Celebrating the American Spirit

The American Heartland Theme Park, set to open in the fall of 2026, will deliver a robust economic upturn for the city of Vinita and Oklahoma at large.

The $2 billion dollar American Heartland Theme Park will be on par with popular parks like Disneyland and Universal Studios. Renderings courtesy Mansion Entertainment Group

One of Oklahoma’s latest developments is a $2 billion theme park that will contend with major amusement parks like Disneyland and Universal Studios. Named the American Heartland Theme Park, the 1,000-acre development centers around a nostalgic Americana theme, paying homage to the budding nation’s entrepreneurial and adventurous spirit. 

Behind this large-scale project is the Mansion Entertainment Group, a performing arts and animation studio company based in Branson, Mo. Helping conceptualize the attractions and storytelling are a handful of creative design firms, including THG, FORREC and Cuningham. Members of the project’s executive committee tout more than 500 years of combined entertainment experience.

Transforming Small-Town Oklahoma into a World-Class Destination

When developers first announced the project in July 2023, it caused a stir due to its multi-billion dollar price tag. Perhaps even more surprising than the project’s total cost was its location: Vinita, which boasted a population of only 5,189 in 2021. 

Erik Neergard, chief creative officer of THG, says that the sites for theme parks are often unexpected. 

“When Disneyland first started … it was a bunch of orange groves,” he shares.  

So, why Vinita? The executive committee, which has kept the project under wraps for several years, went through a bidding process to determine the location. Neergard reveals that the availability of land and Vinita’s proximity to Route 66, Interstate 40 and Grand Lake ‘O the Cherokees were some of the biggest factors in selecting it as the destination for the attraction. 

The support of the local community also played a part in the team’s decision. 

“There’s a good population in that area that is looking for something to do beyond the lake,” says Neergard. “[The park] will offer that opportunity, and it’ll also help grow the city around it.”

Mayor Josh Lee of Vinita echoes this sentiment. When he first heard about the possibility of American Heartland coming to Vinita, he jumped at the opportunity to facilitate the bidding process. 

“I want to make sure that we could always say we’ve done everything we could to get the theme park here,” he says.

Bolstering Economic Opportunity Locally

According to DATA USA, Vinita’s poverty rate is 23%, with the median property value sitting at $88,000 in 2020. The town’s largest industries are healthcare and social services, employing a total of 510 people.

Developers behind American Heartland hope to change both the literal and the economic landscape of Vinita by establishing a robust tourist industry. The Mansion Entertainment Group estimates that the theme park will draw 4.9 million visitors annually and create over 4,000 new jobs.

“This area has been ignored for a very long time and is primed for growth,” says Mayor Lee. “I’m excited to see how [American Heartland] raises up the community. And not just here [in Vinita], but for all the surrounding towns like Miami, Grove, Afton, Ketchum, Welch and even Blue Jacket. We all need a boost.”

In addition to creating jobs, Mayor Lee anticipates that Vinita will generate significantly more revenue from sales tax. 

“That money is going to help with upgrading the roads, our water and sewage, and the fire and police departments,” he says. “We’re really excited about it.” 

Improving Infrastructure 

Leadership on the project has been working for years to develop models, raise capital and find the perfect location. Photo courtesy Mansion Entertainment Group

However, there is still a great deal of infrastructure work to do. 

“If you look at the land, it’s basically just an empty field,” says Neergard. “We’re kind of building a miniature city in itself.” 

Roads, energy sources and water management will all need to be expanded to successfully accommodate the estimated 15,000-30,000 daily visitors that the park will bring. 

Mayor Lee confirms that the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority have been involved in plans to expand the two-lane highways to four lanes. 

“The ultimate goal is to get an entry and exit point on the Will Rogers Turnpike between Vinita and Afton,” he says. 

He also shares that he is helping developers explore the possibility of annexing the land where the theme park will be located, which is approximately three miles away from downtown Vinita. 

Breaking Ground on Family-Friendly Fun

The American Heartland theme park will open in phases, beginning with the Three Ponies RV Park & Campground in the spring of 2025. Once opened, it will become the largest campgrounds in the central United States, offering 750 RV spaces, 300 cabins, an amphitheater, swimming pools and a general store.

The rest of the theme park is slated to open to the public in October 2026. Renderings of the park include a 4-star hotel and boardwalk, a water park, roller coasters and a man-made lake. Developers have designed the park so that visitors embark on a journey through American history by exploring its six uniquely themed lands: Liberty Village, Great Plains, Bayou Bay, Big Timber Falls, Stony Point Harbor and Electropolis. 

With an estimated opening date in 2026, the American Heartland Theme Park will transform the economy and infrastructure in nearby Vinita. Rending courtesy Mansion Entertainment Group

“Electropolis celebrates Edison and Tesla and the inventive era of America,” says Neergard. “There’s a great sensibility to the park. It has heart. It really taps into that feeling of togetherness, hope, joy and the can-do American spirit.” 

The developers behind the project are moving quickly to break ground on the project. 

“We’re diving right into the heart of solving any issues, working through the design process and bringing on the best of the best,” says Neergard. “I hope that everyone gets to join us for the opening in October of 2026. We have a lot of work to do, but we’re really excited to do it.” 

Main image cutline: The $2 billion dollar American Heartland Theme Park will be on par with popular parks like Disneyland and Universal Studios. Rendering courtesy Mansion Entertainment Group

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