WENTZVILLE, Mo. – Spirit of Discovery Park would be only the second amusement park in the world to offer a fully inclusive experience for people with any form of disability.
The amusement park, set to serve everyone, is under contract on a 60-acre piece of land in Wentzville. The group in charge of developing the amusement park had been searching for the perfect piece of land in the St. Louis region for years and they’ve finally landed on a property in Wentzville.
The location is under wraps for now, but the designs are already completed.
“Our focus is to bring a park that is literally for everybody,” Rick Hill, the architect for Spirit of Discovery Park said. “It was more a passion than a project.”
“Everyone at the park is going to have something that they can do and that they want to do, and all the needs of all of our communities will be taken care of, but we are focused on those with special needs,” Jamie Vann, the president and founder of Spirit of Discovery Park said. “They deserve it, they need it, our community needs it.”
It may not have the mickey ears once proposed in the St. Louis region, but the park is anticipated to provide a similar feel to Disney World’s Epcot. Vann said the Spirit of Discover Park will merge entertainment and education.
It won’t have rollercoasters, but it will have a carousel, jeep ride, Ferris wheel, barn, sensory and edible gardens, and a greenhouse designed by a former Disney cast member. It will also feature lifted garden beds, which would give those with disabilities a chance to do something like picking a fruit or vegetable, which they may have never had the opportunity to do before.
“We’re going to raise them up so their wheelchairs will fit, so they can actually pick a strawberry or pick their own pumpkin,” Vann said.
She said SLU’s OT department has worked with the park for several semesters to do projects on finding a solution to challenges in the disability community. One of the outcomes of the collaboration is the raised garden beds.
The park plans to allow every person with a disability to enter the park for free. They also want to hire veterans and give them job training and placement skills.
Vann and Hill said every disability is represented at the table discussions to make sure they are accommodating each challenge a disability faces, to make sure they don’t face a challenge when enjoying the park.
The mayor of Wentzville Nick Guccione said this is an incredible opportunity for the community and would also benefit nearby hotels, gas stations, and small businesses.
“I think we’ll have people come from all over the world, Wentzville will be a destination, it is now, but, I think this will put us on the map,” Guccione said.
The park is non-profit and is not funded by tax dollars. Guccione said there will likely be traffic studies completed by MoDot and the city to ensure adequate traffic flow.
The idea was sparked when Jamie Vann was at a playdate with her kids and her friend’s children several years ago. Her friend’s daughter has down syndrome. The Vann family was planning a trip to Disney World for spring break, and her friend said that’s something she wouldn’t be able to do with her family because of the challenges with her daughter.
She mentioned there was an inclusive amusement park in San Antonio, called Morgan’s Wonderland. A few years later, she went and the entire family loved it. When she told Jamie about her experience, Jamie said, “well we should do that in St. Louis.” So that’s what she’s been working on for six years.
If all goes as planned, they will break ground on the park in 2023 and have the park completed in 2025.
SoDP has raised more than $330,000 dollars for the park. The initial plans were originally only 35 acres and were estimated to cost $35 million. Since the expansion, they’ve decided to create a pro forma which will provide a more accurate estimate of the 60-plus-acre campus.
For more information, visit: https://www.spiritofdiscoverypark.com/