Storyland Studios announce Libertyland USA

Storyland Studios, the global experience design and strategy firm comprising former Disney Imagineering, Universal Creative and Merlin Entertainments alumni with offices and staff across the US and Europe, has revealed details of LIBERTYLAND USA, a new family entertainment and residential destination in the Mount Rushmore area.

The development will be the biggest development of its kind in South Dakota when it opens to visitors in 2026, which coincides with the 250th anniversary of the US.

Major regional destination

This mixed-use complex is anchored by the theme park LIBERTYLAND USA, and will also feature an indoor waterpark, a hotel and conference centre, an indoor/outdoor amphitheatre, a themed RV resort, and Liberty Village, a mixed-use community with residential, dining, and retail spaces for both residents and guests.

Local officials have accepted the proposal unanimously, and it has been made possible by the formation of the Rapid City Destination District, a 302.1-acre planned development zone situated in a strategic location along I-90. The project’s scope and size will be expanded in the future with the addition of property offering views of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

Ben Thompson, partner and chief strategy officer at Storyland Studios, says: “LIBERTYLAND USA is set to become a major regional entertainment and residential destination in the heart of the Black Hills and should be considered as a similar type of development to “Storyliving by Disney” and Universal’s “Housing of Tomorrow”. The main difference between those projects and LIBERTYLAND is the presence of a world-class regional theme park within the same development.”

Holistic vision

Extending from Mount Rushmore to Rapid City, the Black Hills region of South Dakota is abundant in natural resources, American history, and legacy. In addition to the almost twelve million visitors who visit the national parks at Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and the Rocky Mountains, over four million tourists visit this region annually because of its remarkable natural beauty and the famous man-made wonders.

“LIBERTYLAND is truly a live-work-play destination that will act as a point of connection in the region, allowing residents and visitors to branch out to visit iconic sites and attractions like Mt. Rushmore, Badlands National Park, Crazy Horse, Black Hills National Forest, Devil’s Tower, and more.”

Darren Sloniger, Managing Director of Libertyland USA LLC, the master developer, will lead the project, alongside executives from Storyland Studios. Sloniger was previously president of Marquette Companies, a national developer with master-planned, mixed-use, and high-rise projects across the US. Libertyland USA LLC is a collaboration which includes the Lien family, one of the region’s leading landowners.

Storyland Studios LIBERTYLAND USA Blackhills Residential

Mel McGowan, chief creative officer at Storyland Studios, shares: “LIBERTYLAND and Liberty Village are not just about history told from one perspective, in fact, it’s quite the opposite. This development will represent shared stories from different perspectives that converge like multiple streams flowing into one river.

“The housing within Liberty Village is really thought through holistically. The master plan covers everything from workforce housing and vacation homes to retirement housing. Our goal is to take care of the variety of pressing housing needs in the region, at the present time over 2000 residential units are planned.”

Sam Brannan, a representative of the Lien family, legacy land partners of LIBERTYLAND USA, adds: “The Storyland team have brought the everyday American hero story to life through LIBERTYLAND USA. We believe this will be as big of a game-changer for South Dakota as Mount Rushmore was 80 years ago, which is why we’ve invested our time, energy and capital into the project to get it to this exciting milestone.”

Family legacy

November 2022 saw the enthusiastic approval of the Rapid City Destination District’s zoning by a panel of officials including Jason Salamun, the mayor of Rapid City.

Salamun says: “LIBERTYLAND USA and Liberty Village serve as a shining example of what’s possible in Rapid City. The Spirit of America is alive and well here and this remarkable vision continues to have our strong support.”

Storyland Studios LIBERTYLAND USA impression

“The Lien family’s overarching goal for the Rapid City site is that it’s a place for everyone. We want all people to feel welcomed to work, play, and live in this community,” continues Brennan, who is the granddaughter of Pete Lien & Sons mining company founder Pete Lien, and one of the late Chuck Lien’s nine children. It is Chuck Lien’s legacy which has inspired his family to embark on this project.

The Lien family has operated enterprises in the Black Hills region since their arrival in 1936. The family has a long history of contributing substantially to Western South Dakota. Today, the Lien family has been instrumental in the necessary planning and procurement of development assets, including the Rapid City site and an additional site adjacent to Mt. Rushmore that is still in the conceptual phase.

The family intends to develop these assets responsibly in order to benefit Rapid City and adjacent communities in a way that is sustainable, economically viable, and appropriate for both the environment and future generations.

Storyland Studios LIBERTYLAND USA map

“The Liens are creating this space as a long-term legacy to their own founding father and his love of our country,” comments McGowan. “It’s really an affordable American family destination, from sleeping bag to suite. It would truly have something for everyone.”

Brannan says: “Rapid City is a healing place for all walks of life. We’re miners, loggers, ranchers, farmers – people from all backgrounds. We definitely want this to be a healing, unifying project, because it’s very necessary in these times. We’re willing to entertain any compelling proposals to partner with us on this development, and we’re willing to put our energy, land and capital investment into making this a reality.”

A schedule for investor presentations will be established in the weeks to come. Interested parties are invited to sign up for further information at www.libertylandusa.com.