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TOWN'S OUTLOOK BRIGHTENS FOR OZ THEME PARK

You might sooner see monkeys fly than a Wizard of Oz theme park in Niagara Falls.

The same, however, might not be said for the next town over.

Such a theme park could be built in Wheatfield, said Supervisor Timothy E. Demler, who, for two days this week, met in Indiana to discuss the $800 million development proposal of executives of Henderson, Ky.,-based Oz Central.

The company -- which holds the character and licensing rights to all things Oz, except the actual movie -- announced it has secured a written contract to buy 800 acres of land on Williams Road near Summit Park Mall, Demler said Wednesday evening while waiting to board a plane.

"Wheatfield has made the grade for being one of the top, if not the top, choices, and we are hoping," Demler said. "On a scale from 1 to 10, we're at 8 or 9."

Oz Central officials had met with Niagara Falls leaders in January, touting a $670 million, indoor-outdoor theme park. At that time, company officials, who did not return several messages Wednesday, said they needed someone to pay more than $50,000 for their feasibility study, plus help in acquiring about 200 acres of land.

A local station had reported Wednesday that Niagara Falls would be announced as the park's location, beating Houston for the facility.

While the home of natural wonders is out because of land issues, Houston remains on the table because the developers have secured 1,000 acres of land there, Demler said.

Demler said he decided to meet with company leaders because they had fulfilled requirements he set during the past year.

They included obtaining local land, completing a traffic study and securing a minimum amount of money from private investors. Demler would not say how much the investors have promised, or who they are. He would only call the investment amount promising.

If Wheatfield is chosen, the public can expect a formal presentation in January, Demler said.

e-mail: gnorheim@buffnews.com

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