|Type||Religious Theme Park & Christian Resort; Cable Television Network Broadcast & Production Facility|
|Industry||Amusement park/hotel operator|
Cable television network
|Founded||1978 (closed 1989), hotel & convention center reopened in 2004 as Heritage International Ministries (Note: Television studios and production facility reopened in 2009 by The Broadcast Group)|
|Fate||Chapter 11 bankruptcy|
|Headquarters||Fort Mill, South Carolina, U.S.|
|Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye Bakker|
Number of employees
|Parent||Heritage Village Church & Missionary Fellowship, Inc.|
Heritage USA was an American Christian-themed water park, theme park and residential complex in Fort Mill, South Carolina, built by televangelist Jim Bakker and his wife Tammy Faye Bakker, founders of The PTL Club.
The park, which occupied 2,300 acres (9.3 km2; 3.6 sq mi), was built by church builder Roe Messner. Since its closure in 1989, projects have been constructed on the land it once occupied, portions of which have been sold to several companies.
Heritage USA opened in 1978, and by 1986, it attracted nearly 6 million visitors annually and employed around 2,500 people. The facilities included the 501-room Heritage Grand Hotel, the attraction Main Street USA, an indoor shopping complex, the Heritage Village Church, Upper Room, a 400-unit campground, The Jerusalem Amphitheater, conference facilities, King's Castle, a skating rink, prayer and counseling services, cable television production studios, Bible and evangelism school, visitor retreat housing, staff and volunteer housing, timeshares and the Heritage Island water park and recreational facilities. It was the third-largest theme park by attendance, with 4.9 million visitors per year, behind only Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida and Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Heritage USA was described as a Christian version of Disneyland; before the scandal leading to its closure, Jim Bakker had plans to expand the park.
According to the September 21, 1987, issue of Time magazine, televangelist Jerry Falwell "plunged" down a 163 feet (50 m) "hellish" water slide called the "Typhoon" wearing a suit, fulfilling "a promise made during a fund-raising drive that netted $20 million for the debt-ridden PTL". This drive eventually took the PTL Club and Heritage USA from Jim Bakker. The article said Jim 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." Photographs of Falwell's water-slide plunge circulated worldwide. Video of the slide is also available on YouTube.
At Heritage USA's peak, when it earned $126 million per year, the IRS revoked its tax exemption. Soon after Bakker's federal indictment and public condemnation for raping and drugging Jessica Hahn and a man seven years before, park attendance dropped. Falwell said the park competed unfairly with tax-paying attractions and that the tax-exempt ministry should be separated from PTL's business interests. Under Falwell's leadership, Heritage USA sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection with debts estimated at $72 million.
In return for a promised lifetime annual four-day vacation stay, 165,000 people had donated $1,000 to Jim Bakker's planned Heritage USA hotel tower; each donor received $6.54 in compensation. Starting in 1987, 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.
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 over a disagreement concerning Cerullo's issuance of discount cards for the theme park. 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".
As of March 2018[update], it is known as The Inspiration Network (INSP). MUI is the parent company of Laura Ashley plc, which moved its US headquarters and distribution center to the property. The corporate offices of Laura Ashley are located in the former PTL World Outreach Center, a pyramid-shaped building that formerly housed the Bakkers' offices and 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 most of the former Heritage USA property.[failed verification]
For a short period in the 1990s, MUI operated 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 and ultimately closed and fell into disrepair. In December 2004, the remainder of the property was sold to Coulston Enterprises, owned by local developer and former MUI executive Earl Coulston. Coulston Enterprises sold portions of the property that had housed the PTL Ministry to MorningStar Ministries of Charlotte, headed by Rick Joyner; and Flames-of-Fire Ministries of Fort Mill, headed by Coulston's wife Sabrina.
