A magical, Disney-inspired Theme Park is on its way to Oklahoma, thanks to former Disney Imagineers.
Rumors are constantly swirling regarding the relocation of Walt Disney World out of the state of Florida. Due to well covered political disagreement between Disney and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, many have speculated and rumored that Disney is actively considering moving Disney World Resort. Although this isn’t likely, it isn’t stopping others from building new Theme Parks across the country. As Florida remains the central hub for Theme Parks, other states are breaking into the market by creating their versions of popular vacation destinations in Orlando. We’ve seen Disneyland-style Parks pop up in states like Arizona. Now, Oklahoma is the latest to announce a new Disney-style Park.
Disney is Americana
Very few things are more American than Disney. Walt Disney greatly admired and loved his country, and it reflected well throughout his Theme Park designs. Walt grew up in the small town of Marceline, Missouri. Main Street USA at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland directly reflects his hometown and familiar squares throughout the country. Disney Imagineers designed many of the visual stimuli around Disney Parks with Disney’s love for his country. These details can be seen at Disneyland Resort, Walt Disney World, and other Disney vacation spots.
Since its successful induction into American culture, Disney has become synonymous with the American Dream. Hence many famous athletes declared they were “going to Disney World” after winning championships. The branding of America to fit in a Theme Park just feels perfect. Although Florida and California are great fits for Disney Parks. However, midwest states such as Oklahoma are the lifeblood of a country that relies heavily on agriculture, its a suitable place to celebrate our great country.
America’s Heartland: The Sooner State is Getting a New Park
Get ready all you Sooner and Cowboys fans. Although not a new Disney park, that same love of “love for America” will find a new home as Oklahoma will soon build a 1000-acre, $2 billion Theme Park and Resort. American Heartland Theme Park and Resort will sit on Route 66 just a few miles west of Grand Lake, Oklahoma. In the latest news, an announcement was made earlier today as American Heartland executives sat with local and state officials to reveal the new plan.
“We are thrilled to make Oklahoma the home of American Heartland Theme Park and Resort,” American Heartland CEO Larry Wilhite said. “At the crossroads of the heartland, Oklahoma is an attractive location for a family entertainment destination. The state’s business-friendly approach and innovative partnership efforts have helped make this possible. We look forward to bringing unforgettable generational experiences to Oklahoma.” -buisnesswire.com
The New Disney-Style Park Will Be a Huge Draw For Business
As the new Theme Park will rival those like Magic Kingdom and Disneyland in size, Oklahomians should be excitied for the upcoming addition. We don’t expect the Park to match the loyalty of Disney attractions like Splash Mountain or Star Wars related rides. However, it’s sure to be welcomed with open arms, as well as provide a new Disney Park feel for the area.
A 125-acre theme park is set to open in northeast Oklahoma in 2026, American Heartland Theme Park officials announced Wednesday. The "Americana-themed" park is being designed by a team that "includes 20+ former Disney parks builders and Imagineers." pic.twitter.com/tESG0JxQna
— Scott Gustin (@ScottGustin) July 19, 2023
The new entertainment venue will feature a 125-acre American-themed Park that will equal the size of the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. That’s roughly the size of Disneyland Resort. The family-friendly Park will include thrill ride attractions, family-oriented entertainment, live shows, and high-quality restaurants. The new Park will also have several high-profile shopping options similar to Disney Springs. Sitting adjacent to a 320-acre RV Park and campground, officials insist that the location for the newest American Theme Park is nothing short of perfect.
“There’s no better place to represent the heart of America than northeast Oklahoma,” said Oklahoma State Sen. Micheal Bergstrom. “This $2 billion investment in our state will create more than 4,000 jobs and introduce a new category of entertainment to the region, and its long-term economic impact will be transformative. Tourism is already one of Oklahoma’s top industries and this project will elevate our state even further. Since tourism is a doorway to economic development, American Heartland Theme Park and Resort will draw new businesses not only to the surrounding area but also throughout the region and state.” -buisnesswire.com
Disney’s Connection to American Heartland
If the idea of American Heartland sounds familiar to you, there’s a good reason. A new Disney Park was to be built in Virginia during the early 1990s. During Disney’s booming heyday, frontman Michael Eisner was close to creating an American history-themed Park in Haymarket, Virginia. This idea eventually fizzled out over concerns of the Park’s size (being about the same as Magic Kingdom). In addition, locals feared it would have negative influence on the capitol’s tourism. The new Disney Park, Disney’s America never came to fruition, as it was met with severe opposition from bigwigs in Washington, D.C. However, it feels that American Heartland will bring a similar idea, celebrating the United States of America, to Oklahoma. And they’ll do it with a team of over twenty-plus Walt Disney Imagineers.
American Heartland employs several former Disney Imagineers that helped to design the Disney Parks we are familiar with. Design firms THG, FORREC, and Cuningham will head up the construction of America’s newest Theme Park. Interestingly, their portfolio includes work for other popular entertainment brands such as Six Flags, Universal Studios, and Disney Parks. Building on an old Disney idea, as well as employing some of the minds that have brought Disney Parks to life, the $2 billion won’t just promote tourism for Oklahoma. It will also create over 4,000 new jobs.
How Does Disney Compete With a New Theme Park
As Disney Guests continue to wait for information regarding a potential new Disney Park, they can rest easy as the Theme Park industry seems to be doing very well. Well enough to build a huge new Park that will rival Magic Kingdom or Universal Parks in the middle of the United States. This could mean that Disney’s consideration of building a fifth Park goes beyond hearsay. Although, Walt Disney World Resort will always be our home, we may have to take a trip north of Texas to check this one once it’s open. Even if they don’t have the strong intellectual properties to base rides on like Star Wars and Toy Story, America is the theme that started the Theme Park industry, and it should do rather well.
It’s important to note that Oklahoma’s newest Theme Park will not be a conglomerate like Disney World containing Animal Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, etc. There’s really no competition here for Disney, but as fans have been lobbying for a fifth Park for quite some time, it clearly indicates that new Theme Parks, expensive ones, are still in high demand. With Universal Studios set to open Epic Universe next year and look-a-like Parks popping up all over the country, considering the fan perspective of higher prices for less than “Disney standard” at Disney World, these types of businesses could start pulling some clientele away from the entertainment giant. This is especially true if they open their own version of Splash Mountain.
American Heartland will open in Vinita in 2026.