Throngs of fans and media descended on Neverland Ranch following Michael Jackson's death last week, demonstrating once again how the 2,800-acre property in California's Santa Barbara County is synonymous with the King of Pop. However, plans for a Neverland public memorial and burial have been abandoned, and it's unclear what will become of the cultural landmark now. Jackson himself left the land after his second trial for child-molestation charges (the police search of his home "violated" it, he said), and in November 2008 the ranch's deed was transferred to Sycamore Valley Ranch Company, LLC and billionaire Thomas Barrack, a casualty of Jackson's mounting debt, according to the Santa Barbara EdHat. The property's amusement park rides were removed, and Jackson memorabilia headed to the auction block.
So what should become of Neverland now? A few suggestions:
Neverland, the Graceland: While the mayor of Gary, Indiana lobbies for the Jackson family to establish a museum dedicated to their lives in Jackson's former hometown, turning Neverland into a public museum much like Elvis Presley's Graceland seems like the most obvious idea, given the fame surrounding the property. It's probably the most cost-feasible option as well, as it would just require the Ranch to be restored to its previous state prior to Jackson's departure. Decades after Presley's death, Graceland continues to attract fans and earn money, so it's a given Neverland could operate the same way. However, California law prevents an individual from being buried at a private residence, so the site would have to serve more as a museum than a final resting ground.
Neverland, the Amusement Park: The Ranch previously housed a kiddie roller coaster, Ferris wheel, merry-go-round and many more rides to entertain its young visitors. Southern California is already a hotbed for theme parks, from Disneyland to Six Flags to Universal Studios, and Neverland could be the latest addition to the club. Imagine, a roller coaster called Moonwalker or Dangerous: The Ride. They can even resurrect the 3D Captain EO attraction that was at the Epcot Center and Disneyland.
Neverland, the National Park: It would probably the favorite option to the quiet residents of Santa Barbara, the plan would mean restoring the Ranch to its original, scenic state. Without the frills of the previous two options, the Ranch would be similar to the Strawberry Fields memorial dedicated to John Lennon in Central Park. Maybe once a year, on Jackson's birthday or the anniversary of his death, a public concert could be held on the land to pay tribute to the singer.
Neverland, the Children's Hospital: This is probably the closest thing Jackson had in mind when he established the Neverland Ranch, and it's most likely the best way to honor his memory. Even as Jackson was preparing for his This Is It! tour, his spokesman told Rolling Stone that Jackson was returning to the stage not for the money, but that "he's doing it for his children and the children of the world." What better way to honor his legacy as a humanitarian than with a children's hospital on the site, complete with the rides?
What would be a fitting fate for Neverland? Leave your suggestions for Jackson's former home in the comments.
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