Saudi's super sports city is back. It's called Qiddiya, a land 600,000 will call home and be able to easily walk between their hospital, school, water park and race track.
The Saudi Crown Prince has relaunched and “rebranded” his project outside of Riyadh called Qiddiya – a super-city purely focused on sports, leisure and entertainment. The new Qiddiya vision has been announced without a price tag, nor a firm opening date, but is described as a “cornerstone of Vision 2030” – Mohammed Bin Salman’s ambition to diversify his kingdom’s economy away from oil exports by the end of the decade.
When complete, the plan is for Qiddiya to create more than 325,000 jobs and add 135 billion Saudi Riyals ($36 billion) to the GDP each year it is up and running. It plans to have its own race track, a Six Flags theme park and FIFA World Cup-ready football stadiums, all spread over a space around twice the size of Washington D.C. (360 square kilometers).
Here are some of the facilities Qiddiya is promising:
- 43 sports facilities
- 12 theme parks
- 275 rides
- 15 hospitals
- 60,000 buildings
- 160,000 residences
- 600,000 residents
- A gaming and e-sports district
- The world’s largest Olympic museum
Qiddiya also expects 48 million visitors a year; 1.8 million of those will be visiting purely to watch football matches.
We don’t know how much all of this will add up to dollar-wise, but the Qiddiya Investment Company, which MBS chairs, has awarded contracts worth $2.7 billion so far. Qiddiya says its main waterpark is 61% built, the Six Flags is 59% complete, and all its golf courses have been “shaped” over land equal in size to 215 football fields.
Based on the original plans, Qiddiya is well behind schedule. The project was first unveiled back in 2018, with its first phase expected to be done by 2022 and the Six Flags park up and running by 2023.
It is very likely that Qiddiya will become a sports epicenter if Saudi hosts the FIFA World Cup 2034, which it is currently the only bidder for.
In terms of funding, Qiddiya has the safety net of the country’s sovereign wealth fund, called the Public Investment Fund, which has around $700 billion in assets. This same fund is pumping dollars into other mega projects in the kingdom, ranging from The Red Sea archipelago tourism site to skiing retreats.
Saudi Vision Delays
On Thursday, Saudi officials admitted for the first time that some flagship “Vision 2030” projects are facing delays, with some being pushed to 2033 or 2035.
Bloomberg reported that the Saudi government, which is forecasting budget deficits every year till 2026, has decided on delaying projects “to build capacity and avert huge inflationary pressures and supply bottlenecks,” Finance Minister Mohammed Al Jadaan said Thursday. He didn’t specify which projects would be affected.
All plans had been reviewed based on “economic, social, employment and quality-of-life returns among other factors over the last 18 months,” he said. As a result, some are “being accelerated and some — largely projects in the pipeline which have not been announced yet — are given a longer executional timeframe,” he added.
“There are strategies that have been postponed and there are strategies that will be financed after 2030,” Al Jadaan said.
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Photo credit: A render of Qiddiya. Credit: Qiddiya.