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Libertyland Theme Park Coming to South Dakota
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Sweet land of liberty - Storyland Studios is bringing Libertyland USA to South Dakota. Located near Mount Rushmore, the development will be the largest to date in the state. Storyland is planning a 2026 opening for the family entertainment destination theme park. It will be located in a mixed-use complex that will also include, along with the Libertyland itself, a hotel and conference center, an indoor waterpark, and an amphitheater with both indoor and outdoor seating. There will also be a themed RV resort, and a mixed-use residential area called Liberty Village, with both single family and multi-family residences as well as retail and dining.

The Libertyland USA theme park will be the destination centerpiece. Renderings for the theme park include a lake, amusement park rides, and the recreation of an old west town

The lifestyle center will include a special events center designed to feature an “arena dinner show and chuckwagon dinner offering.” As to the resort hotel, it will hold 300 rooms with a western theme, the indoor waterpark, and a conference center. The residential area will offer a mix of single family and multi-family residences.

The RV resort and campground is set to include some 200 spaces for RVs and a traditional campground. A general store, restaurant and recreation center will be in the mix as well as a variety of outdoor activities for guests.

The project was enthusiastically and unanimously embraced by local area officials. It will span 302.1 acres, as a planned Rapid City Destination District development zone. Looking to the future, the location can be expanded with additional property.

Storyland Studios, known for creating immersive 3D experiences is in charge of the design and masterplan for Libertyland USA and Liberty Village. The company includes many alumni from Disney Imagineering, Merlin Entertainment, and Universal Creative. The experiential design firm has an extensive background in theme park design and has just released artist renderings and details about the theme park and other attractions in Libertyland.  Storyland calls the theme park an “interactive living history attraction.”

Company partner and chief strategy officer Ben Thompson describes Libertyland USA as poised to “become a major regional entertainment and residential destination in the heart of the Black Hills and should be considered as a similar type of development to Storyliving by Disney and Universal's Housing of Tomorrow.” He cites the primary difference between Libertyland and the other named destinations as the “presence of a world-class regional theme park within the same development.”

The location seems prime for drawing visitors, with natural attractions in the Black Hills and the vibrant community of Rapid City itself, as well as Mount Rushmore, all in the immediate area, and drawing approximately four million tourists annually. Not too far away, major national parks, including Yellowstone and Grand Teton, bring some twelve million visitors to the region. As a “live-work-play destination” Thompson describes Libertyland as a “point of connection in the region” which will allow both visitors and those residing in the community comfortable access to natural wonders such as Devil's Tower and the Badlands National Park as well as Mount Rushmore.

Libertyland USA's managing director Darren Sloniger is the planned project lead along with Storyland Studios execs. Sloniger has his own planning pedigree, previously serving as president of national developer Marquette Companies. That firm is synonymous with developing master-planned projects nationwide, including both mixed use and high-rise construction.

Mel McGowan, the chief creative officer at Storyland Studios describes the theme park itself as presenting multiple perspectives on U.S. history. He says “This development will represent shared stories from different perspectives that converge like multiple streams flowing into one river.”

The Storyland Studios website describes the company as offering a “three-dimensional storytelling process” that includes “multiple dimensions: Plot, Setting, and Character…which come together to form your Big Idea.”

Currently, that big idea includes plans for five themed lands at the park, including Liberty Landing, themed to the colonial New England seaside, and Freedom Fair, which will contain classic midway attractions including both a large and smaller roller coaster ride, and a Ferris Wheel. Dakota Territory will be another land, themed around the gold rush,  containing a log flume ride and a mine train style coaster. A fourth land, The Black Hills, will focus on the heritage of the region. The final land: Victory Field, is a tribute to paratrooper training which took place in the region during World War II.  

Beyond the theme park, McGowan stresses that the housing in Liberty Village will be equally diverse. “The master plan covers everything from workforce housing and vacation homes to retirement housing. Our goal is to take care of the variety of pressing housing needs in the region…” he says. Current plans call for over 2000 residential units.

Libertyland is also being created in collaboration with one of the Rapid City area's largest landowners, the Lien family. Legacy land partner representative Sam Brannan describes the project as potentially a large game changer for the region, just like Mount Rushmore was 80 years ago. He explains that this is the reason “why we've invested our time, energy and capital into the project to get it to this exciting milestone.”

Rapid City major Jason Salamun is equally enthusiastic, asserting that the project is a “shining example” of the possibilities in the region, a “remarkable vision” that both he and the community strongly support.

All involved say they are committed to develop these assets responsibly in order to benefit Rapid City and adjacent communities in a way that is sustainable, economically viable, and appropriate for both the environment and future generations.

Construction for Libertyland USA will proceed in phases, building toward the targeted 2026 opening to coincide with the 250th birthday of the U.S. itself.
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