A planned Bartow County theme park featuring “The Hunger Games” as its main attraction won’t be going forward as planned.
Backers of Avatron Smart Park, once pitched as a $600 million-plus special effects-driven theme park near Lake Allatoona, will put the project “on hold indefinitely,” the development company’s CEO, David Garrett III, wrote in an open letter to Bartow County.
The Daily News Tribune in Cartersville first reported the news on Monday, and Garrett confirmed it in an email. The apparent cause was financing difficulties.
“One of our key partners had to suspend its participation” at a key time, Garrett wrote in the letter.
“If this is goodbye, we thank you one last time for your generosity and belief in AVATRON,” Garrett’s letter said. “If this is a ‘not-yet’ situation, then we thank you for your patience and understanding.”
The project emerged in early 2015, and developers later announced a deal with Lionsgate to bring to life attractions based on film series such as “The Hunger Games,” “Step Up” and “Now You See Me.”
Avatron officials said at the time the company would license the film rights from Lionsgate, but would be responsible for finding investors and financing to make the park a reality.
Partners and siblings Jo and James Ram said in 2015 they hoped to close on the land, along Paga Mine Road near Cartersville, by the end of that year and break ground in early 2016, to open the first phase of the park in January 2019.
The 700-acre tract is about 40 miles northwest Atlanta along I-75 near the Lakepoint Sporting Community & Town Center complex.
Bartow County Sole Commissioner Steve Taylor said Avatron’s decision was disappointing, as the project could have provided a jobs and tax revenue boost for the county. The county did not provide any incentives or infrastructure for the project, though such discussions might have occurred if Avatron had acquired the site.
Taylor said he hopes the land will be attractive to other buyers for potential tourist or residential development.
“I feel bad for the people who worked so hard,” he said. “Mr. Garrett at Avatron was above board with all in the community and getting to know everyone.”
Avatron officials hoped to ride the wave of popularity from the Hunger Games, which shot the second, third and fourth films in the series, in Georgia.
Georgia has become a hub for film and television production, trailing only California and New York in the U.S.
The developers said they were working on other content as well, including discussions with toy manufacturers and video game studios, but that Lionsgate would be the exclusive film partner.