A Facebook conversation with my old friend, Stacy (whose excellent blog you should check out), dredged up some memories of the old-timey version of Phoenix. And by old-timey, I mean the 1980s.
One of those memories was of Legend City, Arizona’s very own amusement park. It closed in 1983. I’m not even 100 percent-certain I made it there before it closed … my family showed up here in 1980. Apparently, some people died on rides. Lawsuits from those incidents killed Legend City; today, thousands of people drive by the site unaware that it ever existed. You can read about it and see photos at a very cool tribute Web site to Legend City.
Now, what makes this a bit more timely is that some people might not be ready to let go of the notion that Arizona should have a major theme park. No, Rawhide does not count.
This new vision started floating to the surface a few years ago. Here’s the concept: A rock ‘n’ roll-themed, $850 million, 144-acre theme park built somewhere in the dusty fields between Phoenix and Tucson. It would be in a place called Eloy, which pretty much makes Casa Grande look like Sydney, Australia.
I hadn’t thought about Decades much until Legend City came up. That conversation made me think “Hey, what ever happened to that debacle-in-the-making?”
Well, over the past year, not much. The Decades Web site (which is amateurish, at best) hasn’t seen a news item update in nearly a year. This leads me to think that (despite then-Governor Janet Napolitano’s backing and the passage of a bill to create a tax district that would allow the theme park to collect more sales tax) it’s dead. I’m still a little concerned about the silence: I’d prefer to see the garlic, holy water and wooden stakes come out to make sure this doesn’t happen. Also, the park’s chief creative officer, Marty West, has apparently talked to the band Rush about a Rush-themed concert hall. The Coaster Buzz blog, though, thinks the project is buried.
Here’s why I think Decades is a bad idea (some of this comes from a post in a different blog I used to write):
1. Summer Heat – This is pretty obvious. Sure, Florida is hot and sticky in the summer. But it also has a lot more shade, and the sunlight is far less intense because of the humidity. This place will be brutal in the summer.
2. The Competition – People go to theme parks ’cause their kiddies want to. This is Walt Disney Co.’s strength. It ain’t just a theme park – it’s well-known characters that span generations, new-fangled movie heroes like Buzz Lightyear and rides that get turned into movies of their own.
3. The Theme is Silly – Look, theme parks are about kids. Kids don’t care about Chuck Berry. And really, what does rock ‘n’ roll have to do with Arizona? Did we hold Woodstock here? Is this where the members of Led Zeppelin were born? Oh, wait … Eloy is where Abbey Road Studios were built before they got moved to England in a reverse London Bridge-style swap! No? Nothing about the theme makes a lick of sense.
4. Natural Resources – Rumor has it that, to combat the heat, most of the rides will be water-based. Where do the backers plan to get that water?
5. We’ve Heard it All Before – Really, I’ve heard variations on the phrase “most amazing projects Arizona has ever seen!” too many times to count. It seems these phrases are most often tied to short-lived debacles like the Scottsdale Galleria or Biosphere 2. We see where those wound up.
6. Put it in a Real City – Eloy is far too remote. A theme park needs infrastructure, especially hotels. It can also use a major airport within 50 miles and some post-theme park activities. That favors a location much closer to Phoenix, and one that doesn’t require travel on the often-problematic I-10.
Also, as a former news reporter, I roll my eyes whenever I see that PR shyster Jason Rose is a project’s hired huckster. I can’t recall him doing anything that was in the public’s interest. He is exactly the sort of drone who would propose turning Arlington Cemetery into a Wal-Mart plaza and try to convince you that a few thousand low-paying jobs are better than any musty ol’ history.
BONUS: According to Richard Ruelas, one of the better writers over at the Arizona Republic, Decades isn’t the first proposed boondoggle for Eloy. Feast your eyes on these (directly from a sidebar in an a Republic story):
- 1989, the Wooz, a $2.7 million maze-style theme park in Eloy.
- 1990, Sunplex, a theme park, ice rink and football stadium park in Eloy. It was to be home of the world’s largest sundial. The developers admitted it was a fraud.