This development might be the worst-kept secret in theme park history. We're not sure what took Six Flags so long to seal the deal, but we do know the arrangement fits squarely into the operator's strategic goals — as long as everything goes according to plan.
Nearly two years after news spread — prematurely, it turned out — that a Six Flags theme park was coming to in Saudi Arabia, the Texas-based operator announced a deal late Wednesday to make it official.
Six Flags Entertainment will team up with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund to develop the park in Riyadh.
Financial details about the deal were not disclosed. Six Flags will license the brand and develop and design the park, which will be part of a new entertainment, sports, and cultural destination called Qiddiya. Plans call for a 2022 opening.
In a statement, Qiddiya CEO Michael Reininger said the complex will include “record-breaking roller coasters” and “innovative rides and attractions.”
“By partnering with a global leader, we know that we are going to deliver something exceptional,” he said.
As part of its “Vision 2030” plan to reduce dependence on oil, grow the economy, and create jobs for young Saudis, the kingdom has made clear its intentions to invest in a swath of sectors, including entertainment.
“The Six Flags-branded theme park in Riyadh and other similar developments will create new employment opportunities and harness the talent, energy and imagination of Saudi youth,” a statement from the Public Investment Fund said.
For Six Flags, the arrangement represents an opportunity that the company sees as a key growth driver.
In 2017, executives said international deals generated $38 million in revenue — money that comes without significant capital output from the regional theme park company. Since the initiative started in 2014, Six Flags has reaped $91 million. Overall, the company reported $1.4 billion in revenue and $313 million in profit last year.
International agreements with partners are not a guarantee of success, however. Plans for a park in Vietnam fell through, and a Dubai project is moving forward even though its operator fell behind on payments.
Still, in February, Six Flags CEO Jim Reid-Anderson said he expected to announce additional international developments this year.
“Because the parks require no direct investment from Six Flags, our future international park openings are limited only by our ability to find new partners and suitable sites,” he said.
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Photo credit: A roller coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain is pictured. Parent company Six Flags Entertainment just announced a deal to develop a theme park in Saudi Arabia. Matthew Nelson / Flickr