|A BD20 million ($51.6 million) theme park that includes Bahrain's first full-size ice arena and indoor ski slope is due to be built in Muharraq after around two years of delays.|
An agreement was signed yesterday between Municipalities and Urban Planning Affairs Minister Dr Juma Al Ka'abi and Bahraini investor Fouad Shuwaitar, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
The Muharraq Municipal Council voted to axe the project in June, but did a U-turn last Wednesday after a new consortium came in to fund the development.
Councillors were hesitant to give the Bahraini investor the go-ahead after a first group of GCC partners withdrew, but he managed to replace them with Indian group Golden Globe Trading and Consultancy Services.
Meanwhile, Dr Al Ka'abi said authorities had been ordered to fast-track the project by His Royal Highness Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalia after the council gave it the go-ahead.
He added the investor would lease the land for 30 years.
The project will go ahead at the Muharraq Grand Garden, near Bahrain International Airport, and will include a three-storey shopping centre, business centre and multipurpose convention and exhibition centre.
Additionally, it would have an indoor sports arena, outdoor pitches, aquatic museum, karting track, mosque and an elderly home and is expected to be ready in around two and a half years.
The park, covering an area of 93,618 sq m, will also feature restaurants, a fitness club and gym, family rest areas and amusement rides.
Shuwaitar told the GDN that fencing work would begin at the site next week, but work would not start in full until February.
"The park has been abandoned since 2007, when a Kuwaiti investor's plan for a 'miniature Disneyland' was scrapped due to his inability to carry out work," he said.
"Since then, councillors have been looking for other investors and thus we decided to step in with a bigger and better project.
"We are planning to fence the place next week and start work on the new mosque by the end of the year before we begin actual work in February as we make arrangements with our construction partners."
Meanwhile, Golden Globe president Mohammad Zaman said this was his first project in Bahrain, but not the last.
"We have plans for new residential projects with other Bahraini partners, which are also worth millions, but our focus now is on the success of the park project," he said.
"The costs may increase from the current BD20 million depending on further additions that we may feel are necessary in line with people's demands and needs."
Council vice-chairman Ali Al Muqla said signing the agreement was a relief for everyone.
"The Bahraini investor is sincere and wanted to go ahead with the project for a very long time, but councillors gave him a rough ride because they didn't believe he had the required funding," he said.
"We demanded the investor to cancel his plans for a hotel and furnished apartments and replace them with something else after residents in the area protested.
"That dropped the original spending from BD24 million to BD20 million, which required a new feasibility study - which in turn delayed the investor paying the deposit and signing the agreement, but things have changed since and a U-turn was necessary."
Syrconsult International Bahrain is the consulting engineer.