Demolition crews arrived on Friday to begin the work of dismantling an Orlando-area theme park where millions visited to hear a message of hope.
For nearly two decades, The Holy Land Experience welcomed guests and tourists in the Orlando area through its gates. Located just off I-4 at Conroy Road in Orlando, the Bible-themed park could be seen from the interstate and was an established member of Central Florida’s bustling massive theme park district and offered an experience unlike any other in Florida.
While Disney World, Universal Studios, SeaWorld Orlando, and others offered visitors interactive attractions and heart-pounding rides, The Holy Land Experience offered guests a heart-changing message of hope and peace.
The Bible-themed family park featured reenactments of Jesus’s resurrection, a scale miniature model of the city of Jerusalem in the first century, the Scriptorium Museum, which showcased the Van Kampen Collection of Biblical artifacts, including ancient Bible scrolls, manuscripts, and early printed editions of the Bible, as well as a replica of a Gutenberg printing press. The Holy Land Experience also featured an animatronic likeness of the 14th-century Bible translator John Wycliffe.
In 2007, Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) acquired The Holy Land Experience and began renovating the park to include the construction of the Church of All Nations auditorium, which held seating for 2,000 guests, the creation of a state-of-the-art theater in which live theatrical and musical performances took place, the development of the Smile of a Child Adventure Land area, and the construction of several restaurants, shops, and more.
The unique Holy Land-themed park was long known as a “living Biblical museum” and was touted as the most famous of the Biblical replicas in the U. S.
“The Holy Land Experience started as the brainchild of Marvin Rosenthal, a Jewish convert and ordained Baptist minister who called himself a ‘Christian Hebrew.’ Rosenthal was raised in Philadelphia and converted to Christianity after his mother, who ran a candy store, started reading the New Testament. He saw her life transformed and wanted what she had. In 1989, Rosenthal and his family moved to Florida and started the ministry Zion’s Hope. When Zion’s Hope sold some property to the state for the construction of a highway, Rosenthal was moved to invest the profits into a replication of the Holy Land, which would allow people to experience Israel as it was in Jesus’s time on earth.
‘We hope all visitors will come and see the majesty of God. Or at least go home and dust off their Bibles,’ Rosenthal told a Florida newspaper. ‘I’ve come to appreciate how helpful it is for people not only to read about some of the great truths of the Bible, but to see some of the great places, the environments, the sounds, the touches, the smells.’
In 2021, however, after 14 years of operations under TBN’s leadership and 20 years of operations in the state of Florida, the 14-acre theme park was sold to AdventHealth Services.
TBN announced the sale of the land on its website, stating, “After fourteen years of operation and millions of visitors to the park, TBN sold the property in 2021 during the COVID pandemic to Advent Health Services, whose mission is ‘To extend the healing ministry of Christ’ in order to better serve the greater Orlando area with healthcare.”
At the time of the sale, AdventHealth, which owns and operates 29 hospitals in the state of Florida, had not disclosed details about its plans for the land but did make a statement saying, in part, that the organization “will make a significant investment in redeveloping the property to bring enhanced health care services to the community.” That investment began to take physical shape on Friday afternoon at the location of The Holy Land Experience.
Demolition work is now underway at the former Holy Land Experience in Orlando. The attraction permanently closed in 2021. The property was purchased by AdventHealth, which plans to redevelop it for a new emergency room. pic.twitter.com/LyvO9D1az7
— Ashley Carter (@AshleyLCarter1) April 28, 2023
The work of tearing down the now-closed Bible-themed park began on Friday afternoon as demolition crews arrived at the location on Vineland Road in Orlando. AdventHealth now says it has plans for a medical complex to be built on the land, which the company purchased for $32 million. AdventHealth was reportedly one of many entities in the running to purchase the land from TBN in 2021.