Saudi ‘entertainment city’ to be first of its kind in the world
Saudi Arabia has announced that it will build an “entertainment city”, a mega cultural, sports and entertainment project in Riyadh that will include a safari area and a Six Flags theme park.
The country’s largest entertainment, cultural and sports city will be built in Al Qidiya, southwest of the Saudi capital Riyadh, announced Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Bin Abdul Aziz, who is also Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Public Investment Fund, on Saturday.
The city, the first of its kind in the world, will be built over an area of 334 square kilometres. It will also have a major safari area. Prince Mohammad said that this city will become a prominent cultural landmark and an important centre for meeting the recreational, cultural and social needs of the future generations in the kingdom, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
Supporting Vision 2030
Prince Salman said the most ambitious project comes within the framework of plans to support Saudi Arabia’s vision 2030 by creating quality and distinctive investments at home in order to serve the country and the citizens. It will also contribute to diversify the sources of national income, boost Saudi economy and create more employment opportunities for young people.
While the cost of the project was not revealed, Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said the development will be funded primarily by the kingdom’s Public Investment Fund, as well as local and international investors, which he said supports the kingdom’s position as an important international centre in attracting foreign investments.
The foundation stone of the project is scheduled to be laid in 2018 and its first phase will be opened in 2022. The city will make a qualitative leap in raising the standard of services in Riyadh and give it a major boost to become one of the top 100 cities for living in the world, Prince Mohammad said.
“The city is planned to become a prominent cultural landmark and an important centre for meeting the future generation’s recreational, cultural and social needs in the country,” Prince Mohammed said.
The “pioneering and most ambitious project” comes within the framework of plans to support the Saudi vision 2030 by creating quality and distinctive investments within the kingdom. The country recently held a film festival and Comic Con exhibition.
Six Flags Entertainment Corporation plans to open three theme parks in Saudi Arabia at an investment of more than $1.5 billion as part of its regional expansion plans. Reuters quoted Executive Chairman Jim Reid-Anderson saying that the first of the project is likely to open in Riyadh in the next five years. The parks, which will each cost between $300 and $500 million to build, are likely to be owned by the Saudi government, he added.
Other park projects may come up in Jeddah and at a resort elsewhere on the western Red Sea coast. With a waiver from Dubai Parks and Resorts, which holds exclusive rights via parent firm Meraas to develop and operate Six Flags-branded theme parks in the GCC, Six Flags can now work on the Saudi projects.
US-based Six Flags had announced in June 2016 that it had begun talks with the Saudi government to build theme parks as part of the kingdom’s efforts to expand its entertainment sector and diversify the economy.
New project welcomed
Jamal Hasan Al-Mukhalafi of the Ministry of Culture & Information told the media: “The proposed mega city, announced by the Deputy Crown Prince, is a major step within the framework of the Saudi Vision 2030. The project reflects the keen desire of the Saudi government to fulfil the needs of Saudi society and to cope with the global developments in all areas.”
Talal Al-Arify, a director who owns a licensed production house in the Saudi capital said: “No doubt, the mega city is envisioned to become a major facility to host sports tournaments besides possibly giving us the ability to bid for major regional and national sports events. I hope that the mega city will have a facility for film-making, shooting documentaries, and in-house production.”
Al-Arify added: “In fact, this initiative of Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will help youngsters to work and pursue their career in the entertainment and leisure sector locally.” He said that a large number of young Saudi boys and girls, who are either working in the entertainment sector or enrolled in TV/Film academies in different countries, will eventually return back, if such facilities are created in the Kingdom.
Dr. Ibrahim Al-Qayid, founding member of the Riyadh-based National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) said: “The establishment of the cultural and entertainment city will also help to promote understanding and brotherhood. The proximity to Riyadh makes this a great location for a sports and entertainment complex. The mega city will also draw millions of visitors annually besides providing billions of dollars in commercial opportunities.”
The new sports and entertainment citywill have four geographical segments — an entertainment area, a car sports area, a general sports area and a housing and hospitality area.
Asked about his views on the plans to establish the giant entertainment city, Ghaffar Ahmed, a Pakistani actor, who co-starred in the famous ‘Ja Jawazat’ song, said: “The mega entertainment complex will change the cultural landscape of the Kingdom. The city is definitely going to be one of the biggest development projects around.”
In addition to gaming, culture and arts facilities, the project also involves developing residential units, world famous restaurants as well as international hotel brands. The city will be developed by the Public Investment Fund (PIF), which is headed by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed.