Discovery Park of America opens soon


Reporter - Mychaela Bruner
Photographer - David Dycus

UNION CITY, Tenn. - There is a brand new attraction in our area.  The $100 million

Discovery Park of America is designed to inspire and help educate people of all ages.

Founder Robert Kirkland expects it to be a major boost for the local economy and tourism.  The park is in Union City, Tennessee, a community still trying to recover from the loss of the Goodyear Plant in 2011.

Marketing director Mary Nita Bondurant said she expects about 35 people will be hired for full-time positions and up to 60 people for part-time positions.  Bondurant said the estimated economic impact from the park is about $15 million annually.

Funding for the Discovery Park of America was made possible through the Robert and Jenny Kirkland foundation.  Kirkland said it is unbelievable that his visions are finally becoming a reality.

"Education is the main focus of this building and entertainment can go together and we hope the two together will cause learning to increase for all ages," said Kirkland.

From dinosaur fossils to Native American artifacts to military equipment, CEO Jim Rippy said it is amazing for dreams to become real.

"There's over 600,000 man hours put into this. Volunteers, paid people, $400,000 in construction alone," said Rippy.

Bondurant said the park is already gaining interest. 

"We have booked Christmas parties, weddings, we have family reunions, birthday parties meetings," said Bondurant.

Commissioner of Tourism Susan Whitaker said the finished product is fascinating.

"It's a stunning, man-made achievement, but it also makes you look beyond what's here...What could come next," said Bondurant.

For the next 20 years, the Robert and Jenny Kirkland foundation has donated $3 million a year for future expansion and operation of the park. Rippy said their goal is to make a profit and once they do, they will take the $3 million and build more exhibits and buildings.

Governor Bill Haslam will visit the Discovery Park of America on October 21.  Following that, there will be a ribbon cutting ceremony at 10 a.m., on Friday, November 1.

The admission fee for adults is $13.95, for children $10.95 and for senior citizens $11.95.  Children under three years old are free.