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Sun 6 May 2007 12:00 AM

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Rides of a lifetime

Each week Arabian Business turns the spotlight on a leading company.

Judging by the headline, I'm guessing that Dubai is getting another theme park...

Yep, we're talking Tatweer's new US$2.17bn theme city with the global media and entertainment giant Universal Parks and Resorts.

Okay, so what's that all about?

Well, it's a theme park in the fashion of Universal's mega-leisure cities in Orlando in the US, and Osaka in Japan. Entitled Universal City Dubailand (UCD), it will stretch over 22 million sq ft.

Are there any big Hollywood names involved in the project?

Funny you should mention that. Apparently, Hollywood's top filmmaker (and three-time Academy Award winner) Steven Spielberg will be part of the project, acting as a creative consultant for Universal Studios.

Any idea when it will be completed?

According to officials, the first phase of the park will be completed in 2010, and will be one of the world's largest theme parks. There are two other phases planned for completion 12 months later.

So does that mean an exciting race against time, in competition with the folks behind the Marvel theme park?

Looks like it. The other US$1bn theme park will feature Marvel Entertainment superheroes such as Spiderman and the Incredible Hulk, and is scheduled to open in 2011.

You're telling me that one theme park isn't enough for the emirate?

I'm sure the originators of this idea would strongly disagree with you. They believe this project will contribute a great deal in promoting Dubai as a global tourism destination, and give the leisure market a strong push to further diversify the economy. Hopes are high that the park, with its variety of components, will attract visitors from around the world, including the Asian subcontinent, Central and East Europe and South Africa. On the optimistic side of things, officials working on the project say that UCD could become the one of the largest family entertainment destinations in the world alongside Universal Studios in Los Angeles, Orlando and Japan.

How many people will UCD attract?

According to Saeed Al Muntafiq, executive chairman of Tatweer, the target is to bring in around 3.3 million visitors during its first year of operation and around five million visitors a year following that. The park will also provide 5000 new employment opportunities.

Are there any other projects in the park?

Yes. Like with most other developments, there will be hotels, retail outlets, commercial offices and residential compounds.

But theme parks in the US are all outdoors. How will this work here?

As a matter of fact, around 85% of the theme park will consist of indoor activities, due to the climatic conditions of the region.

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