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Land of Illusion haunted attraction a boost to other businesses

The Land of Illusion haunted theme park generates millions of dollars every year in economic impact and draws the bulk of its visitors from outside the area.

“We are pulling people from a 300-mile radius,” said Land of Illusion manager Brett Oakley. The theme park tracks where its visitors come from.

“We are in such a specialty niche that we are having people drive from North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Illinois. I’ve even had people flying in from California now. We’re reaching out and trying to become a true destination point.”

Oakley said his core business comes from a 50-mile radius, while an 8-mile radius only accounts for 10 percent of his visitors. His company has $5 million invested in Land of Illusion, and it puts at least a half-million dollars into the park each year. This year, about $1 million was spent to upgrade the restrooms and to create a full-service bar called the Voodoo Lounge.

Rick Pearce, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce Serving Middletown, Monroe and Trenton, said he is impressed with Land of Illusion’s efforts and its impact on local businesses.

“I think they’re doing some really neat things out there. It’s a niche business, but it brings people to town,” Pearce said. Oakley estimates that the park increases local business revenues 25 percent during its operating season.

Land of Illusion brings in 1,500 to 2,000 people a night during the early part of its operating season. Then, during the peak season near Halloween, it draws 2,500 to 4,500 people. Park employees run groups through the attractions every 2½ minutes now, but in October, the speed picks up so that it cycles groups every 60 seconds at Halloween. About 145 people work at the park, most of them on a subcontracting basis, Oakley said.

Land of Illusion officials are now planning to expand its reach beyond being just a Halloween attraction.

“We’re trying to get the park in a situation where we can do some other things. We consider this more than a haunted scream park. We’re trying to take this to a full event park,” Oakley said.

That doesn’t mean the complex in Madison Twp. would be open year-round as a Halloween attraction, but that it would be open on weekends for events like concerts. Plans for this have not been finalized yet, but the idea is to stage events so that “that the community doesn’t have to drive to Cincinnati or Dayton,” Oakley said.

“Every year the haunt season is so short. Last year we had a lot of rain. Out of 10 weekends, we had nine weekends with rain. We’ve just got so much overhead in the park and in the establishment that we’ve got to reach out because you can’t mathematically make what we’re doing work for 21 days,” he said.

Oakley tried a Christmas park several years ago, but that only lasted one season.

“The electric bill alone for our first month was $19,000,” he said. “We’re trying to figure out things that we can bring, but also make it affordable because the economic impact of the downturn in the economy has majorly impacted what people have to spend day in and day out,” he said.

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