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Tuesday, July 5, 2022


Developers of the Carifest cultural entertainment park have received $5 million in equity capital for its $60 million project from a New York-based financing company.
Lion & Lamm Capital, LCC, of New York has committed to a joint venture and underwriting agreement with the locally owned Carifest Corp, which recently signed a new 70-year lease with the West Indian Co. Ltd., for about 9 acres of land south of Havensight Mall.
"Lion & Lamm has agreed to commit $5,000,000 to the Carifest project against an estimated capital budget of $60,000,000. We will underwrite the balance with our other strategic investors," Lion & Lamm Managing Director Jonathan Zich said in a released statement.
"Our decision was based upon the due diligence we conducted on Carifest, a new lease with WICO, a good U.S. economy and real estate capital markets, the strength of the cruise ship industry in St. Thomas and various other basic project fundamentals being in place," Zich said.
Carifest's developers describe the project as a one-of-its-kind Caribbean-themed cultural and entertainment park which will feature amusement rides, historical and educational exhibits, parades and performances.
"Having the first $5 million is a major breakthrough for this project," Carifest President Eric Matthews said Thursday. "The first financing is always the hardest to get and hopefully, now we've created the momentum."
The agreement with Lion & Lamm allows Carifest to begin the design phase of the project, which should attract further financing, Matthews said.
"With the Lion & Lamm agreement in place, we are now gearing up to enter the design phase of the project on July 26th in Orlando, Fla.," the statement said. "The design process will start to define the various attraction elements of the project and where they will be situated on the land site."
Among the attractions planned for the park are the Birth of the Caribbean River Ride, a Caribbean theater, a pirate stunt show, carnival parades of light, daily cultural exchanges at a folklife village and marketplace, a Carnival Arts Heritage Exhibit, a Calypso hall of fame, the Roots of Africa Discovery Center, Shipwrecks of the Caribbean, a West Indies aviary, the Old Sugarmill Rum Factory, and Arawak and Carib villages.
"The Lion & Lamm agreement was presented at the recent Carifest shareholders meeting in St. Thomas and the proposal was well-received by our shareholders," Carifest Chairman Leo Barbel said in the statement.
The Carifest park will be visible to all arriving cruise ship passengers because it will be located just to the east of the WICO docks. Many believe the park will help St. Thomas stand out further among Caribbean tourist destinations.
"A project of this magnitude, when completed, will put the Virgin Islands in the forefront with attractions in the Caribbean," WICO President and CEO Edward Thomas said in June. "There is a growing demand by the traveling public for family-type entertainment and the Carifest project is a major step in that direction."

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