We've been here and done this before. This time, a deadline must be a deadline.
On Thursday, Department of Natural Resources Director Rebecca Humphries gave Rochester-based Axiom Entertainment six months to prove it has the financial backing to build a massive, $160 million theme park in the pines outside Grayling.
Axiom, which wants to buy 1,400 acres of state land off I-75, has been promising for two years or so that it has the money to see the estimated $160 million project through to the end. But so far, the company hasn't even come up with the $5 million needed to buy the property, let alone the tens of millions it will take to build infrastructure, a water treatment plant and much, much more.
Until it does, there must be no deal. This was at least the third extension the company has gotten but it must be the last. If February comes and goes with no verifiable source for those millions, that must be the end of it.
The red flags are there for all to see:
-- On its face, the plan seems ridiculous. Developers say they intend to build roller coasters, the world's tallest Ferris wheel, the world's tallest Christmas tree and, to top it all off, haul in a World War II-era aircraft carrier and plunk it down in the woods.
All of this is supposed to happen in a place that gets about six months of winter per year. Who is going to drive more than 200 miles or so -- from the Detroit area, the closest big population center -- to ride the world's tallest Ferris Wheel when it's 20 degrees -- or even 50 degrees -- outside? No one.
-- Axiom has zero experience in this kind of business. The closest they come is in the person of lead developer Patrick Crosson, who was involved a few years ago in a similar theme park project outside Indianapolis, Ind. That plan went belly up before it was built, leaving contractors holding the bag for millions of dollars. Crosson himself has recently gone through a personal bankruptcy.
-- Axiom's claims of 700 full-time jobs appear to be mere pie in the sky.
-- So far, no one has taken a serious look at potential environmental issues.
There is speculation that what Axiom really wants is to simply subdivide the land, keep 600 acres or so and sell off the rest for a profit. It has also asked the state for some $11.5 million in grants for infrastructure and road work. All that can be achieved with no theme park in sight -- but only if the state sells.
A lot of Grayling-area business types are pushing the state to OK the deal in hopes of creating lots of jobs and kick-starting the local economy.
While it's understandable to hope for the best, the negatives here are simply too much. Who will pick up the tab if things go south? Taxpayers would be first in line.
Six months or else.