Jim Hill is reportedly writing a book called "Neverlands," which will talk about various Disney theme parks that were announced but ultimately never built. Based on recent conversations with Jim, I suspect that Mr. Hill's also going to touch on other themed developments that never quite made it off the ground.

If that's really the case, I'm hoping that -- as part of this book -- Jim is able to talk about two new projects that were recently announced for Central Florida: SeaWorld's expansion and Paidia's DestiNations project.

Regarding the SeaWorld project: Residents of Williamsburg (a quiet retirement area community off of Central Florida Parkway, just a few blocks away from SeaWorld) recently found on their doorways an alarming flyer proclaiming:

" STOP SeaWorld's voracious appetite for growth and expansionism into Williamsburg! NOW is the time for each and every resident of Williamsburg to join together and STOP Sea World from turning Williamsburg into a run-down ghetto so that they can eventually take your home through a recent Supreme Court ruling in favor of eminent domain!....We need no less than 300 Picketers to join the picket lines and picket in front of Sea World's main entrance."

SeaWorld responded with a letter from Jim Atchison, Executive Vice President and General Manager of SeaWorld Orlando stating:

"You may have seen some dramatic propaganda stating that SeaWorld would seek to acquire land in your community by pursuing a favorable eminent domain ruling. I can categorically state that is not true. Our company has had no such discussion and will not. That is not the way we do business. I have already had several constructive conversations regarding our expansion with the presidents of your Williamsburg Homeowners Association. We met in June, before documents for this project were publicly filed, to share our plans and hear the concerns of your community."

It will be interesting to see what happens with SeaWorld's proposal to build a new waterpark in the backyard of Williamsburg. The protests reminded me that one of the reasons that Walt's "Mickey Mouse Park" was never built in Burbank was not just a lack of land but the protests of the residents that they didn't want a carnival in their backyard. How many remember that there was never an official groundbreaking ceremony for Disneyland because of fear of protests from the residents of Anaheim? No, Anaheim citizens were not all happy that the "Happiest Place on Earth" was going to be built near their homes.

Building a new entertainment venue can't be done in secret. Someone cannot just buy a big chunk of land and start building. It would not get to the construction stage without a lengthy and complicated zoning approval process with a series of hearings before the local government. There are permits to be applied for, at which point the project becomes a matter of public record and in this era of the Internet, all of that information would be instantly reported.

Environmental impact statements must be filed. Even though the Disney Company was able to purchase large chunks of land in Central Florida in relative secrecy, before building began on the property that was purchased, there were press conferences, appeals to public officials and business leaders (that was why Walt's "Epcot film" was made) and even the need for a special act by the Florida Legislature to create the Reedy Creek District. Disney had to let its stockholders know what was going to happen with their money since they are a publicly traded company.

In other words, it is a long public process from announcing the plans for a new amusement park and it actually being completed.

As for the DestiNations project: On May 16th, 2005, Paidia Parks announced its intention to build its first resort in the Orlando, Florida area in late Summer 2007. According to the official press release:

"Paidia's DestiNations Theme Park and Resort will be a celebration of the beauty of our world. We seek to bring the world's most exotic and exciting places together and put them within reach, and at the very heart and essence of our mission is the quest for peace and hope through the understanding and appreciation of the many diverse cultures on Earth."

The amusement park will focus on the cultural and natural wonders of the most exotic and diverse reaches of the world: Egypt, Thailand, Peru, Russia, and New Zealand. The resort will be educational and family friendly and supposedly plenty of thrilling rides and attractions and interesting will offer a "Mild or Wild" pass so that guests with limitations of age, height, physical restrictions, etc. will be able to "share the same experience without the bumps and jostles that may cause discomfort."

This new park is currently planned for a 430-acre parcel west of Kissimmee, once planned for Doug Henning's "Vedaland" Theme Park, to build Paidia's DestiNations Themed Resort, a 1,000-unit condominium and fractional resort with nearly 200,000 square feet of retail space and a 140-acre theme park.

The property under consideration was purchased in 1986 for $11.2 million by the Maharishi Global Development Fund. Apparently, the group also looked at the now closed "Splendid China" location as well as a possibility for "Paidia's DestiNations."

Whether the group will get the funding it needs to build (supposedly just the theme park section would cost in excess of three hundred million) is still questionable. As I mentioned, the land was originally going to be the home of another theme park that was never built, "Vedaland."

New age magician Doug Henning who had just finished producing illusions for Disney's Pleasure Island club, "The Adventurer's Club", announced in 1990 plans to build a theme park in Kissimmee, just west of Old Town, based on Magic and Transcendental Meditation. Henning announced that he would build the first "Vedaland" in Canada, near Niagara Falls with the Florida property following shortly. The entrance would have included a floating pyramid over a huge lake.

While the "Holy Land Experience" did open in Central Florida, the "Bible World" biblical theme park announced in the 1970s for Kissimmee did not. And don't get me started about "Hurricane World." This Orlando project was supposed to be both a serious hurricane research center, and a tourist attraction featuring giant simulated storms. Maybe it was just as well that project never developed since Florida suffered too many un-simulated hurricanes last year and are fearful of more this season.

If I told you that Florida Governor Haydon Burns had a famous public press conference with a major entertainment figure in the 1960s to announce a unique themed park experience would you realize I was talking about the "King of the Cowboys" Roy Rogers who with his wife, Dale? Yes, "Roy Rogers Western World" would have been in Orlando and it would have been a huge Old West themed resort that would have included a dude ranch. Governor Burns pledged his assistance in making the project happen. When it didn't, he had to content himself shortly afterwards with meeting with Walt and Roy Disney on their little
proposed project.

Of course, Walt and Roy's discussion of an "Epcot" that would be a cultural experience was not a unique concept for Florida. In the early 1950s, the State of Florida created the "Inter-American Center Authority" to build a cultural and trade center. A permanent international exhibition park was to be built in North Miami. That park was inspired not only by World's Fairs but by the then-new Disneyland in California.

Called "Interama", the plans were that the governments of various countries would contribute to the building and staffing of their representative pavilions. Complications in the financing and zoning process haunted the project right into 1985 when the three hundred acres were eventually sold to expand Florida International University's Bay Vista Campus.

British grocery store magnate Lewis Cartier saw the huge influx of British tourists to Walt Disney World so he started developing a British themed theme park slated for Kissimmee in the early 1980's called "Little England" (and at one time "British Kingdom"). Actual building materials, and even buildings, were imported from England to create a small but authentic country village for the first phase but those English tiles and wood rotted in the hot, humid Florida weather. The voracious Florida insects took care of what the weather didn't damage.

So will the SeaWorld announced Waterpark or the DestiNations park ever see the light of day or will they just be new additions to the growing list of announced-but-never-built entertainment venues in Central Florida from LegoLand to OpryLand to the Paramount Studios theme park? Time will tell and probably in time to be included in Jim's book.