Can zoo theme park, dinosaur attraction wed?
Written by Nina Lincoff on January 15, 2014
Dinosaur and amusement park enthusiasts had a right to be disappointed Tuesday as Miami-Dade’s Finance Committee voted 3-1 to reject two bids to build out Zoo Miami land at 12400 SW 152nd St. into a new attraction.
It took all of 30 seconds for the committee to further delay an eight-plus-year process. In November 2006, voters authorized the county to develop a commercial venture there similar to a water or theme park or a family entertainment center.
The county had designs on something like Orlando’s Universal Studios, which would complement Zoo Miami exhibits and attractions. Of the six proposals, the county selected four for further development. Only two, from Dinosaur Park Miami Corp. and Miami Wilds LLC, however, were invited to negotiate to win the bid.
The two bids came from very different ends of the entertainment field when Dinosaur Park Miami Corp. and Miami Wilds LLC submitted proposals in summer 2013.
The Miami Wilds theme park was proposed by 20th Century Fox to showcase its blockbuster films, complete with an adventure park containing attractions like an Ice Age-themed water park.
Miami Today previously reported that costs to develop Miami Wilds were estimated at $930 million, with the adventure park costing about $425 million alone. The proposed completion deadline was 2020, at which time the attraction was geared to draw more than 2 million visitors a year and create over 2,000 jobs.
Dinosaur Park, a less ambitious proposal, was based on the model of Dinosaur-Park International, a Germany-based company. The outline proposed an open-air exhibit like the Dinosaur Open Air Museum in Munchehagen, Germany. While it’s not quite “Jurassic Park” status, the exhibits would include life-sized dinosaur replicas and activities like a sandbox fossil dig.
The Dinosaur Park project was to cost about $14.6 million and take only two years to complete after an expected 2015 groundbreaking. The proposal estimated 400,000-plus annual visitors.
While opening day might have been delayed with the Finance Committee’s rejection of both bids – only Esteban Bovo Jr. voted no – that doesn’t mean dinosaurs and Ice-Age themed wave pools are off the table. Instead of banking big on a theme park blowout or playing it safe with an open air dino-museum, the county might take the middle ground.
The county had decided to consider both proposals together, but the existing bid process precluded the two corporations from coordinating outside of public meetings, and cone of silence rules prevented committee members from effectively communicating with administrative staff.
Basically, the county wants to consider the proposals together, but the negotiating process entailed too much red tape.
Moving forward, the measure the committee endorsed recommends that the county negotiate with Miami Wilds LLC and Dinosaur Park Miami Corp. alone to develop jointly an acceptable plan for the Zoo Miami Entertainment Area.
If all goes well, perhaps dinosaurs and water parks are in Miami’s future. Just leave any prehistoric DNA alone, as a precaution.