Wishing We Could Be California

Right now, there are three amusement park projects going on around Arizona: a Wild West-themed one in Williams, a rock and roll-themed one in Eloy, and an environmentalist one in Florence. One of these projects, however, is not like the others.

The Williams theme park is seeking $500 million in tax-free bonds from Coconino County and the Eloy project is after $750 million. Both are being very secretive about their plans and both are making big promises about the return to their respective regions.

The Florence effort, on the other hand, is taking an unusual route: private funding. According to their site, “the group isn’t asking for the government’s help in the form of tax dollars, but hopes to build the park from private fund raising, investments and sponsorships.” It’s truly a sad state of affairs when raising money yourself in abnormal and seeking a government handout for your pet project is acceptable.

Amusement parks in Arizona are generally a bad idea. The population best able to support a theme park is metropolitan Phoenix and the season when business booms for a theme park is the summer when kids are out of school. But Phoenix in the summer is brutal: imagine waiting in line for a ride outside when the temperature is 117°! And the two-hour drive from Phoenix or Tucson is just long enough to make it not worthwhile except for an occasional treat. (There once was an amusement park inside Phoenix called Legend City and it was just proximate enough to cling desperately to life for nearly 30 years. I went there as a child and the heat was unbearable, so we’d always go at night—further reducing the viability.)

If the backers of these projects want to test out their ideas, they should do it with their own investors. While seeking government security mitigates the risk of the venture, it trounces on the idea that government exists to protect individual rights. Government has no business getting involved in business—the taxpayer’s wallet is not the ultimate venture capital fund.

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