Roswell may cash in on fame with UFO theme park

Associated Press/May 25, 2007
By Tim Korte

Roswell, New Mexico -- It could happen only in Roswell. City officials want to help build a UFO-themed amusement park, complete with an indoor roller coaster that would take passengers on a simulated alien abduction.

"Nobody will be harmed and everybody will be returned, hopefully, in the same shape," concept designer Bryan Temmer said Friday.

The park could open as early as 2010. The city has received a $245,000 legislative appropriation for initial planning but the park would be privately built and managed. Requests for proposals will be advertised next month.

City Planner Zach Montgomery said the project will cost "several hundred millions of dollars," but a more accurate figure hasn't been determined.

A roller coaster similar to the one proposed by Temmer is currently under construction at another theme park for almost $100 million, Montgomery said.

The proposed park, dubbed the Alien Apex Resort, initially will cover 60 to 80 acres with room to expand to 150 acres. It will feature other rides and attractions, including an exhibit hall with information on scientific exploration of the universe.

"Definitely, there will be a part of the park devoted to space exploration," Temmer said.

"It's not just about the Roswell Incident and did it happen?"

The Roswell Incident, of course, has brought the southeastern New Mexico city worldwide acclaim. It centers on a purported UFO crash on a nearby ranch in July 1947, which the military later claimed was a top-secret weather balloon.

Temmer, of Land O' Lakes, Fla., pitched the Alien Apex concept to city leaders two years ago. He describes himself as a fan of theme parks and a science fiction buff, saying the Roswell idea was a natural for him.

"I knew there was only one place on the planet, probably in the universe, where this idea would work," he said.

Montgomery said the city is considering six potential sites but declined to identify them, other than to say each is within city limits or could be annexed. He also wouldn't name potential operators.

"At least four major corporations have been approached and all of them are excited about this project," he said. "Everyone would probably know and recognize the names of these major corporations."

Roswell has been cashing in on the UFO craze for years. Paintings and replicas of UFOs and space aliens adorn several downtown businesses, and even the McDonald's and Wal-Mart are UFO- and space-themed.

The theme park would take that concept to another level, one that some business owners believe is necessary to keep tourists returning.

Sharon Welz is a co-owner of the Roswell Space Center, a T-shirt and souvenir shop just off Main Street. She said visitors often complain they'd like to see and do more during trips to the town of about 50,000.

"We would welcome something like an alien roller coaster or a theme park, absolutely," she said. "How can it hurt us? It would help everybody all the way around if there was something bigger to bring more people in."

Montgomery agrees, saying the top complaint by tourists during the city's annual UFO festival each summer is that there's not enough to do.

The town's biggest tourism attraction is the International UFO Museum and Research Center, which has drawn 2.5 million visitors since opening in 1992.

"We're still in the infancy of our UFO-related economic development," Montgomery said.

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