Deadwood recognizes that it needs to give non-gamblers more reasons to visit. I’ve suggested developing opportunities for hiking, biking and other outdoor activities that would appeal to families and adventurers. Deadwood is thinking of getting people outdoors—kinda, sorta—with a $40-million Western theme park. Realtor Todd Fierro and Silverado-Franklin Complex partner Tom Rensch give the details on the “Gold Nugget Theme Park”:
Fierro said feasibility studies had explored an interactive western theme park, which would tie into the history and mystery of Deadwood’s early mining and pioneer days, would fill a niche not currently being offered in the regional tourism industry.
“The number one thing that excites me about this is I’ve always thought the Black Hills, with Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Devils Tower, the Badlands, Custer State Park and Deadwood itself, hadn’t capitalized as a destination,” Fierro said. “Everybody is crazy about cowboys and Indians — Europeans, other foreign travelers, even locals. I always thought we needed a family attraction that capitalized on that.”
…[Rensch] said the attraction appears as if it would be an interactive theme park, not unlike the one found in Branson, Mo., with rides, a dinner theater, and miners, pioneers, cowboys and Indians of the 1870s.
“This has the potential, I think, to bring another million visitors to town,” he added. “That would be meaningful to us.”
Rensch said the partnership had explored purchase of two possible sites for the theme park, including a parcel his company owns off U.S. Highway 85 near The Lodge at Deadwood, and a tract in Whitewood Canyon where actor Kevin Costner had intended to build a championship golf course linked to his ill-fated Dunbar Resort [Tom Griffith, “Proposed $40M Western Theme Park Could Energize Deadwood and Black Hills Economy,” Rapid City Journal, 2016.07.10].
When South Dakotans amended the state constitution in 1988 to allow gambling in Deadwood, the idea was that the proceeds would preserve and promote Deadwood’s history. One would think that, if all that money were fulfilling its intent, there would be no niche for a Western theme park to fill; Deadwood would be saturated with “the history and mystery of Deadwood’s early mining and pioneer days.” But evidently it’s not, so Deadwood needs to build a fake Deadwood up over the rise to give visitors the Deadwood they want.
The proposal comes from four men who don’t appear to have any experience in the tourism industry. The backers have hired consultants from International Theme Park Services of Cincinnati. The backers will tell the locals more at a public meeting on Monday, July 18, 3 p.m., at the Spring Hill Suites, 322 Main St.
Related: There’s already a Deadwood Western Theme Park in North Carolina, which is kind of funny, since you go to the East Coast to see a fake Black Hills town 1900 miles from its namesake.