RIYADH: A massive entertainment complex is being planned for Riyadh as part of a multibillion-dollar drive to boost the leisure sector in Saudi Arabia.
The 100,000-square-meter project will be developed by the Saudi Entertainment Ventures Company (SEVEN), a unit of the Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund, according to a statement published by the Saudi Press Agency.
Company chairman Abdullah bin Nasser Al-Dawoud said the project would “feature a distinct urban design, the first-of-its-kind, with green and open areas that are equipped for sports activities, entertainment, and live shows as well as a wide selection of local and international restaurants and cafes for visitors of all ages to enjoy.”
“It will be a one-stop family-friendly entertainment destination and attraction for everyone to enjoy,” said Bill Ernest, CEO of SEVEN.
“In addition to being the premier leisure destination for sports, fun, art and live shows, each cluster will feature a cinema – designed according to the international standards in terms of quality and overall experience,” Ernest added.
Gulf states are attracting increased interest from global theme park operators, helped by the region’s high disposable income and improved transport connections which have drawn more tourists to the region, often breaking long-haul trips for short stopovers in cities such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
The Warner Bros theme park in Abu Dhabi is the latest such project. It officially opened to the public in July at a cost of $1 billion.
The Public Investment Fund established SEVEN last year with initial funding of SR10 billion ($2.67 billion) and hired former Disney executive Ernest to run it.
Before his Saudi appointment he served as president and managing director of Asia for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts where he oversaw the company’s parks and resorts operations and development throughout Asia, including Hong Kong Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland and Shanghai Disney Resort.
SEVEN aims to build about 20 entertainment centers around the country as Saudi Arabia seeks to add more jobs in the services sector while also relaxing social norms and diversifying the economy away from reliance on oil.
The PIF said that it expects the company’s projects would attract more than 50 million visitors a year, create more than 22,000 direct jobs and contribute $2 billion to Saudi Arabia’s gross domestic product by 2030.
SEVEN was established by the PIF in December 2017 and was the first entity to obtain a license for operating cinemas in the Kingdom.
The company launched the first movie theater in Saudi Arabia after a hiatus of more than 35 years, in partnership with US-based AMC Group, the largest cinema operator in the world.