Heritage USA , Today!

Religious Theme Park & Christian Resort;

Cable Television Network Broadcast & Production Facility

Founded 1978 (closed 1989),

Hotel & convention center reopened in 2004 as Heritage International Ministries.

Television studios and production facility reopened in 2009 as "The Broadcast Group" - Headquarters Fort Mill, South Carolina

Key Founders: Jim Bakker, Tammy Faye Bakker and Roe Messner, major builder of the properties . . . eventually married Tammy Faye.

Industry Type: Amusement park & hotel operator; Cable television network

Employed 2,500

Parent Corporation: Heritage Village Church & Missionary Fellowship, Inc.

'Heritage USA' was the name of the now-defunct Christian theme park, water park, and residential complex built in Fort Mill, South Carolina, USA, by PTL Club (short for "Praise The Lord") founders televangelist Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye Bakker Messner. Much of the park, the area of which once comprised 2,300 acres (9.3 km2; 3.6 sq mi), was built by noted church builder Roe Messner, who later married Tammy Faye Bakker after Tammy's divorce from Jim Bakker.

Pictures of the park, including the water park Heritage Island, remain accessible online. Since its closure in 1989, projects have been constructed on the grounds of the former theme park [1] with varying success, and portions of the property have been sold to several companies.Contents

Early History

Heritage USA opened in 1978, and by 1986 was one of the top vacation destinations in the nation, behind only Walt Disney World and Disneyland, attracting nearly 6 million visitors annually and employing around 2,500 people.

The facilities included the 501-room Heritage Grand Hotel, Main Street USA, an indoor shopping complex, the Heritage Village Church, a 400-unit campground, The Jerusalem Amphitheater, conference facilities, a skating rink, prayer and counseling services, full cable TV network production studios, Bible and evangelism school, visitor retreat housing, staff and volunteer housing, timeshares and the Heritage Island water park and recreational facilities.

Falwell's Famous Water-lide

The September 21, 1987 issue of Time magazine noted that Jerry Falwell "plunged" down a 163 feet (50 m) "hellish" water slide with his suit on, fulfilling "a promise made during a fund-raising drive that netted $20 million for the debt-ridden PTL."[2] This drive eventually took the PTL Club and Heritage USA from Jim Bakker.[3]

It is noted that "Bakker arranged for Falwell to take over PTL in March in an effort to avoid what he called a 'hostile takeover' of the television ministry by people threatening to expose a sexual encounter he admitted to having seven years earlier with church secretary Jessica Hahn."[4]

Photos circulated within he Heritage theme park of Falwell's typhoon water slide at Heritage Island. Falwell remained fully clothed. It was selected as "The Best of Photojournalism" in trh 1987 Pictures of the Year book presented by the National Press Photographers Association. In September 1999, the Associated Press selected it as one of the top 100 national photos of the century.[5]

Difficult Days

In the midst of Heritage USA's high point, when it earned $126 million per year, the IRS revoked its tax exemption. Soon after Bakker's federal indictment and public condemnation over his sexual affair, attendance dropped at Heritage. Falwell argued "PTL's Heritage USA complex in Fort Mill, was competing unfairly against tax-paying tourist attractions, and that the tax-exempt ministry should be separated from the running of hotels and amusement parks."

Under Falwell's leadership, Heritage USA sought chapter 11 bankruptcy protection with debts estimated at $72 million.[4] The 165,000 people who gave $1,000 to Jim Bakker's planned Heritage USA hotel tower in return for promised four-day vacation stays received $6.54 each.

Starting in 1987, however, Jim Bakker's legal and personal troubles made headlines, and in September 1989 Hurricane Hugo caused severe damage to many of the buildings.

Heritage USA closed shortly after the storm.

New Heritage

In 1991, the Heritage USA property was purchased for $52 million by San Diego evangelist Morris Cerullo in partnership with a Malaysian investment group, MUI Group (Malayan United Industries Berhad). The property was renamed "New Heritage USA". The partnership between Cerullo and MUI ended after a disagreement between Cerullo and MUI over Cerullo's issuance of discount cards to New Heritage USA. MUI filed suit against Cerullo and ultimately bought out his interest in the venture, renaming the property Regent Park.

Cerullo retained control of PTL's cable network, which at the time was known as "The Inspirational Network", ultimately moving it to Charlotte, North Carolina and renaming it "The New Inspirational Network". Today, it is known simply as "The Inspiration Network" or INSP. MUI is also the parent company of Laura Ashley which moved its headquarters and distribution center to the property.

