A financial study boosts the Bison World project

The financial forecasts were made by Eide Bailly under contract with Jamestown / Stutsman Development Corp.

“Almost all of the projected financial benefits will flow to the state in the form of income or taxes from the Legacy Fund into the general fund if the investment is made from the state’s $ 8.7 billion Legacy Fund.” , JSDC CEO Connie Ova wrote in a press release. which accompanied the Eide Bailly report.

The Bison World project involves the construction of a bison-themed culture and entertainment park adjacent to Interstate 94 on land currently owned by the State of North Dakota through the North Dakota State Hospital, to a cost of approximately $ 72.5 million. If funding and funding can be arranged this fall, construction would begin in the spring of 2022 with an opening slated for April 2024.

The Eide Baily LLP report used an expected attendance of 197,300 people in the first year of operation planned for 2024, rising to 259,500 by 2028. The first year figure is actually lower than the number of people. who have visited Frontier Village and the world’s largest Buffalo attraction in recent years, said Brian Lunde, a Bison World advocate. According to statistics from Jamestown Tourism, approximately 70,000 cars and nearly 210,000 people pass through the gates of Frontier Village each year.

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Bob McTyre, project designer for Apogee Attractions, predicts much higher attendance.

“I have no doubt that we will do better than that,” he said. “… these are conservative traffic figures using only I-94, not Hwy 281.”

Apogee used an estimate of 318,000 visitors in its internal calculations for Bison World.

The financial report also calculated the profitability of what it called a “high market share” of 233,700 visitors in the first year and a “low market share” of 168,300 people. According to the report, all three analyzes bring the park net income, even in its first year of operation, ranging from $ 2 million below low market share and $ 2.7 million below market share. high.

Ova said Eide Bailly’s report showed that these revenues, combined with increased state sales tax and North Dakota income tax collections paid by employees, would represent a return. from about $ 34 million to $ 39.3 million over five years if the state invests the $ 72.5 million in moving the project forward.

“The average annual return would be between $ 6.8 (million) and $ 7.3 million or 11%,” she wrote. “… The projected return on investment also shows that the Bison World attraction would outperform the average annual performance of the Legacy Fund over the past five years and the past 10 years.”

Brian Lunde, promoter of Bison World, shares the site where the facility would be located in Jamestown with Sara Otte Coleman, North Dakota Director of the North Dakota Department of Commerce Tourism Department, on Tuesday, August 10, 2021. John M . Steiner / The Sun of Jamestown

Brian Lunde, promoter of Bison World, shares the site where the facility would be located in Jamestown with Sara Otte Coleman, North Dakota Director of the North Dakota Department of Commerce Tourism Department, on Tuesday, August 10, 2021. John M . Steiner / The Sun of Jamestown

In the last year of Eide Bailly’s forecast forecast – 2028 – the return would reach 12.6%, roughly double the current annual return of the Legacy Fund, Ova said.

Amphitheater added

Eide Bailly’s report indicated some changes in the Bison World plan from previous versions of the plan.

The plan now includes a 1,500-seat Buffalo City Amphitheater to host western music and western-themed performances. The shows would only be similar to Medora Musical on a limited basis, McTyre said.

“Country music sure,” he said, “but a great show with video, special effects and stuff that you don’t see in most shows.”

Financial analysis indicated that about 45% of people visiting Bison World would attend the musical at an average ticket price of $ 43 per person.

The analysis also indicates that the Dakota Lands, a feature of the park dedicated to “the history of North Dakota”, would not be part of the initial construction but could be part of a later phase, possibly as early as the second year. of the park, McTyre mentioned.

The park will also operate seasonally, at least at the start of operations, according to the report.

Plans call for the park to open in early April and operate daily until the end of September. Bison World would be open on weekends and holidays in October, November and December, then closed until next spring.

Lunde said that could change if a private hotel on the site contained a convention center that would attract people year round.

Searle Swedlund, executive director of Jamestown Tourism, indicates the area where the Bison World project would be located.  John M. Steiner / The Sun of Jamestown

Searle Swedlund, executive director of Jamestown Tourism, indicates the area where the Bison World project would be located. John M. Steiner / The Sun of Jamestown

A day at Bison World

The financial study indicates an average ticket price of $ 22 per person. This is an average after calculating discounts for seniors, veterans, groups and even memberships for local residents. Ticket sales are expected to generate $ 4.3 million in the first year of operation and $ 6.3 million by 2028.

Tickets for the musical are estimated at $ 43 per person and are expected to generate $ 3.9 million in the first year and $ 5.3 million in the fifth year of operation.

It is estimated that the average visitor spends more than five hours in the park and spends around $ 8 on food and drink and $ 7 on merchandise and souvenirs.

Benefit to the state of ND

Lunde said the site would become an important part of an “I-94 tourist corridor” that would include attractions in Fargo, Jamestown, Bismarck and Medora.

The project would bring profits to the Legacy Fund as an investor in Bison World. The state would also collect about $ 2.5 million from its 5% sales tax on tickets, food and merchandise and $ 750,000 per year in personal income tax collected from park employees.

These forecasts were prepared by Eide Bailly on the basis of the operation of the park and do not include the costs and taxes of the construction phase.

Enjoy the city of Jamestown

During operations, Bison World could employ up to 400 people, McTyre said.

“It’s a big industry,” he said. “If we build it, we can bring people to the area to work.”

The park would pay around $ 5 million per year in salary and benefits.

The City of Jamestown would also collect an additional $ 1.25 million on its 2.5% local options sales tax. Taxes generated by the local sales tax support a number of city functions, including economic development, city infrastructure, the Two Rivers Activity Center, and the Jamestown Civic Center.

The city will also likely see an increase in sales tax collections and use of existing businesses in Jamestown, which will see an increase in customer traffic from visitors to Bison World and any new businesses that would open in the Bison World area. to capitalize on the increase in traffic.

“The impact on residents will be significant in many ways,” McTyre said. “More jobs, tax collection, demand for housing. It just keeps on multiplying and multiplying.”

An Artist's Interpretation of a Night View of a Buffalo Monument Planned for Bison World If built as part of the tourism project, the monument is expected to be about 70 feet tall and face Interstate 94 for attract travelers.  Courtesy / Apogee Attractions

An Artist’s Interpretation of a Night View of a Buffalo Monument Planned for Bison World If built as part of the tourism project, the monument is expected to be about 70 feet tall and face Interstate 94 for attract travelers. Courtesy / Apogee Attractions

Next steps

Lunde said the Eide Bailly report is important because it gives the opinion of a third-party financial expert on the project.

“It’s not just about filming here,” he said. “If they say it’s good, it’s good. Eide Bailly is doing his own research.”

Engineering and design work for the project continues with the intention of having a full plan ready for submission to the State Investment Board, which oversees investments in the Legacy Fund, in the coming months.

If approved, organizers will seek additional investment and companies interested in naming rights for attractions and other details of the project. The intention would be to start construction in the spring, Lunde said.

Although these steps are in the future, Lunde stressed the importance of Eide Bailly’s study in establishing that the project is viable and good for the region and the state.

“We have an independent study that says it’s time to be legendary,” he said.

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