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Ten Incredible Theme Parks That Were Never Built

by Aaron Fox
fact checked by Darci Heikkinen

With roller coasters coming in at prices well into the octuple digits and the need to purchase large swaths of land that are both located in tourist destinations but not too close to people’s homes to warrant a complaint, building an amusement park can be a costly and complicated endeavor. And these two factors are only a couple among the hundreds of roadblocks that prevent theme parks from popping up just about anywhere.

Despite that fact, however, plans for theme parks are regularly written down and announced. At the Disney parks, the “Imagineers,” or people designing the park, have what is referred to as a “Blue Sky” period where they plan without any budget or restraint in mind. More often than not, other parks across the world sometimes find themselves eternally trapped in this Blue Sky stage. This is a list covering ten incredible-sounding theme parks that never saw the light of day.

Related: 10 Ways Disney Parks Hide Things Right In Front Of You

10 Space City USA

Space City USA: Huntsville’s Lost Theme Park

Much like many of the entries on this list, many an entrepreneur had machinations to dethrone Disneyland as the theme park king. Near Huntsville, toward the northern end of Alabama, Space City USA was planned to be one such usurper. Much like Disneyland, the property would involve multiple themed lands, all tied to the general theme of time travel, and would start construction in 1965.

Guests would wander between the Old South, a Mesozoic Lost World, a futuristic Moon Colony, and the Land of Oz, which stretches the time travel motif a bit. However, the five-million-dollar price tag, coupled with a general sense of mismanagement, would prove to be too high a hurdle for Space City USA. By 1967, the project would be scrapped as the land got sold off in an auction. [1]

9 Six Flags Indiana

Old Indiana Fun Park MEMORIES 2020

Despite being one of the most successful amusement park companies, regarding the number of parks currently operating within the chain, the Six Flags corporation nevertheless gets a reputation for being the company that budgets a bit more tightly than Disney World. Nevertheless, the story of Six Flags Indiana is poignant for coming far enough along in the development phase to ship six entire roller coasters to the destination before they gave up.

In 1996, the Six Flags corporation purchased the Old Indiana Fun N Water Park after an accident earlier in the decade pressured the park to close. Six Flags would even bring in four roller coasters that they purchased from the defunct Opryland USA theme park. The roller coasters would never be rebuilt, however. This is speculated to be most likely because Six Flags had a habit of overspending throughout the nineties, and the Indiana site was eventually deemed too poor an investment.[2]

8 Wonderland Amusement Park

Abandoned – Wonderland Amusement Park

The capital of China itself, Beijing, is where this next failed venture met with its foibles, or more specifically, the Chenzhuang village of Beijing’s suburbs. Wonderland Amusement Park started a small amount of construction in 1998 and wanted to rival Disneyland before the corporation tried to build its own park in China. Wonderland even attempted to build its own castle motif as its centerpiece, and eerie photographs show that the structure was even half-built.

The project was halted due to a lack of funding, though even if more money were to come in, Disney would end up sweeping in and planning a park in Hong Kong in 1999, completely eradicating any hope that Wonderland would meet with success. As a result, the 120-acre piece of land would be left to naught but the urban explorers, filled with incomplete structures and imposing, empty faux castle battlements.[3]

7 KISS World

Photo credit: Nashville69 / Wikimedia Commons

In 1973, the NYC hair metal superstar band named KISS was conceived, and by 1977, the group had already put out six different highly successful albums. Naturally, the group’s lead singer, Gene Simmons, wanted to pounce on their success and try out a different business pursuit: the theme park industry. Unlike other entries on this list, the band wanted to operate a touring amusement park, much like a traveling fair, instead of using a static location, and the brainstorming began around 1978.

Named KISS World, the project would never come off the drawing board. This is mostly due to the fact that the band’s popularity began to severely diminish in 1979, as showcased by the decline of their concert tour attendance. The management also came to the conclusion that an amusement park would be too steep a price for a single rock band to tackle alone.[4]

6 Charlie Daniels Western World and Theme Park

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Famous country singer Dolly Parton was able to successfully build a thriving theme park in her hometown of Pigeon Forge, TN, in 1961, where it operates to this day. Enter Charlie Daniels, another prolific country star who vied to build his own amusement park down in Florida. He teamed up with stockbroker Michael Vandiver in hopes of building something that was big enough to rival Disney World itself. Much like KISS World, Charlie Daniels Western World and Theme Park would never break ground.

