In a change of plans, the region’s first Angry Birds theme park and several other entertainment options will open in Qatar next year at Doha Festival City (DFC), not Mall of Qatar as previously announced.
Speaking at a press conference about the status of the QR6.5 billion ($1.8 billion) DFC, officials said that when the mall opens next fall, it will also be home to a space-themed role play zone, an e-sports gaming arena, F1 and flight simulators and a snow park.
The 433,000 sq meter mall, which so far hosts IKEA, is expected to be one of Qatar’s biggest commercial centers, with 244,000 sq meters of gross leasable area, according to the CEO of BASREC, the mall’s owner and developer.
Previously, rival Mall of Qatar had said it would open an Angry Birds theme park, Juniverse and Virtuocity.
Explaining the switch, an official said the group responsible for bringing the entertainment options to Qatar felt it would fare better at DFC.
Luay Darwish, managing director of ADabisc Future Qatar, said on behalf of the company’s partner Talal Bin Mohammed Trading:
“We had enthusiastic discussions with Mall of Qatar and we tried very hard to make it work there, but due to a lot of technicalities we both agreed that the project will not be as successful if it happens at Mall of Qatar.”
The change in plans raises the question of what will fill the gap at Mall of Qatar, a $824 million mall on Dukhan Road that was originally scheduled to later open this year.
No one at the mall was immediately available for comment.
Qatar’s Angry Birds theme park will be the only one in the region and the world’s flagship park at 12,000 sq meters in size. It will have indoor and outdoor attractions with 35 rides and characters that interact with visitors.
Meanwhile, a space-themed role-play “edutainment” zone called Juniverse is being set up for children aged 5 to 15 years old. The concept is based on a fictitious city floating 400km above Doha and is set in the year 2030. Situated on a space-ship, it will allow children to pretend to do the kinds of jobs that they might be undertaking when they graduate from university.
They will also be able to go on space travels, leaving the spaceship and visiting other planets or traveling to other periods in time, ADabisc’s Business Development Director Dominic Mulroy said.
The zone will be staffed by teachers and will link to school curriculums. It will be a “sealed zone,” enabling parents to safely leave their children for several hours, Mulroy added.
Aimed at teenagers and young adults, Virtuocity will build on social media and gaming to create a competitive, interactive digital theme park.
The zone will include the world’s first 200-seater e-sport gaming arena where participants can compete with each other and with gamers regionally and internationally.
It will also have motor sports simulators, with up to 15 custom-built F1 cars on motion platforms and which are networked, so participants can race in “real-life” surroundings against one another.
Aviator will be life-like flight simulator which includes 220 degree views and has cockpits fro F-16 and F-35 fighter jets. Also networked, “pilots” will be able to go on simulated air races and military exercises, Mulroy said.
Meanwhile Enigma will provide “escape the room” challenges, where competitors have to solve mysteries and puzzles to get out of a simulated locked room.
In addition, there will be a 4,500 square meter indoor snow park that is inspired by a folktale when a cold snap froze an Arab town, according to mall officials. Activities will include snow slides, sledding and culturally-appropriate snow play activities. While there will be some basic skiing for children, it will not have a full-sized ski run.
These newly-announced activities will be in addition to other “action” activities including a water zone with river rafting, climbing wall and reverse bungee.
There will also be an as yet unnamed five-star hotel and convention center, the latter with capacity for 1,400 people, which will be linked to the mall, car parking for 8,000 vehicles and a 19-screen 4D VOX cinema which will allow viewers to experience sensations such as rain, fog, wind, bubbles, scents and vibrations – depending on what’s happening on-screen in addition to visuals.
The hotel and conference complex are not expected to open until mid-late 2017, BASREC CEO Kareem Shamma added.
According to Shamma, 90 percent of the mall’s 550 outlets will be ready to open their doors to the public in Fall 2016.
Shamma said that at least 80 percent of the mall’s tenants had been confirmed, and the management was currently signing deals with eating establishments.
There will be approximately 100 restaurants, cafes and food court outlets. Key stores will include a full-size Monoprix and upscale UK-based department store Harvey Nichols, which confirmed at the end of last year that it will open a few months later, at the beginning of 2017.
Among the stores already confirmed at DFC are Qatar’s first Pottery Barn, as well as branches of Debenhams, H&M, Mothercare, Pinkberry and Shake Shack.
In addition to attracting local customers, the mall also aims to become a destination, drawing in more tourists from the neighboring GCC region and beyond.
Construction of the mall began in 2012, and its first tenant – IKEA – opened a year later in March 2013. Doha will be the third complex in the Festival City brand, which is owned by UAE-based Al Futtaim. There are existing Festival City malls already open in Dubai and Cairo, and one is under construction in Oman.