End of Tang Dynasty City
Failed theme park to be torn down in January; area has potential to be third IR minus casino
SHAOLIN'S famed warrior monks have decided to give the derelict Tang Dynasty City a miss, and the long-suffering landlord has decided to tear down what remains of the vacant Jurong theme park in January.
The new attraction could encompass the failed 12-ha theme park, the surrounding Jurong Lake and the Chinese and Japanese Gardens with its idyllic lake-front setting.
The $100-million Tang Dynasty City, spanning 18 football fields shut its gates in 1999.
High admission charges and lacklustre exhibits had failed to draw the crowds, after eight years of operation.
In April, hopes of a revival were sparked by three Singapore companies, which signed an agreement with China's famed Shaolin temple to develop a new retreat.
But a representative of Siloso Beach Resort, a partner of the consortium, said the project had been shelved as the search for a new site went on. He declined to say more.
Landlord JTC said with no offers coming in, demolition will start in January and will be completed before March 2009.
JTC and the Singapore Tourism Board would only say they are 'evaluating the area for redevelopment' into an attraction for both tourists and locals.
Considering the site's X-factors like the Jurong Lake, its proximity to the Second Link to Malaysia, and the current shortage of hotels, especially in the west, the Association of Singapore Attractions' chairman Francis Phun said an integrated resort with a water theme park, hotel, restaurants and retail outlets would appeal to both children and adults.
Of course, there will be no casino for this IR, since the two exclusive 10-year licences have already been awarded.
Agreeing, the National Association of Travel Agents Singapore chief executive officer Robert Khoo said: 'It need not be as upmarket as the Sentosa IR. Maybe something similar to NTUC Club's Downtown East.'
Mid-tier hotel rooms will be especially welcomed in that part of the island considering the acute room shortage now.
Building another standalone theme park won't work, said Ms Ng Lee Li, section head for the Tourism Academy @ Sentosa, as there is not enough critical mass to support it.
For a theme park to work, the locals need to be engaged too, something that the Tang Dynasty City failed to do.
Rather, a mixed development that will cater to different markets, be it business, leisure, local and tourist, will have more staying power, she added. 'It must be able to draw repeat visitors.'
Natas' Mr Khoo said the Sentosa and Marina Bay IRs already target the more high-end segment of tourists. But, there are other tourists who may not want to spend so much, so something more mass market for them will be ideal.
However, Knight Frank's director of research and consultancy Nicholas Mak was not optimistic about the survival of an IR without a casino.
He said: 'Theme parks are expensive and are generally unprofitable without subsidies from the gaming profits.'
But NTUC Club is prepared to bet on it. Its corporate communications manager Stanley Wong is confident that a Downtown East-like resort in the west will be commercially viable.
With not that many recreational facilities in the west, he believed a resort would appeal to residents there, just as Downtown East has on the other side of the island.
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