have taken up 3 city blocks and would have included and entertainment complex, restaurants, convention hotel, virtual rides, childrens rides, cosmic bowling, roller rink, a 1,000 seat restaurant msic venues, office and residential. the project was projected to be $300 plus million dollars and it involved an unidenitified Orando, FL development company.

This concept may be the wave of the future as people will want more out of their downtowns.


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I think thats another problem some cities may face with a concept that I mentioned, although it would include a number of rides like in an amusement park or theme park, is the Not In My Back Yard syndrome. But I think these "Entertainment Parks" need to fit the scale of the downtown that its in. In other words, a 5 block entertainment park might be suitable in downtown Atlanta but not in downtown Knoxville. They can vary in size depending on the city and downtown. But as I said the concept is really a hybrid amusement park and entertainment complex/district which includes a hotel and its all one developemnt. The amusement park part of it would help draw people downtown during the day on Saturday and Sunday and it would provide an alternate form of entertainment. Not everyone is old enough or wants to go to nightclubs. In most downtowns there arent that many family attractions outside museums. I think this concept can work if its done right. The best opportunities for themepark developers is to take brownfield lands or old abandoned warehouses like you said because its makes it more economically feasible for the developer and it can turn a blighted neighborhood around. I cant stress enough that the architecture should be very important. You dont want to build Cinderellas Castle in the middle of downtown LOL. The architecture has to reflect its surrounding and not come off cheezy looking or out of place.

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The trick is, how do you build it so that those people who do come downtown are going to do something other than drive in, park in the garage, spend their day in the park, and then drive home? That type of situation doesn't really offer any thing to the city - all it does is increase traffic.

I don't actually want to knock museums. While I'll admit some of them are pretty staid, and many people have a preconceived notion of museums being boring, I think there are some very interesting museums that you could build if you just get away from the traditional cryptic presentation style. We have already seen some pretty exciting science museums, and Seattle's Experience Music Project shows some innovative ideas. I would like to see more exciting "museums", for instance one on interactive art, maybe a real car museum with cars that actually drive and you can sit in. In many ways Disney's EPCOT was really a collection of museums done in an exciting way.

But I think you can find entertainment outside of rides, but not clubs, either. People are really looking for experiences. Obviously you have things like IMax theaters and laser shows, but even some interesting stores can provide entertainment too - look at large stores such as FAO Shwartz. We are seeing a few innovative urban attractions as well - in Boston there is an interactive experience called Tomb, which is kind of a real life Myst game.

I also think you have to be careful of not trying to be TOO kid friendly. I find that happens way too often - there is such an obsession with "family" as being a mother, a father, and 2 or more kids in tow, that we tend to make everything too bland and safe. We forget that the majority of people are adults, extended families, childless couples, singles, and groups of friends.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Mall of America seems to have everything you are talking about.

I know its suburban, but not its on mass transit, so its connected to the urban experience.

something that I could see happening is a little mix of Vegas and Niagara falls. In Niagara, they have a large indoor water park and it has some amusement park stuff as well. it fits in the city, and I bet could be done in any city. but then again it is next to a casino.

As far as vegas, the casinos are basicly what you mention. They have rollercoasters, arcades, boardwalks, shopping, theaters, arenas, hotels. they also happen to have slots. but more and more people go to the casinos for the entertainment value not the gambling.

Foxwoods and Mohigan sun have or are just in the middle of doing billion dollar expansions in CT. sure they addes some more casino space, but mainly they are adding more hotel rooms, more bars clubs and resturants. concert venues etc. anything to keep your interest.

For todays cities, I can see an indoor waterpark, some small amusement park rides and maybe a couble small roller coasters be built in conjunction with a convention center/arena or something to take advantage of the allready large footprint, and parking/hotel supply. but as a stand alone venue, people tend to go to these places as a sense of excapism.

I grew up 30 minutes from Splish Splash in Rivergead NY. I guess its one of the largest waterparks or something, but we never went. we as kids went to New Jersey to 6 flags because it was more of an adventure. and that made it all that much better.

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