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Astroworld’s Replacement

September 22, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

When “Dino Don” Lessem started planning a permanent facility around fun science education, he was thinking a $50M dino park. Now that dream is EarthQuest, a 1.6k-acre theme park where Phase I alone costs $600M.

The team: EarthQuest Institute prez/CEO Don Holbrook, chief science officer Dr. Matthew Gardner, Contour Entertainment’s Chris Brown (trivia: he was the voice of Dale in the Chip & Dale cartoons), and founder Dino Don Lessem. Developer Marlin Atlantis, Leisure Development Partners, BAR Architects, TBG Partners, and Callison round out the design team.

The Adventures Theme Park is broken into five aspects—Water, Sky, Land, Life, and Pangaea—and will blend rides and education. An EcoTourism section will have low impact trails, horseback riding, and kayaking in Caney Creek, which provides the western border of the park.

We snapped the Phase I model. The hotel will have 250 rooms, 30 cabins, and 20 treehouse villas, and The Woodlands Conference Center group has expressed interest in running EarthQuest’s conference facilities. Chris tells us he expects to wrap up financing by year-end, then will finish schematics and hopefully break ground in 2011. Look for over two years of construction.

The EarthQuest Institute is a non-profit and being handled separately. Matthew says the next three years will mostly be fundraising (Phase I of EQI requires $20M), development, and establishing partnerships for that project. He’s launching programs now that don’t require a building, like the Mobile EarthQuest vans visiting elementary schools.

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