Texas-based Six Flags in talks over potential theme park in Chongqing

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 July, 2016, 6:13pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 July, 2016, 11:08pm

Chongqing has taken a step towards becoming a regional cultural and tourism hub after winning a commitment from US regional theme park company Six Flags on a potential branded theme park in the city.

Six flags has signed a letter of agreement on the project with local partner Riverside Investment Group Co, a real estate developer in China. The project, if successful, would be Six Flag’s second theme park in China.

Chongqing has been attempting to attract international theme park brands to the city, but suffered a set back after Walt Disney Co officials refused to confirm reports that it was looking for a potential Disneyland site in western China.

Chongqing officials said in June said the city was actively bidding for a potential Disney project.

The southwestern metropolis has been seeking to expand its appeal as a tourism destination in a bid to tap China’s shift towards becoming a consumption-oriented economy.

“It’s not about a single project. If Chongqing can attract top brands like Disney, it could become a magnet for several other national and global giants, and heat up the land prices nearby,” said an industry analyst who request anonymity. Most of the parks, including the potential Six Flags project, would be located in suburban counties.

Texas-based Six Flags is slated to complete its first China project in 2019, located in Haiyan, Zhejiang province. Work on the theme park, accessible from Shanghai, commenced in January.

Six Flags and Riverside Investment Group said in a statement the project would include a theme park and a water park in Bishan, a district of Chongqing that has a surrounding population of about 120 million.

The letter of agreement is subject to further negotiations, the statement said.

“Developing two parks in Chongqing, the most populous municipality in China, is another step forward in executing our long-term strategy to expand our brand outside of North America and bring Six Flags thrills to millions of new guests,” Six Flags President and CEO John Duffey said in the release.

Riverside Investment Chairman Li Zhe said the site was chosen after strict evaluation, including population within a one-hour’s drive, and accessibility by highway and high-speed rail.

Duffey said Six Flags was noted for its record-breaking roller coasters and would strive to deliver a thrilling experience for visitors. He also highlighted the company’s fast execution, noting that the targeted completion date for the first phase is 2019, whereas Shanghai Disney took more than a decade to materialise.

Chongqing is involved in a bitter rivalry with nearby Chengdu to attract world theme parks. Officials said Disney was in discussions about a new project in central or western China long before the opening of the Shanghai Disney Resort. A leaked document showed Chengdu is also bidding for the project. Disney officials have said their current focus remains on its new resort in Shanghai.

Both cities are still in contact with Disney about a possible project, but Disney had to deny it because it’s “too early phase”, sources close to local governments said.

Chongqing is home to theme parks operated by leading players such as Overseas Chinese Town (OCT), Fantawild Holdings, Haichang Ocean Park Holdings and Wanda Culture Industry Group compete heads-on.

“Chinese consumers have upgraded a lot in the last 10 years,” said Wang Xiaorui, vice-president of Shenzhen OCT East. “They want experiences, not just shopping. That’s why so many theme park operators see opportunities here.”

She said China has such a large population that a single Disneyland or Universal Studios would not be able to accommodate demand.