By Brady MacDonald
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
8:45 AM EDT, March 28, 2012
Real Madrid plans to open a $1 billion soccer-centric theme park on a United Arab Emirates man-made island in January 2015 that celebrates the history, triumphs and hubris of the richest football club in the world.
The 100-acre Real Madrid Resort Island will feature a roller coaster that extends out over the water, a SeaWorld-style dolphin show and a hologram soccer movie inside a climate-controlled theme park. A promotional video for the proposed UAE resort uses footage of a new Bolliger & Mabillard inverted coaster at France's Parc Asterix known as OzIris.
The Spanish soccer club expects to draw a million visitors annually to a resort complete with luxury villas, hotel suites and a yacht marina along with a 10,000-seat waterfront stadium. Real Madrid officials say more than half of the team's 300 million worldwide fans live in Asia and the Middle East.
Like the New York Yankees of American baseball, Real Madrid is built to win championships and loaded with marquee talent like Cristiano Ronaldo, Xabi Alonso, Mesut Ozil and Marcelo Viera. An interactive museum on the island will tell the history of the storied club and its celebrated players. The grandiosity and pomposity of the luxury resort project has already met with derision in soccer-mad Europe, particularly among fans of Real Madrid's arch-rival Barcelona.
This isn't the first time Real Madrid has floated plans for a theme park, previously pitching a plan to add amusement rides and attractions to the team's practice facility near the Madrid-Barajas airport.
Other sports brands have ventured into themed entertainment. England's Manchester United has built branded restaurants in Asia and an "interactive sporting experience" at Macau's Venetian Casino. The Ferrari World theme park in Abu Dhabi features the 149-mph Formula Rossa, the world's fastest roller coaster.
The Real Madrid proposal follows in the wake of a number of ambitious yet unrealized Middle East projects by some of the biggest names in the theme park industry, including Universal Studios, Legoland, SeaWorld, Six Flags and Busch Gardens.