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California: Dead raise shrine to Garcia

With the passing in 1995 of Jerry Garcia, the Grateful Dead reached the end of its weird and wonderful road. But, as David Usborne finds out, Deadheads may soon have a place to go worship. Where? In San Francisco, of course.

It is up to the world's Deadheads to ponder what Jerry Garcia must be thinking. A theme park dedicated to his legacy? Is this the way to memorialise the band that grew from Haight-Ashbury, the seedbed of 1960s flower power?

Deadheads, of course, are the legions of disciples who for three decades ensured that the band that named itself the Grateful Dead remained one of the most popular of concert draws of the entire rock music industry. And, on balance, they must be pleased with the news out of San Francisco.

Surviving members of the venerable group have announced plans to build a giant entertainment and performance complex in the city centre dedicated to their music and to the late Garcia himself, who died of heart trouble in August 1995 after a long battle with drugs.

If all goes well, the centre, which will be as large as the stadiums the band used to perform in, will be built in time for a special opening, with concert, on New Year's Eve 1999. It will be named "Terrapin Station", in honour of one of the group's albums, released in 1977.

The entrance hall of which will resemble a stadium car-park, designed to recapture the atmosphere at the parking lots at Dead concerts, where fans used to gather to trade crafts, foods and their special brand of wisdom before going inside.

Provisional drawings call for restaurants, shops and possibly even a Grateful Dead hotel and apartment complex. There will also be two theatres, one called the Jerry Garcia Theatre, and another, the Wheel, a multimedia dance hall with holograms of the man himself.

Any comparisons with Mickey Mouse are not welcome, however. "This is not a theme park," group manager Cameron Sears said.

Hopes are high that 1.2 million Deadheads will visit the new shrine every year. Band members have pledged $3.5m (pounds 2.1m) to construction costs which are expected to reach around $60m. Of that, $1.5m will come from sales last year of a CD box-set of of a 1990 live performance. Stock will be offered, meanwhile, to other interested investors.