MorningStar has undertaken ongoing renovations to the portions of the property purchased by the ministry, including the Heritage tower, despite a few wishing to see the tower torn down and erecting a new billboard on Interstate 77 calling for its demolition. The buildings that had housed Flames-of-Fire were sold to The Broadcast Group, a television and multi-media production company headed by Dr. Dale Hill, who formerly worked for Bakker and PTL. Coulston Enterprises has developed several new subdivisions that include houses and restaurants on the remainder of the property.
In January 2006, a 24-hour prayer ministry opened at the former Heritage USA. Musicians and prayer leaders formed The Zadok House of Prayer (ZHOP) after relocating from the International House of Prayer in Kansas City. In April 2009, ZHOP vacated the grounds, and the building that housed their ministry, a former PTL warehouse complex, was sold to MorningStar Fellowship Church. It now houses MorningStar's K-12 private school Comenius School of Creative Leadership (CSCL). 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. The golf course was subsequently sold to Southern Gailes. In 2018, Rick Joyner expressed interest in rebuilding the theme park.
The Barn & PTL Studios
Coulston entered into a lease/purchase agreement in April 2009 with The Broadcast Group, a multimedia production and training company founded in 1986 by former PTL Television Network executive Dr. Dale Hill, for the portion of the property encompassing the former Barn auditorium, Total Learning Center and PTL Television Network Studios. The studio production facility was renamed "The Broadcast Group Complex". The former PTL Television Studios and adjacent Total Learning Center complex were almost immediately renovated and reopened upon the closing of the lease/purchase agreement in 2009. The Barn Auditorium renovations were completed in April 2012 and the facility was reopened and renamed "The Barn at Regent Park".
In February 2014, The Broadcast Group suddenly relocated their operations from the buildings to a nearby office park in Fort Mill and shortly afterwards it was announced that all of the buildings and the surrounding 18-acre property had been acquired by Antioch International Church, which operating from a converted/renovated former PTL warehouse near the Heritage Grand Hotel, for $3.81 million on April 24, 2014; according to York County, South Carolina tax records. Antioch moved their church to a property at 8400 Regent Parkway and now uses the former Barn Auditorium as their new church home. The complex comprising The Barn & studios has since been renamed The River Place.
The Upper Room
In January 2009, a group called "Friends of The Upper Room" created an online petition to Flames-of-Fire Ministry and Coulston Enterprises—then owners of The Upper Room—asking them to consider donating the property to another ministry or selling it at a reduced price to save the property from rumored demolition plans. The Upper Room building and surrounding properties were placed on the market.
In November 2010, over 565 people had signed the petition and rumors that The Upper Room's owners planned to demolish it continued to circulate. In May 2010, the Friends of the Upper Room called for interested people worldwide to pray daily to ensure the building's future. On November 19, 2010, it was announced that The Upper Room had been acquired by Christian concert promoter Russell James, who planned to begin renovations on December 1, 2010, with planned opening date of January 1, 2011; it would be known as the Upper Room Chapel.
The facility underwent extensive restoration; the outdoor "Walk of Faith" was restored and is again used as a house of intercessory prayer. It will ultimately be open 24 hours a day, with live video streaming through a website.
Heritage Grand Hotel redevelopment
MorningStar Fellowship Church bought the tower from Coulston Enterprises in 2004 on the condition that the tower be torn down in two years, or Coulston would be paid $300,000. York County approved a development plan in 2005 that would have required the tower be town down. Later, MorningStar persuaded the county to let the ministry complete the tower. In 2013, MorningStar sued the county for breaching the development agreement, and the county claimed MorningStar did. The county continued to appeal its claims until 2019, and a joint agreement in 2020 gave MorningStar time to start the process of finishing the tower for senior housing. The county reinstated lawsuits in 2021, and continues to claim the tower should have come down by 2013 because it is unfit for the purpose. On March 16, 2022, the county stated in a news release that it never stood in MorningStar's way but says codes require an unsafe building to be demolished. Numerous supporters of MorningStar have asked York County Council to change its mind, and MorningStar has filed another legal motion.
