Televangelist Morris Cerullo Wants to Build a Christian-Themed Wonderland In San Diego

Rendering of the planned Morris Cerullo Legacy International Center, Mission Valley Campus. (Colleen Mason)
Rendering of the planned Morris Cerullo Legacy International Center, Mission Valley Campus. (Colleen Mason)

Televangelist Morris Cerullo, widely known for his overseas healing crusades and the occasional legal skirmish, now is hoping to cement his spiritual legacy with the help of hologram-filled catacombs, a 20-foot-tall wailing wall and an interactive biblical museum.

More than four years after purchasing a foreclosed Mission Valley hotel, the Pentecostal preacher is banking on faithful followers and religious-minded tourists to flock to a planned Christian-themed resort that will transport them to biblical times — with underground passages reminiscent of Rome and a domed theater outfitted with full-motion seats and sensory effects simulating wind, snow and fog.

The $125-million project, which needs approval from the San Diego City Council, promises to transform the 18-acre site into a tourist destination that could draw as many as 400,000 visitors a year. And according to Cerullo, not all of them will be seeking the Gospel, project leaders said.

“This idea of themed entertainment is going to start reaching into … museums, the waterfront,” said Jim Penner, executive director of the Morris Cerullo Legacy Center. “It’s a business model. It’s just based around religious themes rather than secular themes.”

Cerullo is no stranger to religious tourism. In the early 1990s, he sought to salvage a Christian theme park in South Carolina founded — and bankrupted — by disgraced evangelist Jim Bakker. Cerullo’s investment turned out to be short-lived, coming to an end after a dispute with his business partners.

Now 84, Cerullo was unavailable to comment on his latest venture. But associates said the San Diego project was conceived, in part, as a vehicle for his teachings long after he is gone.

Lynn Hodge, chief executive of Morris Cerullo World Evangelism, said what Cerullo “doesn’t want when he dies is for this ministry to die.”

Celebrating his more than six decades of evangelical missions and teachings, the proposed Legacy International Center will serve as Cerullo’s headquarters.

Plans for the resort call for 127 time-share units, a spa, a fitness center, and retail and fine dining options. San Diego real estate consultant Gary London, who was hired by Cerullo, said that part of the business could generate $86 million in annual revenue, enough to sustain the entire development.

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SOURCE: The Los Angeles Times
Lori Weisberg

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