GRAYLING TOWNSHIP, MI-A group of Midwest investors known as Main Street America Inc. has a Dec. 6 meeting date with state officials to work out concerns to buy 1,800 acres of public land, for an ambitious plan to build a $160-million, year-round theme park that would include roller coasters, a water park and even a real life World War II aircraft carrier. Axiom Entertainment of Rochester Hills is representing the investors, who include Jack Rouse Associates, the developer and manager of parks such as Universal Studios and various Legolands.

The state is trying to make sure the company has safe plans for the land at the northeast corner of Interstate 75 and Four Mile Road, including wastewater concerns, in an area dominated by tourists and second-home owners. An Axiom spokeswoman says the company environmental plans will meet state and federal requirements.

The property was offered to the township by the state as an industrial park, but no buildings were ever built. The township Planning Commission has approved a concept plan and zoning, and will accept the formal proposal if the state allows the sale of the land, reportedly for about $5.2 million, to proceed. The partnership’s preliminary agreement to buy the property from the state expires in late December. A proposed timetable has the project completed by 2010, if the approval is given next month.

Grayling is seen by many as either a last stop along I-75 before going over the Mackinac Bridge into the Upper Peninsula, or a rest stop before heading east (toward Traverse City) or west (toward Alpena) for vacation homes. The area is also home to a large Army National Guard base. The Axiom spokeswoman tells that with nine million people driving through a year, it has to be a good spot. “This is the gateway to the north,” she says. The “north” part has made some question a plan to include racing coaster cars in an area more known for feet-deep snowdrifts during the winter. “We’re proud of the fact that we’ll have our 70 mph runs during winter snow, with heated tunnels. They’ll be all kinds of stuff to do during the winter, like horse carriage rides and snowmobiling, and other activities,” the spokeswoman says.

Axiom, which also puts together DVDs and television shows, doesn’t have successful theme park experience. Project manager Patrick Crosson had been COO of a company in 1993, GRP Development Corp., which was to build a theme park in Indiana. However, the project ran into problems and legal claims, and the company declared bankruptcy. The spokeswoman says Crosson successfully pulled the money together for that project, but left the firm six years before the bankruptcy because of differences in direction. “Yes, this would be the first done for us, but it takes a visionary, like Disney, it takes a creative mind and the willingness to take on risk,” the spokeswoman says.

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