ORLANDO -- Work is under way at the recently opened, $16 million
Holy Land Experience theme park here to increase its capacity by
finishing incomplete elements and to expand its parking.
The 15-acre attraction, located near Interstate 4, has been
reaching capacity (estimated to be around 2,000) several times per
week, a park spokesman said.
The park contains biblical re-creations of first century
Overflow guests are turned away at the parking lot, outside a
replica of the Old Walled City of Jerusalem.
The turnaway business also stems in part from a staff shortage,
But work is under way to finish the Qumran Caves, a replica of
the location where the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered.
A larger-capacity exhibit, the Scriptorium, is nearly a year from
Guests who are turned away from the Holy Land Experience receive
a $2-off coupon for a future visit, which is valid for up to six
The park's founder is the Rev. Marvin Rosenthal, a Baptist
minister who converted from Judaism.
The park is managed by Zion's Hope, an Orlando-based ministry
whose goal is to convert Jews to Christianity.
News coverage of pre-opening protests from Jewish organizations
has helped the park become known nationwide, according to Greg
Halteman, director of marketing.
"I've gotten calls from agents as far away as Nebraska," to book
group visits, he said.
Interviewed as he folded T-shirts in the Holy Land's Jerusalem
Street marketplace, Halteman predicted that "attendance will
gradually level off."
More visitors will arrive by motorcoach than will by vans, he
said, based on his experience working in Pennsylvania's Amish
Country, where, at its peak, his employer, the American Music
Theatre, was handling 10,000 buses a year.
Halteman sees bus groups accounting for about 30% of the
attendance by early 2002.
The attraction's target guest is female, over 55 years old; 35-
to 55-year-old females are next.
"That's where the families come from," Halteman said.
There are no roller coasters or thrill rides at Holy Land. There
are re-created religious buildings, religious exhibits, religious
settings from the Bible, a village bazaar and entertainers and
characters dressed in clothing similar to that worn in biblical
The characters sell food and beverages and act as guides and
Some perform in dramatic and musical presentations.
A musical performance on the steps of a re-created Herod's
Temple involves a discussion between two groups of young people --
one arguing about fighting the Romans and the other saying that
they should wait for the coming of the Messiah.
There are two theaters with presentations that combine actors,
animation, projected images and special effects.
A model of Jerusalem, outside the park, is the site of live
During Easter season, there will be daily performances by actors
representing Jesus and John the Baptist.
A year-round Nativity scene with live animals is envisioned.
Holy Land offers agents a net rate program.
"I know about 3,000 agents," Halteman said, "and those I don't
know are asked to qualify by filling out a form when they inquire.
Then they become part of a database."
A building adjacent to the park, where the Jerusalem model is
housed, has 5,000 square feet of meetings space, with catering
capacity for family-style meals. Halteman said there are plans to
expand its ability to feed groups.