Bison World officials reveal features planned for Jamestown tourist attraction
Bison World is planned to occupy about 120 acres of land near the intersection of U.S. Highway 281 and Interstate 94 at Jamestown. The land is owned by the state of North Dakota and was part of the grant to the Dakota Territory when what is now the State Hospital was constructed in 1883. The land is leased to the National Buffalo Museum and used as buffalo pasture.
JAMESTOWN, N.D. -- The design work for the planned Bison World project is complete with features that include zip lines, an amphitheater, a state-of-the-art bison discovery center and a showcase playground, according to Bob McTyre, president of Apogee Attractions, designer of the project.
"We say it is a family facility, but it will have things for everybody in the family from children to adults," he said.
While some details such as programming and the task of arranging financing still remain, plans for the project could go to contractors for bids at any time, said Brian Lunde, member of the Bison World Fund Board of Directors.
"We have a number of partnerships in the works as we move closer to our presentation to the State Investment Board," he said Wednesday, Dec. 1, at a media presentation regarding the project.
Details of the Bison World cultural and educational park plan were presented by McTyre. Apogee has designed parks and features for Disney and other organizations around the United States. If Bison World moves forward, Apogee will serve as the project developer and operator in the future.
McTyre's description of the project uses terms such as "Instagrammable locations," defined as places designed for visitors to pose for photographs to post to social media and "thrill level experiences" where visitors can view bison in new and exciting ways.
Bison World is planned to occupy about 120 acres of land near the intersection of U.S. Highway 281 and Interstate 94 at Jamestown. Much of the park will be visible from I-94 providing the best possible location for a tourist facility, McTyre said. The land is owned by the state of North Dakota and was part of the grant to the Dakota Territory when what is now the State Hospital was constructed in 1883. The land is leased to the National Buffalo Museum and used as buffalo pasture.
Project planners believe the state of North Dakota will make the land available to the project as the state's contribution to tourism promotion. The park has a preliminary cost estimate of $72 million.
The visitor experience
Bison World will have a 450-vehicle parking lot with designated areas for buses and campers, and visitors can enter the park through a central gate. There are also access doors to the gift shop and restaurant that do not require going through the park admission gates. The entrance area includes details for security, visitor services and even a small boarding kennel for travelers to leave pets that are traveling with them during their time in the park.
Directly inside the gate is the "Bison World Fountain," offering the first of the Instagrammable moments at the park. From the entrance mall, the visitors have choices.
Bison World offers three ways to see the pastured live bison at the park. The Bison Safari will take visitors on a guided tour within the pasture in special vehicles equipped for safe viewing of the bison. The safari will operate from Safari Central in the pasture featuring opportunities to view bison up close in pens in a safe manner. Dispensers will allow visitors to feed the bison at this location.
Great Plains Air Race is a three-line zip line experience from the main Bison World facility to Safari Central. McTyre said the zip line experience will give visitors the sense of flying above the Plains landscape and the bison herd below.
The Aerial Skyway is an aerial tram that will carry visitors from the Bison World across the pasture to the World's Largest Buffalo monument. Plans call for the rehabilitation of the monument including repairs and a new coat of paint. Visitors can exit the Skyway at the World's Largest Buffalo and experience Frontier Village.
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The Bison World Festival Theater is a 1,500-seat outdoor amphitheater with lawn seating for another 1,500 people. The stage could be used for country music concerts or possibly a nightly musical.
McTyre said the 1,500-person capacity was chosen because it is the same starting point as the Burning Hills Amphitheater at Medora. The Medora amphitheater has since expanded to about 3,000 seats. Expanding the seating at the Bison World Festival Theater could draw bigger acts to the theater in the future, McTyre said.
The theater plans include dressing rooms for performers as well as concessions and restrooms for visitors. Illustrations of the theater include large-screen video displays for the performances.
The North American Bison Discovery Center will offer visitors information on all aspects of the bison's history and life, McTyre said.
The center includes display areas as well as two theaters. The Discovery Theater will offer video and possibly live presentations on the bison while the Sacred Bison Theater will offer the Native American story told in the round with a 360-degree video presentation. The rest of the two-story Discovery Center includes a cafe, display areas and a gift shop.
The bison story will include the species arrival on the North American continent, evolution, near extinction and recovery leading to the ranching era of the bison story.
A display likely to attract many social media posts is the battle between a bison and a grizzly bear portrayed in life size.
McTyre said another display will place the visitor in an 1880s-era railroad passenger car with video views out of the windows of the bison being hunted.
For the youngsters
The Dakota Corral will offer play space for children and a chance for parents to catch their breath, McTyre said. Features include natural-looking playground equipment as well as a bison-shaped maze and a North Dakota-themed carousel.
Children may also interact with costumed characters such as Buster and Becky Bison, he said.
The recent special session of the North Dakota Legislature formed an advisory committee to the State Investment Board to deal with requests for Legacy Fund investments from within North Dakota. The members of that board have not been appointed at this time.
"We are a perfectly positioned project for our Legacy Fund," Lunde said. "This takes our third-largest industry (tourism) and takes it to a new level."
Connie Ova, CEO of the Jamestown/Stutsman Corp., said that the community support for Bison World has been strong. The JSDC had requested letters of support for the project earlier this year.
"The replies were excellent," she said. "We didn't ask for anything monetary, we just asked for their support and logos to use in presentations. We got a lot of support from local, state and national entities."