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Holy Land Theme Park Gets Makeover

Holy Land Theme Park Gets Makeover

The Orlando-based park featuring exhibitions of the Holy Land is getting a complete makeover and marketing support from owner Trinity Broadcasting Network in an effort to boost attendance.

TBN, which acquired ownership of the park last June, plans on giving The Holy Land Experience a top-to-bottom makeover, complete with biblically themed children's playground equipment, fresh live entertainment, and numerous TBN-produced high-definition movies, according to TBN General Counsel John Casoria in an Orlando Sentinel report.

Other stylistic improvements will include fresh carpet, paint and decor such as statues to several new food kiosks, evening lighting and state-of-the-art audio and video equipment.

The park hours will be extended and plans for a TBN TV studio across the street for the network's recently purchased Orlando TV-52 television channel are underway.

Changes to the park, called a "living Bible museum" when it opened in 2001, are much in need. For years, the Holy Land has struggled with sagging attendance and financial troubles including $8 million in debt. In 2006, the park reported an annual attendance of 200,000.

The attraction was also involved in a lengthy dispute with the Orange County Assessor's office over its tax-exempt status. TBN bought the park for $37 million in the same month Florida Gov. Jeb Bush signed a law exempting the Holy Land from property taxes.

The transition of ownership was described by spokesmen for both sides as more of a handover than a takeover. In the process, more than 50 employees - or a quarter of the work force - were fired or laid off, the Orlando Sentinel had reported in October. Employees, however, had estimated that nearly 100 workers had been cut from the payroll.

Casoria has rejected claims that such changes have adversely affected the park, saying that admissions have grown significantly every month since June.

"TBN is a national marketing machine, just because of what we do," he told Orlando Sentinel. "We have the ability, and have, and are doing, a lot of marketing through our television and broadcast facilities."

Founders of TBN Paul and Jan Crouch, who have been criticized for their subscription to the "prosperity gospel," currently sit on the park's board.

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