Zoo Miami theme park targeted home for Dania Hurricane's ups and downs
By Robert Grattan
After Dania Beach's iconic wooden rollercoaster, Hurricane, ground to a halt last April, county commissioners are discussing plans that may have the coaster roaring back to life as a part of the entertainment district at Zoo Miami.
At the last meeting of the commission's Recreation & Cultural Affairs Committee, Commissioner Dennis C. Moss' resolution directing the mayor's office to explore the feasibility of relocating the coaster within the Zoo Miami property unanimously passed.
The zoo is owned and operated by Miami-Dade's Park and Recreation Department.
A roller coaster at a zoo may seem out of place, but Zoo Miami Director Eric Stevens says it meshes well with the county's plan to use the property as an entertainment district, not just a zoo.
"We're looking at property outside the zoo itself for the theme park," Mr. Moss said. "We've had that area categorized as an entertainment district."
The Hurricane is a 100-foot-tall, 3,200-foot-long coaster that reaches speeds of 50 miles per hour, according to Rollercoaster Database, a thrill-rides reference website.
The coaster operated for 11 years at the family entertainment center Boomers! Greater Ft. Lauderdale under a separate owner before shutting down during the recession.
Mr. Moss sees the entertainment district as a business opportunity for a private investor looking to build Miami's version of Universal Studios.
"For us to be such a global city, and not have a major themed attraction, I think that we're missing out on an opportunity," he said.
To pave the way for this type of investment, he said, the county is acquiring more acreage and has conducted traffic and infrastructure studies for the Zoo Miami property.
Long-term plans for the park include "a new water park, family entertainment center, vacation hotel, resort hotel and adventure theme park as well as expansion of the Gold Coast Railroad Museum," according to Zoo Miami brochures.
This kind of development could create thousands of jobs, Mr. Moss said.
"In the meantime, if we can get a rollercoaster located in the zoo property, and that helps to get people out to the zoo…," he said, "then, it plays into what we're trying to do with the overall master plan."
The rollercoaster and other themed attractions would be built to complement the existing zoo, which has developed 327 of 740 available acres in South Dade.
Zoo Miami is considered the oldest and largest zoological garden in Florida and attracts about 800,000 visitors a year.
Both Mr. Stevens and Mr. Moss said they couldn't discuss how the coaster would be moved or who would pay for its relocation until the mayor's office looks further into the project. Miami-Dade voters were to elect a new mayor Tuesday.
"In the right conditions or with the right deal, it could be very good for both parties," Mr. Stevens said.
Calls to the entity that owns the coaster were not returned.
County officials are considering several options to acquire the rollercoaster.
"Part of the option may be joint ownership with the [Hurricane's] owner and shared profits…," Mr. Moss said. "Another option may be outright purchase."
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