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PERSPECTIVE

Hoping to Be Taken Along for the Ride

Neighboring Cities See Disney's Plans as Good for Business

July 29, 1996|SHELBY GRAD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

With its old-fashioned carnival rides and folksy atmosphere, Adventure City in Stanton is in no danger of being confused with the Hollywood street scapes and "historic" beach boardwalk of Disney's California Adventure theme park.

But the fledgling 3-acre amusement center about 3 miles west of Disneyland represents Stanton's best hope of garnering a share of the millions in tourist dollars that the Disney project is expected to generate.

While Anaheim businesses within walking distance of the $1.4-billion project stand to gain the most financially, neighboring cities are hoping to cash in as well.

"We all see this as an opportunity," said Kevin O'Rourke, city manager of Buena Park, home of Knott's Berry Farm. "We see Buena Park as day two or three in a weeklong trip to Southern California."

For officials in the aging central Orange County cities like Buena Park, Stanton, Garden Grove and Westminster, the stakes are high. Faced with tight municipal budgets that lack funds to pay for needed services, they are searching desperately for new sales tax revenue.

Garden Grove's financial problems have that city's officials debating whether to disband the Fire Department, while Buena Park will ask voters in March for a utility tax increase.

"The need for more revenues is clear," said Mayor Bruce A. Broadwater of Garden Grove, which is considering a redevelopment project that might bring a hotel and other attractions to Harbor Boulevard.

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Disney's California Adventure--which proposes simulated white-water rafting rides, a waterfront village and Craftsman-style hotel--is projected to lure 7 million visitors a year, create 14,500 jobs and generate $70 million in state and local tax revenue.

The 55-acre project, awaiting approval by the Anaheim City Council, has already drawn high praise from officials across Orange County.

The California Adventure would be complemented by an expanded Anaheim Convention Center and a multimillion-dollar revitalization for the city's sagging hotel district, which would see street improvements and gain topiary gardens and sidewalk cafes.

Neighboring cities are convinced that they can be part of the renaissance.

Even with the new attractions in Anaheim, most tourists will only find two to three days worth of activities in the Disney area, Garden Grove Councilman Mark Leyes said.

"Most people take vacations for a week," Leyes said. "After the three days, people will be looking for other opportunities, whether that's another theme park, the beach or a movie. We want to be able to provide some of those opportunities."

Garden Grove's focus will be on the Harbor Boulevard corridor just south of Disneyland. In the past year, city officials have met with several Asian investors about the possibility of building a hotel in the area.

Officials also are working with investors who might be interested in a modest amusement center in the city, perhaps one with a history theme. A 20-screen cinema is also planned, and some have proposed creating a "restaurant row" along Harbor Boulevard.

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Down the road in Westminster, merchants and property owners in Little Saigon hope to lure Disney tourists to their shopping district by giving Bolsa Avenue a face-lift and adding cultural attractions.

The city is helping to raise money for a cultural affairs center and theater in Little Saigon. Others want to install Asian-style street lamps along Bolsa Avenue and add distinctive architectural flourishes and street sculptures.

"With entertainment and our shops and restaurants, this could be a very cultural side trip from Disneyland," said Frank Zellner, executive director of the Westminster Chamber of Commerce.

Buena Park officials will have a $15-million upgrade of the Buena Park Mall completed by 2001 and hope to integrate the center into an "entertainment corridor" that already includes Knott's Berry Farm, Movieland Wax Museum and Medieval Times.

At Stanton's Adventure City, meanwhile, operator Allan Ansdell Jr. knows that his 15 rides, 20 hobby shops and petting zoo cannot begin to compete with Disney's grand plans. But his park, he says, will have its own appeal.

Adventure City's low admission price--$9.95 for an all-day pass, compared to $26 to $30 at Disneyland--and convenience will offer visitors a more low-key, modest adventure.

"You can pull right in and get a parking place. There are no long lines for the rides," Ansdell said. "It's a lot more laid-back."

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