BE2C2 Report — Saudi Arabia announced plans on Saturday to build a 334 sq km “entertainment city” in Al Qidiya, south of the capital Riyadh, to feature sports, cultural and recreational facilities including a safari and a Six Flags theme park.
The kingdom’s Public Investment Fund will be the main investor in the project, which will break ground in 2018 and open in 2022, according to a statement by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman carried by state news agency SPA.
Other local and international investors will also provide capital, the statement said, without elaborating on the size of the investment.
“This city will become, by God’s will, a prominent cultural landmark and an important center for meeting the future generation’s recreational, cultural and social needs in the kingdom,” said Prince Mohammed in a statement.
The project is set to include four main sectors; entertainment, motor sports, sports, housing and hospitality. It will also host a number of fashion retail and shopping centers, as well as food courts and recreational areas.
The project will include an area for safari excursions and touristic resorts, water parks, auto-sports, auto-drome events, and the Six Flags theme park.
“This pioneering and most ambitious project in the Kingdom comes within the framework of plans to support the vision of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia 2030 by creating quality and distinctive investments within the Kingdom that serve the country and the citizens,” Crown Prince Salman added.
The project eyes creating more jobs for Saudi nationals, SPA reported.
The project is expected to boost small and medium business enterprises, specialty contractors and vendors, enhance local tourism for sports and entertainment.
U.S.-based Six Flags announced in June that it had begun talks with the Saudi government to build theme parks as part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 efforts to expand its entertainment sector and diversify the economy.
Six Flags operates 20 or more theme and water parks in North America. Last year it signed an agreement with a private Ho Chi Minh City based company to develop two water parks in Vietnam.
“We’re very honored to be provided with an opportunity to enter into a partnership to bring Six Flags to the kingdom… Our parks can provide the entertainment to which the Saudis aspire,” said Chief Executive Jim Reid-Anderson during an interview last year, which was dubbed in Arabic, Reuters reported.
Anderson said later in the year that the company aimed to build three parks in Saudi Arabia, with each costing between $300 million and $500 million.
The Vision 2030 reform program contains plans to shed the kingdom’s austere reputation, wean the economy off oil and create jobs for young Saudis.
But developing a leisure sector is fraught with difficulties in the Islamic kingdom, which adheres to a strict social code where women are required to wear loose-fitting robes, cinemas are banned and public spaces are gender-segregated.
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