Disney to build Philadelphia theme park 'DisneyQuest' to be centerpiece of Market St. development

December 10, 1998|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN STAFF

With urban entertainment projects open or on the drawing boards for New York and Baltimore, Disney Regional Entertainment announced plans yesterday to make Philadelphia the site for its next East Coast development, an indoor, interactive theme park called "DisneyQuest."

The five-story, 80,000-square-foot project is a family oriented attraction that will use virtual reality and other cutting-edge technologies.

Philadelphia is the second metropolitan setting chosen for a DisneyQuest, after Chicago, where a similar attraction is scheduled to open next summer. The first DisneyQuest opened in June at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla.

Philadelphia's DisneyQuest will be the centerpiece for a block-long, $150 million development on Market Street East that will also include a movie theater, health club, parking garage and more retail space. It will rise on land formerly occupied by a Gimbel's department store. Disney will be a tenant of the project, called Pavilion at Market East, and the developer will be the Goldenberg Group.

Disney Regional Entertainment, a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Co., was established in 1996 to develop breakthrough entertainment concepts for metropolitan and suburban markets in the United States and abroad, capitalizing on Disney's creative in-house talents and the popularity of Disney and its affiliated brands.

At DisneyQuest, visitors can climb aboard a river raft and shoot the rapids in a "Virtual Jungle Cruise," ride a roller coaster of their own design on "CyberSpace Mountain," fly through the streets of Agrabah on "Aladdin's Magic Carpet Ride" or go on other adventures.

Two other Disney Regional Entertainment concepts are ESPN Zone, a sports-themed dining and entertainment venue that opened in the Inner Harbor during the summer and will open in Chicago and New York City next year; and Club Disney, family "playsites" in Southern California and coming next year to the Phoenix and Denver areas.

Disney also has been involved in one-of-a-kind attractions, such as restoration of the New Amsterdam theater in New York's Times Square district and exhibit design for the Port Discovery children's museum that will open this month in Baltimore.

Philadelphia is the nation's fifth-largest city and draws an estimated 20 million visitors a year. Disney Regional Entertainment President Art Levitt said Disney selected Philadelphia because it has been impressed by the business and tourist momentum there and by Mayor Ed Rendell's efforts to create "a world class city for arts, entertainment, sports and tourism."

Disney officials say Philadelphia's selection does not rule out the possibility that Disney may build a Baltimore DisneyQuest, although the company has no plans for one.

Lang said Disney officials believe that there may be a market for 15 to 20 DisneyQuest facilities in major markets around the country and that they evaluate opportunities as they arise.

Pub Date: 12/10/98

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