It's been nearly a decade since Memphis' Libertyland closed, leaving families with the burden of traveling hours if they wanted to ride a rollercoaster.
But Heal the Hood Foundation of Memphis is hoping to bring the fun back to the Bluff City with the Gift Center, an indoor amusement park and digital education center.
The nonprofit organization, which provides positive outlets for Memphis youth through the arts and motivational speaking, recently began its capital campaign to raise money for the development phase of the project during its "Living the Dream" conference and benefit concert at American Way Middle School last Saturday.
"We have a lot of celebrities who are going to be pulling in [revenue] nationwide to make this thing happen," aid LaDell Beamon, founder of Heal the Hood. "This [conference and concert was] just a kickoff to get everybody introduced."
The conference featured panels on life imitating art, personal legacies, and the long-term effects of a lack of social services for the less fortunate. The benefit concert featured R&B singers Jacob Latimore, Alix Lapri, and Justin Martin.
On May 17th, Heal the Hood is hosting a benefit breakfast at the Urban Child Institute to bring in additional funds for The Gift Center.
Heal the Hood is in talks with Nintendo of America, Malco Theaters, Chick-fil-A, and other potential corporate sponsors to collaborate on the project.
"[The Gift Center] is a solution to crime and violence," Beamon said. "We surveyed a lot of the schools we've been touring over the last couple of years, and it's unanimous: All the kids kept saying there's nothing for them to do in the city of Memphis. And if there was something for them to do, a lot of kids would probably not be murdered or living dangerous lifestyles.
"Libertyland was such a staple. It employed kids throughout the summer. That was our amusement park," Beamon continued. "Kids had the opportunity to have fun throughout the summer."
Plans for the Gift Center include an indoor replica of Libertyland's Zippin Pippin, as well as a go-cart-themed ride based on to Nintendo's Mario Kart. The park will also include a 1,000-seat theater, an audio recording studio, a laser-tag labyrinth, an anti-gravity room, restaurants, and a digital education center that offers computers, internet access, and GED testing. Beamon said the proposed park will be open year-round.
If the funding is secured, the Gift Center will be constructed on 86 acres of land behind Holmes Road Elementary in Whitehaven. Beamon hopes the center will create more jobs, increase tourism, and lower youth crime in the city. Beamon estimates the park will be open by 2015.
Anyone interested in making a charitable donation to the project can go to www.hthmemphis.org.