Gatorland files plan for new swamp buggy ride attraction, hopes to open by June 2017

Local attraction Gatorland is planning to build a new swamp buggy ride on the eastern side of its 68-acre property in South Orange County, with up to $2 million projected for investment and a target of June 2017 to open, company president/CEO Mark McHugh told GrowthSpotter on Friday. 

Located at 14501 S. Orange Blossom Trail, south of Hunters Creek Golf Course and near the Orange/Osceola county line, about one third of Gatorland's 67.96-acre main land parcel is currently undeveloped. 

The new swamp buggy ride would cover wooded area to the east of where Gatorland attractions now end with the zip line tower, and viewing areas for Nile crocodiles and Pops the Giant Alligator.  

McHugh's affiliate Godwins Gatorland Inc. submitted a Development Plan to Orange County in early May, and will go before the Development Review Committee on June 1. 

"A swamp buggy ride fits in well with our entertainment style and the experiences we've added here the past few years," McHugh said. "We don't have any construction plans worked up yet, we wanted to make sure first that this use was consistent was our Land Use Plan." 

Gatorland's main parcel includes about 28 acres that aren't wetlands, which McHugh said could be used for the buggy ride. 

That area would be populated with some alligators and other wildlife, and have mud holes dug, "so we can sling a little mud out there for people and have some fun," he said. 

The property is heavily populated with pine trees and shrub brush. McHugh said the buggy ride will offer a mix of entertainment and education to passengers, with a focus on wildlife conservation.

The company is hopeful to have the new attraction open by June 2017, with a projected cost of $2 million to build out, including a buggy boarding depot. The large swamp buggy vehicles will be custom made in South Florida, McHugh added. 

New food service commissary buildings are also on the property owner's current DP submission, but McHugh said the implementation of those would be two to three years away. 

Kimley-Horn is civil engineer on the project, and Anthony Lapore is the architect. H.J. High Construction is the project manager. 

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