Developer backs out of Bell’s proposal in Broken Arrow, land to be sold
By John Dobberstein, Editor
After a press conference in 2021 announcing Bell’s Amusement Park was planning to relocate to Broken Arrow, news broke Tuesday that it isn’t happening.
Broken Arrow City Manager Michael Spurgeon told KRMG recently during a radio show that Bell’s Amusement Park isn’t planning to locate here. The company that owns the land, Santa Cruz Seaside Co. (SCSC), has backed out and plans to sell the land near E. Kenosha St. and the Creek Turnpike.
Spurgeon’s answer came after being questioned by a listener about the development during the KRMG Afternoon News with Skyler Cooper.
Until now there had not been any public statements from the city, developers or the Bell family about the project falling through.
“They never submitted an application,” Spurgeon said in response to the lister's question. “I do think they seriously looked at it, but right now they say they’re going to be focusing on other properties within their portfolio and they will not be pursuing an amusement park here.”
Broken Arrow Mayor Debra Wimpee said the city received an email last Friday from the SCSC explaining the company planned to sell the property.
“We believe that the property is in a desirable location with attractive development potential. We also believe that entertainment-focused development, to possibly include an amusement park, could be successful at this location,” said SCSC President and CEO Karl J. Rice in an email to Spurgeon. “My company has been focused for most of the last year on other projects within our portfolio and we have now made the decision to try to sell the 102-acre property.”
“We haven't heard anything from the Bell's family or the property owner for a very long time and nothing has ever been submitted to the city to start development. So we wondered if it would actually move forward,” Wimpee said Wednesday.
“It is disappointing since it could have been a great tourism addition, if and when all issues were addressed. From the sounds of things it would have been close to 10 years, however, before it was complete,” she added.
Broken Arrow City Council member Christi Gillespie said it was the developer’s decision to pull out of the deal. “I believe the pushback from residents was one of the factors, but not the only factor,” Gillespie said. “They just realized they had other business priorities at this time.
“While I’m disappointed, I will never fault an investor for making a sound financial decision for their company.”
Robby Bell III, whose family was spearheading the project alongside SCSC, did not return a message Tuesday night seeking comment.
SCSC owns the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, the Boardwalk's Cocoanut Grove, Boardwalk Bowl, Sea & Sand Inn and Carousel Beach Inn.
Last September, TriGate Capital announced the sale of Goodyear’s Canyon Trails Towne Center in West Valley, Ariz., to SCSC in a $41 million deal, KTAR reported.
“The Santa Cruz Seaside Company is thrilled to invest in the Canyon Trails Towne Center and the city of Goodyear,” said Karl Rice, president of the California-based company, in a news release. “This community is thriving, and we look forward to building upon the success of the TriGate Capital team.”
A little more than a year ago, Spurgeon told the City Council that developers of the property were looking to reopen are “looking to slow the process down” and were not close to submitting a development application with the city at this time.
A month earlier, a neighborhood group called the "Community Watch Team" submitted petitions signed by more than 1,000 people who oppose the location of the amusement park in Broken Arrow, although many residents said they supported Bell’s relocating here.
Spurgeon said Wednesday in a statement he still believes the property has potential.
“I look forward to the day when a development application for this property is brought before the city to review so staff can thoroughly evaluate the potential impacts a valid proposal would have on our community,” he said.