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Army Shoots Down Military Theme Park Proposal

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According to the Washington Post, the Army is no longer planning to add a theme park to their plans for a history museum. The proposed museum and entertainment complex will be located in Fort Belvoir, Virginia in the suburbs of Washington DC. Army officials approached Universal Studios for strategies to make the museum more attractive to today's audiences. Early reports referenced a proposal submitted by a Florida developer for a military theme park.

Army spokesman Dave Foster said yesterday that the Army did approach Universal Studios, but only for information about using "so-called 4-D experiences" within the museum. The subsequent proposal from Universal City was "grander in scope than what the Army thought appropriate," Foster said. Universal was welcome to submit a future proposal, but "in no event would any proposal containing what might be characterized as an 'amusement park' be . . . seriously considered," he said.

The Army's decision not to build the park should put to rest the debate over whether such an attraction should exist. The initial proposal included rides that would give visitors control of tanks and attack helicopters. Critics were arguing that a military-themed park would romanticize war.

Local officials and residents were also concerned about the impact of a major tourist destination like a theme park on area traffic.  This makes sense because the Washington DC area has the third-worst traffic congestion in the U.S., behind Los Angeles and San Francisco according to a 2005 study. In the nineties, a proposed Disney theme park met so much opposition that it was never built.  The museum planners wanted to add the theme park to make the Army museum more of a draw, which would have increased the traffic problems.

I am glad that they are not moving forward with the theme park. As a coaster enthusiast, I love theme parks and the possibility of having one in my backyard is exciting. But, the idea of large scale war-themed attractions built by the Army seems inappropriate. On the other hand, I have no problem playing war-themed video games. Some would argue that they romanticize war as well.

The planned history museum, adjacent hotel, and conference center will still get plenty of tourist attention. 

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