Spain: Barcelona World, Catalonia's challenge to Eurovegas

Mega 4.5 billion euro resort with 6 theme parks, hotels and more

07 September, 15:33

(by Paola Del Vecchio)(ANSAmed) - MADRID, SEPTEMBER 7 - The Catalan government has signed a deal for a new 4.5 billion euro mega theme park named Barcelona World, Catalan officials made known at a press conference on Friday.

Catalan President Artur Mas, leading savings bank La Caixa and Sao Paulo, Brazil, based real estate developer Veremonte Participacoes S.A. entered a deal to build a complex of six theme parks, six hotels totaling 12,000 rooms, casinos, restaurants, theaters and offices on 826 hectares in Tarragona, near the existing PortAventura theme park and resort. Spanish entrepreneur Enrique Banuelos, who is on the Forbes list of world billionaires, is on the board of Veremonte. La Caixa bank owns 50% of PortAventura, as well as the land to be developed for Barcelona World. It will leave the joint venture once the new complex is finished, officials said.

''We want to consolidate ourselves as a world tourism capital, and this is why it will be called Barcelona,'' Catalan economics minister Andreu Mas-Colell told reporters. ''Competition is what it is, and we want to make sure Catalonia is a tourism industry leader.'' The new Barcelona theme park complex will recreate six world areas: Brazil, China, Europe, India, Russia, and the US. It will generate 20,000 jobs, said Veremonte Managing Director Xavier Adsera.

The site already has existing resort infrastructure, such as Reus airport, an AP-2 highway exit, and working golf courses, swimming pools, and beaches. Slated to open at the end of 2016, Barcelona World aims to attract 10 million visitors a year, against the 4 million a year that currently go to PortAventura.

The theme park will compete with Eurovegas, a new gambling complex in the works in Madrid at the hands of US billionaire Sheldon Aldelson and his luxury resort company, Las Vegas Sands Corp. Catalonia turned down a development offer from Las Vegas Sands, which demanded flexibility on smoking bans, immigration legislation, and minors' access to gambling areas.

Barcelona World is ''incompatible'' with Eurovegas, Mas-Colell said. Born in Sagunto, Spain, Banuelos, 46, was the golden boy of the Valencia real estate boom. He is the founder and former chairman of Astroc Mediterraneo S.A., whose shares soared from 6 to 70 euros on reportedly inflated earnings in 2006. When the real estate bubble burst a year later, Banuelos jumped ship, saving his personal fortune. Abandoning Astroc, he built a Spanish Tower in New York, and is now reinventing himself in Brazil, where a new real estate boom is in full swing on Rio de Janeiro's designation to host the 2016 Olympics, and where Banuelos reportedly has made real estate investments of more than 1 billion euros. (ANSAmed).

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