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Dubai Takes Giant Leap by Venturing Into Theme Parks Business

In the world of civil construction, there is very little that Dubai has not achieved as yet.  Be it the world’s tallest building of Burj Khalifa, or dredging the Palm Islands off its shores, or the new Al-Maktoum International Airport at Jebel Ali (billed as one of the world’s first purpose-built aerotropolis), this time around the Emirates’ eye are firmly set on building a theme park and setting a new benchmark for entertainment in the region.

Dubai Parks and Resorts (under incorporation), a Meraas Holding company, is spearheading the move to build a mega leisure and entertainment theme park. The development will be will be a 30-million-sq-foot leisure complex and will feature three theme parks with a hotel, retail, dining and entertainment facilities in the Jebel Ali region of Dubai.

The mega entertainment facility will essentially comprise three theme parks: Hollywood-themed motiongate Dubai; Bollywood Parks Dubai; and LEGOLAND Dubai. Besides, centrally located between the three theme parks will be Riverpark – a grand entrance plaza and a family hotel called Lapita. Motiongate Dubai will feature four unique zones and its main attempt will be to take visitors on a journey of discovery, bringing to life some of the most recognisable Hollywood characters from the big screen. It will also use latest-in-technology attractions and new-generation rides to offer a unique, high-value entertainment experience.

Billed as the first Bollywood theme park in the world that is dedicated solely to the Indian film industry, Bollywood Parks Dubai will provide a physical location for fans from across the globe to visit and celebrate the biggest names of Indian cinema. As the first LEGOLAND theme park in the Middle East and the seventh worldwide, LEGOLAND Dubai will bring the well-known LEGO brick to life in a unique interactive world specifically designed for children aged two to 12.

“About 45% of the construction work is already underway with primary infrastructure facilities being built,” said Matthew Priddy, chief technical officer with Dubai Parks and Resorts, adding that mobilisation has also been completed for the main contractors. Priddy was until recently a vice president with Hill and also the project director for the planned theme park

In September, 2014 Hill International announced it had been awarded a contract from Dubai Parks and Resorts to provide show and ride construction management consultancy services for the project. The two-year contract is valued at about US$51 million. This will probably be the first time that Hill is providing such services in the Middle East and as per its contract with Dubai Parks and Resorts has an approval to put into service 109 of its personnel that come with an array of working in theme parks globally.

There will be a total of 46 rides for which Hill will be providing its services, Priddy said. The company has also picked up all works related to construction management and project controls, he said. “To start with, Hill pulled together a team of 40 industry experts with global experience, including some who have worked in Universal Studios. For the construction management contract, Hill also took on board personnel that have worked in leading theme parks elsewhere in the world,” Priddy said.


While the scorching heat, with summer temperature rising to over 45 degrees Celsius, is not considered as major hindrance to operating the rides and other entertainment facilities, challenges will lie in building the project, however. “There will be challenges to have the theme parks installed and there is a need to work closely and guide the contractors and developers,” Priddy said. There is also another challenge and probably more related with a city like Dubai which is going on the learning curve with the mega project.

Three main issues have to be  dealt with at the same time, Priddy said, identifying them to be: an educational component; working with owners, who need guidance in building the facility; and working with a team of officials from the contractors and clients side who have varied cultures and nationalities. “Communication is not a problem as we all speak the same language [English]. But Dubai Parks and Resorts is a huge international project with a huge international focus. There will be a need for integrating a complex mega structure with lots of moving parts,” Priddy.  It is not Hill International alone that is awaiting the final outcome, but also the client and several others too. The facility will also fall in line and play a major contributory role of Dubai’s 2020 Vision of doubling its annual visitors to 20 million by then, compared with 10 million in 2012.

For its non-oil economy, tourism has already emerged as a major source of revenue and Dubai Parks and Resorts will play a significant role. The planned project will not be the only theme park in Dubai. Another major entertainment project, the IMG Worlds of Adventure theme park is currently under construction within the City of Arabia development in Dubai. It will have four zones including Marvel, Cartoon Network, Lost Valley and the IMG Entertainment Zone with each of the zones featuring themed rides, themed retail outlets and themed merchandise. Spread across 1.5 million square feet in its first stage, the development will be the largest temperature-controlled indoor themed entertainment destination in the world upon completion and is targeting to attract about 20,000 visitors each day. A theme park is also being built in the neighbouring emirate of Abu Dhabi with Warner Bros Entertainment, Priddy said. But the Dubai Parks and Resorts will likely dwarf the other developments.