Three massive Florida-style theme parks being built on the Sheikh Zayed Road between Dubai and Abu Dhabi are now half-complete.
At a sneak preview tour yesterday, officials revealed that 11,000 construction workers currently building Dubai Parks and Resorts’ three linked theme parks near Jebel Ali had completed more than 50 per cent of construction work.
Dubai Parks also said that 85 per cent of procurement, 71 per cent of project structure work and 50 per cent of resort-wide infrastructure had been completed.
Driving around the 25 million square feet construction site in minibuses yesterday, visitors were able to see buildings and infrastructure coming out of the ground at Hollywood-themed Motiongate Dubai, Legoland Dubai and Bollywood Parks Dubai, all of which are due to open in October 2016.
In the Bollywood park, the development’s centrepiece, a massive 800-seat theatre shaped like India’s Taj Mahal, is nearing completion and in Legoland Dubai the development’s first roller coaster has been installed.
And in what will be the project’s main visitor car park, pieces of rides built overseas and shipped to Dubai are laid out waiting to be assembled like the pieces of Lego depicted in the attraction.
Electricity to the site is up and running since rides have to be tested with a permanent electricity supply and district cooling has also been completed.
Dubai Parks and Resorts, the theme park company which was spun off from Meraas Holding last year and listed on the Dubai Financial Market, announced that 50 per cent of the 50 or so cafes, restaurants and shops which will make up its 220,000 sq ft Riverland dining area at the entrance to the park had also been leased.
The licensed dining area close to the park gates, which will not require a ticket for entry, will be based around a 1-kilometre stretch of river created in the desert using treated sewage effluent water.
Part of the venue will be designed to look like a medieval French village, part will be designed to look like 1950s America, part like India in the 1930s and another part like France at the end of the 19th century.
Dubai Parks and Resorts said tenants will include Dubai’s second Irish Village, the continental restaurant Big Chefs and modern Emirati restaurant Milais as well as Famous Dave’s, Mr Greek, Galito’s, 800 Degrees Pizza and Simit Sarayi.
Klauss Assmann, vice president of retail and hospitality at Dubai Parks and Resorts declined to say how much rent tenants were paying but confirmed that leasing prices were similar to those paid by cafes and restaurants in malls in Dubai.
“We don’t just want Riverland to cater to park visitors,” Mr Assmann said.
Mr Assmann said: “We’re hoping that it will be the sort of place to appeal to residents going out for a meal on a Friday night or to tour operators who are perhaps heading to somewhere else like the Al Ain camel market but want somewhere to stop on the way.”
Dubai Parks and Resorts expects the Dh10.5 billion project to attract 6.7 million ticketed visits in 2017.
Stanford Pinto, chief parks operating officer, said he was confident that visitor numbers would reach projections.
“We’re expecting to be short and to actually surpass those numbers,” he said. “We’re pretty confident we can meet those estimates. It’s a new offering, it’s brand-new in this region. Those are all very good reasons for us to believe that we can make it.”
The parks are a key part of Dubai’s aim to persuade more of its transit passengers to venture out of the airport and spend at least part of their holidays in the emirate.
Dubai hopes to maintain its rapid growth in tourist arrivals, which it plans to nearly double to 20 million by 2020.
The parks have been built with expansion space inside each zone so that they can expand to suit numbers if necessary. And the three parks are located in the middle of an even bigger tract of land owned by parent company Meraas, so they could be expanded even more over time.
“We want to get families to actually plan a holiday to Dubai because of Dubai Parks and Resorts,” Mr Pinto said.
Two weeks ago Dubai Parks and Resorts announced that cumulative spending at the project (including land acquisition) had reached Dh4.8bn, pushing it to a Dh29.6 million third-quarter loss.
Follow The National's Business section on Twitter