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Six Flags Makes Another Attempt to Expand Into the Middle East

Apr 12, 2014 6:00 am

Skift Take

Six Flags has tried and failed to plant is flag in the Middle East several times before, but with the agreement to make another attempt in Dubai, the timing may now be right.

— Dennis Schaal

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Nathan Hunsinger  / Dallas Morning News/MCT

Six Flags plans on expanding into Dubai. Pictured, ride attendant Khadijah Ester, 18, prepares Joseph Maynes to ride the Superman: Tower of Power ride at Six Flags over Texas in Arlington, Texas, on June 7, 2013. Nathan Hunsinger / Dallas Morning News/MCT


Grand Prairie-based Six Flags Entertainment Corp. is again attempting to broaden its international reach beyond North America into the Middle East.

The theme park owner and operator said it is partnering with Meraas Leisure and Entertainment, a Dubai-based real estate development company, to open a Six Flags-branded park in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

The project will open in 2017 and be located in a multi-themed park project in Jebel Ali, Six Flags said. Jebel Ali is Dubai’s leading port.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, nor were details about the theme park’s design.

“The cornerstone of our international expansion strategy has always been finding the right partner in the right location and, with Meraas in Dubai, we have done exactly that,” said Jim Reid-Anderson, Six Flags Entertainment president and chief executive, in a prepared release. “We are honored to be working with this world-class organization as the first significant strategic step taking the Six Flags brand to growing and successful markets outside North America.”

In 2008, Six Flags, then based in New York, announced a plan to partner with developer Tatweer Dubai, a member company of Dubai Holding, to build several theme parks in the Middle East, starting with a 5-million-square-foot park in Dubai. Six Flags also said it was planning a park in Qatar that was to open in 2012.

But the parks were never developed in the wake of the global economic meltdown, and Six Flags filed for bankruptcy in 2009 to restructure $2.7 billion in debt. When it emerged from bankruptcy, Six Flags moved its headquarters to Grand Prairie. Six Flags operates Six Flags Over Texas and Hurricane Harbor in Arlington.

In the new deal, Raed Al Nuaimi, Meraas’s chief leisure and entertainment officer, said: “We are delighted to have a world-leading theme park company and a brand like Six Flags on board. We are confident their presence will perfectly complement our project and further enhance our overall offerings in the leisure and entertainment space. As part of our commitment towards creating one-of-a-kind experiences and contributing towards the Dubai Tourism Vision 2020, our association with Six Flags will help us develop a world-class destination that redefines the industry and positively impacts the regional tourism sector.”

Six Flags has revenues of $1.1 billion annually. It has 18 parks in the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

Meraas L&E is the leisure and entertainment arm of Meraas Holding, which develops master-planned communities. It is tasked with developing a portfolio of innovative landmark projects that redefine Dubai’s tourism and entertainment landscape, Six Flags said.

Sandra Baker, 817-390-7727 Twitter: @SandraBakerFWST ___

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