CHINA> Regional
Future of theme park still shrouded in doubt
By Lan Tian and Lu Hong (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-08-11 09:47

The Grand World Scenic Park in Guangzhou is not bankrupt and will reopen to tourists if a renovation of several facilities is completed, according to a park spokeswoman Monday, defying a local media report that the once popular theme park is closed and facing a deficit.

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"The park is just temporarily closed in order to ensure the safety of visitors while we are renovating some facilities," said Tan Youbing, spokeswoman and assistant board chairman of Guangzhou Grand World Scenic Holdings Co, Ltd, the park's owner.

"It has not gone bankrupt and it is not facing financial difficulties. What the local media reported was not true," she told China Daily in a telephone interview.

Tan's statement is in stark contrast to a report by provincial newspaper Guangzhou Daily, which reported yesterday that the theme park has been shut down because of financial problems.

The company currently is attempting to resolve a dispute with a nearby construction site. Waste from the site swept into the park, destroying a park square during the heavy rains in June, Tan said.

Meanwhile, the company is renovating several unnamed facilities inside the park, which is located in Tianhe district, in the outskirts of Guangzhou in Guangdong province. The renovation is underway in a bid to create an inviting landscape for the Guangzhou Asian Games next year. A venue for the games is located near the park, she said.

Tan did not say when the park would reopen.

"When the park was closed on June 12, employees were told [of the renovation and the construction site issue]," said a former administrative officer with the park, who declined to give his name.

After the closure, he left the park and found a new job, he said. Many of his colleagues have also left the park, he said.

"We don't know the true reason behind the 'temporary closure,' but I wonder if it is related to the rent disputes between the park and its former tenants," he said.

In April, a 40-strong mob armed with pistols, shotguns and iron bars smashed the park facilities and injured six guards, according to the local city security bureau.

The police detained 16 suspects and said at the time that the incident was ignited by economic disputes between the theme park company and a local investment management firm.

China Daily was unable to contact any tenants Monday.

China has invested about 150 billion yuan ($22 billion) in 2,500 theme parks, but 70 percent of them are currently in the red.

Only 10 percent have paid back initial investments, according to a survey by the Horizon Group, a strategic research and consultancy firm in China.

"The domestic theme-park industry has not come to a dead end, and still is a promising industry if it will develop its own distinctive features by innovation," said Liu Wei, a professor from Guangdong University of Finance, was quoted in the report.

Guangzhou residents said they hoped the Grand World Scenic Park will reopen soon.

"I have been coming to the park since I was 2," said Gu Huini, 21.

"It used to be the city's symbol and a paradise for children for a long time," she said. "But it has declined in recent years after other recreational activities came in vogue."

Xu Jie contributed to the story

Future of theme park still shrouded in doubt