Rumored Disney Park Shenanigans
Rumored Disney park 'shenanigans'
Neosho — People in rural Newton County will have to forget, at least for now, the prospect of selling their land for big bucks to the Walt Disney Co.
After rumors flew last week that Disney was planning to build a $1.1 billion theme park in the area, Presiding Commissioner Jerry Carter got the word Monday that, as he put it, it's "shenanigans."
"I just talked to the vice president of public affairs for Disney, and she said there's nothing to it," Carter said.
Carter said Disney officials didn't recognize the names of any of the three owners of ARM Risk, the company supposedly working to assemble the 1,000 acres of land.
"(Disney) can say absolutely that they're not involved in Newton County or in southwest Missouri," Carter said.
Two weeks ago, Todd Marshall, who said he represented ARM Risk, attended a Board of Commissioners meeting to ask about making changes to rural roads leading to the site of a planned theme park. Marshall did not identify who would develop such a park. But when commissioners checked addresses on ARM Risk's registration with the Missouri Secretary of State's office, two of the three addresses were those of Disney corporate headquarters in Burbank, Calif., and Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Also, the business address listed on the registration form is 1826 S. Glenstone Ave., Springfield, Suite 353. That address is the site of a UPS store with a mailbox numbered 353.
And lending an odd touch, the name of one of the company's owners is registered as Robert Brown. While it may be a common name, it also is the name of the deceased first husband of Walt Disney's daughter, Sharon Disney. That Robert Brown died in 1967.
Carter said he's perplexed by the events.
"It's amazing the number of people who have called with the thought of their land going up in value. We're calling the attorney general's office."
Robert Fougere, press secretary for the Missouri Attorney General's office, said he couldn't yet say whether the events will come under scrutiny by that office.
"We certainly would be interested to hear if someone has complaints," Fougere said.
While Marshall gave commissioners a toll-free number, repeated calls yielded a busy signal. Also, e-mail to the address he gave commissioners was not returned.
"It doesn't smell right," said Steve Critchfield, a commercial real estate broker in Branson. If Disney were seeking property, "they would never be this public if they didn't control all the land they needed."
"It would happen before we'd hear anything about it," Critchfield said.
Despite rumors, there's never been any sign of Disney interest in the Branson area, he said.
Jim Hill, a New Hampshire resident, has been writing about Disney for 25 years. He makes his living from his Disney-related Web site.
"It's a cruel prank," he said. "The history of the Disney Company is that they're incredibly careful about this stuff."
According to a timeline of the Disney Co., in 1964, Disney attorney Robert Foster began to purchase land in Florida. To keep his identity secret, he used an assumed name. Among the property was 12,400 acres owned by three Orlando home builders that he bought for $145 an acre.
However, Disney officials have begun exploring expansion by building stand-alone Disney-branded businesses such as resort hotels and water parks because travelers go to major theme parks only once every four years, according to minutes of a report by Jay Rasulo, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.
In February, Rasulo said Disney is thinking about developing themed hotels that could be built in large cities that already are tourist draws. Disney also is contemplating "niche theme parks" and water parks in other cities, Rasulo said.
"Our relationships with millions of families will enable us to expand to new businesses and new markets," Rasulo said. "We will never stop dreaming."
"The irony is that Branson would probably be great turf for Disney," Hill said.
Disney deal needs explanation
From The Joplin Globe.com (Joplin, MO):
In our view: Disney deal needs explanation
Published April 30, 2007 12:24 am
Is Disney bringing a theme park to Southwest Missouri? No way, suggests Dennis Speigel, president of International Theme Park Services, in response to a question about a purported $1.7 billion, 1,000-acre park that would offer 27 rides, 95 shops, 12 stages, 18 restaurants, six hotels and employ 1,200 full-time and 6,000 seasonal workers. Disney officials also say no.
Full story here: http://www.joplinglobe.com/editorial...yword=topstory