Dubai architect seeks funding for Herbie theme park

Themed tourist attraction in early talks to be located in city’s Autodrome

The themed tourist attraction would feature cars from the 'Herbie' Disney movies

The themed tourist attraction would feature cars from the 'Herbie' Disney movies

A Dubai-based architect is seeking investors to launch a theme park in Dubai based around the famous Disney VW Bug Herbie, Arabian Business has learned.

Graham Henderson, owner of design firm Palmerstone, hopes to attract financing to build the project in Dubai after initial plans to bring the themed venue to Abu Dhabi fell through.

“The people in Abu Dhabi weren’t terrible supportive so we want to bring it to Dubai,” he said.

“I have a consignment of the original Herbie cars which are coming from a private collector… I think it would work really well at Dubai Autodrome. They can’t finance it but there is certain land available on the track we could use.”

The car collection includes the vehicles that appeared in the movies ‘Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo’ and the 2005 movie ‘Herbie: Fully Loaded’, which starred actress Lindsay Lohan.

“Imagine if you could pay for a lap in the Autodrome in Lindsay Lohan’s car,” said Henderson. “It is better than Ferrari World.”

Initial designs for ‘Herbieland’ include a central building in the shape of a giant baseball, which would house a museum, workshop and café.

The UAE plans to attract 15 million tourists by 2020 under efforts to diversify its petrodollar-driven economy. The capital is spending billions on visitor attractions such as Ferrari World and the Yas and Saadiyat island developments, in a bid to establish itself as a holiday destination.

Dubai unveiled the AED335bn Dubailand development at the peak of its real estate boom, featuring tie-ups with Universal Studios and Legoland and the world’s largest shopping mall.

The resort, which was originally slated to be twice the size of Walt Disney World, stalled in the wake of the global financial crisis.

Dubailand said in August it was in talks to renegotiate four projects in the resort and planned to unveil details of a sustainable city by the end of 2012.

The president of UAE conglomerate BinHendi Enterprises said in May that Dubai needed an entertainment resort on the size and scale of Disneyland if it is to establish itself as a global tourism destination.

Though Walt Disney Company was mooted in May as a potential partner for stalled Dubailand, the company has since said it has no plans to open in the region.

“We continually look for opportunities to grow our business and as a part of that process, we have conversations with many different entities,” a Walt Disney Company spokesperson said.

“While Dubai is an attractive market, we currently have no plans for the region.”

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Posted by: Red Snappa

The one attraction that really seemed to have potential was the Restless Planet dinosaur theme park at City of Arabia in Dubailand. One assumes that is on hold for many more years as it was linked to another monster, pardon the wordplay, shopping centre called Mall of Arabia which I guess would be just too much given the sturation of large malls already in existence.

Five year olds in Europe are completely crazy about the subject and I thought that all the animotronics had already been completed by a Japanese company? Restless Planet would have certainly pulled an audience as opposed to an automotive theme, true 'educainment' and spectacle.

Posted by: In the Know

Restless Planet is back "on" but the City of Arabia (Galadari) has not made any announcements yet in the press. This should happen in the next 2 or 3 months. Financing has been obtained to build Restless Planet. I do not know if it has been scaled back but there have been changes from the original plan as the original layout connected to the Mall of Arabia which is still on "hold". The government is aware there needs to be more "attractions" to keep the tourists coming and Restless Planet is a part of the plan.

Posted by: Paul King

All future "Theme Park" ideas should be scrapped. It's plainly obvious this region doesn't "have it" to deliver a great day out at a theme park. My local Tesco Express in the UK is busier than Ferrari World! As well as fantastic infrastructure you need highly trained, motivated staff & "actors" to deliver the successful theme park experience.

Posted by: Louie Tedesco

How about having a look around here and completing some of those construction works that have been on-going for years.

Drive around Dubai with eyes-open and you will see abandoned road construction sites that have been around for so many years that no one can remember when they were started.

Opposite Karama, directly underneath the elevated Metro line, there have been plastic barriers and cones sitting for years! One could write volumes, whether sites are on Sh Zayed Road or elsewhere throughout the entire city.

Posted by: JACCK

If there's one thing that Dubai expats, and ex-Dubai expats, are good at, it's being snide - although I do appreciate the humor in the Teletubbies/Thomas the Tank Engine comment.

First of all, most of the Dubailand projects were of a scale that boggles the mind - I worked on one that featured an 8000 room hotel, with over 50,000 hotel rooms in total in this one Dubailand development ('nuf said). Say what you want about HerbieLand, but my understanding is that it's not intended to be some huge thing - it's of a modest scale that just might work.

Graham may be a bit of a dreamer, but he has a personal enthusiasm for the project that comes from a love of cars in general and air-cooled German ones in particular - he's certainly not alone in that regard. This is an honest little project that would give tourists one more thing to do in this town. Compared to the numerous ill-conceived and over-scaled projects that were celebrated in Dubai's media in the past, this one is d'gas.

Posted by: Chirs

The article says "theme park" so it's difficult to understand the scale. If someone was proposing an auto museum that's one thing, but a Herbie the Love Bug Theme Park is something else entirely.

Regardless of the scale of some of the previous plans proposed once-upon-a-time, this idea is equally absurd.

Posted by: Chris

Ferrari World is having a hard enough time. This is a limited appeal, boring, outdated idea. Who would go? And why? It's insulting to think that investors in Dubai would even blink at this idea. There's one thing to invest in "if-they-build-it-they-will-come" scenarios, but this is ridiculous. On top of that, it's not even NEWS! Can Arabian Business report I'm looking for investors for my Jello Museum? Please??

This architect should be ashamed.

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