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LAKEWOOD, WA-Great Northwest Development Co. has found a new site for the $130-million theme park it is planning in this bedroom community of Tacoma.Originally, the Great Northwest Theme Park was slated for a 100-acre property that wrapped around the Woodbrick Middle School in the American Lake Gardens neighborhood. The new site is located immediately east of Interstate 5 and within walking distance of the planned Lakewood Commuter Rail Station. It is also more accessible to the hotels and restaurants in the Tacoma area and features infrastructure such as sewer lines that the original site lacked.

“This new site definitely has less of an impact on residents,” Candice Bock, economic development administrator for Lakewood, tells GlobeSt. “But what was most important in selecting the new site is the ease of access, the better visibility and the lower cost of infrastructure.” Though Lakewood has yet to officially approve the development, Bock says the city is currently working on a memorandum of understanding with the Great Northwest Development that would outline the public-private partnership between the city and the developer.

The city is very interested in seeing the theme park come to fruition and has discussed the possibility of purchasing the 80 acres of land for the theme park, says Bock, as well as additional property needed for a parking lot. The city is talking with Tacoma officials about partnering on the project, and considering the use of public money to pay for necessary infrastructure.

“Obviously, this is a significant tourism project,” says Bock. “Preliminary indications are that it will attract 1.2 to 2 million visitors a year to the region, and if a small fraction of those are overnight visitors, you can imagine the impact it will have on our hospitality industry. And in addition to the tax revenues the city will receive, we will also receive an admissions tax when someone buys a ticket.”

Though a construction date has yet to be set, Bock says city officials and developers hope to have the park completed by spring of 2003. The Great Northwest Theme Park is one of two currently being envisioned for Southwest Washington. A Spain-based developer of theme parks is currently studying the feasibility of a giant theme park on the Lewis County fairgrounds near Winlock, WA. That park, if developed, would be built on approximately 350 acres and would cost anywhere from $150 million to $600 million to complete.

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