Two Communities, Two Theme Parks, Two Stories - But One Takeaway | Sports Destination Management

Two Communities, Two Theme Parks, Two Stories - But One Takeaway

Mar 18, 2023 | By: Mary Helen Sprecher

Well, that escalated (and stopped) quickly. In less than a month, two cities have been in the spotlight because of proposed theme parks.

One set of plans came to a screeching halt in the face of pushback from neighbors. Ultimately, it was approved after several delays. Another was cancelled entirely when it became apparent the area’s needs were being met by existing parks. Both are in areas frequented by sports tourism, which makes them even more interesting. The takeaway: Know your market before you announce anything. Here are the backstories.

It was back in mid-January that Disney officials made an announcement: A Universal Studios amusement park would be coming to Frisco, Texas, to be located in the rapidly growing suburb of Collin County.  

The park, officials said, would be aimed at kids with family-friendly immersive experiences and rides involving Universal movies. It would also include a 300-room family-friendly hotel. People of all ages would be welcome, but the park would be designed for families with children younger than ten.  

The residents of Collin County were concerned, and immediately flooded their city council with objections, saying the park would cause increased congestion and traffic, as well as other risks that would be detrimental to quality of life in the area. Within a few weeks, the pushback had hit a flashpoint and the city council held a meeting with residents. Officials got an earful.

"This project really comes down to whether it is really for our residents or for the outsiders and I just do not see this project benefitting our residents more than it benefits tourists and transient traffic visitors," one resident said, according to a report carried by the local ABC affiliate.

The need for transparency, and for time to discuss options, were common themes among objectors.

"I would like to see us go at a much slower pace and give residents time to see the economic impact study, traffic study, crime study to consider and see if we truly have the workforce to support such a large endeavor," one resident was quoted as saying. 

Theme parks in sports communities.Following traffic studies and additional input from neighbors, the park ultimately received city council approval. Frisco’s mayor said that while the city council could have simply passed the measure, it was essential to hear from local residents. He said in that regard, the project differed from two other projects, the PGA of America and the Star, both of which were announced and voted on in the same day. Additionally, the theme park will have attractions for younger children only; this is expected to lower the risk for crime. 

But Frisco wasn’t the only place with a theme park to think about. In California, the announcement was made that a proposed Great Wolf Lodge planned for the city of Visalia would not go forward after all.

According to the Fresno Bee, news had broken in January 2022 concerning the 35-acre, 525-room hotel and indoor water park; however, as time went on, details were not forthcoming. The project had been slated to break ground in late 2023 and open in 2024.

AOL notes, “But even as recently as December, the company proffered little in the way of updates and stopped short of confirming much about the project at all, other than a desire to be in the central San Joaquin Valley.”

On February 28, the project was officially declared dead in the water. But instead of resident pushback being the culprit, Great Wolf officials said they “had stopped considering that location in order to invest in existing resorts, successfully open resorts already under construction and pursue growth in areas most underserved by Great Wolf Lodge.”

California already has two Great Wolf locations with more than 1,000 rooms combined. The resorts, one in the northern part of the state and one in the southern part of the state, are “less than a four-hour drive distance away from a majority of California residents,” the company said.

Officials in Visalia say they have already had interest in the 35-acre parcel of land; however, they were not disclosing details.

Meanwhile, expect to hear more about the project in Frisco, which is expected to bring a $1.8 billion impact to the city and be an additional draw for youth sports tourism.

Also this month, a Peppa Pig Theme Park was announced for the Dallas-Fort Worth area. It is expected to open in 2024.

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