Developer receives grant for 20th Century Fox theme park at Zoo Miami

MIAMI – The developer wanting to build 20th Century Fox's first theme park in the United States at Zoo Miami got the $13.5 million in county grant money they requested.

Miami-Dade County Commissioners approved the allocation to Miami Wilds Wednesday. That opens the door for another round of contract term negotiations, which will then have to be approved by the full board. Mayor Carlos Gimenez said the company has to deliver on the number of jobs promised in the application process.

Zoo Miami Director Eric Stephens said the project would be a game-changer for the region but that there is still a long road ahead. Part of the land the Miami Wilds developer wants to build on is federally owned.

20th Century Fox proposed Miami Wilds, a theme park with rides based on its blockbuster movies. It would include an ice age-themed water park -- 30,000 square feet of space for stores and restaurants, an outdoor space for concerts and sporting events, and a 400-room hotel.

The 158-page proposal states Miami Wilds is the "most significant leap forward for direct leisure tourism development in Miami-Dade since the revitalization of South Beach more than two decades ago."

"(It's) really a serious destination point for tourists and for residents in the community," Commissioner Dennis Moss told Local 10 last year. "I think we are at the point now that we are really going to have something happen out of Zoo Miami that the community has been waiting on and hoping for a really long time."

Talk of building an entertainment complex at Zoo Miami has been 20 years in the making.

"For a very long time," said Moss. "We started these conversations after, really, Hurricane Andrew. It's been that long."

According to the proposal, Miami Wilds would create 8,258 construction jobs and 2,750 permanent jobs. The theme park would be opened in two phases, the first opening in 2018 and the second opening by 2020.

"I don't necessarily see that it would have to come in the form of traditional taxpayer support," said Moss. "Making it a community development-area is a potential. We have a fund that was approved by the voters for economic development for game-changing kinds of events, so those are the kinds of things we are going to look at to try and help with infrastructure type of development in the area. But at the end of the day, the investment needs to come from the developers who are going to be required to put their hard money into our own version of Universal Studios and it will be a very exciting time for our community."

A newcomer to the theme park business, 20th Century Fox opens its first park at Resorts World Genting in 2016.