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Busch, partner put theme parks project in Dubai on hold

Shamu won't be splashing in the Middle East anytime soon.

Busch Entertainment Corp., which owns Tampa's Busch Gardens, has suspended plans to build four theme parks in Dubai for at least a year.

Busch and Dubai-based real estate partner Nakheel PJSC cited the worsening financial climate for their decision to postpone the Worlds of Discovery project in the Middle Eastern emirate.

"BEC and Nakheel remain committed to the Worlds of Discovery Dubai partnership and will announce a new completion target date in due time," Busch spokesman Fred Jacobs said in a statement Wednesday.

The centerpiece of the plan was a man-made island in the Persian Gulf shaped like Shamu, the killer whale mascot from Busch-owned SeaWorld in Orlando.

On adjoining sand bars, shaped like palms leaves, Dubai's government planned to build a flashy tourist mecca of 15,000 hotel rooms, shopping malls and 280,000 permanent residents.

Busch, acquired as part of Belgian beer maker InBev's purchase of Anheuser-Busch last year, was to have designed and managed the Dubai operations. Two parks, SeaWorld and Aquatica, were to open in late 2012, followed by Busch Gardens and Discovery Cove in 2015.

"This will be the crowning glory of a complete city in a modern metropolis within a four-hour flight of 1.4-billion people," Marwan Al-Qanzi, managing director of the project for Nakheel, said last year.

The deal isn't dead, Jacobs said. Busch and Nakheel promised to revisit Worlds of Discovery when the economy improves. In the meantime, the desert city-state will still get its fix of American amusements.

Universal Parks & Resorts is moving forward with a 2012 opening of its Dubailand theme park.

Busch, partner put theme parks project in Dubai on hold 02/04/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 4, 2009 10:07pm]
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