King's Castle demolition
On March 19, 2013, developer Earl Coulston, who had purchased much of the former Heritage USA property, began demolishing "The King's Castle", an abandoned arcade and go-kart track that was originally intended to house the world's largest Wendy's restaurant. The building was under construction at the time of the Bakkers' departure in the late 1980s; construction ceased when Heritage USA entered bankruptcy and payments to contractor Roe Messner were stopped. The castle was later completed by Heritage USA's then-new owner Regent Carolina Corporation (f/k/a New Heritage Carolina Corporation), a subsidiary of MUI Corporation of Malaysia. It was used for several years as an arcade and go-kart track before closing and falling into disrepair and abandonment.
Coulston jointly owned the building with neighboring MorningStar Fellowship Church as his property line ran through the rear portion of the building. MorningStar had originally intended the castle to be renovated and used as a youth center but later determined that it had been too heavily vandalized and was in too much disrepair to renovate.[failed verification] Coulston approached MorningStar and offered to pay for the cost of demolition because it was partially on his property and abutted a nearby housing complex he was developing. As soon as demolition began, it was halted the same day because the contractor did not have proper permission from either the State of South Carolina or York County. Demolition resumed once the proper permits were secured and the site has since been cleared.
Jerusalem Amphitheater/King's Arena
The property encompassing the "Jerusalem Amphitheater" (also known as "King's Arena") and campground is owned by Earl Coulston. The campgrounds have been renovated and are now known as Crown Cove RV Park. The outdoor amphitheater has been demolished. A large portion of the amphitheater was demolished as part of Coulston's plan to retrofit it with a roof and turn it into a venue for youth concerts. This never materialized and the amphitheater remained abandoned for many years before being demolished in October 2012.
- Heritage International Ministries home page; accessed August 6, 2014.
- "PTL Heritage USA, Fort Mill, SC". Illicitohio.com. Retrieved 2010-02-14.
- "MorningStar Purchases Former Heritage USA". MorningStar Ministries. Retrieved September 27, 2004.
- "The King's Castle". Southern Things.
- Johnson, Emily (October 28, 2014). "A Theme Park, a Scandal, and the Faded Ruins of a Televangelism Empire". religionandpolitics.org. Religion & Politics.
- Rosenfeld, Megan (June 15, 1986). "Heritage USA &". The Washington Post.
- Funk, Tim (March 17, 2018). "Jim Bakker's theme park was like a Christian Disneyland. Here's what happened to it". The Charlotte Observer.
- "American Notes: Fund Raising". Time. September 21, 1987. Archived from the original on February 12, 2005. Retrieved 2007-01-04.
- Profile PTL Club Archived 2006-08-18 at the Wayback Machine, scencyclopedia.com; accessed August 6, 2014.
- Fredric L. Rice (2001-06-01). "Organized Crime Civilian Response". Associated Press.
- "Falwell backslides down water slide". United Press International. September 11, 1987.
- "PTL Jerry Falwell goes down waterslide". PTL Club. September 11, 1987. Archived from the original on 2021-12-21.
- "Larry King Live Interview with Jessica Hahn (rush transcript)". CNN. July 14, 2005. Retrieved July 29, 2007.
- "PTL-Falwell By STEVE BAKER Associated Press Writer Pigeon Forge, Tenn". skepticfiles.org. Skepticfiles.
- "PTL accuses builder of conspiracy". Washington Post. September 9, 1987.
- "10 Creepy Abandoned Amusement Park Getaways" [Heritage USA, Fort Mill, South Carolina]. Daily Crawler. June 3, 2015.
- "Charleston Rushes to Preserve Heritage From Waters". New York Times. September 25, 1989.
- "California Evangelist Buys Bakker's PTL Property". New York Times. December 17, 1990.
- "Cerullo Cancels Discount Cards for Heritage USA". Los Angeles Times. March 31, 1991.
- "Judge to Decide Lawsuit Against Evangelist Cerullo". Los Angeles Times. December 10, 1991.
