Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

August 14, 2008


Host: Ted Simons

small Town Challenges: Eloy Amusement Park


  • A new amusement park is about to hit the small town of Eloy. The legislature has approved a funding mechanism for the Decades Rock and Roll theme park, and once funding is raised, the new park is expected to create more jobs than there are workers in Eloy. Find out what city officials think about the new park.
Guests:
  • Tina Miller - Director of Communications and Community Development, Arizona Office of Tourism
Category: Business/Economy

View Transcript
Ted Simons
>>> Eloy is halfway between Arizona’s two biggest cities, yet has remained a small agricultural town for decades. That could be changing soon with the Decades Rock and Roll theme park. Backers of the park recently got a special taxing district approved to help fund the park. We end our four-part series “Small town challenges" with a look at the theme park in Eloy. I'll talk to a state tourism official about small-town tourism, but, first, Mike Sauceda tells us more about the park.

Mike Sauceda
>> It seems like the sky is the limit for Eloy now, home of an internationally-known sky diving facility, and soon to be home of the biggest amusement parks in Arizona.

Belinda Akes
>> Like Anaheim used to be -- look at what has happened there. We have so much room to grow.

Mike Sauceda
>> Like a blank slate, 84 miles of land. According to an Arizona Department of Commerce fact sheet, 69 miles from Phoenix, 52 from Tucson, off Interstate ten and near Interstate eight. In 2007, it had nearly 14,000 people. Unemployment rate of 7.7%, with a labor force of over 4,300 people. Median family income in Eloy, $29,000 annually. Double that labor force plus some would be needed for one of the theme parks, the Decades Rock and Roll theme park.

Belinda Akes
>> Over 3,500 jobs for the three years that they plan to do the build out. And once the facility is here, they’re talking five to 6,000 permanent jobs, which are going to be a real boost for Eloy and the surrounding area. The construction phase, you know what kind of jobs those entail. When the theme park is finally up and running, there will be jobs -- restaurants, hotels, people operating the rides. There will be a lot of people, management positions. There will be upper level jobs, so it will bring in people that are looking for, you know, being in a director or a management position.

Mike Sauceda
>> The theme park is expected to generate $267 million of tax revenue over ten years for the state. The city of Eloy will get about $180 million of that.

Mike Sauceda
>> Besides jobs, the theme park brings big changes to the life-style in Eloy.

Frank Acuna
>> There are people out there, small percentages that probably don’t want to lose that small town atmosphere. The important thing to look at is that it has a lot of potential to bring back those people who have gone on and gotten educated or have gone on and started careers elsewhere, and possibly bringing them back.

Mike Sauceda
>> The Decades theme park will have rides and different -- there will be 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s, based on the music of the decades. The park will be built by $750 million in bonding by a special taxes district approved by the legislature. Paid back by 9% tax limited from the park and surrounding area. Promoters have to raise $100 million on their own. The legislation of the park will not -- was not approved without effort from the city of Eloy.

Frank Acuna
>> It didn't fall into our lap. They did a presentation at one of our council meetings, and I’m sure that we were all a little skeptical about it. Once they got through the presentation, you know what, I think we were all sold. I think we were all excited about what was going on. What sold me on the project was a couple of things. One, the fact that they were able to get the financing. The second thing, the experience that they brought in. Some of these people had worked for other amusement parks.

Mike Sauceda
>> The Decades theme park is not the only amusement facility planned for Eloy. Another planned for south of town.

Frank Acuna
>> Talking about a western theme amusement park dealing with Arizona, Arizona being the theme, and from what I understand, and I don't know a whole lot about it, is that they're going to incorporate Arizona history with approximately 55 different types of rides. They're supposed to have a 450 room hotel, I guess, they plan on building.

Mike Sauceda
>> Even in the heat of the day, planes take off to get parachuters high enough to sky dive over Eloy. Developers say they have plans to deal with the heat and hope to compete with nearby Disneyland.

Frank Acuna
>> Decades I think it will be a lot of fun. I think it will do well. I think a lot of people want to see something different.

Ted Simons
>> Here to talk about tourism in general and small town tourism is Tina Miller, director of communications and community development for the Arizona Office of Tourism.

Ted Simons
>> Tina, good to have you on the show.

Tina Miller
>> Thank you, delighted to be here.

Ted Simons
>> How much do small towns push tourism in Arizona?

Tina Miller
>> Tremendously. In fact, tourism is the only industry in Arizona that affects all 15 counties. All 15 counties in Arizona have something to provide the visitors an experience, wonderful amenities that Arizona offers.

Ted Simons
>> Conversely, how much do these small towns depend on tourism?

Tina Miller
>> Like I said, it is tremendous. In fact, when you look at it, the majority of visitation can come to Maricopa and Pima County. Travel-related expenditures, tax bases go, are more in the smaller communities. They're very dependent on tourism for their tax base.

Ted Simons
>> When you have folks around the country, around the world inquiring about Arizona, where places are, what to do, are they familiar with some of the smaller towns? Do they have any idea what is going on around the state?

Tina Miller
>> They do. That is our job at the Office of Tourism to introduce the vibrant communities, rich cultural heritage that Arizona has. That is what we do, internationally, domestically, even in Arizona itself.

Ted Simons
>> Considering gas prices, that controversy with people may be doing staycations as opposed to leaving town, are we seeing more of that this summer?

Tina Miller
>> We can't project numbers. Staycation, are they staying home for us? They are not cancelling vacations, changing travel patterns, staying closer to home. They may stay at a resort or they may go up north to experience some attractions there.

Ted Simons
>> Talk about some of the things under the radar, in some of the small towns, Sedona, Eloy, these kinds of places people may not be familiar with, what have you got?

Tina Miller
>> You can't forget the 124th world continuous rodeo in Payson. That is going on this weekend. That is a lot of fun. For 124 years, they have been roping cattle, tieing hogs, all of that great stuff. Apple Annie's Orchard always has something going on. There are so many different things to choose from to educate visitors about the heritage, diversity, culture of Arizona. There are lots of different things to do around the state.

Ted Simons
>> Are these things to do all year-round, or is this head up to the north, high country in the summer, desert stuff in the wintertime?

Tina Miller
>> We see that visitation in Northern Arizona increases in the summer. In the cooler months you see more in Southern Arizona. There are things going on, every single day something going on in Arizona in some corner of the community.

Ted Simons
>> In general, overall, the state of tourism in Arizona right now.

Tina Miller
>> It is great. Last year we had another record-setting year. We had 35.2 million visitors come, two million of those were international visitors. And we had 19.3 billion in tax generated tax revenues. It has been a great year for tourism. We know people are still coming to Arizona despite the economy.

Ted Simons
>> I was going to say, economy, gas prices, they're still coming.

Tina Miller
>> They are. And we are welcoming them with wide open arms.

Ted Simons
>> Thank you for joining us.

Tina Miller
>> Thank you, pleasure.

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