The corporate offices of Laura Ashley are located in the former PTL World Outreach Center, the pyramid-shaped building which formerly housed Jim & Tammy Faye Bakker's offices as well as those of the leaders of PTL. Since MUI purchased the building, it has been renamed "The Regent Building." Through its local subsidiary, Regent Carolina Corporation, MUI built a golf course and residential development on the majority of the former Heritage USA property.

For a short period of time in the 1990s, MUI attempted to operate the 501-room hotel and resort under a management agreement with Radisson Hotels, calling the property the "Radisson Grand Resort," but the complex was not successful as a secular venture without its religious emphasis . . .

. . .and ultimately closed and fell into disrepair.

In December 2004, the remainder of the Heritage USA property was sold to Coulston Enterprises, owned by local developer and former MUI executive Earl Coulston. Coulston Enterprises sold portions of the property formerly housing the PTL Ministry to MorningStar Ministries of Charlotte, North Carolina, headed by Rick Joyner, and Flames-of-Fire Ministries of Fort Mill, headed by Coulston's wife, Sabrina.

MorningStar is in the process of ongoing renovations to the portions of the property purchased by the ministry, while the buildings that had housed Flames-of-Fire has since been sold to The Broadcast Group. Coulston Enterprises has developed several new subdivisions featuring single family homes on the remainder of the property.

The Coulston-owned residential portion of the property is called Emerald Lakes.

In January 2006, a 24-hour prayer ministry also began its endeavor at the former Heritage USA. The Zadok House of Prayer (ZHOP) formed with dozens of musicians and prayer leaders relocating from the International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City.

In April 2009, ZHOP relocated from the grounds, and the building that housed their ministry, a revamped former PTL warehouse complex, has been sold to MorningStar Fellowship Church.

It now houses MorningStar's K-12 private school.

In late 2006, the IRS placed a tax lien for $13.2 million on Regent Carolina Corporation, which had not yet transferred control of the golf course, common areas, and roads to the Regent Park homeowners association.[6]

The golf course was subsequently sold to a new company, Southern Gailes [7].

Heritage Today

The Heritage Grand Hotel has been completely restored and is now used as a retreat and conference center as well as a church for MorningStar's local congregation. The hotel complex has been renamed Heritage International Ministries (HIM).

MorningStar intends that the unfinished 21-story Heritage Towers will be expanded, completed in 2011 and used as an assisted living/retirement facility featuring studio apartments as well as residences of up to 2,500 square feet (230 m2) in area.[8]

The renovation plans have been approved by York County, SC planners; while signs announcing the property have been posted, construction has not yet begun.

HIM had its grand opening in September 2007, and its spiritual grand opening 2008 January 1.[9]

The property encompassing the "The Upper Room", the "Jerusalem Amphitheater" (a.k.a. "King's Arena"), and campground is owned by Coulston Enterprises. With the exception of the campgrounds, these facilities remain closed. A large portion of the amphitheater was demolished.

Announced plans by Coulston to retrofit it with a roof and turn it into a venue for youth concerts never materialized.

It was formerly reported that some of these properties may be demolished and replaced with residential and commercial ventures planned by Coulston Enterprises. However, these plans have not come to fruition, and it has been reported that the properties are currently for sale.

The former "Barn Auditorium", "Total Learning Center", and "PTL Television Network Studios" were sold by Coulston Enterprises in April 2009 to Charlotte-based The Broadcast Group, a multimedia production and training company founded in 1986 by former PTL Television Network executive Dr. Dale Hill.

The portion of the property encompassing these buildings is now known as "The Broadcast Group Complex".

In January 2009, a group billing themselves "Friends of The Upper Room" created an online petition to Flames-of-Fire Ministry and Coulston Enterprises, owners of The Upper Room, asking them to consider donating the building to another ministry or selling it at a reduced price in order to save the property from rumored demolition plans.

Initial indications from representatives of the property's owners in early 2008 were that the building may be demolished to make way for a Coulston-planned townhouse complex. However, recent reports indicate that this project and others on the site may have been put on hold due to the sagging economy.

Hence, the Upper Room building and other surrounding properties may be for sale.[10]

As of November 2009, over 430 concerned persons and former PTL partners have signed the petition asking that the building be spared and reopened.


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