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Old Tucson set to be revived to rival its pre-fire glory days

Old Tucson set to be revived to rival its pre-fire glory days

  • Updated

Staggered for the 16 years since it was ravaged by fire, Old Tucson Studios is finally dusting itself off and attempting to make itself a fully viable filming destination.

Old Tucson Co. is finalizing plans to build the Heritage Project, a 5,000-square-foot spread with three new streets lined with 12 new buildings.

Pete Mangelsdorf, Old Tucson CEO and general manager, said the plan is to fill empty space in Old Tucson's Town Square with movie-quality sets that fill out the park and restore the pre-fire feel of close-together buildings, providing the look and depth of a genuine town.

"After the rebuild … following the 1995 fire, the town just didn't have the same look and feel," Mangelsdorf said.

Production designer Gene Rudolf ("Young Guns II," "The Right Stuff") will lead the design and construction of the sets.

Pending Pima County approval of the plans, construction will start in early June.

Mangelsdorf said Old Tucson Co., which leases the property from Pima County, has language in its lease that calls for the Pima County Board of Supervisors to approve all construction projects with budgets larger than $25,000. The board will meet June 7 to vote on the project, and Mangelsdorf said he expects it to be approved and for crews to break ground shortly afterward.

Mangelsdorf, who said Old Tucson is funding the project on its own, would not specify the budget, but he said it was in the "hundreds of thousands" of dollars. He called the schedule for completion "aggressive."


More than 300 feature-film and TV Westerns have filmed at Old Tucson over the years. "The Quick and the Dead" (1995) was the last film shot at Old Tucson or Mescal to get a major theatrical release.

An April 25, 1995, fire - an unsolved arson - ravaged much of Old Tucson.


Once construction gets under way at Old Tucson Studios, likely in early June, the work will progress Mondays through Thursdays into October.

During that period, the theme park, at 201 S. Kinney Road, will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Old Tucson will offer two-for-one admission with Arizona identification starting June 3.

Contact reporter Phil Villarreal at or 573-4130.

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