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Hollywood, Lego and Bollywood inspiration for three new Dubai theme parks

Three new theme parks drawing five million visitors a year will open in 2016 Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid's private property company Meraas Holding announced yesterday.
Girls ride in Lego-themed boats of Legoland Malaysia. Groundwork has started on a similar park in Dubai, which is expected to open by 2016. Rahman Roslan / Bloomberg News
Girls ride in Lego-themed boats of Legoland Malaysia. Groundwork has started on a similar park in Dubai, which is expected to open by 2016. Rahman Roslan / Bloomberg News

Three new theme parks drawing five million visitors a year will open in 2016, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid’s private property company Meraas Holding announced yesterday.

Ground work on the three parks, themed around Hollywood movies, Bollywood movies and the Danish children’s toy Lego, started in February and will eventually form part of a Dh10 billion complex of five linked theme parks.

Meraas said that Bollywood Parks Dubai would be the world’s first theme park dedicated to the Indian film industry, providing “a physical location for fans from across the globe to visit and celebrate the biggest names of Indian cinema and its very colourful canvas”.

Legoland Dubai, which will be operated by Merlin Entertainments, will be the first Legoland theme park in the Middle East and will cater to children aged between two and 12.

And Motiongate Dubai will feature rides themed around Hollywood characters along the same lines as Universal Studios in Florida.

Meraas said that the first phase of development of the Dubai Parks & Resorts project would also include a grand entrance square of shops, restaurants and entertainments dubbed “Riverpark” and Lapita, a family hotel.

The company added that it had formed a new subsidiary, Dubai Parks & Resorts, to manage the construction of the mega-project and had appointed the former Meraas chief leisure and entertainment officer Raed Al Nuaimi as its chief executive.

Plans for five linked theme parks to be built close to the Dubai 2020 Expo site and the city’s new Al Maktoum airport were first announced in 2012 as part of a government push to double annual visitor numbers to 20 million by 2020.

Since then Meraas said it had “made substantial progress towards finalising key components and partnerships” with movie studios, contractors and theme park operators.

“Dubai Parks & Resorts has been designed as the first of its kind entertainment destination that simultaneously opens the gates of three theme parks,” said the Meraas Holding chairman Abdulla Al Habbai. “The project will feature leading intellectual properties from elite industry players to create leisure and entertainment concepts that are expected to draw more than five million residents and tourists annually.”

In July the operator behind Dubai’s Legoland theme park said it was on track to be completed by 2016. Under a management contract for the theme park, Merlin will receive management fees of US$3 million to $4m a year from 2016 after the park’s opening. Between last year and 2015, it was expected to receive development fees of $2.5m annually.

The Dubai Parks & Resorts mega- project follows a previous attempt by the Dubai Holdings subsidiary Tatweer to build a Florida-style Dh64.3bn Dubailand entertainment complex on the outskirts of Dubai, which it announced in 2003 and was to have included 45 mega- projects.

These included a stalled Dh8bn Universal Studios as well as plans for a Dreamworks park, Six Flags Dubai and Legoland Dubai.

“We’ve had a look at the figures and we believe that five million visits a year would be achievable for these three theme parks,” said Phil Taylor, the managing director of the Dubai-based specialist leisure surveyor Team Leisure. “Building these theme parks is essential if the Dubai Government is to achieve its goal of drawing 20 million visitors a year by 2020.

“Back in 2003, when Dubailand was first announced, the city was attracting only around five million overnight visitors a year, which would not have been anywhere near enough to support these sorts of parks,” he added. “Last year there were 11 million, which is a lot more doable and the Government seems to be following a strategy of building the parks itself rather than leaving it to private developers.”

lbarnard@thenational.ae

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Updated: September 7, 2014 04:00 AM

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