Project History

York Pines Inc., a local non-profit corporation with business and community leaders as board members, was established in 2013 to explore an idea first proffered by resident (and retired travel executive) Bill Underwood, and then championed by local businessman Allen Mapes – the possibility of creating a tourist attraction complex in the Sanford-Springvale Region that would attract additional tourism to southern Maine and enhance economic growth.

The original concept for the project contemplated a mix of uses that would showcase the unique characteristics of the State and its people, focused on, but not limited to, outdoor recreation activities.

It was also assumed that the development of the tourism attraction facilities would offer an opportunity for manufacturers, outfitters, service providers and retailers serving the outdoor recreation industry to deliver an authentic experience for overnight and day visitors to the complex, and perhaps significant funding for the creation and operation of the various development project elements.

Well-known industry experts, Cochrane Consulting (economic analysis) and Wyatt Design Group (entertainment design) were commissioned to assess the concept, market and economic feasibility of the project on a preliminary basis. Principals Fred Cochrane and Larry Wyatt visited Sanford Maine in the summer of 2013 and conducted a two-day charrette. Their engagement began with a helicopter tour of the area and the proposed site for the project. The charrette included a brain storming session with Maine Governor Paul LePage, Sanford Mayor Tom Cote, Regional Economic Growth Council Director James Nimon, and other key state and local officials, to better understand the proposed concept and vision.

After their preliminary evaluation of that data, Cochrane & Wyatt provided economic models for each element of the selected concepts for the first stabilized year of operations. An executive summary of these estimates is presented below.

In November of 2014, Larry Wyatt said: “We came up with a core for the development – a ‘central village’ if you will – which included hospitality, food and beverage, retail and specialty retail, presence of corporate sponsors, exploratory experiences, simulation theaters, and Maine-based adventures. The theme park itself would be inspired by Maine within a woodland and natural environment, and the one we imagined would attract 1.8 million visitors annually with an investment of about $300 million.”

Wyatt’s conclusion: “I’m absolutely convinced that the (amusement, entertainment and hospitality) components we’ve prepared for this project are exactly what’s needed for an integrated resort development to attract the audience that it needs to make this area successful. We think it’s an exciting concept and has every reason to be successful.”

As 2014 ended, York Pines had designated the Sanford Regional Economic Growth Council as its principal point of contact for the tourism development project, secured first right of refusal on nearly 400 acres of undeveloped land in south Sanford, mailed a Video Brochure and Marketing Materials to CEOs of the top twenty companies in the industry, and attended the annual conference of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA).

From 2015 to 2017, progress has continued with a more focused marketing effort to key developers who have the know-how and experience to construct a four-season destination project that will likely include a conference center, a hotel, and an indoor waterpark. Conversations and visits have been ongoing with a short list of industry executives who have been successful in building and operating facilities within the tourism attraction industry. The Growth Council, City, State and Federal Officials, and members from the York Pines committee remain committed in 2018 to finding the right developer so a successful four-season tourism destination gets established in the community. The Governor recently signed a bill to extend the Pine Tree Development Zone tax incentives from 12/31/18 to 12/31/21. Sanford remains the only community in Maine that can provide a virtually tax-free zone for ten (10) years to a tourism development project.

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York Pines Project Concept

We came up with a core for the development – a 'central village' if you will – which included hospitality, food and beverage, retail and specialty retail, presence of corporate sponsors, exploratory experiences, simulation theaters, and Maine-based adventures. The theme park itself would be inspired by Maine within a woodland and natural environment, and the one we imagined would attract 1.8 million visitors annually with an investment of about $300 million.

Larry Wyatt, Principal, Wyatt Design
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York Pines Project Viability

I find this region (Southern Maine) to be one of the largest underserved tourism markets in the country. Sanford is uniquely located, has excellent sites, and is motivated to achieve a successful attractions development project.

Fred Cochrane, Principal, Cochrane Consulting
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York Pines Project Viability

I'm absolutely convinced that the (amusement and entertainment) components we've prepared for this project are exactly what's needed for an integrated resort development to attract the audience that it needs to make this area successful. We think it's an exciting concept and has every reason to be successful.

Larry Wyatt, Principal, Wyatt Design
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Maine's Tourism Industry

There is good reason why 'Vacationland' appears on every Maine license plate. Each year, approximately 28 million people visit Maine; many are repeat visitors drawn by our natural beauty, a wide variety of four season outdoor sports and activities, and uniquely Maine attractions and experiences. A theme park on the York Pines site in Sanford will give them another compelling reason to visit.

Paul R. LePage, Governor, State of Maine
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Maine's Tourism Industry

People come to Maine and their primary purpose is often for rest and relaxation. The Sanford location, being within the Maine Beaches region and its millions of annual visitors, is certainly one of the key factors for establishing a successful tourism attraction project.

Carolann Ouellette, Tourism Director, State of Maine
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Maine's Tourism Industry

Maine is known for tourism, so we're not trying to invent an industry here. Instead we are recognizing Sanford's central place within the Maine Beaches tourism region, the State's busiest. In 2013, our region had over 11 million visitors who spent more than $1.5 billion. The York Pines site in the south end of Sanford is just 7 miles from the I-95 exit and can be easily accessed by the millions of visitors who travel into York County – Maine's Gateway.

Thomas P. Cote, Mayor, City of Sanford, Maine
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Maine's Tourism Industry

Maine's brand is about the outdoors – a chance to break away from your office, or desk, or computer. We see the York Pines concept as a tremendous opportunity and as a signature place for the developer – the first large-scale tourism development project in Maine's history.

James F. Nimon, Executive Director, Sanford Regional Economic Growth Council
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State & Local Support

I have pledged my administration's support to assist the York Pines development project. I look forward to discussing this opportunity with interested theme park resort developers.

Paul R. LePage, Governor, State of Maine
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State & Local Support

I'm a huge supporter of this project. To be successful, a project of this magnitude will require strong leadership and support from multiple stakeholders. It has my full commitment. The idea of families from all over New England, New York, and even Canada, choosing Sanford, Maine as their vacation destination is an exciting prospect. The enormous economic impact to the Sanford-Springvale Region and the State of Maine is extremely compelling.

Thomas P. Cote, Mayor, City of Sanford, Maine
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Praise for York Pines Marketing Materials

While I was in Orlando at the annual IAAPA Convention (November 17-21, 2014), the Sales Package arrived at my office. I must say this was a very impressive promotional package, and I was very pleased to see prominent representation from L.L.Bean and other Maine-branded products. Together with the tourism information, prospectus, and very clever 'Uvideo' package, I am sure you will get some positive responses from the recipients. Everything together does a great job of giving potential developers and investors a vision for the development potential for the project, the Sanford location, and the level of governmental support that is so necessary for projects of this scale.

Larry Wyatt, Principal, Wyatt Design

Contact Us

Sanford Regional Economic Growth Council
917 Main Street, Suite D
Sanford, ME 04073

Phone: 207.324.9155
Email: info@sanfordgrowth.com
Fax: 207.608.4114

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