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Fox Theme Park, Miami Wilds, Wants $13.5 Million in County Money

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When news broke that County Mayor Carlos Giminez was mulling a plan to give millions in subsidies to the oddly shaped SkyRise observation tower, his administration also noted it wanted to shepherd money to 20th Century Fox's plan to build a theme park on land near Zoo Miami. But details were scarce.

Well, now comes news that Fox plans to ask for $13.5 million from the Miami-Dade County Economic Development Fund. This is the first step in a $130 million total that Fox believes could be eligible for public funding to build the $930 million complex.

The plan calls for a theme park -- dubbed "Miami Wilds" -- that would prominently feature characters from 20th Century Fox Animation movies such as Ice Age and Rio and other Fox properties like Alien. There would also be a water park, a 400-room hotel, a performance space, a movie theater, a bowling alley, restaurants, and retail shops.

According to Miami Today, Fox wants $13.5 million in initial funding. There are currently Coast Guard facilities on the property, and Fox would need to replicate the military branch's towers elsewhere, which the company hopes to do with the county money.

The economic fund was created after the 2004 Building Better Communities ballot initiative, which authorized the county to borrow $3 billion in bonds to fund projects that would have significant local economic impact. Of course, to repay those bonds, the county can also levy a special property tax. However, the Miami Herald reported last week, that property tax would amount to only "pennies" added to a typical property tax bill.

Fox ultimately hopes to secure $130 million total in public funding, including $40 million for parking, $26.5 million for site preparation, $26 million for roads, and $24 million for a transportation system.

However, Fox would likely look to Tallahassee for much of that money.

Public funding for theme park projects is far from unheard of in Florida. For instance, Universal Studios snagged $9 million from the City of Orlando last year to build a bridge connecting its two theme parks.

Fox would have to rent the land from the county to build the park. It estimates its tax bill in the first 20 years to be $67.1 million. Fox also projects a $6.7 million increase in bed and sales taxes for the county annually due to the park.

Plans to develop the land, currently occupied mostly by a pine rocklands forest, into a potential theme park was approved by voters in 2006.

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