Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Multimillion-dollar adventure park set to become destination point

By Sharon Haddock, For the Deseret News

Published: Wed, May 28 9:19 p.m. MDT

 Part of the model of the adventure park \

Part of the model of the adventure park "Evermore" that is anticipated to open in Pleasant Grove in 2015-16.

(Curtis Hickman, Evermore Park)

LINDON — This isn't the first time Ken Bretschneider has turned a dream into a reality.

He's already successfully launched two businesses and made enough money to invest in what he he believes will be "the world's first true adventure park."

To be located on 45 acres at about 1740 W. 700 South, off I-15 in Pleasant Grove, "Evermore" is to be a combination fantasy land and adventure park, staffed by professional actors who will help visitors immerse themselves into stories, mystery and magic.

"We know people are very excited about this idea," Bretschneider said. "We're excited. This will be something unique."

Bretschneider and his planning staff of 11, including Patrick Kendall as the lead concept artist; Jordan Colton, project coordinator; Curtis Hickman, director; and Cory Clawson, master sculptor; are currently working around the clock on turning their ideas into reality.

They're focusing on an opening date next summer for the first phase of the project.

"The city is aware of and planning for this. We've reviewed a concept plan. We are waiting for the site plan," said Ken Young, community development director for Pleasant Grove.

In a work session where city planners reviewed Bretschneider's proposal, Pleasant Grove Mayor Mike Daniels said the park will likely attract additional businesses and venues to the city. Council members said it's an exciting project for Pleasant Grove.

"We're dead serious about this," Hickman said. "This is going to happen."

Hickman said the plans for the first phase include an active town square for concerts, theme shops and entertainment, three unique restaurants, a three-acre man-made lake with a wrecked ghost ship attraction, dory boats and canoes, lush gardens with fantastical sculptures, a "Fairy Quest" forest, a castle and an old church with catacombs.

Phases two and three will incorporate a multi-level hotel and theater that can feature major productions, even a Cirque de Solei-type show as well as a variety of additional attractions, including caves, a splash pad and a mermaid/dive pool.

He said eventually the park will employ upwards of 700 people as village actors and staff.

"Essentially, every person involved will be an actor, always in character," Hickman said. "One cool thing, we'll have lots of illusions, audio-visual effects, high-end costuming and makeup and human puppetry all designed to suspend belief."

During the fall, the park will become a Halloween attraction with several major haunts and in the winter, Evermore will become a lighted fantasy Christmas spectacular, including a Dickens-style festival in the town square with an old-fashioned ice skating rink, Bretschneider said.

"We plan to have millions of Christmas lights," Bretschneider said.

Bretschneider said he's already invested and committed nearly $20 million toward the park. Additional capital is being raised through a sale of private equity, including the proposed hotel, he said, estimating the total project coming in at $170 million.

Bretschneider said he hopes to have something more than an amusement park with rides. He envisions three major "seasons" for the park: a summer fest featuring "The Carnival of Wonders," an autumn fest featuring "Ripper's Cove," and a winter fest featuring "An Evermore Christmas."

"We're thinking way outside the box. It's not typical. Everything has a fantasy twist," Bretschneider said. "There are so many facets, lots of different things happening. I believe so much in the project.

"There will be many secret passages and places to explore, including a Sherlock Holmes' adventure in the Old Town section during our summer fest season.

"There will be hundreds of unique events happening at the park throughout the year. I have so much personally invested both financially and emotionally into Evermore that failure is not an option to me. Evermore Adventure Park is going to present a unique form of immersive entertainment for all to enjoy in Utah and further, I believe will reach a worldwide audience."

Bretschneider said he expects to break ground on the park on Aug. 1 this summer and open Phase One in the summer of 2015.

"This will have a grand impact on the state of Utah. We're creating an old European village in Utah. We are bringing in antiques from Europe so we'll have the real thing."

