ORLANDO – Jane Wilcox can see the people stopping their cars, getting out, and clicking photos of the property she works at. And with so much busy traffic rushing back and forth along Taft-Vineland Road, she sometimes wonders where they manage to park their cars.
“I don’t know how they stop,” she said. “They do seem to stop, though.”
What so many curious visitors have been taking photos of is a property highly visible to anyone who drives along Interstate 4 on a daily basis as they pass by the exit for Conroy Road: the massive stadium being built at the Holy Land Experience.
Construction has been going on all year, although the theme park’s guests will have to wait a little longer before they can check out the new building which will be called The Church of All Nations. It’s expected to be fully operational by early next summer.
Wilcox, the guest services supervisor at Hold Land Experience, said it would be a state of the art auditorium that would double as a high end, high definition television production facility that will air programming nationally and world wide by the Orlando theme park’s owner, Trinity Broadcasting Network.
Although billed as a theme park, Hold Land is different from competitors like Walt Disney World and Universal Studios, which offer thrill rides. Holy Land Experience is a non-profit religious institution, whose central appeal is faith-based. The purpose there isn’t to entertain crowds but to tell the story of Jesus Christ through passion plays and historical reenactments.
In 2007, Trinity Broadcasting Network — which operates a station next door – purchased the park that has theaters with live performances of passion plays twice a day, the largest indoor model of the city of Jerusalem at the time of Christ, talks on Jerusalem at the time of Christ by a Bible scholar team made up of archeologists, and the Scriptorium museum, a center for Bible antiquities, which hosts 60-minute tours of the historic artifacts it holds.
Holy Land also has a children’s section that allows young ones to listen to classic stories from the Bible, plus gift shops and a dining area.
Since Holy Land owns 10 acres across the street and a neighboring industrial park, there have ben expansion plans in the works for years, including the construction of the Church of All Nations amphitheater.
It ‘s expected to resemble a traditional Roman amphitheater that will host evening Christian concerts, theatrical productions, and special events. There are plans in the works for a new “Passion of Christ” dramatization, with Jesus literally ascending on high with the angels, and a “Hell’s Flames and Heaven’s Gates” passion play.
The amphitheater will seat 2,000 people and include a new food court, retail outlets, seating areas and cinema screens.
At the same time, Holy Land is also constructing another new attraction, Wilcox said.
“We do have the Christus Gardens opening soon,” she said. “It’s a devotional walk-through depicting inspirational scenes, like the birth of Christ. It’s not up and running yet, they’re building it now.”
Still, Holy Land’s busiest time tends to be around Easter and the holiday season this month, with business rising by 25 percent around Christmas. Wilcox noted that Holy Land hopes to unveil Christus Gardens this month.
“It should be opening before Christmas day – hopefully,” she said.