Disney park to combine animals, conservation theme

March 28, 1994|By Orlando Sentinel

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Walt Disney World's next theme park will mix wild animals and environmental messages with elaborate thrill rides, a detailed outline of the project shows.

The animal park planned for this central Florida city has a strong conservation theme, but its design could put competitors on the endangered species list.

The proposed combination of roller coasters, gorillas and exotic settings mirrors the tourist appeal of Tampa's Busch Gardens. And a dinosaur section of the Disney project could take a bite out of the Jurassic Park attraction planned for Universal Studios Florida.

The 500-acre park -- which could open as early as 1997 -- is detailed in a confidential video, which has been shown to small groups of tourists as part of a marketing study.

Although insiders caution that the park's design is constantly being revised at Walt Disney Imagineering in California -- with some attractions thrown out since the summer and others added -- the basic concepts remain the same.

Disney spokesman Greg Albrecht would only say, "We've made no decision to announce a fourth theme park, and we are still looking at all different options."

Rick Barongi, a former director at the acclaimed San Diego Zoo, was hired recently to work on the project. And Disney has already contacted zoos about participating in the "Species Survival Plans" for some endangered animals, according to coordinators of such programs.

The Walt Disney Co. also is involved in preliminary talks with the Baltimore Orioles to build a spring-training complex at Disney World. The project could be ready by 1997.

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