Imagine wakeboarding in the shadow of the Las Vegas Strip or snowboarding before heading to the tables.
Sounds crazy, but if a 34-year-old Australian businessman has his way, that will be a reality come 2014. Entrepreneur Josh Kearney hopes to open a $50 million amusement park in the heart of Las Vegas by the end of next year.
Planned as a 40-acre extreme sports park, “Vegas Extreme” would offer wakeboarding, motocross, zip lines, surfing and whitewater rafting.
The eclectic mix has never been tested on the Strip, but that’s just what Kearney is going for.
“Vegas Extreme will stand as a new model for amusement parks around the world,” Kearney said. “Its focus is on an exploding generation of sporting events and recreation that push the boundaries of human movement.”
Before the park can become a reality, Kearney, owner of Vegas Extreme LLC, needs to secure financing and settle on a piece of land. Right now, all he has are lofty dreams and artists' renderings.
One of those renderings pegs the location of the park to a plot of land on East Tropicana Avenue behind the MGM Grand, but Kearney said he is scouting three possible locations near the Strip.
The amusement park would include a white sand beach for sunbathing and cabanas fashioned out of repurposed shipping containers. A 7-acre lake would offer jet skiing, whitewater rafting and wakeboarding. A cable system would allow up to 10 riders to zip around the lake at once.
During winter, the lake could be drained and filled with snow. The resulting “ski bowl” could be used for snowboarding.
“I want to make the park ever-evolving,” said Kearney, an electrical engineer.
A collection of six wave machines near the center of the park would simulate surfing conditions for riders of all levels. A concrete patch behind the machines would serve as a skate park.
Kearney's plans also line the park with several dirt tracks for off-road bicycles, motorcycles and go-carts. The tracks are labeled according to difficulty and each section would be managed by professional riders.
The vehicles all are slated to be electric to cut down on noise and eliminate exhaust fumes. Kearney also wants to offer electric motorcycle tours of the Strip and plans to use an electric bus to cart visitors to the park from nearby hotels, he said.
One of Kearney's main selling points is the park's reliance on sustainable energy.
Solar panels would shade the parking lot and more than 50 wind turbines would dot the edge of the park. The equipment would provide 80 percent of the park’s daily energy needs, Kearney said.
In addition to the cabanas, four towers housing 60 hotel rooms would be made of repurposed shipping containers. There are plans for an organic vegetable garden, the products of which would go straight to the kitchens of on-site restaurants. The park’s food menus would offer traditional meals such as steaks and burgers, but they would be made with organic ingredients.
“All food and drinks on the park will be healthy,” Kearney said.
Beyond the rides and dining, Kearney also has plans for entertainment: professional athletes doing flips on motorbikes and bands playing nighttime concerts.
Kearney grew up on a farm in Australia and moved to the United States about eight years ago. He spent two years in Las Vegas before moving to Los Angeles. He now plans to move back to Las Vegas to push Vegas Extreme to fruition.
Why open an amusement park in Las Vegas? Kearney says the timing is right.
“I think we’re seeing a massive shift in the clientele,” said Kearney, who hopes to target visitors 13 and older. “The park will have rides that can be mastered only by time. Each time you ride, your experience will be different.”
The outdoor setting of Vegas Extreme would mirror other Strip projects that aim to push visitors outside of casinos.
Caesars Entertainment has been going gangbusters to complete Linq, a dining, entertainment and retail promenade anchored by a 550-foot observation wheel. MGM Resorts International recently announced a similar plaza project slated for the land between the Monte Carlo and New York-New York.
“Las Vegas is going in that direction,” Kearney said. “They want easy and accessible.”
While he hasn’t nailed down ticket prices, Kearney said a full-day pass for all of the park's attractions would cost more than $200. Visitors also would likely have the option of buying cheaper tickets for single attractions.
If Kearney secures the land and financing for the park, he still would have to present his plan to the Clark County Commission for approval.
Construction could take as little as a year, he said. The project is projected to create 500 permanent jobs.
“I’m a big dreamer,” said Kearney, who is confident he’ll get his amusement park off the ground. “The only way to change the world is to just do it.”