TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Old Tucson announced today that the park will remain closed indefinitely due to the impact of COVID-19. Pima County will assume responsibility for the attraction on Sept. 14 and will begin working on a new plan for the park’s future.
“The decision to close Old Tucson indefinitely due to COVID-19 was made with a heavy heart. We know how important Old Tucson is to our community, guests and employees,” said Terry Verhage, Old Tucson General Manager. “We did everything possible to keep our loyal fans safe when we were open, but the ongoing COVID-19 public health protocols and restrictions limited park attendance to the point where Old Tucson could no longer stay in business.”
Verhage said that Pima County will determine the reopening program for the park after a new plan is determined.
“Old Tucson is a cultural and historic icon, not only for Pima County and Arizona, but for the country. A huge part of our nation’s film history is embedded in the land and scenic vistas of the Tucson Mountains. Whatever the park’s future may be, the county will endeavor to preserve and honor that history,” said Pima County Board of Supervisors Chairman, Ramón Valadez.
Pima County Attractions and Tourism Office Director, Diane Frisch, said, “Old Tucson was and has the potential to still be an important contributor to the regional tourist economy.” She said the county will seek ideas from potential operators and lessors about what Old Tucson could be in the future.
Frisch said the county has a responsibility to maintain and protect this valuable asset and to conduct a thoughtful process that will determine the highest and best use of the property that connects it with its historic past and the fragile desert ecosystem it resides in, which includes Saguaro National Park and Tucson Mountain Park.
This is not the first time Old Tucson has been closed for an indefinite period or impacted by outside forces that reduced attendance. Much of Old Tucson was destroyed by fire in 1995 and remained closed until the park reconstruction was completed in 1997.
Old Tucson was impacted again when changes in state laws eliminated support for filming in Arizona and increased operational costs. Also, the Great Recession of 2008 created an extended decline in tourism, which impacted attendance at Old Tucson and all area attractions.
Recently, Old Tucson announced that its signature event, Nightfall 2020, with more than 34,000 in attendance in 2019, was cancelled due to COVID-19. Each year, Nightfall helped to cover Old Tucson’s operational costs throughout the year.
Since 1939, when Universal Studios filmed the movie Arizona, Old Tucson Studios has been a landmark in Pima County. More than 400 movies and commercial videos have been filmed there, with countless guests from around the world touring the movie studio and Western-theme park and attending special events each year.
“Old Tucson has provided thousands of jobs and entertained millions of guests over the decades. If not for the COVID-19 pandemic, Old Tucson would still be in business,” said Verhage.
Old Tucson is a Pima County-leased Western-themed attraction and film location situated in the Tucson Mountain Park. For more information, click HERE.