BLOOMINGTON, MN—The Pentagon announced Monday that Camp Snoopy, the largest indoor family theme park in America, is one of 34 major bases scheduled for closing as part of a vast military repurposing and realignment designed to save almost $50 billion.
"We never enjoy having to close a base," said Anthony Principi, chairman of the Pentagon's Base Realignment and Closure Commission. "But Camp Snoopy is a relic of America's Cold War past. Everything in the facility—from the Petting Zoo to the Extreme Trampoline to the Pepsi Ripsaw Roller Coaster—was conceived at a time when America's primary military threat was the Soviet Union. After careful evaluation, we determined that the only thing Camp Snoopy was enabling our soldiers to fight was boredom."
According to an official Pentagon statement delivered Tuesday by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, most of the 300 men and women stationed at Camp Snoopy will be honorably discharged in a ceremony to be held in front of the Rock 'N' Wall.
Camp Snoopy Gen. Manager Craig Freeman said the camp's decommissioning "came out of nowhere."
"Certainly these last couple years have brought drastic changes in the national attitude toward combat readiness," Freeman said. "But we thought our location in America's northern defensive tier, combined with our many indoor roller coasters and log-flume rides, would shield us from the military's increased emphasis on small-unit tactics. I suppose that was naive."
Ranking managers and others in highly trained positions will be posted at other bases in the Mall of America.
"I heard a rumor that I'm going to be shipped out to the Lego Imagination Center," Coordinating Concessions Manager Steve Voorhies said. "I'm still in shock. I had a distinguished food-service record here—a record I could be proud of—and now some desk jockey at the Pentagon sends me to the mall's South Avenue quadrant? It's bullshit."
"Well, I guess I knew when I signed up that they could do whatever they wanted with me," added Voorhies, who has applied for a transfer to Jillian's Hi Life Lanes in the mall's Party Central.
The camp closing, scheduled for November 2005, is expected to be a major blow to the local civilian economy.
"We've been supplying them with everything from disposable paper goods to uniforms," said Debra Czynsci, the chief military and entertainment sales liaison for the Cedar Fair Management Corporation. "That was close to half a billion dollars annually pumped into the Twin Cities economy. Now, with this facility shutting its gates, we're going to have massive layoffs of our own."
The Pentagon said that the Lego Imagination Center, the Underwater Adventures Aquarium, A.C.E.S. Flight Simulators, and various other Mall of America attractions made Camp Snoopy "redundant."
Insiders, however, suggest that misappropriations issues involving Cedar Fair, which was once investigated for charging Camp Snoopy $479 per case of Thirsty Linus FunCups, factored heavily into the decision to decommission Camp Snoopy.
Brig. Gen. Roy Haemer, who oversaw the Pentagon's Midwest base-closing study, denied suggestions that the camp's closure was politically motivated.
"It may seem counterintuitive to close bases during wartime," Haemer said. "But not a single member of the forward-line units operating in Iraq and Afghanistan trained at Camp Snoopy. Tens of thousands of them visited the park, but the fast-paced gaming environment of the Ultimate Zone has little or no bearing on squad-level combat in a desert environment, and maneuvering around the Kite-Eating Tree will do nothing to prepare a soldier for the arid scrub of the Afghani steppes."
Haemer added that California's Camp Snoopy at Knott's Berry Farm is being kept open primarily due to the Red Baron Ride, which he described as "a real hoot."