In fact, the real Union Station Massacre might have been what happened to the numbers back in October 1996. That was when the Midwest Research Institute released "An Economic Impact Analysis of Proposed Activities at a Restored Union Station." In that report were figures compiled by Harrison Price, said to be "the acknowledged dean of recreation economics consultants." Price has conducted economic feasibility studies for many high-profile themed attractions around the country, including Disneyland and Disney World -- and his projections that 1.6 million people would visit Union Station every year certainly were goofy. To meet that number, the station would have to bring in more than 800,000 visitors in the next three months -- which isn't likely, considering that only 711,363 people had ventured into its Grand Hall by the end of August.
"You do the work and you say what the potential is," Price says of his numbers. "What happens is a function of execution, level of investment, marketing, design, and the companies. It's a function of a lot of things, and I don't know the answer to all of that."
"I think they were overly optimistic, those projection figures," says Laura Davis, Union Station's public relations manager.
So we'll issue a cautionary word to the Johnson County Board of Commissioners, who are at this moment ruminating on whether to let developer Robert Kory open his theme park at the old Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant. Oz Entertainment Inc. boasts that 2.5 million to 3.2 million people will follow Dorothy's footsteps to the Wonderful World of Oz and Emerald Resort Hotel every year and that the park will add 7,500 jobs, $237 million in gross regional product, and $202 million in income to the metro area's economy. The numbers are based partly on feasibility studies conducted by -- draw back the curtain, please -- the Harrison Price Company.