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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 16 November 2018

IMG Worlds pushing for 2020 opening of second theme park

Featuring nine zones spread across 2 million square feet, Worlds of Legends will include attractions based on brands such as Pokemon, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Dora the Explorer.
Above, entrance to Predator, one of the rides at the Lost Valley adventure zone. Victor Besa for The National
Above, entrance to Predator, one of the rides at the Lost Valley adventure zone. Victor Besa for The National

IMG Worlds is pushing to open its new theme park by the time Expo 2020 begins.

After opening the 1.5-million-square foot IMG Worlds of Adventures as the world’s biggest indoor theme park in August, the company on Monday revealed plans for its second theme park. IMG Worlds of Legends will be one-third bigger – at 2 million sq ft.

Lennard Otto, the chief executive of IMG Worlds, told The National: “We want to capitalise on 2020, if possible. We don’t want to commit to a date that is not achievable but it would be great to capitalise on the influx of visitors already coming out and be aligned with creating and supporting the 2020 Vision of attracting 20 million visitors. I think our facility will play a key role in supporting that growth.”

The new IMG Worlds of Legends will connect to IMG Worlds of Adventures via a sky bridge and Mr Otto said that the parks will be run as separate ventures. There will be a “park hopper” pass so people can visit both.

“But these are two separate day destinations. IMG Worlds has just become a multi-day destination.”

The new park will feature nine zones. Seven of these are licensing deals with companies including Viacom, Ubisoft and Mattel that will bring attractions featuring Sponge Bob Square Pants, Dora The Explorer, Power Rangers, Barbie, Pokemon and Dragonball Z to the region.

The other two are IMG Worlds’ own branded zones including a Lost Valley dinosaur zone featuring water rides and Legends of Arabia, which Mr Otto said would be the “first Middle Eastern-themed brand to come to any theme park in the world”.

He said that precise costs for the new park would be revealed once its construction schedule has been agreed.

He declined to comment in detail on reports that IMG World’s parent company, Ilyas & Mustafa Galadari Group, has been in talks with advisers about a potential IPO of the business, stating that this was “merely a rumour in the market”.

“We have many options for financing IMG Worlds of Legends,” he said. “Debt and equity are two key parts of that but we have been open to other options as well, which we haven’t announced publicly. Until anything is finalised, we will not.”

He said some of the equity could be provided through proceeds from operations at IMG Worlds of Adventure, which is targeting 4 million visitors in its first year.

“We wouldn’t make the announcement unless we had the security to be able to fund it,” said Mr Otto.

An opening in 2020 would mean that IMG Worlds of Legends will come to the market after DXB Entertainments’ Dh2.67bn Six Flags Dubai resort, which is set to open in 2019, and the 4 million sq ft 20th Century Fox park, which is being built on a nearby site by Al Ahli Holding Group.

It was announced last year, with a targeted opening date of 2018.

Mr Otto said that the brands at IMG Worlds of Legends meant it had a “unique” offering. “This is the largest IP-branded announcement of its kind. We have more brands under one roof than any other park has.”

A report published last month by Colliers for Arabian Travel Market outlined the potential for the UAE to become the regional hub for theme parks, predicting a combined 19 million admissions per year by 2020 at parks like IMG Worlds of Adventure, Dubai Parks and Resorts and Ferrari World.

Simon Press, the senior exhibition director of Arabian Travel Market, said: “Dubai has a unique chance to replicate the success we have seen in other markets such as Orlando, Singapore and Tokyo, attracting new arrivals while also capturing a share of both the stopover and direct tourism markets.”

mfahy@thenational.ae

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