A Carefree developer’s plan to buy Rawhide sank because of flood control issues.
The Scottsdale Wild West-replica town will remain in the hands of former owner Jerry Hirsch, who rescued it from bankruptcy in October.
Hirsch said he will keep the 40-acre theme park, fix it up and continue to run it as a tourist attraction. He did not say what he will do with the 120 undeveloped acres that make up the bulk of the property.
Rawhide, on Scottsdale Road south of Pinnacle Peak Road, is Scottsdale’s biggest tourist attraction. It was built by hotelier Jim Paul in 1971 to house his prize collection of Old West artifacts. Paul sold it to Hirsch in the early 1980s. Hirsch sold it to Giant Industries founder Jim Acridge in 1998. Acridge and Rawhide filed for bankruptcy protection last year.
A 120-day deadline to sell Rawhide — part of a complex agreement forged in bankruptcy court in October — expired Tuesday without a deal. Potential buyers are still at the table, said Phillip Mitchell, attorney for the trustee appointed by the court to peddle the property. He holds out some hope he can make a post-deadline deal.
“It would require cooperation on everybody’s part to make it happen,” Mitchell said.
But Hirsch, who was the major lien-holder when Acridge plunged the property into bankruptcy, has no obligation to sell now that the deadline has passed. And Hirsch said he isn’t looking to unload it again.
“Our focus is to build Rawhide and return it to its former stature as an international tourist attraction,” Hirsch said in a prepared statement. “We’re committed to retaining its Wild West roots, serving as a historical and fun family experience and strengthening our reputation as a popular sought-after entertainment attraction.”
Rawhide general manager Vic Ostrow, who ran the attraction when Hirsch owned it before, said he has been booking events three or four years in the future.
“We are here to stay,” Ostrow said. “My direction has been to focus on rebuilding. We have ongoing discussions about ways to improve Rawhide. My job is to run it and get back the million people (a year) who will make us a profitable operation.”
Carefree-based developer Douglas Dragoo said in October he was interested in buying Rawhide for $45 million, which would have paid off Rawhide’s other creditors and helped Acridge out of personal bankruptcy. Dragoo passed because of worries about how Scottsdale will control flooding in the area, his attorney, Michael Widener, said Tuesday.
“Floodwaters cascade across Rawhide, and the city and other parties have been studying (the situation) for some time,” Widener said. “There are different ideas about how to deal with this. They had plans that included construction of facilities that involved using a fairly significant portion of Rawhide.”
“The bottom line is flood control issues made it impossible for Mr. Dragoo to (buy it),” Widener said. “Scottsdale is struggling with how to solve the problem, but if you are paying that much money for property you need to know what will happen. He couldn’t risk that investment.”
Bill Erickson, Scottsdale’s flood plan administrator, agreed that Rawhide is in the path of floodwaters, and a significant water flow could smash the attraction’s protective berm and flood the Western town. City planners have recognized the problem since 1984, Erickson said, and devised the Desert Greenbelt plan to channel floodwater and protect all the developments in the area. Scottsdale City Council canned the plan two years ago, and the city hasn’t come up with an alternative, he said.
Rawhide owners could engineer a solution to protect their own 160 acres, Erickson said.
“We could see several ways of solving the problem,” he said. “But it could be expensive, and the land plan may have to change.”
Erickson also said that it’s not likely a plan could be devised and blessed by all parties — which would include Scottsdale and Phoenix, the State Land Department and the Army Corps of Engineers — in 120 days.