(RNS) — The Holy Land Experience, a Christian-based theme park in Orlando, Florida, has been purchased by a Seventh-day Adventist health care company.
Trinity Broadcasting Network, the park’s owner since 2007, sold the roughly 15-acre museum and tourist attraction to Adventist Health System Inc. The health care company, also known as AdventHealth, was founded by the Seventh-day Adventist Church “to extend the healing ministry of Christ,” according to its IRS filings.
The Holy Land Experience, three and a half miles up the road from Universal Studios Florida, was struggling even before it closed its doors on March 14, 2020, in response to the spread of COVID-19. It has remained closed since then, reopening briefly in April 2021, when the park welcomed visitors for two free admission days at the park.
The park’s original owner, Marvin Rosenthal, called the park a “living museum.” Since its founding, the attraction has been overt about its mission to proselytize as well as educate and entertain. The park boasted theatrical productions and reenactments of stories from the life of Jesus and the Hebrew Scriptures. The Christian community Live Church Orlando holds its worship services in its 2,000-seat Church of All Nations theater.
“The Holy Land Experience brings the Word of the Bible to life. As a Christian-based theme-park, our goal is for you to see God’s Word exalted, so you will be encouraged,” the park’s website says.
Its explicitly religious mission and annual day of free admission have granted the park relief from property taxes. In 2006, the park benefited when then-Gov. Jeb Bush signed into law a bill that exempted nonprofit organizations that displayed information about the Bible from paying property taxes.
But the park still struggled financially.
In 2007, when Trinity Broadcasting Network purchased the park from its original owners, it was reported to be $8 million in debt. Management experimented with a variety of attractions to entice more visitors and bulk up revenue streams, including a biblical-themed mini-golf course called Trin-I-Tee, which opened in December 2015. Its nine holes took players through Noah’s Ark and Jonah’s whale.
All that ended in January 2020.
At the beginning of 2020, Trinity Broadcasting Network announced the park would focus on displaying biblical artifacts and education and cease live performances and reenactments. In February, the park laid off 118 employees as part of this change in direction, according to the Orlando Sentinel. The Sentinel also reported the park was on the market as of that February.
The sale to AdventHealth closed on Monday (Aug. 2) for a reported $32 million, according to Orlando television station WFTV — less than the $37 million that Trinity Broadcasting Network paid to acquire the attraction in 2007. Local news outlets report AdventHealth plans to repurpose the site as a health care facility.