Chippewa group to open theme park near Branson

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BRANSON, Mo. -- A group of Michigan-based Chippewa Indians announced plans to build a family-oriented, Native American theme park outside of Branson.

The Chippewas currently operate a casino in Michigan. The Branson park -- which will measure 1 million square feet -- would be called An American Dream, the Native American group said. The project, which is known as, Showcase Branson-Project would open in late 2001 or early 2002 in Kimberling City on 1,000 acres that will be acquired from local investors.

One of the investors is a partner in MLC Developments International Inc., which is helping to finance the Indian-run project. The deal and site selection process reportedly had been in the works since 1990, sources said. The site that was selected overlooks Table Rock Lake.

Kimberling City is a bedroom community with limited tourism facilities. It is noted for its annual Port of Lights lakefront Christmas display. Residents generally oppose the project because it will disturb their tranquility and require an expansion of the road system, tourism officials said.

The Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians emphasized in their formal announcement that the project would not have gambling, but would concentrate on family entertainment and that it would create more than 2,500 jobs. Because the tribe has a track record of operating a casino, its no-gambling pledge is raising some doubt locally.

Missouri has casinos in the Kansas City and St. Louis areas and tour operators bringing groups to and from Branson routinely include stopovers there. Branson is nearly four hours' drive from each city.

The Branson-Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau saw fit last week to reaffirm its stand against gambling in Missouri's Stone and Taney counties, which encompass this region of the Ozarks.

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