SCOTTSDALE – A 23-year-old Old West theme park is suing another and contends city officials are helping the newcomer’s efforts to rustle the old-timer’s business.
Rawhide Western Town, operated by Western Town Corp. and Rawhide Operating Co., claim in the Maricopa County Superior Court suit that operators of WestWorld, an equestrian park, want to put Rawhide out of business because Rawhide’s operations have refused to sell to WestWorld.
Rawhide’s operators contend Scottsdale officials are giving WestWorld financial, political and marketing support, a claim Mayor Herb Drinkwater denies.
“Rawhide is the most successful venture of its type in the U.S.A.,’ Drinkwater said. “There’s no way they can be hurt by anybody.’
Richard Stevens, WestWorld president until Nov. 1, called the lawsuit frivolous and denied allegations by Rawhide’s parent companies, which are controlled by landowner Jerry Hirsch.
According to court papers, Rawhide attracts about 800,000 people a year to its Old West town.
The Maricopa County Superior Court lawsuit claims the operators of WestWorld – Capital Realty Corp. and Hatband Inc. – have been negotiating privately for several years to purchase Rawhide, but Rawhide has refused to sell.
“In December 1993, having failed to lawfully acquire Rawhide, WestWorld threatened Rawhide that if Rawhide did not sell to WestWorld, WestWorld would develop its own imitation of Rawhide `smack in the middle’ of WestWorld, and that it would create its own facility `incorporating most everything’ at Rawhide,’ the suit claims.
“Additionally, WestWorld communicated to Rawhide, in writing, that WestWorld would economically ruin Rawhide by cutting its business `in half, if not more,’ ‘ the suit says.
Stevens said the possibility that WestWorld might buy Rawhide originated with Hirsch several years ago. “The negotiations fell apart in large part because Jerry Hirsch kept changing his price and terms,’ he said.
He added that the idea of a Western village has been part of WestWorld’s long-range plan since the park’s start with city help.
The city paid roughly $10 million in the early 1980s to develop the equestrian park.
In return, WestWorld’s operators pay the city 2 percent of its gross revenue each year.
Scottsdale financial experts say, however, that WestWorld hasn’t lived up to its billing as a major equestrian park and Western attraction and that at the current rate, may never fully repay the city’s initial million investment.
The park features the Diamond Back Steakhouse and Saloon as well as riding stables, arenas and a polo field.