Hershey Entertainment & Resorts Co. has begun demolition work as it prepares to build a new entrance to Hersheypark, part of a $150 million expansion of the amusement park designed to broaden its appeal as a year-round destination.
A ceremonial groundbreaking was held Wednesday for the 23-acre expansion project, the largest investment in the park's history. The company first announced the project in October.
Dubbed Chocolatetown, the new region of the park is being built on current park land and some undeveloped land next to the park. It is slated to open in 2020.
John Lawn, the company's president and CEO, said he believes the new region's features will help bring more people to the park between January and March. They include a Hershey-themed restaurant with a bar and patio overlooking the park, as well as an ice cream parlor, a confectionary scratch kitchen and a 2,200-square-foot Starbucks store.
The new region also will include the park's largest kettle-corn location, a one-of-a-kind Kisses fountain and a 10,000-square-foot flagship store featuring the company's largest collection of Hersheypark merchandise.
During the winter months, the park is closed and the primary draw is Chocolate World, an indoor venue that offers a look at chocolate production and candy-making, as well as food and shopping.
Lawn expects the park expansion also will help bring people to stores and restaurants in downtown Hershey, as well as to businesses that move into the new Hershey West End development getting underway near the Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.
"The entire destination is growing," said Lawn, citing recent hotel growth in the Hershey area.
Hershey Entertainment is planning to release more information about Chocolatetown over the course of the year. That is likely to include information about the new roller coaster, which will be the park's tallest, fastest and longest.
The coaster will be near the new main entrance to the park. It also will be adjacent to Skyrush and the Comet rollercoasters, according to the park's interactive map.
Talks of expanding the park began about three or four years ago. The final product in this next chapter of Hersheypark — what Sen. John DiSanto (R-Dauphin) called the "epicenter of all things fun and chocolate" — will open in summer 2020.