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1/20/2009 11:41:00 AM
Plans for themed park to continue despite economy
Project continues to move forward, according to GCNAE reps
Patrick Whitehurst/WGCN
Pictured from left to right is Charles Holinka and Casey Buitenhuis of Grand Canyon Northland Amusements and Entertainment. Buitenhuis said the recent economic tailspin has not had a big impact on plans for the themed park near Williams.

Patrick Whitehurst/WGCN
Pictured from left to right is Charles Holinka and Casey Buitenhuis of Grand Canyon Northland Amusements and Entertainment. Buitenhuis said the recent economic tailspin has not had a big impact on plans for the themed park near Williams.

Patrick Whitehurst
Associate Grand Canyon News Editor

The proposed Williams theme park, called Grand Canyon Country, continues to move forward despite a gloomy economic outlook across the nation, according to Grand Canyon Northland Amusements and Entertainment (GCNAE) representative Casey Buitenhuis. Buitenhuis recently visited Williams in order to meet with a number of Williams officials in regards to the proposed Williams park. He said the economy is having an effect on the proposed project.

"It slowed things down, but we're still moving forward," Buitenhuis said, adding that recent news reports have shown that theme parks, in general, tend to fare well even in economic recessions.

"Regardless of how bad things get, people need their vacations, need their outlets," Buitenhuis said. "Instead of leaving home and going to various different things, they're going to go from point A to point B, like if they're in Williams, they're going to go to the Grand Canyon, they're going to go to the theme park and this and that. They're not going to go all over the U.S. Things have changed."

Officials with the theme park are currently working to answer questions regarding the formation of a special taxing district for the park and other questions posed by officials with the Coconino County Board of Supervisors and the city of Williams. County board members have expressed their reluctance to make a decision on the tax district until a number of specifics are answered, such as whom the responsible parties would be, an independent feasibility analysis and other questions.

"We are addressing issues that the city and the county have asked, and also individual council members in Williams here have asked, what is in it for the city of Williams, as far as the employment. We have Management Resources, who is the leader in themed entertainment. The principal, the head of Management Resources, Jim Higashi, sent me (an) e-mail stating what their best estimate was for the concepts that we have in our plans right now for the Williams area, for northern Arizona," Buitenhuis said.

According to a breakdown provided by Management Resources, a third of the total number of employees at the proposed park would be full-time. Two-thirds of the total number would be part-time employees. According to Management Resources, 700 to 800 individuals are expected to be employed at the theme park.

"We want to do a co-op program with the schools, so if you're kind of on the Dean's list, the Principal's list, whatever you want to call it, if you've got a certain average in your grades, then while you're in your senior year, the kids can get credit for coming to work at the theme park in a training program. Our human resource people will handle that with the school," Buitenhuis said.

Besides the school program, officials at the Williams Unified School District (WUSD) can also expect to receive tax money from the theme park as well. School officials voted to support the theme park last year during a regular meeting of the WUSD Governing Board.

"What we did, and we signed a notarized document, that we will, in-lieu of paying property tax, we would give that money to the school," Buitenhuis said. "We will pay whatever that amount of money is on the land value."

While the Coconino County Board of Supervisors has not made a decision on the formation of the taxing district, GCNAE officials have currently held three meetings with them to date. No date has been set for a fourth meeting as of press time. Buitenhuis said he has also met with members of the Williams City Council, as well as the mayor of Williams, to listen to their concerns regarding the park.

"We're also starting the big PR (public relations) program, which we hope to have in place and actually start the campaigning in mid-February," Buitenhuis said, adding that the PR firm, GCNAE officials, and the principals of the land company plan to create what Buitenhuis called a "think tank" and a board, which he said may also include members of the city of Williams and the Williams-Grand Canyon Chamber of Commerce.

Buitenhuis said he receives correspondence related to the Williams park frequently.

"We have a lot of positive response. We have a lot of people that own businesses in northern Arizona. They contact us. They want to know where we're at, is there an opportunity for them to get involved. We hear a lot of that. And we really haven't gotten any negative feedback from anybody. It's something that, with the economy the way it is and the job market the way it is, everybody is in dire straits. This is going to create an enormous amount of employment opportunities for people," Buitenhuis said.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Article comment by: Tom Kemp

Why do we need a theme park? We have a zip line right over a parking lot. That's more fun than a person should be allowed. There's a sucker born every second.

Posted: Thursday, June 20, 2013
Article comment by: Linda Dixon

Be careful Williams Az. Check with Arizona Corporation Commission, prior investors. All that glitters is not gold.

Posted: Monday, August 3, 2009
Article comment by: No name provided

The one thing Williams does NOT need is a theme park. The city counsil members and board supervisors, need to think about what this will do to the railroad. It's been here longer than anything. I for one will not support the park in any way, shape or form.

Posted: Monday, January 26, 2009
Article comment by: Dave

This is fantastic news. Good on you GCNAE. America needs more people like you. This will make real difference to Williams and Coconino County.

Posted: Thursday, January 22, 2009
Article comment by: HAVOC

I wonder if there were people back in the day who were like, that Brooklyn bridge idea, that's a pipe dream, it will never happen. It's a huge old scam. Maybe both! What are the "facts" that we should be "taking a hard look at", that led you to the "logical conclusion" that this can only be a pipe dream or a scam?

Posted: Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Article comment by: Tim

Here we go again. Does any of this really make sense to anyone? This was a pipe dream even in a good economy. Is Bernie Madoff involved in this project? The people of Williams need to stop looking at the shiny object (jobs and money that will never happen) and take a hard look at the facts. Once examined, the logical conclusions can be only one of two, pipe dream or scam. Take a hard look at this "Theme Park" and decide for yourself. This whole thing would be laughable if not for all the good people pinning their hopes and wasting their time on it.

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