He anticipates drawing crowds of up to 30,000-40,000 in a single evening for a major event and a daily average attendance of between 4,000-6,000.

"We want people to come in and step back in time," he said. "If you combined the experience of a real-time 3D video game with a Broadway level production all set in a magical old European village on 45 acres, that's 'Evermore.’ ”

"It's all about story," Hickman said.

Bretschneider said, "It'll be almost like living in a movie. It will play off your imagination."

"Evermore" was introduced at this year's Comic Con event in Salt Lake City in April.

Dan Farr, producer of Comic Con, said he thinks the park will play off the area's high percentage of creative thinkers in a big way.

"I love it. I'm all for it," Farr said. "I'm just blown away with the idea."

Farr said he knows Bretschneider's reputation for success and believes he can create a high-quality, Disneyland-quality experience.

"He's a big thinker, that's what's fun," Farr said. "When he gets it done, we'll probably have some (Comic Con) parties and events there."

Bretschneider is known for creating a successful Utah tech company called DigiCert in 2003 and a cause-based business call People Water in 2011. He was nominated and became a finalist for Entrepreneur of the Year in 2012.

Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with more than 35 years' experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.

Email: haddoc@deseretnews.com

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1. Dan Maloy
Enid, OK,
May 28, 2014

Now THIS would be cool!

Teh best part, in my opinion, is the ghost pirate ship. When I was a kid my brothers and I spend hours and hours and h-o-u-r-s jumping on our trampoline in Phoenix, AZ as we made up and acted out stories of pirates and buried treasure. We did this for years, well into our pre-teen years. Imagination is where great things always start. If this guy can capture on that idea, the idea that kids AND adults love to imagine, he'll make untold millions. Walt Disney believed in that possibility and look at what that got him.

Knowing just a little bit about how much effort it requires to go from an idea to an actual physical structure being completed, I think his timeline (summer 2015) is a little aggressive but I would ABSOLUTELY pay money to see this the next time I'm in Utah.

Dream! Imagine! Go for it!

2. samhill
Salt Lake City, UT,
May 28, 2014

"Farr said he knows Bretschneider's reputation for success and believes he can create a high-quality, Disneyland-quality experience."
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Sounds like a nifty idea and ideally situated in Utah county. One thing I hope they **won't** make like Disneyland is a sky-high entrance fee. If they can manage to build this and charge a reasonable fee to enter, I think and hope it will be a big hit.

Stimulating people's imagination outside of video games is becoming more important every day.

3. jpc53
Cottonwood Heights, UT,
May 28, 2014

How much in tax incentives is he looking for from Pleasant Grove, Utah County and the State of Utah?
I don't know what Lagoon costs for a day pass, but if they can keep the pricing in line with them, I think they have a shot at being successful.

4. Ifel Of'a-sofa
Alpine, Utah,
May 28, 2014

I don't want to seem like a downer here... but if all they are having are shops and restaurants, I am not sure I see many paying an entry fee (if they have one). They need attractions/rides. Otherwise we can just go to the Orem Adventure Park (mall) for free.

5. Kora
Cedar Hills, UT,
May 28, 2014

I think the odds of this being as big as claimed is slim to none based on past experiences. Something may be built, but it will not be as big as Disney or even Lagoon. Lucky to be as popular as Seven Peaks or Thanksgiving Point.

There are always these announced grandiose plans for theme parks or other large projects of a similar ilk, and they rarely materialize they way they are sold, if anything happens at all.
The planners usually end up struggling to get the funding because they can't show proof of concept and ability to actually make a profit, and these large projects lose money for a few years before becoming profitable if they do, and the investors need to be willing to watch and wait.

I lived in Arizona, and every few years someone comes along with these great plans to build a Six Flags style park, and it always disappears, never to be heard from again after all the fanfare and excitement. I have seen this happen probably a half dozen times at least. And that is a much larger service population than Utah by far to support a large project.

Just my opinion.