On the outskirts of Dubai, close to the border with Abu Dhabi, 6,500 men working for 27 contractors are racing to complete the AED10.5bn ($2.9bn) Dubai Parks & Resorts development ahead of its October 2016 grand opening.

The attraction it is expected to further establish Dubai as a tourism destination by attracting 6.7 million visitors in 2017 during its first full year of operation, capitalising on its status as the region’s first major theme park.

Even on a global basis, such large-scale theme parks are a relatively rare occurrence, and as a result there are only a limited number of design consultants and contractors that have significant experience and expertise in theme park development.

The Dubai Parks & Resorts development is even more of a challenge to deliver, as it has three theme parks being built as part of its first phase, along with a themed hotel and central plaza. The theme parks are Motiongate, Legoland and a Bollywood theme park. The hotel is a Polynesian themed property known as Lapita. Together they cover an area of 2.5 square kilometres and will have a total of 83 rides and attractions.

Component costs

  • Motiongate (AED2.54bn)
  • Legoland (AED1.03bn)
  • Bollywood (AED1.35bn)
  • Lapita (AED660m)
  • Other (AED4.95bn)

To deliver these components concurrently, the project client commissioned South Korea’s Samsung C&T to manage the delivery of the project from the initial concept stage, and provide support the client in all development stages including initial planning, feasibility studies, design development, as well as construction management.

“Samsung has extensive international experience of the PMC [programme management consultant] function through numerous mega scale turnkey and engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) projects it has delivered, so when the opportunity presented itself to offer a standalone PMC function to Meraas the only hesitation was in respect to the specialist nature of the theme park and leisure facility requirements,” says Mike Blaylock, project director – Dubai Parks & Resorts, Samsung C&T.

“Even though Samsung has previously developed an internationally recognised theme park in South Korea so it was not a totally new subject area, PMC for the Theme Park development was a big challenge for Samsung C&T.”

One of Samsung C&T’s first moves was to bring in specialists to help run the project. “Samsung aggressively headhunted a core project delivery team with both local and international theme park experience as well as securing senior regionally experienced heads of department for critical functions of project controls, contracts and procurement, planning, design management, construction management and cost control,” says Blaylock.

Funding

  • AED10.5bn (total estimated cost)
  • AED6.3bn (equity invested in project)
  • AED4.2bn (finance facility)

Samsung quickly built up a team to work on the project. “From an initial core team of around 20 in the early planning stages, the team has expanded to over 100 direct employees with the overall team including specialist elements under Hill International and Cumming cost estimation services swelling the total project management consultancy team to over 250, all under Samsung C&T overall programme management,” says Chang Deok Im (Jerry), senior administration manager – Dubai Parks & Resorts Project, Samsung C&T.

The Samsung C&T team manages an array of other companies and teams working on the project. “Samsung C&T manages multiple packages and contractors through Dubai Parks and Resorts and due to competitive tendering for each package we also have multiple packages being managed within the individual theme park parcels,” says Blaylock. “Although this adds complexity to coordination and management it provides the employer with maximum financial benefit. There are over 50 construction packages and two to three main contractors on board for each parcel.”

The company typically operates as a contractor in the Gulf region, and that experience together with skills gained from other projects around the world gives the Dubai Parks & Resorts PMC team a broad range of expertise.

“The PMC team although part of Samsung C&T does not look at itself as a contractor since the previous experience of the wider team is from contractor, client and consultant backgrounds which allows for a broad spectrum of knowledge and experience to be brought to the table,” says Blaylock. “From the company’s point of view with the overall governance system coming from the contractor background, we feel more ownership and responsibility for project delivery even though we are the project management consultant which has no liability for construction.”

Another key for the PMC team is coordinating with external agencies in Dubai that are responsible for permitting and the delivery of services and utilities to the site.

“Samsung is actively involved with both the employer and consultants in managing the critical authority’s approval process. This includes for direct communication and resolution with Dubai Municipality, Dubai Civil Defense, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, and the Roads and Transport Authority,” says Chang. “Fortunately the employer has also recognised the wisdom of having a dedicated resource in this respect to assist our consultants in achieving timely approvals that meet our very aggressive schedule.”

So far the aggressive schedule has been met, and although there is a lot of work still to be completed, the project team is confident that the October 2016 opening date can be achieved.

Dubai Parks & Resorts progress at end December 2014

(Percentage complete)

  • Major IP agreements (100)
  • All operator agreements (100)
  • Major government approvals (100)
  • Theme park ride orders (100)
  • Design (88)
  • Resort-wide roads and utilities (64)
  • Procurement (50)
  • Ride engineering and manufacturing (31)

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