Amusement Parks in Virginia

Washington, DC residents could get to Luna Park in Alexandria County via the Washington, Alexandria, and Mount Vernon Electric Railway in 1907
Washington, DC residents could get to Luna Park in Alexandria County via the Washington, Alexandria, and Mount Vernon Electric Railway in 1907
Source: Library of Congress, Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Alexandria, Independent Cities, Virginia (Sanborn Map Company, November 1907)

It is big business to help people have fun, creating jobs and significant tax revenues. Trade associations, trade publications, lobbyists and campaign contributions are related to the amusement park businesses in specific localities. The governor of Virginia attended the pre-opening festivities of King's Dominion theme park, one day before the public could enter on May 3, 1975.1

Tourism-based employees see people enjoying rides and eating special foods. They can share in the fun vicariously, but the business side they experience is a low wage, seasonal, entry-level job requiring few skills.

Amusement park owners highlight how many jobs their facilities create. The quality of those jobs, and their potential for building skills for a future career, are rarely emphasized.

In 1993, the Walt Disney Company proposed to build a "Disney America" theme park in western Prince William County. The company claimed the project would create 3,000 jobs.2

Disney America was proposed in 1993, for a site in western Prince William County north of Haymarket
Disney America was proposed in 1993, for a site in western Prince William County north of Haymarket
Source: Passion of the Parks, Unbuilt Disney Attractions

Opponents questioned how Prince William County would benefit if the seasonal workers were unemployed for long winters. Unlike migrant agricultural workers, the development might attract a labor force that chose to stay in the area year-round. That would increase the demand for taxpayer-financed services, such as schools, which would cost more per resident than the amount of taxes paid while seasonally employed.

Local and state officials continued to support the project, over the opposition of conservation and historical groups. The debate became national, with a discussion of the tradeoff of local jobs vs. national history. After a year Disney abandoned its plans and sold its rights for the 3,000 acres where Disney America was to be located. The land ended up being developed for residential subdivisions; it did not end up as protected open space or parkland.

King's Dominion Law - Schools, Tourism, and the Dillon Rule in Virginia

the proposed site of Disney America ended up being developed into residential subdivisions
the proposed site of Disney America ended up being developed into residential subdivisions
Source: ESRI, ArcGIS Online

Links

  • Theme Park Insider
  • ThemeParks.com

    References

    1. "Big Day Arrives For King's Dominion," The Free Lance-Star, May 3, 1975, https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=7N5LAAAAIBAJ&sjid=_YoDAAAAIBAJ&pg=5062%2C500846 (last checked January 10, 2019)
    2. Karl Rhodes, "Disney’s America," Econ Focus, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, First Quarter 2013, p.36, https://www.richmondfed.org/~/media/richmondfedorg/publications/research/econ_focus/2013/q1/pdf/economic_history.pdf (last checked January 10, 2019)


    Parks, Forests, Tourism in Virginia
    Virginia Places