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Could the $2-Billion White Trash Disneyland theme park actually happen?

Back in July, the Oklahoma people were greeted by the odd news that some rich dude from Kansas was going to build a 1000-acre, $2-billion dollar RV Resort and ‘Merica-themed Amusement Park in the Grand Lake of Northeastern Oklahoma. 

The place is called the American Heartland Theme Park, but we affectionately dubbed it White Trash Disneyland. 

Despite the release of fancy renderings by organizers, the news generated its fair share of raised eyebrows, head scratches, and “LOL Yeah Rights” by locals, politicians, and industry experts alike, but according to Michael McNutt of NonDoc – the king of the Oklahoma theme park beat – people in the northeast corner of the state are proceeding like this thing is going to happen.

Via Non Doc:

At their meeting Tuesday, members of the Vinita City Council showed their enthusiasm and support for a proposed $2 billion theme park and resort being planned east of town by voting overwhelmingly to annex six square miles near the project in an effort to maintain influence over area development.

Mansion Entertainment Group, which announced plans in July for its American Heartland Theme Park and Resort as well as its associated Three Ponies RV Park and Campground, posted Wednesday on Facebook that a groundbreaking ceremony for the RV park is scheduled for Oct. 30. Mansion Entertainment bills itself as the leading performing arts, animation and studio brand in Branson, Missouri.

“We are thrilled to announce the start of construction on Three Ponies RV Park and Campground will begin this month,” the post states. “The project team will gather with state and local officials on Oct. 30 to break ground. We look forward to celebrating this major milestone as we begin our journey together.”

First of all, I’d like to congratulate Michael McNutt – a journalist who I believe covered the Alfalfa Bill Murray administration – for breathing some life, energy and fresh air into Non Doc. Before you know it, the publication is really going to liven things up add Helen Ford Wallace to the team!

McNutt goes into detail in his article about the Vinita City Council meeting, the strain this development will put on the area, and the money they’ll be seeking from Oklahoma taxpayers.

He also talked to a theme park consultant – a real-life occupation that some people have – who had this to say about the project:

“The market isn’t there,” Dennis Speigel, founder and CEO of Cincinnati-based International Theme Park Services, Inc., told NonDoc on Thursday. “It’s not a supportable investment in that market for a theme park. Now for an RV park, that’s totally different. There may be a million campers that go through that area, and that could be fine. But in terms of building a theme park that’s going to draw 4.9 million people in the first year, it’s just not practical, and it’s totally unrealistic. They don’t have the tourism, and they don’t have the local population to support it. And the industry as a whole, I haven’t heard anybody say they think it’s a viable and possible idea.”

When this project was announced, I proclaimed that I’d believe it when I bought an RV to see it. I still feel that way, but I’d say Dean Blevins would say there’s at least a 25% chance this Merica’-themed project becomes a reality. 

In fact, I predict this project will fall down one of two paths: 

1. The theme park will never fully materialize and instead turn into another fun-to-cover Oklahoma scandal involving grifters, conmen, and politicians. 

2. The theme park will actually be built and open to the public... and 25 years later, Oklahoma will be prominently featured in those vacant theme park listicles and slide shows that pollute the internet. 

I’m still leaning towards option #1 at the moment, but #2 could still happen. 

I believe it was me or Gandhi who said “Never underestimate a bored white religious man with too much money,” and let’s be honest, the brainchild of this project – Gene Bicknell – fits that description.

He made hundreds of millions, if not billions, as a Pizza Hut franchise mogul and seems pretty intent on owning a weird theme park. If he has the money to do it, all power to him. 

That being said, the dude is in his 90s. When his lifetime of eating stuffed-crust pizza finally catches up to him, I really doubt his kids and grandkids – and their kids and grandkids – are going to be as attached to this project as Grandpa was. They'll likely want to spend his money on cooler things, like VIP passes at Disney World.

Then again, that’s a very negative way to look at it. 

Who knows? Maybe this project exceeds expectations and this rural section of our state that doesn’t currently have the infrastructure or population in place to support such a grand project becomes a resounding success and Oklahoma becomes a white conservative tourist mecca! 

But once again, I’ll believe it when I buy an RV to see it.

Stay with The Lost Ogle. We’ll keep you advised. 

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