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U.S. Theme Parks building in Dubai

Busch Gardens, Six Flags, Universal Studios and Dreamworks have all announced projects for new theme parks in Dubai, one of the seven emirates that constitute the United Arab Emirates.

The Busch Entertainment Corporation is working with the Arab company Nakheel Properties. Nakheel will invest the necessary capital to build the parks. Busch will license its brands to Nakheel and operate the parks under a management contract. The company plans to build Worlds of Discovery which will incorporate a SeaWorld, Aquatica (waterpark), Busch Gardens and Discovery Cove, on The Palm Jebel Ali in Dubai. The Palm Jebel Ali is the world’s largest man-made island, jutting out from the mainland into the Persian Gulf. It is one of three Palm Island projects being constructed by Nakheel Properties. The islands include the development of commercial, residential and shopping districts, as well as resort hotels and restaurants. Preliminary design work and site planning for Worlds of Discovery is underway, with the first phase expected to open in 2012.

So far three U.S. companies have committed to build theme parks in Dubailand, a 3 billion-square-foot leisure and tourist destination under development by the Arab company Tatweer. The project plans include several theme parks, resorts, shopping malls and restaurants. Most of the 22 projects are still in the planning or construction phases, with only two open at this point.

NBC Universal and Tatweer are jointly developing Universal City Dubailand. As is typical of a Universal Studios, the park will incorporate some of most thrilling and technologically advanced "ride-the-movies" motion picture and television show-based attractions. The first phase is scheduled to open in 2010.

Six Flags will lend their expertise to Tatweer to build Six Flags Dubailand. Tatweer is paying Six Flags an exclusivity fee and for master planning and design work. Once the park opens, Six Flags will receive an annual licensing fee based on revenue, attendance and guest spending per capita. Six Flags will not put any capital into building the park aside from internal costs. The Six Flags/Tatweer alliance could lead to several Six Flags parks throughout the Arab world. The goal is for Six Flags Dubailand to break ground next year and open in 2011.

Dreamworks, has also teamed up with Tatweer to build their version of a movie studios park in Dubailand. The project, which will include themed restaurants, hotels and shops, is expected to cover five million square feet and feature rides incorporating characters from the Dreamworks studio's animated blockbusters. An expected date for this project has yet to be announced.

Marvel Entertainment, Nickelodeon and Paramount Studios have all signed licensing deals with various Arab companies for additional projects in Dubai.

Dubai's economy was originally built on oil, but it is repositioning itself as a worldwide tourist Mecca. Its extravagant shopping malls, world-class hotels, tax free shopping and abundant winter sunshine have already begun to attract millions of visitors each year.

* Lee Ann Draud
Publications Director
* Rus Ozana
ACE News Now Editor

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