HOUSTON - Houston could be one step closer to getting a new amusement park.
We've heard proposals before, but developers say there are many reasons the Grand Texas park planned for Montgomery County could finally replace the void left when Astroworld closed in 2005.
"If there was an Astroworld, we probably wouldn't have even pursued this development," said Monty Galland, Grand Texas developer. "But the reality is that this market really cries out for a major entertainment venue like Grand Texas."
Right now, sounds of traffic and blowing trees are about all you hear inside hundreds of wooded acres near the intersection of the 59 Eastex freeway and Texas Highway 242.
Galland said if all goes to plan, you'd hear a top-10 wooden roller-coaster along with more than two dozen other rides.
The rides would part of a Texas-themed park filled with ziplines, horse trails, stunt shows, music concerts, museum-type exhibits and petting zoos.
"The day we open, we probably will not be an Astroworld," said Galland. "I know there may be some disappointment, but we'll certainly be the most exciting entertainment venue in the greater Houston area. Some elements are like a summer camp for a day, others are more like a traditional amusement park. All of it's like a big giant classroom that is fun."
The planned location for Grand Texas sits just a few miles away from another amusement park idea that received a lot of attention, but showed little results.
Local 2 Investigates exposed how the East Montgomery County Improvement District spent more than $10 million tax dollars on the planned Earthquest Adventures mega-theme park.
EMCID leaders said they spent the millions of tax dollars hoping to lure investors for the Earthquest idea. Instead, federal investigators are now looking into how the tax money was spent and investors have not lined up to support the project.
"We're not Earthquest," Galland said. "We're not operating under the same process it is. We're not selling anything to raise public money. We don't need a lot of pretty pictures."
So far, no tax money has gone to Grand Texas. EMCID has agreed in principal to offer tax abatements and other incentives, but only after the project is developed.
Galland said Grand Texas' investors are already in place. He says the $200 million project will be built in phases with design teams and construction crews ready to put it all together.
"What brought us to Houston quite frankly, is that we're from Houston," Galland said. "Most of the investors, the backers, the partners are in The Woodlands and Montgomery County."
Galland said members of the Grand Texas development team have direct connections to Astroworld. That group includes a former Astroworld general manager. Galland says that's a huge advantage in Houston.
"They know what is most popular," said Galland. "They know what was most attractive. The great thing about it is that we have enough land that we can create a lot of the elements Astroworld had, and it doesn't detract from the other areas of the park. We're not going to compete with Disneyland. We want to create an entertainment value that's similar to going to the movies or going bowling."
Grand Texas developers are scheduled to finalize purchase of the land in May. Galland says the park could eventually employ 1,600 people.
Right now, the plans call for opening day sometime in March 2015.
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