On the shores of the Black Sea, on prime real estate next to the Olympic Ring of stadiums and arenas, sits an unopened theme park. Sochi Park, master designed by Jack Rouse Associates (Ferrari World Abu Dhabi), consists of five areas based on Russian history and heritage. Plans were for the US$371 million theme park to be open for the Winter Olympics. But, as things often go in Russia, the construction of the Olympic venues themselves fell behind schedule and work crews were reallocated to them from the park. A very small section of the park with family rides opened for the Olympic games, with the still closed giant coasters looming over the city from within the majority of the park still closed. Park operators estimated 5,000 people visited per day. Currently, the park is scheduled to see a full opening this Summer. But that’s the risk one takes when designing a theme park in an economy adapting to capitalism from Communism.
In China, it’s a matter of extremes. PGAV Destinations (SeaWorld/Busch Gardens, Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex) master planned Chimelong Ocean Kingdom on the island of Hangquin. The park and resort is literally across a short bridge from Macau’s billion dollar Cotai Strip of casino resorts. The US$2 billion resort pays homage to the deep sea, tropics, and arctic through live animal exhibits and thrill rides.
Running behind schedule for its 2013 opening, it was rushed to make a deadline for this year’s busy Chinese New Year Holiday. In fact, it was so rushed that a number of major phase 1 rides, exhibits, and shows did not open with the rest of the park. However, the quest to make that deadline did prove profitable as the park saw an estimated 300,000 visitors during its first week of operation. Phase 2 expansion of the park and resort is still in the works.
Things aren’t always so cheerful in faraway lands. For Daqing, on the Chinese mainland, Thinkwell Group (London’s smash hit Harry Potter and the Tramless Studio Tour) designed an indoor dinosaur theme park estimated at US$935 million called Jurassic Dream. But news broke late last year that it was likely a scam. According to Want China Times:
“The construction, which was scheduled to be completed on Sept. 30, 2013, was stopped long before this date. On a 50-hectare plot of land that was designated to house the planned theme park, only a few residential buildings were erected. A contractor told the Guangzhou-based Southern Weekly that long before the end of 2012, the land had already been left to ruin.”
Apparently, this is a common scam in in this emerging capitalist economy where developers promise something new and exciting, take government funding, build a shell of a building, and then run off with the funds. But this bump in the road hasn’t deterred Thinkwell as the firm has bigger and better and much more legitimate projects in the works for China.
In Poland, Dutch design firm Jora Vision (Efteling) created the master plan for Adventure World Warsaw, a US$820 million theme park and resort. When financing failed to appear, the lack of payment to the project’s key construction contractor resulted in that contractor’s parent, Dutch multi-billion dollar conglomerate Royal Imtech, seeing its stock value drop by half. Jora confirmed to me that they had been paid in full on the project and were very pleased with their work. But Adventure World eventually declared bankruptcy.
These are just some of the trials and tribulations from designing parks in these major countries emerging from Communism. Already, another major theme park resort is planned for Poland, and with Universal Studios coming to Moscow and Beijing, expansions to Hong Kong’s Ocean Park and Disneyland, a new Disney resort in Shanghai, and a number of theme parks planned for China by Wanda Group, the owners of the American cinema chain AMC, others will want in on the game. And those others will continue to go to the top theme park designers in the world. What comes of those new master plans will depend on how the game is played in the lands where comrades still live.