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Hersheypark Fans Wonder About Expansion Plans

Fri July 01, 2011 - Northeast Edition
Mick Malawskey

HERSHEY, Pa. (AP) Few roller coasters feature more twists and turns than the story surrounding Hersheypark’s current top secret project, Attraction 2012.

And even as the first pieces of the new ride arrive, the park still won’t say much about its new roller coaster. But a few facts have leaked out. Among them is that the ride is being constructed in a section of the park called Comet Hollow and incorporates a section that will twist and turn over Spring Creek.

Zooming over the creek will add thrills to the ride, but it’s also a necessity — the park is simply running out of room. For all intents and purposes, Hersheypark is landlocked, bound on each side by township and state roadways.

That could change.

Because even as the park continues to drop hints about its new attraction — and a possible second project to begin in 2012 — in the background are talks among Derry Township, local transportation planners and the Hershey entities regarding a potential $21.5 million road project.

That road project could allow for a 31-acre expansion of the park — roughly a quarter of Hersheypark’s current size.

If completed, it would be the first major expansion of the park’s borders in more than a decade.

Hershey Entertainment & Resorts officials said the project has been talked about for years as a possible companion to the Route 743 realignment under way in Hershey.

Those discussions, between the township and the Hershey entities, have picked up in recent months, but any actual construction is still likely years away.

“It is an interesting project,” said Garrett Gallia, associate vice president of public affairs of Hershey Entertainment & Resorts. “[But] there’s a lot of hurdles that need to be cleared before it could move forward.”

At the core of the project is a bridge on Park Boulevard that needs to be replaced.

Built in 1950, the 60-odd-ft. bridge crosses Spring Creek behind Hershey’s Chocolate World. In recent years, state inspections have determined it to be structurally deficient, meaning it’s outlived its intended lifespan.

Rather than replace the bridge at its current location, the Derry Township Board of Supervisors voted in June to begin the preliminary engineering for the re-location of Park Boulevard itself, which bounds Hersheypark on its southwest side.

The concept is to bring Park Boulevard almost due south from its split near the Giant Center to the Norfolk Southern Railroad line. From there, it will parallel the railroad tracks east to the existing intersection with Ridge Road.

The project would replace the bridge, but also would partially remove a barrier — Park Boulevard — that exists between Hersheypark and the former Parkview Golf Course. The course is already owned by Hershey Entertainment & Resorts and was closed in 2005.

Hersheypark would then be able to absorb a portion — roughly 31 acres — of the former golf course.

While the ball has started rolling, township and Hershey officials said they are still discussing how the project will be funded.

The federal government will likely pick up most of the tab using highway infrastructure dollars, but the township is looking for assistance with the locally funded portion, as well as a donation of land from the Hershey entities for the new route.

Nothing has been set in stone. The project could take upwards of five years before the first shovel hits the dirt. Even if the project moves forward, an expansion could be more than a decade away.

More tangibly, in mid-June the first structural components of the park’s new roller coaster started arriving in Hershey and work appeared to be moving full-speed ahead in the Comet Hollow section of the park, where the new ride will be located.

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