Mounds of rock and rubble are all that remain where once a vibrant and bustling Orlando theme park recently stood.
Orlando, Florida, has served as a veritable mecca for visitors and tourists from around the world for decades, and the influx of travelers, both domestic and international, can largely be credited to Walt Disney and his decision more than 60 years ago to build his second family theme park resort amongst the tens of thousands of acres of swampy lowlands in Central Florida.
When Disney arrived in the Orlando area in the early 1960s, the city wasn’t anything like the vibrant, hotel- and amusement park-packed tourist destination it is today.
Because of Disney’s success in the Orlando area, other theme park owners followed suit, choosing to build in the same general area. Universal Studios Orlando Resort, Legoland Resort, SeaWorld Orlando, and others now populate the Orlando area.
And while the Walt Disney World Resort takes the prize as the largest theme park resort in the area with the most visitors annually, another theme park in Orlando did something none of the others could.
The Holy Land Experience
Rather than offering visitors an experience bent on magic, movies, minions, and mayhem, like its counterparts, the Holy Land Experience in Orlando offered an experience with a message–one of hope. For nearly 20 years, the Holy Land Experience theme park, located just off I-4 at Conroy Road in Orlando, welcomed guests through its gates to experience several themed lands, each one inspired by events chronicled by the Bible.
The park could be seen from the interstate and was an established member of Central Florida’s bustling massive theme park district. But 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.
Advent Health Services Steps In
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 land had sold, 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.”
The Holy Land Experience Demolition
On April 28, 2023, demolition crews arrived to begin dismantling and demolishing the now-closed theme park, which included several large structures, including the massive coliseum called “The Church for All Nations,” which could be seen from the interstate.
One of the last structures to be removed was the coliseum. The photo below, dated May 31, 2023, shows the partial demolition of the coliseum.
As the demolition project is extremely complex, work on the project continues, though from photos of the demolition’s progress, the project looks to be nearing completion.
In June 2023, the massive coliseum, which sat more than 2,000 people, was finally taken down, as seen in the photo below, leaving a huge void where the iconic structure once stood as a beacon to visitors in the city.
Advent Health Millenia Project
Advent Health is building a brand-new medical facility where the Holy Land Experience once stood. Construction started in September 2023 and continues into the new year.
The project, called “Advent Health Millenia,” with a description including:
“The project will be constructed in two (2) phases. The Phase 1 improvements will consist of a 4-story, 80,000 square foot building with associated parking, helipad, and the master infrastructure to serve future phases of the hospital. The proposed uses per floor are as follows: first floor will consist of a 2,000 square foot generator building and a 20,000 square foot Offsite Emergency Department (OSED), second floor a 20,000 square foot Medical Office, and a third and fourth floor at 19,000 square feet each consisting of either medical office or ambulatory surgical center. The existing stormwater management system will remain and is proposed to be used for the Phase 1 improvements. The future Phase 2 development is anticipated to contain a 5-story, 261,500 square foot hospital use.”
As always, we will continue to keep readers updated on the progress of the new Advent Health Millenia project that has replaced the iconic The Holy Land Experience.