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Tree lighting kicks off grand opening of Religious-themed attraction and hotel

Posted at 6:09 PM, Dec 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-13 21:25:50-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — The public is invited to the inaugural Christmas tree lighting ceremony Saturday at the new Legacy International Center in Mission Valley.

Dozens of workers made their last-minute touches Friday ahead of the center's tree lighting, which plans to pull out all the holiday stops.

"We'll have Christmas caroling out there, and Santa will be out there. Just social fun," Jim Penner, executive director of the center, said.

Penner said Saturday's event is the first of a three-phase opening for the nearly $200-million hotel, theater, and attraction center opening next year.

The center is the brain-child of San Diego-based televangelist Morris Cerullo, who made his fortune as a popular televangelist in the 1980s and 1990s.

"He [Cerullo] wanted people around the world to be able to experience the people that he got to know through his 70 years of travel to 95 nations in the world," Penner said.

Penner told 10News the center was initially supposed to be a small ministry training center and possibly a dormitory. But with the availability of the 18-acre former Mission Valley Resort, they went big.

The hotel will have 126 rooms, including 12 suites. The fine-dining restaurant is a steakhouse, which is next to the pool and spa.

The attraction building has a domed, 4D theater designed by former Disney Imagineers. Audiences will get to feel like they're flying over Jerusalem in a ride created by the same designers who made Soarin' Over California at Disney California Adventure Park.

Another attraction will be an award-winning, computerized dome, where people can digitally tour the world.

"As we get to know each other, the world gets smaller," Penner said.

Before the council approved the blueprints in 2017, critics of the Legacy International Center feared that traffic would be a nightmare. But Penner said that the improvements they made on the roads turned out to have unexpected benefits.

"We widened Hotel Circle the entire length of our property. We have 1000 feet of frontage there. And a nice benefit of that is when we had this last big rain last week, in the past, Hotel Circle would flood like crazy in front of the hook ramps here, and no flooding at all!"

The inaugural Christmas Tree lighting ceremony will begin at 6 p.m. tomorrow. The hotel and attractions will open in February 2020.