Theme park inspired by Mesoamerican empires revealed for Coachella Valley

Legends Of The Not-So-Hidden Temple

Theme park inspired by Mesoamerican empires revealed for Coachella Valley

Return to Aztlán’s biggest draw will likely be the 200-foot-tall pyramid modeled after Templo Mayor (Courtesy Aztlán Development)

*Editor’s note: A previous version of this article from 2021 stated that the development team behind the proposed theme park had secured funding and was moving forward with the project. This information was erroneous and the article has since been adjusted to reflect this. We regret the error. 

Several years ago, Aztlán Development, a group based in Palm Springs made up of architects and developers specializing in theme parks, unveiled plans for a new one inspired by the Mesoamerican empires of the Aztecs and Toltecs in between California’s Indio and Coachella. Named “Return to Aztlán,” the proposed 48-acre theme park was slated to include a concert plaza with a 10,000-person capacity, a beach amphitheater, and a 16-screen movie theatre in the shape of a Mayan temple. The site’s centerpiece was envisioned as a a 200-foot-tall pyramid modeled after Templo Mayor, the famed lost temple in the former Mexican capital city of Tenochtitlan. Per the proposal, visitors would be able to take a glass elevator to an observation deck providing views across the Coachella Valley before going down one of the pyramid’s many water slides.

In addition, the first phase of the site’s construction would provide sets, sound stages, and other set designs for the upcoming film Montezuma Rising – Return to Aztlan, which provided inspiration for the design of the theme site itself. “Our illustrious entertainment collaborators are following in the steps of Paramount, Disney, and Sony in creating an entertainment venue based upon popular movie themes,” said Mark Stuart, CEO of Aztlan Development in a previous statement. The theme park idea has been kicking around for years at this point and although the initial vision for the park was first unveiled in 2015, there are no concrete plans to move forward with the project at this point.

Site overview of Return to Aztlán
Return to Aztlán will combine amenities of a theme park, such as water slides and an observation deck, with those of a cultural center (Aztlán Development)

Aside from providing space for myth and fantasy, several of the attractions within the proposed theme park would tell the story of the Cahuilla, a Native American peoples that settled in Coachella Valley over 2,000 years ago, and the long history of the region as it played a role in the former Aztec Empire. The Mesoamerican Culture and Art Museum, in particular, will foster continuing research into the history of Mesoamerican culture in the region with support from Mexico City’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) and Museum of the Templo Mayor.

Direct overhead diagram of the Return to Aztlán site
The Aztlán Entertainment District is planned for construction on nearly the entirety of the Tribal Trust Land in between Indio and Coachella (Aztlán Development)

Return to Aztlán was envisioned as a entral component of the Aztlán Entertainment District, a three-square-mile development that currently includes Championship Eagle Falls Golf Course and will add two Native American Casinos, a resort hotel, and other amenities during its second phase of construction. The development will be accessible via CV Link, a bike and electric vehicle pathway currently under construction that connects several of the region’s major communities.

Though Aztlán Development billed the theme park as one of the area’s few year-round attractions, they are hoping to make a return on their investment through its proximity to local seasonal events, including Coachella Music Festival and the Stagecoach Country Music Festival. Though the plan for a theme park has been in the works for nearly a decade, an official construction timeline has yet to be released.