x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Real Madrid reveal 'sportainment' island plans for RAK

Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah says the 50-hectare resort aims to attract one million visitors a year when it is completed in January 2015.

RAS AL KHAIMAH // The world’s first “sportainment” theme park will feature holographic imaging, a roller coaster, a water park and a submarine circuit – and it will open on to the sea.

The Spanish football giant Real Madrid announced plans for the park as part of its resort complex on Al Marjan Island, off Ras Al Khaimah.

The attraction’s centrepiece 10,000-seat football stadium, shaped like a half moon, will have holographic animation and interactive exhibitions.

“We want to turn this splendid part of the world into a place that serves to make people from different nationalities come together through their fascination for sport, for football and for Real Madrid,” said the club’s president Florentino Perez.

Mr Perez joined Sheikh Saud bin Saqr, Ruler of RAK, at the site for the announcement yesterday.

“We are honoured and proud for this, which we regard as a great challenge and for which we feel immense responsibility,” the club chief said.

The sports facilities will be extensive, including a football academy with a fully equipped training centre and sport clinic.

The renowned football club wants children of the region to come to practise football under the supervision of coaches trained in the Spanish capital.

The sports facilities will also include basketball courts and an Olympic-sized swimming pool. A yacht club and marina are also planned and will use the Real Madrid logo.

The first recreational tourism complex to be built under the club’s trademark, Al Marjan Island will also include luxury hotels and an amusement park.

It will also have a club museum, a shopping centre, private beaches and residential areas.

Sheikh Saud and Mr Perez yesterday outlined their plan for the island and the role it will play in boosting tourism in RAK.

Sheikh Saud said the 50-hectare resort will be the flagship of the Al Marjan development and would hopefully attract 1 million visitors a year when completed in January 2015.

Mr Perez said RAK had been chosen for the project because of its location, being of equal distance between Europe and the Far East, which is home to half of the estimated 300 million fans and followers of the club.

“We also chose RAK because the Government shared the vision, drive and ambition to work with the club in creating a unique concept of sportainment,” he said. “The world of sports and Real Madrid again prove to have no boundaries and that football is a fantastic tool with which to bring together diverse nationalities and cultures.”

Mr Perez said the project would enhance the strength of the club in the Middle East.

“It may be seen as unusual for a football club but we feel this will set a trend across the industry as clubs try to find new ways to make money,” he said.

The Real Madrid player and first team director Zinedine Zidane received a standing welcome at the event, which was attended by more than 200 guests at Al Marjan Island.

Sheikh Saud said the project would transform the UAE.

“We are ready to embrace progress and the millions of visitors who will come to Real Madrid Resort Island,” he said.

“We are proud to have this in the emirate.

Young generations will benefit a lot from this. This development increases the respect for each other in the interconnected world and attracts football fans from all over.

“It’s an ideal location for the project and close to Dubai, Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah airports.”

Louis Armand De Rouge, the chief executive of RAK Marjan Island Football, the entity behind the project, said the complex was designed not only for the millions of Real Madrid fans around the world, but would also give families an unforgettable experience.

“Real Madrid have more than 300 million fans throughout the world and more than half live in Asia,” Mr De Rouge said.

“We will bring Real Madrid closer to these people, who will be able to get to know the club better.”

frahman@thenational.ae