Just north of Tampa, the community of Saddlebrook was where this amusement park would find itself located. Themed off of the “Wild, Wild West,” Daniels’s original plans threw out a traditional theme park ride selection in favor of attractions such as a rodeo, a 36-hole golf course, and dinner theaters, though a wooden roller coaster was in the works. Though the park was planned to open in 1997, the price, coupled with pressure from Saddlebrook residents, caused this theme park to lose its proverbial quick draw against Disney.[5]

5 Six Flags Florida

What If Six Flags Makes a Park in Florida?

With Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, SeaWorld, and Busch Garden finding great success in the Sunshine State, the Six Flags company also wanted to try its hand in the secure-looking market. Rumors that the underdog theme park chain would open a park in Orlando have circulated since the ’80s. Although outside of a south Florida water park and a wax museum basically in SeaWorld’s backyard, the Six Flags chain never purchased any large-scale property.

Though official statements were never made regarding plans to build a park, the company had hinted at such a project ever since the company built similar parks in Georgia. The company’s modus operandi of purchasing independent parks even made it seem as though they’d purchase the defunct Orlando Boardwalk and Baseball theme park in 2018, though many suspect that the company’s repeated bankruptcies, coupled with a tricky global economic theater, rendered such plans as totally theoretical.[6]

4 Disney WestCOT

Historyland – Disney’s WestCOT

In 2001, Disneyland in Anaheim, California, opened up its second theme park on the property; Disney’s California Adventure. Before planning on theming a location based off of the Golden State, however, the Disney corporation originally drafted plans to co-opt Disney World’s EPCOT over to the west coast. Named WestCOT, the park was going to shy away from the original Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow’s utopian future concept and lean into the celebration of nations found in EPCOT’s World Showcase.

The geodesic dome would be replaced with a larger, golden dome encased in metal, and far more countries would be added to the park’s lineup than its Floridan sibling. High prices were an enormous obstacle, especially after Disney’s other lackluster projects in the ’90s drained the budget, and the enormous park would be a massive thorn in the side of Anaheim city planners. As a compromise, the smaller California Adventure would be built, though it was initially critically panned for appearing very cheap.[7]

3 Multiple Parks in Dubai

Dubailand: Dubai’s Crazy $63 Billion Theme Park

Six Flags attempted to make it big in Dubai. Universal parks tried their luck. Even the Disney corporation itself bandied about the idea. But sadly, these three parks, among others, would never be completed in the UAE’s biggest city. The project that saw the most progress ended up being Universal Studios Dubailand, which ended up purchasing and breaking ground in 2008. Sadly, though, the theme park would endure construction purgatory until it was finally given the sweet release of death in 2016.

The park would feature many of the same attractions as its predecessor in Florida. Also, it would allegedly add enough rides to double the size of the entire Walt Disney World resort, in addition to adding the world’s largest mall. This project, along with the others, was snuffed out by the global recession that started in 2008. Six Flags Dubai didn’t even make it to 2010, though there are talks of the Six Flags chain trying its luck on the Arabian Peninsula once more in Qiddiya.[8]

2 The Battersea

An Old Power Station That’s Now A Luxury Shopping Mall!

Fans of the British prog rock band Pink Floyd would probably first recognize the massive decommissioned Battersea Power Plant factory complex in West London as the building on the cover of their 1997 album Animals. But music was far from the only form of entertainment planned for the building. In 1987, John Broome, the owner of the Alton Towers amusement park, purchased the building in the hopes of constructing the most ambitious indoor amusement park project of all time.

Plans were in motion for a massive mine train roller coaster, the world’s largest aquarium, and a plethora of flat rides to be built. Despite its many doubters, the Battersea theme park project would actually find itself completely funded. The indoor park would meet with a far different problem, however. The poor structural integrity, asbestos, and other construction problems quelled the more ambitious aspects of the problem. Unlike other entries on this list, however, Battersea would eventually be turned into a more low-key entertainment complex that operates to this day.[9]

1 Disney America

Abandoned – Disney’s America

Disney America is easily the largest blight on Disney’s theme park resume. Those familiar with Disney’s late 20th-century history are already familiar with Michael Eisner, Disney’s CEO at the time, who saw projects such as EuroDisney and the aforementioned California Adventure, go quite catastrophically. First announced in 1993 and located in Haymarket, Virginia, Disney’s America would be the USA’s third Disney destination and perhaps Michael Eisner’s biggest overall failure.

The park’s focus was on American history, as opposed to being themed after the original Disneyland, and would feature lands based on historical periods from the Revolutionary War, Civil War, and even a 1940’s state fair. The park’s failure was derived from severe backlash from Virginian residents, especially from Civil War historians who feared that local battlefields would become damaged. Intense anti-Disney lobbying, coupled with the death of important Disney higher-up Frank Wells sealed Disney America’s fate by 1994.[10]

fact checked by Darci Heikkinen