Organizers tout $ 72million Bison World project, as plan challenged by tribes

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Presentations made this week by the organizers of the Bison World Project provided updated plans as they prepare to advocate for funding from the State Investment Board and the Legacy Fund in the future.

The project has a preliminary estimated cost of $ 72 million and would be located in southwest Jamestown on the grounds of the North Dakota State Hospital used as pasture by the National Buffalo Museum.

“It’s as big or bigger than the railroad that comes into Jamestown,” said Jamestown businessman Dick Geigle.

Tamara St. John, Republican member of the South Dakota legislature and member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, said any presentation of Native American life at Bison World should be authentic.

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“Telling our own story,” she said, referring to the life stories of Native Americans. “With that goal in mind, you can understand why we are looking at this project.”

Doug Yankton, president of the Spirit Lake Tribe, called the project exploitative.

“Someone will benefit from our stories,” he said.

Yankton said the possibility of sharing the profits of Bison World with Native American tribes in North Dakota should be discussed. He also asked if it was possible to bring in Native American contractors for the project.

Bob McTyre, President of Apogee Attractions, speaks to a Bison World Tuesday group in Jamestown.  John M. Steiner / The Sun of Jamestown

Bob McTyre, President of Apogee Attractions, speaks to a Bison World Tuesday group in Jamestown. John M. Steiner / The Sun of Jamestown

Bob McTyre, President of Apogee Attractions, led the presentation, including the definition of Bison World Apogee Attractions developed the plans and will serve as the project developer and will operate the park after the park is completed if funding can be finalized.

“Not a typical amusement park or theme park,” McTyre said. “It’s a cultural attraction but not purely educational. We have to make it entertaining. Not like going to school.”

McTyre called the project a “tourist gateway” that will help attract more visitors to all of the state’s tourist spots.

“Some people misunderstand that if Bison World is good it takes away the other attractions,” he said. “If Bison World is good, it will draw people to other attractions in the state.”

During the presentation, McTyre discussed various elements of Bison World, including “Safari Central”, Aerial Skyway and a 1,500-seat amphitheater. The proposed features provide recreational opportunities designed to entertain visitors while educating them about the American Bison.

“It’s a good number to start with,” he said. “We can expand up to 3,000 seats without any problem.”

The amphitheater could host a nighttime musical performance and concerts by country music artists, McTyre said.

Another featured area is the Dakota Corral, which offers playground-style recreation for young visitors.

“We want it to look natural,” McTyre said. “We want to avoid a big red and green plastic playground.”

The Discovery Center is the educational part of the project and will include special effects intended to “impress” the visitor. One feature includes projectors for placing images on the walls, ceiling and floor of the space. The program begins with a developing thunderstorm that startles a herd of bison.

It gives the visitor the impression of being “in the middle of a stampede of thousands and thousands of bison,” McTyre said.

The plans also call for a sacred bison theater that offers a 360-degree visualization of Native American history.

“This is the key to understanding their great importance (to Native Americans),” McTyre said.

About 50 people attended a meeting on Tuesday that discussed Bison World, a major tourist destination planned in Jamestown.  John M. Steiner / The Sun of Jamestown

About 50 people attended a meeting on Tuesday that discussed Bison World, a major tourist destination planned in Jamestown. John M. Steiner / The Sun of Jamestown

McTyre said plans for the building and grounds are complete and ready to bid if funding is approved. Details such as who speaks during the presentations and how they are dressed are the next step in the development of the project to include Native Americans in this discussion.

“I cannot speak for the five tribes of North Dakota,” Yankton said. “I can only speak for my tribe. If it can benefit the state, the community of Jamestown and the five tribes, it’s a win-win. I saw myself supporting it.”

Les Thomas, vice president of the North Dakota Native Tourism Alliance, also highlighted the possibility of a situation that would be good for all parties.

“Clarifications have been made today, but there are now new questions to answer,” he said. “We have to have common ground. If this is a win-win solution for the whole state, well, we are part of the state.”

McTyre said project planners have always thought of the Native American population.

“Now is the time to communicate better,” he said.

Project planners still plan to make a presentation to the State Investment Board, which is charged by North Dakota’s Constitution with investing Legacy Fund money.

The Legacy Fund collects 30% of the oil tax revenues collected in North Dakota. He currently has a balance of over $ 8 billion. A bill passed by the North Dakota legislature in 2021 requires 10% of the fund to be invested in North Dakota.

“All we need is the State Investment Board to develop a process for using Legacy Fund money in North Dakota investments,” said Alex Schweitzer, chairman of 501 (c) 3 Bison World Fund. “All the financial forecasts show this is a very profitable business that benefits the people of North Dakota.”

So far, no meeting with the State Investment Board has been scheduled, according to Brian Lunde, a board member of the Bison World Fund.

“We have a number of ongoing partnerships as we get closer to submission to the State Investment Board,” he said. “This is a perfectly positioned project for our Legacy Fund. It takes our third industry (tourism) in North Dakota to another level.”

McTyre said the construction phase of the project would take around three years.

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