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All Things Michigan

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Will a Grayling amusement park take the state for a ride?

Andrew Norton

Back in July of 2006 I wrote about a possible amusement park being built in Grayling. I found an interesting article written by Diane S. Katz and James M. Hohman for the Mackinaw Center for Public Policy that debates the merits of our state subsidizing such things as amusement parks. Axiom Entertainment, the force behind the proposed amusement park, is seeking $25 million in infrastructure improvements from the state. For your viewing pleasure, take a look at their breakdown of Michigan's crummy track record with subsidizing entertainment venues:

  • Some $35 million in local, state and federal funds was invested in Auto World, a seven-acre theme park in downtown Flint. The park, which opened in 1984, was supposed to draw 900,000 visitors annually and revive the beleaguered city. It closed after only two years.
  • Construction of Cereal City USA, in downtown Battle Creek, was made possible by a loan of $900,000 from the state that was secured by the city. The attraction, which opened in 1998, was billed as "a land of wonderful, interactive experiences and entertainment for the entire family, as they explore the birth, development and global impact of the cereal industry." Officials estimated that the park would draw 400,000 visitors annually, but it was shuttered in January 2007 after years of dismal attendance.
  • The Kalamazoo Aviation History Museum secured a $3 million state grant to launch construction of an aviation theme park. The attraction was touted as "a centerpiece for economic development and tourism in southwestern Michigan," and local officials hoped that the state would finance half of the $80 million construction cost. A 25 percent hike in the local hotel tax also was considered. Ultimately, the grant money was returned to the state after the project was scaled back for lack of support.
  • The city of Pontiac invested $55.7 million to build the Silverdome in 1975. The Detroit Lions relocated to Detroit’s Ford Field in 2002. Although the team paid the city $26 million for breaking its contract, Pontiac continues to incur a hefty deficit in maintaining the 127-acre site.

Our state doesn't have the funds to be throwing money around subsidizing entertainment venues that in reality produce very few actual jobs. If state lawmakers are truly looking for areas in the state budget to make cuts - this should be one of them.

Read the very interesting article in it's entirety at