Sat, May 24, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Consortium to build theme park

JUST LIKE HOLLYWOOD A US-based amusement park developer is planning a local project that is likely to involve more than US$600 million in capital and a 40-hectare site

By Annabel Lue  /  STAFF REPORTER

Gateway Entertainment Group, a US-based theme park developer, is looking for local partners to set up an amusement park in Taiwan, an executive of the company said yesterday.

The planned project is expected to involve up to US$600 million in investments and a more than 40-hectare site, said Bob Vermillion, executive vice president of the company.

"We are currently in talks with potential inventors to build a studio-based theme park in Taiwan," Vermillion said.

Gateway Entertainment, developer of the "Hollywood Movie Theme Park" project, has ties with several American movie studios such as Paramount Pictures, Vermillion said. In this respect, the company is authorized to use intellectual property from these film houses, he said.

The company has set up a studio-based park in Las Vegas and is working on a similar project in Fukuoka, Japan.

Vermillion made the remarks on the sidelines of an investment conference that was held in Taipei's International Convention Center yesterday.

Representatives from 66 local authorities such as Hualien County Government and the Taipei County Government, along with companies including Uni-President Enterprises Corp (統一企業), Evergreen Group (長榮集團) and Taiwan Sugar Corp (Taisugar, 台糖) all attended the event.

A joint venture will be formed between Taiwanese partners and Gateway Entertainment specifically for the project, Vermillion said.

One-third of the total investment is expected to be raised from Taiwanese partners, and another one-third from international sponsors such as beverage or food suppliers. The remaining funding is expected to come from bank loans.

Gateway Entertainment will act as a consultant to enable intellectual property, such as movie icons and film memorabilia, to be brought to the theme park.

Including the planning and construction time, the theme park "may take five to five-and-a-half years" before it opens doors for business, Vermillion said.

According to the Overseas Chinese Affairs Commission, which was the organizer of the investment conference, Taipei County Government and Taisugar are highly interested in the project and are considering offering land-taxation incentives.

However, a local tourism industry analyst expressed concern regarding the project.

"Taiwan's market is too small to sustain a large-scale theme park," said Tsai Ming-ling (蔡明玲), a section chief at the Tourism Bureau under the Ministry of Transportation and Communications.

She said investors would be better off establishing a theme park which targeted not only Taiwanese, but also visitors from other Asian countries.

In addition, there are already some 50 theme parks, big or small, in Taiwan, making the market competitive. Most of these parks feature adventure rides, according to Tourism Bureau statistics.

"Operators have to differentiate their services as people seldom visit same or similar parks within a short period," Tsai said.

Lee Chin-po (李清波), owner of the National Museum of Marine Biology and Aquarium in Ping-tung, said the idea of establishing a Hollywood-style theme park in Taiwan would only succeed if the government further relaxed labor laws and other investment-related regulations.

In response to these concerns, Vermillion said Taiwan is a suitable location for international theme parks.

Taiwan is Japan's largest outbound travel destination, surpassing Hawaii, he said.

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