- Steimer, Jacob (July 30, 2015). "Inspirational Network CEO's pay doubled in 2013 to $5.7 million". The Charlotte Observer.
- "World Outreach Center". worldoutreachcommunity.com. World Outreach Center Community.
- Marks, John (February 3, 2016). "Plan to build homes on Regent Park golf course clears first hurdle". The Herald (Rock Hill).
- Harris, David (September 29, 1997). "Former Heritage USA resort is again up for sale". The Business Journals.
- "Developer Earl Coulston Plans to Buy the Former Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker's Heritage USA Resort". Hotel Online. July 31, 2004.
- "MorningStar purchases former Heritage USA property from Coulston Enterprises". MorningStar Ministries. September 27, 2004.
- "MorningStar tower foe airs grievance on new billboard on I-77". The Charlotte Observer. March 19, 2015.
- "Developer plans to buy Heritage property". Star news online. Associated Press. August 2, 2004.
- "Ministry Reclaiming Dilapidated Buildings From Old Heritage USA". Cult education. Associated Press. March 19, 2007.
Zadok House of Prayer
- "Comenius School of Creative Leadership (CSCL)". comeniusschool.
- Elkins, Ken (2007-01-26). "Reclaiming heritage – Charlotte BusinessJournal". Bizjournals.com. Retrieved 2010-02-14.
- "Heritage USA - Former American Christian theme park". SM John. November 6, 2017.
- "Rick Joyner of MorningStar Ministries Wants to Rebuild Jim Bakker's Christian Theme Park as a Multi-Faceted Ministry Center". Black Christian News Network. March 17, 2018.
- Strang, Steve (9 December 2016). "PTL: People That Learn (originally published May 1983)".
Heritage USA is a total living center geared for the thousands of visitors who come to PTL
- Moore, David (November 30, 2012). "Question the Queen City: What remains of PTL?". clclt.com. Creative Loafing.
The studio production facility is still in use today, known as The Broadcast Group.
- "2012 Heritage Updates". legaseepublishing.
- Wyns, Peter. "Antioch International Church". Peter Wyns and Derek Prince.
- "January/February/March 2017 Heritage Highlights". legaseepublishing.
Antioch International Church, pastored by Peter Wyns, is located in the old PTL Barn Auditorium at 8400 Regent Parkway.
- "The River Place, once referred to as, "The Barn at Regent Park"". The River Place.
- "2009 Heritage Updates". Legasee Publishing. 2009.
A petition to save it started in the beginning of January 2009
- Allen, Jonathan (2009-02-03). "Effort on to save PTL's "Upper Room"". Fort Mill Times. Archived from the original on 2009-02-06. Retrieved 2010-02-14.
- "2010 Heritage Updates". Legasee Publishing. 2010.
May 8th, members of MorningStar Ministries met for a Prayer Walk
- James, Russell; Yarnes, Dave. "The Legacy and Restoration of the Upper Room on the former P.T.L. Grounds". morningstartv. Retrieved September 10, 2012.
- Worthington, Don. "New owner restores Heritage USA prayer space". The Herald. Retrieved April 24, 2011.
- Upper Room Chapel Home Page
- Marks, John (March 19, 2022). "Despite growing pressure on the MorningStar tower, York County won't budge. Here's why". The Charlotte Observer.
- Tribble, Sarah. "Coulston plans to buy Heritage USA". Hotel Online.
- "York County vs Evangelicals: The Battle Over 'Heritage USA' Ruins". wfae. July 11, 2014.
- "York County vs Evangelicals: The Battle Over 'Heritage USA' Ruins". wfae. July 11, 2014.
abandoned 'Kings Castle' sat in ruins since in the park closed in 1990.
- Gryboski, Michael. "Bakker's 'King's Castle' Being Demolished". Retrieved March 20, 2013.
- Douglass, Anna. "Heritage USA's 'King's Castle" demolished". Retrieved April 22, 2013.
- "Crown Cove RV Park". crowncovervpark.