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Extreme Sports Park Rights-Holder Scraps Kissimmee Plan

18 Nov, 2015

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

The developer who planned to put an extreme sports facility in Central Florida has kissed Kissimmee goodbye and walked away to look at two other settings.

Not that there’s anything wrong with Kissimmee, but a combination of regulatory hurdles and the fact that the location is behind a Kmart, made the deal less than ideal.

According to an article in Travel Weekly, Larry Walshaw, owner of Xero Gravity Action Sports and the developer guiding an effort to build the $300 million extreme sports park Action Sports & Entertainment Resort, has pulled back from the deal and is considering his options. The contract he refused would have involved building the park on 75 acres near Kissimmee in the late summer.

“Right now we're assessing a couple other sites, two in [Orlando's] Orange County, and we've been presented with an opportunity in Daytona if we want to go there,” said Walshaw. A site in Osceola County is also in the mix.

He did not divulge much information about the sites under consideration, saying only that the Daytona venue is just east of I-95 and that the Orange County sites are in the western portion of the Orlando area, including one near the Orange County Convention Center. Walshaw also mentioned a fourth location, in Osceola County (directly south of Orange County, where Kissimmee is located).

The resort, which Walshaw hopes to have open by 2018, would be an all-in-one extreme sports venue. He says it would be the first of its kind.

The complex would be highlighted by a 14-story outdoor ski and snowboard mountain in which participants would glide down the same high-tech synthetic surface. It would also contain a surfing lake with waves of up to 10 feet, a rock-climbing wall, skydiving pods, free-fall jump zones of up to 120 feet, a 20,000-square-foot dodge ball and trampoline arena and other attractions. In addition, Xero Gravity plans to put a hotel in the park. 

“I like to call this Disney on sports,” Walshaw said. “Truly, this gives individuals the experience of participating in multiple venues in a day. They can compete or have fun with it.”

He envisions the complex as a venue for extreme sporting competitions similar to the X Games. But he also sees it as a family resort, with tamer attractions, such as a water park.

Florida drew nearly 100 million visitors in 2014 by relying on its longstanding draws of beaches and theme parks. And Xero Gravity would hardly be the most outsize offering in the area, which includes projects like American Dream Miami, Skyplex and Action Sports and Entertainment Resort. It does seem, however, that recently, resorts have been gaining in extravagance. (As Travel Weekly pointed out in early 2015, the Sunshine State does seem an unusual spot for two different skiing attractions.)

Walshaw, who has previously developed office, retail and industrial facilities but has never before ventured into theme park development, says he still is aiming for a 2018 opening for the extreme sports resort. But financing remains a significant hurdle.

Xero Gravity has been talking with equity investors from China and Brazil in hopes of bringing in a lump sum of $60 million. But the company has also recently decided to reach out to potential backers based in Florida and throughout the U.S. who would put up smaller contributions.

“I believe we have the team, we have the right location in the Orlando area. All the things are in place for us to be successful,” Walshaw said. “It's just having the funding. That's what it takes.”

Read the full story here, and the original plans for the park here.

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