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Helena, Montana

Butte theme park proposed 
By Leslie McCartney  of The Montana Standard  

-------------------------------------------------------
March 20, 2003

Destination Montana developers have optioned a 1,600-acre parcel of land between Montana Tech and Rocker, which they say will be used to house a theme park. 

"It will be quite substantial," said Barrett Singer, president of Foxx Industries. "It will be full-blown professional attraction." 

That Nevada-based firm is proposing a $1.8 billion landmark development for Butte that includes athletic facilities, golf courses, musical venues and 11 casinos with full-blown gaming. 

Although plans for the theme park have been around for several months, it was not until the land was under Foxx Industries' control that it was announced Wednesday. 

Developers would not actually operate the park, but are negotiating with "a number of major theme park operators" who would design and run the facility. 

Singer declined to name with whom Foxx Industries has been negotiating, citing confidentiality and business concerns. 

"I can't tell you who, but the operators will be well-known national theme park operators," he said. 

The land, situated west of Montana Tech to Rocker, runs roughly near Bluebird Trail, which is a dirt road that extends west from Park Street. The developers optioned two parcels totaling 1,600 acres. One parcel is owned by Chattel Limited, which is composed of partners Leo Ballenger and John Burns. The second piece is land Arco obtained from Montana Mining Properties. 

The Butte Local Development Corp. is a party to the second parcel. 

"Arco likes to have a community entity involved in major land transactions. (BLDC) plays the middle man and that's a role we were willing to do," said Evan Barrett, executive director of the BLDC. 

The four points of interest with the Destination Montana project surround Butte: athletic fields to the south, stadiums and casinos to the east and the new theme park to the west. All told, the project totals $1.8 billion, although the new theme park is not included in that total. 

Also, the entire project hinges on legislation approving wide-open gaming in Butte. 

"Gaming is a small part of the whole picture, but is the financial linchpin to make it happen," Barrett said. 

Questions about whether the Butte climate is conducive to a theme park -- unless part of it is covered -- have been raised, but Singer said the theme park operators will study those questions and have answers. 

He also pointed out that the theme park concept is a perfect fit for the overall project, which developers say they want to be family-oriented. 

"The whole project is supposed to be a family destination, not a gambling destination," Singer said. 

The theme park concept has been percolating for the past six months, but until control of the land was established, developers were reluctant to discuss it, they said. Also, the news -- on top of the staggering $1.8 billion project -- may have been difficult to absorb. 

"People were so blown away by the size and scope of the project, it would have been unbelievable," he said. 


Copyright Leslie McCartney and the Montana Standard, reproduced by permission.

 


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