by: Josh Meny
(JAMESTOWN, ND) — Tourism is the state’s third-largest industry, and one 501c3 organization is aiming to bring it to a whole new level using North Dakota’s Legacy Fund.
The goal is to promote and drive tourism in the state using one of North Dakota’s most iconic natural resources.
On Wednesday, Robert McTyre, founder of Apogee Attractions and former Walt Disney Attractions executive, presented a comprehensive plan for the proposed destination attraction in Jamestown, known as Bison World.
To view a concept outline of the Bison World project, download the document below:
“It is not an amusement park, and it is not a typical theme park,” said McTyre.
The Bison World team calls it a cultural attraction for all ages of the family.
“Yes it will be entertaining, yes it will be fun, but it’s also to educate the public about the bison, about conservation and preservation of the bison. So, it’s both things combined. It’s a fun time for the family but they’re also going to learn something too,” explained McTyre.
Bison World will have no land costs because it will be built on 120 acres of state-owned land, and located right off of I-94.
“Thousands and thousands of vehicles that come by. People that are headed west for Yellowstone, for the Badlands, and all that. And, we want to capture those people, which we believe we can, and get them off of the freeway,” said McTyre.
The idea is that Bison World will be a tourism gateway to promote and drive other tourism activities and businesses in the state.
“We expect you to come here and be entertained and say wow that was great honey, let’s go see Medora because that’s the way things work. We are not in the business of taking away from other tourist places. We are in the business of enhancing them along with ourselves,” explained McTyre.
Another important element to Bison World will be sharing the deep cultural and spiritual connection between Native Americans and bison going back thousands of years. Multiple sites will focus on topics such as the importance of bison as a protein source to sacred legends of the white buffalo.
“We’re not Native American, we have to go to them as the experts,” said McTyre.
Les Thomas is an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa and vice president of the North Dakota Native Tourism Alliance. He has been working with the project manager on design and storytelling for the multiple sections of the park devoted to Native Americans.
“We have been meeting with them to become an endorsement for the project. So, as long as there is back and forth, common ground is found, then we’ll endorse the project,” explained Thomas.
Thomas says completion of the park will truly be a win-win for all North Dakotans.
“This is a perfect opportunity for the state of North Dakota to come on board with this project and finance it because a lot of this money has never been invested in the state of North Dakota. It’s always been invested other places, overseas, well why not invest something here in North Dakota, in its own people, and especially if we are going to collaborate and become partners.”
Other elements of the park include a zip line, getting up close with bison, virtual exhibits and an amphitheater.
So, how will it be paid for?
The Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corporation (JSDC) authorized $600,000 to complete the planning, and the North Dakota Department of Tourism recently granted $400,000 to the Bison World Fund.
Plus, there will be no local or state taxes used for the project, and as we’ve said it would be built on state-owned land.
And, financial forecasts show an annual return of $6-8 million a year, exceeding the rate of investments for the Legacy Fund.
The former head of the North Dakota State Hospital System and consultant Alex Schweitzer has been named President of the Bison World Fund, a non-profit that will be used to structure an investment from the state’s more than $8 billion Legacy Fund for the proposed Bison World theme park in Jamestown.
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