Dinosaurs May Be Coming to NJ

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Bloomfield resident Guy Gsell has a vision. And that vision is 24 life-size animatronic dinosaurs all rearing their terrifying heads and roaring in a theme park in Secaucus, starting in May, 2012. His company is officially called Jerseysaurus, but the obstacles are formidable enough that he jokingly calls it JerseyTsuris.

“Every day that somebody doesn’t say, ‘You’re crazy. You can’t do this,’ is a day that I just keep going,” he says.

Gsell, who is now known in Hudson county as “the dinosaur guy,” spends his days meeting with paleontologists, talking to the Meadowlands Commission staff, visiting the factory in Texas where the animatronic dinosaurs are made, checking out other dinosaur exhibits and looking to lease a parcel of at least 15 acres in Secaucus. There are three potential tracts that meet his specifications, one of which even affords a view of the Empire State Building.

But he hasn’t nailed it yet. “If I don’t get a lease, I don’t have a dinosaur park.”

Gsell has spent most of his adult life associated one way or another with theater, so his sudden incarnation as the dinosaur guy can seem a bit puzzling. But as he connected the dots for me at Panera Bread in Montclair yesterday, it almost seemed as if building a dinosaur park was his destiny. Starting with the New York World’s Fair of 1964/65.

“The only thing I remember was seeing the dinosaurs. The Sinclair dinosaurs.”

Gsell switched from theater to the exhibition business with his last job, director of Discovery Times Square. And that’s when dinosaurs — as an attraction — crossed his mind again. “It’s one of those things that’s out there,” he said. “They usually play outside. And they usually play at zoos.”

Even a former job at the NY Renaissance Faire in Sterling Forest is helpful, because it gave Gsell experience in working with protected land.

Like the Renaissance Faire, “Field Station: Dinosaurs” would be housed in tents, with no permanent buildings. “It’s supposed to feel like a scientific encampment,” Gsell says. He’s planning on a parking lot for the folks from New Jersey and envisions a NJ Transit train — “the Dinosaur Express” — for folks from New York City. He plans on charging $20 for adults and $17.50 for kids, and having the park ready enough to start selling it at the NJ teachers’ convention in November.

Of course all this talk of a dinosaur theme park naturally brings to mind Michael Crichton’s 1990 sci-fi novel “Jurassic Park,” which was made into a movie by Steven Spielberg three years later. As you may recall, that story did not end happily.

“I have read Jurassic Park,” says Gsell. “My dinosaurs will not be attacking people, because they’re fake.”

Still, there’s enough artificial intelligence built into the mammoth creatures — the dinosaur formerly known as a brontosaurus is 33 feet long — to give one pause.

“They roar, they move their heads to track your movements,” Gsell says. “And when the crowds get big they get nervous.”

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32 COMMENTS

  1. I remember those Sinclair dinosaurs. Even as a tot, I thought they looked kind of cheesy. Maybe Dino Guy will be able to make something more realistic. I personally would love to be chased by a T rex.

    Would this take the place of the downhill ski ramp? Would there be a Calandra’s nearby for apres dino?

  2. Oh the Sinclair dinosaur! I’m working on a Jurassic themed park with animatronic dinosaurs that is being built in Dubai. Maybe he should go take a look at that one.

  3. It’s a good thing Noah put two of each kind of dinosaur on his ark, or else, heck, we’d know even less about them than we do now!

    I never could figure how he got two pteranadons to stay indoors, though.

  4. “I guess the marsupials made it onto the ark.”</i?

    Just one, Nellie. Cathar told it what to do, though.

  5. Let me guess. He doesn’t have the money and is looking for gullible investors and public funds, hence the tsuris. NJT will run special trains to this dinosaur park, when the can’t even provide decent weekend service to Montclair, ok. $17.50 per kid to look at rubber dinosaurs, without even a miniature golf course, sure. Well at least they should get the spillover from the indoor ski slope over at Xanadu. Sounds like a winner to me!

  6. Dinosaurs are such a boy’s thing. All the guys little and big will flock, or whatever Dinosaurs do, to this place.

  7. Baristanet seems to run a lot of items in the vein of “this may come to pass if…” vein. In this case the ifs are several: money, location, creation of a special new train, permits of various kinds, dino construction, etc., etc. Sure doesn’t sound like a done deal to me. (And a park of gamboling walleroos in family-sized numbers would be so much cheaper to set up, plus far more amusing to watch and torment.)

    But this really isn’t much of a substitute for genuine enterprise reporting (you know, the kind they’re reputed to teach and stress in graduate schools of journalism). Especially not given how many real stories seem to be out there in Baristaville’s version of the “naked city.”

    Also, don’t those animatronic dinosaurs which roar around arena floors already pass through this area every year or two? (And they don’t have to worry about inclement weather.)

  8. Cathar is correct. Seems my son went to a “Walking With Dinosaurs” show at the Meadowlands a few years ago. They set up the dinosaurs in the arena, sell as many tickets as they can, then it’s off to the next venue without wearing out their welcome.

    I’m thinking of a low budget alternative. How about a gator farm. Alligators are living dinosaurs, after all. There could be gator wrestling and other highbrow entertainment. Of course, there would be the occasional horrible accident, which is basically the only reason someone would watch gator wrestling, or NASCAR for that matter.

    There could be special events, like Walleroo boxing and freak shows. What family fun. Wait a minute. I think I’ve just rescued the Xanadu complex!

  9. The RINO’s have been here awhile. It’s just a big family reunion with the other poliitcal dinosaurs around these parts.

  10. The closest living relatives of dinosaurs are birds. Some scientists actually think birds ARE dinosaurs. So, if you’d like to see the real deal–dinosaurs that track you, may even attack you if you get too close to the nest–then you can always check out the parts of the Meadowlands that do not contain the ugliest edifice built in recent times (Xanadu). Much more authentic in my opinion, call me a Luddite.

    You can even hop in the car and go to Sandy Hook to see some horseshoe crabs–these cool animals have been on Earth even before the dinosaurs!

  11. I think you’re missing the point, walleroo. Nice to hear you’ve visited the meadowlands, but maybe you should find a better tour guide next time you go.

  12. More the herons’, egrets’, Belted kingfishers’, etc., Paz, but you get my drift.

    I’m sure I sound uptight here, but a museum is a great place to see a dinosaur as opposed to doing even more damage to these wetlands. Oh forget it, the kids would love it, I’m sure.

  13. I agree with your sentiments about damaging those wetlands, though, Tud. They are truly beautiful, despite the years of abuse, dumping, development etc, which was painful to see. And now they seem to be recovering somewhat, which is good. But they remind me of that Dylan line, “Behind every beautiful thing there’s been some kind of pain.”

  14. Interesting. Doesn’t seem quite settled yet but it certainly lends evidence to the fact that scientists are constantly fine-tuning hypotheses and theories based on new data. I love that.

    Thanks for the link.

    I still think the dinosaur park is dumb, though.

  15. Well, walleroo, as the Dread Pirate Roberts aka Wesley says to Buttercup: “Life is pain. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

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