SPRING HILL, Fla. – Busch Gardens and Walt Disney World are can expect to face even more competition for tourists’ dollars beginning in 2013 as Six Flags announced on Monday its plans to build a theme park on U.S. 19 in Hernando County.
Construction will begin in late 2011 on a 218-acre parcel of land on U.S. 19 immedeately north of its intersection with U.S. Highway 50 and Weeki Wachee Springs, company executives announced Monday at the bi-monthly meeting of the Hernando County Tourist Procurement Plan Commission.
The theme park company has been floating out rumors of purchasing the land for years and, after some favorable buzz and costly market research, decided to finally take action.
“This is a plan probably 20 years in the making,” said Steve Gershaw, the Six Flags director of development for the Southeast. “Our marketing company began putting out feelers for this plan in the community, and I don’t think a lot of people believed it. But after all these years, it’s coming true. Spring Hill is getting a theme park.”
Gershaw said the trial balloons began being sent out in the early 1990s, when marketing operatives would go to malls and volunteer at elementary schools to tell women and children — those Gershaw said are most likely to spread untrue and sometimes simply unbelievable rumors — that the theme park would be built locally.
The only thing Six Flags was unsure about was where to build. But when some two decades later it appeared the Spring Hill rumor was far more popular than the one first floated about razing Gulf View Square Mall and building there.
“Most people would really be amazed at the amount of data we collected simply based on the rumors,” Gersawh said. “We tried to keep our motives mostly under wraps for obvious reasons, but in fact, our campaign was so successful it spawned an entirely new form or market research.”
A small crowd of theme-park enthusiasts were present at the meeting, and none appeared more excited about the decision than 8-year-old Joshua Hinton.
Hinton said he and his classmates at Challenger K-8 have spent countless lunches discussing their love for rides and even heard many rumblings about the park long before it was announced.
“Me and my friends talked about it because but, like, nothing was real,” Hinton said. “But this is awesome because we talked about it, and there’s rollercoasters there. We’re going to go there, and it is going to be crazy.”
Other Six Flags parks often incorporate local themes into their design and rides, and the Spring Hill park will be no different, Gershaw said. According to him, the Spring Hill location will have a mermaid-themed log flume ride in which the riders’ feet dangle in water and an inverted rollercoaster where the riders narrowly miss hitting live bears along a stretch of track modeled after Osowaw Boulevard.
Six Flags has already begun an aggressive marketing campaign. On Monday, commission members and reporters present were given brochures that not only describe the advantages of Six Flags parks but explicitly discrediting its competition.
The brochures handed out at Monday’s meeting depict Busch Gardens’ theme as “based on the racist myth of African savages and perpetuating stereotypes about everything from the way other cultures live to how alligators mate to how beer is made.”
The Mouse didn’t get off any easier as one handout described Walt Disney as “Nazi sympathizer who brainwashed millions with his anti-American scribblings and who had himself frozen after his death in hopes of returning after the successful takeover by the a master race.”
EDIT: This was just a satirical article