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Council Clings to Theme Park Concept : Entertainment: Now that Disney is out of the picture, leaders look for an attraction that would make use of the waterfront area to the city's benefit.

December 19, 1991|BETTINA BOXALL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Walt Disney Co.'s corporate bosses may have abandoned the idea of building an aquatic theme park on Long Beach's waterfront, but at least some City Council members still cling to the basic idea.

The council Tuesday asked City Manager James Hankla to prepare a report outlining steps the city could take to establish such an attraction next to the Queen Mary ocean liner.

The request was drawn from a memo written by Councilman Warren Harwood, who contends that the obstacles that got in Disney's way are surmountable.

"There's no reason the city of Long Beach can't develop an ocean-oriented theme park," Harwood declared after the council meeting. "The fact that Disney isn't going to wait around doesn't mean we can't go out and market our community."

Other council members were eager to pursue some sort of development on the Queen Mary site, but they seemed less sure that it would be a Disney-type theme park.

"I don't know what's possible," remarked Councilman Douglas Drummond. "We are very optimistic about the property. . . . (Disney) has expanded our vision about the future of that property."

Councilman Ray Grabinski said the city should not "get stuck in a theme park mode. I'd rather look at the larger scope of possibilities." For example, he mentioned an aquarium or a complex of restaurants and international market-style shops.

Councilman Wallace Edgerton said the theme park motion was approved out of "exasperation" over discussion of the issue. "Several of us just threw up our hands and said, 'Send it to the city manager.' "

"Maybe it's a theme park, maybe it's something else," he said of the tract's development prospects.

Even while Hankla is preparing the report, he will continue negotiations with Disney representatives. The company's lease option on the Queen Mary property expires in March, and executives have said they would consider developing some sort of smaller-scale project on the site.

Mayor Ernie Kell last week also said he and port officials have been discussing the possibility of establishing a marina and cruise ship terminal near the Queen Mary.

But several council members seem cool to the suggestion. Harwood dismissed it as "a horrible idea" that would contribute little to city revenues.

"No one on the council is buying it," said another council member, who also maintained that such a port-run project would benefit the port but not the city as a whole.

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