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Dinosaur park promises mega fun

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

PATSY OLIVER

The expansive 150-acre dinosaur park, set to come to New Caney in mid-2010 if all goes as planned, promises to deliver fun for the entire family.

Since the demise of Astroworld has left some in the area hungry for a theme park, this new venture cannot come a moment too soon.

Andy Dill, president of the Community Chamber of Commerce of East Montgomery County, spoke to the Kingwood Realtor Advisory Board Feb. 14 about growth in East Montgomery County.

Dill said that although his portion of the county is often forgotten as part of Montgomery County as a whole, growth there is tremendous, and getting the dinosaur park is remarkable.

Dill explained that 68 cities and 29 states submitted proposals for the park, and New Caney was the developer's top pick. Dill explained that the man behind the park, Don Lessem, said that the East Montgomery County Improvement District's commitment to education was a deciding factor. Each year, EMCID awards $1,000 scholarships to all district residents who graduate from high school or earn GEDs, regardless of their age.

Lessem is a renowned paleontologist and consultant for the movie “Jurassic Park.” Dill said that education is of the utmost importance to Lessem, and that the new theme park will provide many opportunities for visitors, especially children, to interact and learn.

The destination has been named Earth Quest Adventures, leaving the concept open to many avenues for 'edutainment.' Dill said that visitors can expect a 4-D theater. He explained that “4-D is when everything around you is part of the deal. If a dinosaur sneezes, you're gonna get wet.”

He said that there will be a very chilly Arctic room, dinosaurs on display, and an observation station where visitors can interact with real paleontologists.

“The concept is that they would be talking live to paleontologists somewhere around the world on location at a dig site,” said Dill.

Earth Quest Adventures will be located off U.S. Highway 59 North, near FM 1485 and along Caney Creek. The first phase of the project, the $50-million museum, is set to break ground this year. An entirely green facility, the museum will have wind turbines on the roof and will generate its own electricity.

The total project is expected to include rides, a water park, a high-rise hotel and conference center, and more. It is anticipated to provide more than 2,700 jobs, plus thousands of construction jobs, and draw about 2.5 million visitors annually. The price tag has grown to 10 times the first-reported amount.

“Phase 1 is $50 million,” said Dill. “The project is now somewhere north of $500 million.”

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