Saudi Arabia launches large-scale entertainment projects worth Dh86bn

Projects include building the world's biggest city park, a 135 kilometre-long sports track and a massive art project

FILE - In this May 14, 2012 file photo, then-Crown Prince Salman, left, speaks with his son, Prince Mohammed  in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia under King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has replaced its military chief of staff and other defense officials amid its stalemated war in Yemen early Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)

Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, launched on Tuesday four projects worth 86 billion riyals (Dh84bn) in the capital Riyadh as the kingdom forges ahead with plans to wean itself off oil income and improve the lifestyle of its citizens under Vison 2030.

The four projects include the King Salman Park, Green Riyadh, Riyadh Art and Sports Boulevard, which are expected to create 70,000 jobs for Saudi citizens and attract local and foreign investors, the Saudi Press Agency said on Tuesday. Construction for the four projects will start in the second half of this year.

The projects will increase the per capita green space in Riyadh 16 times through the construction of the world’s biggest city park and the planting of 7.5 million trees across the capital. The art project will include 1,000 works of work created by local and foreign artists, while the sports project will feature a 135 kilometre sports track linking the east and west parts of the city. The sports area will include bicycle tracks and a horse riding area.

Saudi Arabia unveiled in 2016 Vision 2030, an economic and social roadmap targeted at increasing non-oil revenues, attracting foreign investments and improving the lifestyle of Saudi citizens. Among the reforms implemented under the umbrella of Vision 2030 were allowing women to drive and lifting a ban on movie theatres.

The kingdom is building Neom, a $500bn futuristic business and industrial city, which extends into Egypt and Jordan. It is also behind the Qiddiya entertainment development near Riyadh that will include high-end theme parks, motor sport facilities and a safari park. American theme park corporation Six Flags has already agreed to a deal to build a branded compound at the complex. The country also started in February construction work on its mega Red Sea Project that includes a nature reserve and heritage sites and spans about 50 islands.

The King Salman Park will stretch over a 13.4 square-kilometre area on the site of the old airport, and will be linked by the bus and metro lines of the city.

The park will include Islamic themed and vertical gardens, a labyrinth and a bird and butterfly conservatory. It will also feature a 7.5 kilometre circular walkway, and a “wadi” area that will stretch over an 800,000 square metre area as well as water elements and art work.

The park also will have an arts section that will stretch over a 400,000 square metre area that includes a 2,500-seat national theatre and an 8,000-seat open air theatre. It will also include cinemas, art academies, seven museums and space for parties spanning 40,000 square metres.

The park will also have an 850,000 square-metre golf course, a 50,000 square-meter sports complex, a 100,000 square-metre entertainment games area and a 140,000 square-metre water sports section.

The park will include 12,000 residential units,16 hotels with 2,300 rooms, a food and retail area stretching over a 500,000 square metre area and libraries spanning a 600,000 square metre section.

The Sports Boulevard project, stretching over a 135 kilometre area, will include bicycle tracks and horse riding areas.

The Green Riyadh project will increase per capita green space to 28 square metres from the current 1.7 square metres through the planting of trees across the city. The project also includes the building of mosques, schools, universities and colleges, and medical facilities.

Riyadh Art will feature works of art to be installed in residential areas, gardens, parks, public areas, public transport facilities, bridges and roads among other areas.