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Six Flags Over DeSoto? Desoto World? DesotoLand? Desotocot?

Rumors swirl about amusement park in DeSoto County

SOUTHAVEN — The rumor mill has been working overtime about reports of investors looking at land in DeSoto County suitable for an amusement park, a development that would provide an economic punch to an already booming area.

“We can’t get any information on the project at all,” said Don Wilkinson, executive director of the Horn Lake Chamber of Commerce. “Everything I’ve read indicates that it’s not Disney, but it’s something big. If there are several investors involved, it’s got to be some sort of amusement park. But no one’s talking.”

An unnamed source said a group of investors have not yet closed the deal on Prudential-marketed property in northwest DeSoto County that is the location of the project.

“That’s near the Grand Casino, which comes right up to the DeSoto County line,” Wilkinson said. “Grand Casino brought their property line up as far as they could to still be in Tunica County and not go across the line into DeSoto County.”

The project has been much chatted up in the media, but has been based mostly on speculation.

“The DeSoto County Economic Development Council has not been contacted about the project,” said Jim Flanagan, council president.

An unnamed representative at Doug Collins/Prudential Pride Properties in Germantown, Tenn., said the property was not marketed from their office, but said Six Flags had been mentioned as the developer.

Oklahoma-based Premier Parks Inc. (NYSE: PKS) is the world’s largest regional theme park company, with 34 family-oriented theme and water parks, including pending acquisitions. In 1998, the company’s purchase of Six Flags Theme Parks made it the nation’s No. 2 amusement park operator, behind Walt Disney, according to Hoovers Online. An unidentified administrative assistant to Premier Parks president and COO Gary Story did not confirm or deny the acquisition. Calls to the marketing department at Premier Parks were unreturned.

“I don’t have any reason to believe there’s any truth to it,” said Greg Hurley, director of Tunica County Planning Commission. “I’d love it if there was, but I don’t see any change in plans since there were talks of an amusement park coming to the area in the mid-1990s.”

Site selection committees for amusement parks are typically unconcerned about traffic counts and locations are often selected on a macro geographical standpoint, Hurley said.

“Whatever it is, Horn Lake would obviously be the first to enjoy the benefits,” Wilkinson said. “We’re the closest city to it, with out hotels and restaurants. We would definitely benefit from it.”

Sherri Hemker, manager of 290-unit Delta Bluff Apartments in Walls, a tiny Delta town located midway between Tunica and Memphis, said she heard the land is located at nearby Lake Cormorant.

“It would be very close to us,” Hemker said. “It’s supposed to be a huge deal. It would bring a lot of jobs to the area, a lot of tourism, and a different type of clientele than just casino workers or casino players, with more family-type entertainment. If we get that just down the road, Delta Bluff is going to be in prime position to stay 100% percent occupied with a good clientele.”

Nick Ringel, president of Memphis-based Makowsky & Ringel, said he, too, had heard reports, but nothing that could be substantiated.

“A project like that would be great for DeSoto County,” Ringel said. “We have several apartments located in the area and we would love it.”

Webster Franklin, executive director of the Tunica Convention & Visitors Bureau, said even though he did not have information on the project, an attraction such as an amusement park would be another drawing card for tourists to Tunica County.

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Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne Wilbanks Jeter at mbj@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1018.

About Lynne W. Jeter

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