Coming soon to Zoo Miami: Manny the Mammoth Meets T. Rex?
Miami-Dade County’s unusual request for ideas to develop 120 acres of vacant land around its biggest attraction has drawn two very different proposals.
The operators of a German dinosaur park that’s populated by life-sized, accurate replicas of prehistoric animals want to build the same at the zoo. It’s no Jurassic Park, though. The Dinosaur Open Air Museum Miami would tell the story of the rise and fall of the dinosaur along a two-mile trail detailing “the evolution of vertebrate life through geological time” — a prequel of sorts to Zoo Miami’s living animals.
And 20th Century Fox, the Hollywood movie and TV giant, wants to build Miami Wilds, its own near-$1 billion version of Universal Studios, complete with Ice Age-themed rides (yes, there would be snow) a resort hotel, a water park, a retail and entertainment district, a daily samba parade inspired by Rio, exploding volcanoes, and rides through the sinking Titanic and the entrails of the Nostromo, the seriously disturbing spaceship from Alien.
The $15 million dino park would be far more modestly scaled, and focused on “actual science’’ and education, the company’s proposal says. It would even have a staff paleontologist. And, no, the dinos won’t be chasing anyone down a Jurassic river (that one’s in Orlando). Its 250 dinosaurs would be made of weather-resistant, fiberglass-reinforced resin, and decidedly non-moving.
The German company, Dinosaurier-Park International, will make a formal public presentation to the county on Monday, following a presentation by Fox last month.
Right now, no one involved is talking. The proposals, submitted in response to a public invitation by the county nine months ago, are under a so-called cone of silence, designed to bar lobbying during consideration.
But Fox executives told county officials last month that their proposed attraction would bring “substantial’’ economic benefits to the county, draw millions of visitors from around the world, boost attendance at the zoo and its little-known companion, the Gold Coast Railroad Museum, and provide a family-friendly commercial and entertainment center for South Miami-Dade on a par with South Beach.
“That’s what’s being built here, a true destination, a world-class theme park,’’ Fox executive Greg Lombardo told the evaluation committee.
This marks the county’s second attempt at redeveloping its zoo properties. An earlier attempt, in 2009, foundered after drawing two responses officials deemed unfeasible.
An evaluation team will make recommendations to Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, maybe by the end of the year, said Miami-Dade Commissioner Dennis Moss, whose district includes a large stretch of South Miami-Dade and who has long pushed for a resort-type park at the zoo property. Moss said he could not comment further, citing the cone of silence.
Under the terms of the invitation, the county could pick either proposal or do nothing. It could also select both, since there may be ample space to accommodate the two attractions. The land being made available includes the zoo’s vast parking lots and land along the main drive into the attraction, including parcels on Southwest 152nd Street.