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Dreamport Villages Reining in Expectations

Peter Alexander, left, commercial real estate developer Greg Sherman and creative director Marty West relax behind the model of Decades Music Theme Park in the office of DeMenna & Associates Nov. 8, 2007, in Phoenix. Credit: Oscar Perez/Pinal Central

By Roland Murphy for Arizona Builder’s Exchange

Major Infrastructure Support Will be Needed

It appears The Block Sports Company, the developer behind the planned $4B Dreamport Villages theme park and destination resort in Casa Grande may have been caught by surprise by the attention the story received when it broke last week and is looking to dial down the hype. (AZBEX, Feb. 24)

In planning documents submitted to the county, the company compared the planned development to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., one of the world’s largest and best known amusement park-based resorts. However, in a follow-up piece by KPNX 12News, Block Sports Company’s Alan Segall said that comparison was merely to illustrate Pinal County’s potential for growth and development, similar to the Orlando area prior to Disney’s creation in that region, and that it was never the company’s intention to set expectations so high.

The company’s plans are both extensive and impressive in an area that has seen explosive growth in planned development over the last year. If it comes to fruition as envisioned, Dreamport Villages will spend the next seven-to-ten years developing roughly 1,500 acres at the junction of interstates 8 and 10 into a massive destination that includes theme and water parks, a master planned housing development, retail and entertainment spaces and a movie studio.

Given the scope of the developer’s stated vision, it’s understandable why the original story exploded after it broke in the Casa Grande Dispatch on Feb. 20.

Major Infrastructure Required

Any new development requires supporting infrastructure, and as the scope of project expands, so, too, do its support needs. A follow-up piece in the Casa Grande Dispatch gave an overview of what it will take to put legs under Dreamport Villages and get the vision on its feet.

Perhaps the most extensive piece of underlying development will be the construction of at least four new roadways to accommodate access to the development. These include a 3.5-mile extension of Henness Road, a new interchange at Henness Road and I-8, a roadway from Henness Road to Peart Road, and a road to align with I-8.

In terms of water service, Dreamport Villages will likely create and operate its own wastewater plant on site to pretreat, rather than building an 11-mile connection to the city’s facility, according to the article.

An existing water line already runs through the site, and the developer will have to demonstrate there is sufficient water access to fully serve the project’s needs. A “comprehensive solution” on water rights and access is still being worked out.

Discussion and planning for implementation of other utilities and services are in various stages.

A Glimpse at the Hype

Block Sports wasn’t the only one caught by surprise at the extent of interest news of the potential project brought.

In a Pinal Central piece, Assistant Managing Editor Andy Howell said views of the original article, “Shattered our previous record for online traffic during a 24-hour period,” with more than 400,000 page views, roughly half of the site’s traffic in a normal month. More than 100,000 people were reached on the company’s Facebook pages, and the story was shared more than 1,700 times as of Friday.

Pinal Central is the online hub for Casa Grande Valley Newspapers, which publishes the Casa Grande Dispatch and seven other regional news outlets.

Despite the excitement, another follow-up by the Dispatch illustrates why tempering expectations may well be prudent. The area has a history of much-hyped and ambitious plans for theme parks and similar developments that fizzled for a variety of reasons after great initial excitement.

Among the failed proposals in the area over the years have been a drive through zoo near Eloy; a $2.7M giant human maze with a water park and miniature golf; a 10K-acre park called “Sunplex” with a football stadium, ice rink and other facilities built around an immense sundial, and a 270-acre rock-and-roll-themed amusement park that was to be known as “Decades”. The area was also once considered for “Aero”, an aeronautical-based park with an estimated $50M development plan. However, no further action was taken on Aero after Pinal County supervisors approved its special area plan.

Those with a stake in Pinal County’s growth and development can hope Dreamport Villages has greater success and can break the chain of great optimism followed by deafening silence.

The next step in the development’s process will be a meeting to discuss the proposal at the Casa Grande Planning and Zoning Commission on March 2.

NOTE: Paid subscribers receive additional project details in our twice-weekly PDF publication, including project stakeholder information and valuable project bidding leads. Find out more about AZBEX subscriptions or contact Rebekah Morris at rmorris@azbex.com or (480) 709-4190

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