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Bible Park developers offer projections at meeting

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Looking at proposed salaries, he also said the jobs would generate about $43 million in salaries locally.

The project could also create about $4.1 million in new property taxes of which $1.7 million is expected to be “captured” to help finance the park. The rest would go the county or the city.

An additional $2.9 million in sales tax should be generated, he said. All of the sales tax would go to the city or the county.

Wyatt said the park’s size and the unique theme would protect it from suffering a similar fate to either the Hard Rock Park in Myrtle Beach, S.C. which recently filed for bankruptcy, or the much smaller Holy Land Experience park near Lakeland, Fla.

“Holy Land was only 10 acres and this will be 113 acres,” Wyatt said. “It was much smaller and it was very evangelical.”

He also pointed out that he and his company think that Lebanon has a much better location than either of the failed parks.

“Lebanon has what it takes to make this project work,” he said. “The site is good, I-40 and Highway 231 are close.”

He also said the high volume of traffic on I-40 is a major plus. “With the proximity to Nashville, a center for Christian Publishing and Christian Music, the park’s location and concept are ideally positioned to be very successful.”

Wyatt also described what attractions are planned for the park. People will enter through a period archway and find themselves in a Galilean Village with shops and craftspeople plying the trades of the time when Jesus walked in Galilee.

In this area there will also be a theater which will feature a virtual trip through Israel as it would have been at that time.

The visitor will sit in what seems to be an airplane seat and “be flown over the land.” The second half of the ride will feature scenes from Tel Aviv as it is today, Wyatt said.

One section of the park will feature scenes from the Old Testament and another will feature scenes from the New Testament. In both cases, Wyatt said the park will strive for as much historical accuracy as possible.

“We have an advisory board of 10 Biblical scholars who will check the authenticity of each display,” he said.

There will also be a teen area and a Biblical museum, he said.

The park will be largely financed by private investors, according to Bible Park USA attorney Tom Jurkovich, however, the $1.7 million in captured taxes will be used to issue bonds for a portion of the $175 million total expected costs.

The bonds will be issued under a TIF plan, he explained. The plan involves using the Tax Increment Financing to pay off the bonds and the bonds are not backed by the city or the county. If the business fails or the amount of projected added value doesn’t materialize, the bonding company and Bible Park USA are responsible for the repayment  and not the city or the county, Jurkovich said.

Ward 6 Lebanon City Councilor Kathy Warmath said after the meeting she had been told the worst case scenario was the park would fail, at which point Wilson County and Lebanon would have an access road along I-40 between the Highway 231 exit and the Highway 70 exit which would have been paid for by the Tennessee Department of Transportation and BPU.

There would also be several new businesses and an empty, but improved park which no doubt someone else would buy.

Staff Writer Connie Esh may be contacted at cewrite@wilsonpost.com

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