Officials hope to attract a million visitors a year to the Pavilion at Market East when it opens in 2000. The Associated Press The Walt Disney Co. plans to open a five-story high-tech entertainment center in downtown Philadelphia that will allow visitors to play interactive fantasy-adventure games a few blocks from the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. DisneyQuest, scheduled to open on July 4, 2000, at 8th and Market streets, hopes to attract about a million visitors a year by recreating the Disney experience with virtual reality and computer animation, Disney officials told a City Hall news conference yesterday. The amusement park will also anchor a $150 million development project that officials hope will jump-start the city's tourism and entertainment industries. The city is expected to offer $25 million in tax breaks, improve sidewalks and lighting and renovate the closest subway station. Disney will spend about $90 million on the attractions. The project will generate about 800 construction jobs and 1,000 permanent positions, including 200 full-time employees directly employed by DisneyQuest. "[Philadelphia] is an incredible tourist destination and a burgeoning entertainment area," said Art Levitt, president of Disney Regional Entertainment. "We really wanted to showcase our product here." The block-long project in Philadelphia's Market Street East district also includes a 20-screen movie theater, a health club, a 1,200-spot parking garage and about 400,000 square feet of additional retail space. Possible tenants include a Virgin Megastore music outlet, an F.A.O. Schwarz toy store and a Benetton sports cafe, said project developer Ken Goldenberg of Blue Bell, Pa. The block, where a department store once stood, is now a parking lot. The Pavilion at Market East, as it will be known, is a significant development in the city's efforts to market itself as a tourist destination. Tom Muldoon, president of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors' Bureau, said it will lure more tourists for overnight stays and could help in attracting another high-end department store. Referring to Disney, he said, "When you talk in terms of the tourist attraction, those six letters some way or the other say 'big time,' they say 'first class,' they say 'fun'." Disney opened its first DisneyQuest in Orlando, Fla., last summer, and will debut a second entertainment center in Chicago next year. The company plans to open additional DisneyQuest centers in 20 to 30 domestic and international markets. The press conference yesterday featured a videotape of Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell's November 30 visit to the Orlando DisneyQuest. The tape showed Rendell -- escorted by Disney's Goofy character -- swordfighting a virtual enemy, riding a simulated roller coaster, toying with his image on a computer and generally having the time of his life. ''The biggest surprise is the fun I had as an adult and the range of experiences available,'' he said. With confetti raining on a packed conference room, Rendell also unveiled a model of the entertainment center that featured a stylized version of the classic Mickey Mouse logo and a glass facade that will allow pedestrians to see one of the center's motion simulators from the street. Visitors to DisneyQuest will have four entertainment zones from which to choose: the Explore Zone, a virtual-reality tour of ancient or fantastic places; the Score Zone, where guests can compete as superheroes; the Create Zone, where visitors can design a roller coaster, create a toy or paint; and the Replay Zone, a futuristic twist on classic rides and games. Visitors will be able to navigate a primeval jungle; design their own roller coasters, then buckle up and take a virtual ride; and fly through city streets on a quest to release the Genie in ''Aladdin's Magic Carpet Ride.''Comments powered by Disqus
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