Bryan County families looking for a theme park have to drive 4-1/2 hours to Disney World and Sea World in Orlando, Fla., or 3-1/2 hours to Wild Adventures Theme Park in Valdosta. Soon, however, they may have a closer option for family entertainment.
Kingsland is located at exit 3 on I-95, about 90 minutes from Hinesville. It’s the home of Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, but according to City Planner Ken Kessler, Kingsland also may become home to a major theme park by late 2014.
Kingsland Entertainment and Adventure Resort is a project proposed by Minnesota-based Real Development Corporation and California-based Leisure Entertainment Development and Operations International Inc.
“This park would be a sports-focused park,” Kessler said. “There’s a large water park planned, as well as soccer fields, eight baseball/softball fields and 24 bowling alleys.”
Kessler said other plans include a tethered balloon ride, indoor skydiving, batting cages, amphitheater, nine-screen movie theater, rock climbing, ziplining and “mudding” adventures.
There also would be midway rides and games, he said.
Supporting these entertainment venues would be restaurants, hotels, spas and fitness centers, retail stores and a convention center, he added.
Kessler said the city drafted a redevelopment plan in October that would establish two tax-allocation districts located at exit 3 on I-95. While saying redevelopment in each TAD will drive growth in the other, only TAD No. 1 would include the $100 million resort, which he said would be a major economic engine for the community of 16,000.
Most of the 574-acre site already has been cleared, and at least part of the infrastructure already is there for water and sewer, Kessler said. He anticipates a city council decision on the TADs by mid-December.
Legislation signed by Gov. Nathan Deal in May 2011 helps promote development of tourism in the state for projects like the Kingsland resort that are greater than $1 million and in which at least 25 percent of the tourism comes from outside the state.
According to the Georgia General Assembly website, the Georgia Tourism Development Act allows developers to receive up to 25 percent of the costs for a qualifying tourism project through sales and use tax rebates during a 10-year period.
“We are in the final process of working with the city in establishing the TAD,” said LEDO International Inc. CEO Thor Degelmann, who explained that LEDO’s role was lead consultant with Real Development while providing business and operational planning. “Our research has found that people are willing to drive up to 90 minutes to a destination resort for a multiple-days stay if there are a variety of venues with a synergy between them.”
He agreed the new theme park was more of a “hands-on” experience geared around guests participating in activities. He estimates as many as 1,500 jobs will be created during the construction of the theme park and up to 1,000 permanent jobs after it opens.
Degelmann brings more than 30 years experience with the Disney Corporation to the Kingsland project. He said Kingsland was chosen as the site because of its location on I-95 between Savannah and Jacksonville.
He knows about failed efforts eight years ago to establish a theme park called Steamboat City just north of Brunswick. He said lack of funding was the main reason that project failed, but said funding is not a problem with the Kingsland project.
“I don’t think funding is going to be a problem here, plus there’s the TAD,” Degelmann said. “Real Development is looking into various sources.”