Real Madrid Drops $1 Billion Island Project

Real Madrid Drops $1 Billion Island Project

Commercial News » Middle East and Africa Commercial News Edition | By Kevin Brass | September 23, 2013 8:14 AM ET

Real Madrid FC owns Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and the respect of La Liga, but the football club won't be building an island resort in the United Arab Emirates anytime soon.

Eighteen months after announcing plans for the Real Madrid Resort Island, a 430,000-square-meter resort and theme park project in the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has confirmed the project is not going to happen.

"Real Madrid will not go through with the theme park which was planned for the emirate Ras al Khaimah," Mr. Perez told reporters. "We will look to complete the project in another emirate."

Michael Hernandez, project director of the master developer, told Reuters the land was never purchased for the Real Madrid development. There are "no commitments" relating to the project, which has been "put on hold," he told the wire service.

The concept announced by Mr. Perez and legendary player Zinedine Zidane last year was billed as the "perfect partnership" in a "strategic location." Plans called for hundreds of apartments and hotel rooms, an amusement park, a Real Madrid museum, a hologram football show and the "first stadium open to the seas."

The island would open in January 2015 and attract 1 million visitors in the first year, the backers claimed.

Many industry observers were, to put it mildly, a bit skeptical. These brand projects pop up periodically, usually tied to an F1 driver or football club. Few ever happen, as financiers and buyers are unimpressed with the potential drawing power of a sports brand.

The "strategic location" also raised eyebrows. Several projects announced in grand style have stalled in Ras Al Khaimah, one of the most remote of the seven emirates that make up the U.A.E., located about 90 kilometers from glitzy Dubai.

Abu Dhabi has been floated as the other emirate that might take over the project. But that may be problematic, since Abu Dhabi is closely tied to Manchester City, the English Premier League team owned by Sheikh Mansour, a member of Abu Dhabi's ruling family.

Of course, Real Madrid might have extra motivation to go forward with the project. Arch-rival Barcelona already has its own island city, at least in the imagination of Qatar Airways advertising. (See second video below).

Video: Real Madrid Island

Video: FC Barcelona Commercial


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