The Army shot down a developer’s proposal Tuesday to build a military theme park on a Virginia Army base that would feature rides that allow visitors to “command the latest M-1 tank” and “feel the rush of a paratrooper free fall.”
A Florida developer wanted to erect the theme park at Fort Belvoir, a few miles from the nation’s capital, in conjunction with plans for a new National Museum of the United States Army scheduled to be built at the base by 2011.
“That proposal ... was dead on arrival, and will be dead on arrival if resubmitted,” said Keith Eastin, the Army’s assistant secretary for installations and environment.
Eastin said the Army is willing to consider some type of “visitor destination concept” to go with the museum, but it would have to be done “in a tasteful and appropriate manner.”
The proposal drew sharp criticism from local officials who worried not only about the traffic in a region already on the verge of gridlock, but also that a theme park would make a mockery of the Army experience.
“How do you handle war? You don’t trivialize it. It’s the most serious engagement,” said Fairfax County Supervisor Gerald Hyland, a retired Air Force colonel whose district includes most of Fort Belvoir. “I kind of hold my breath that you could do that and have it appeal from an entertainment perspective and at the same time respect the history of the Army.”
Orlando, Fla.-based developer Universal City Property Management, which is unaffiliated with Universal Studios, drew up a 14-page proposal back in 2004 for a museum complex that would “put you in an interactive world where you’ll feel firsthand what it’s like to defend American freedom.” Visitors would be able to “live the greatest battles of all time in a multi-sensory 4-D presentation.”
The developer did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday.
In the 1990s, Disney proposed a history-theme amusement park in neighboring Prince William County. That plan also ran into strong opposition from historians and environmentalists, and Disney backed down.