Project Profile #8: Qiddiya, Saudi Arabia

At the end of April, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attended the launch ceremony in Riyadh of a vast entertainment resort called Qiddiya.

The resort is expected to attract 1.5 million visitors per year when the first phase of the development opens in 2022, with reports suggesting that the cost of the infrastructure alone could be nearly R30bn (£5.9bn/€6.6bn/$7.7bn).

The complex, which will feature a motorsports circuit, theme park, water park and other entertainment facilities, will sprout up out of the sand some 40km from Riyadh – but renderings for the development have not been created yet.

In the latest part of our Project Profile series, TheStadiumBusiness spoke to Almamoun Alshingiti, Executive Director of Development – Sports, at the Qiddiya Investment Company, to get the lowdown on the project…

TSB: What is the projected cost and timeline for the project?

Almamoun Alshingiti: “There is always a tendency with these kinds of initiatives to look at the overall cost. The size of this project – 2.5 times the size of Walt Disney World – makes the investment required to realise our goal sizeable.

“Qiddiya Investment Company is a closed joint stock company, wholly owned by the Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia, which shows the magnitude of the commitment to this project, and the confidence it demonstrates in the overall development.

“Another important point to note is the pledge to find appropriate regulatory and financial frameworks that will enable and encourage additional investment from others. This will include local Saudi investment from the private sector, as well as foreign direct investment.

“The Qiddiya project will be built in three phases with the final phase completed by 2035 hosting an anticipated 17 million visitors annually. We are currently in Phase 1 of the project, which is expected to open in 2022.”

TSB: Who are the partners behind the project?

AA: “As one of the first tangible results of the project, PIF has already secured an agreement with Six Flags, the world’s largest regional theme park company, to bring their brand to Qiddiya and design, develop and operate a signature attraction for all to enjoy.

“This is the first in a long line of local and international partnerships. We will give more details on those agreements in due course, but we will be working with a global list of stakeholders to bring the vision of Qiddiya to fruition.”

TSB: What is the vision behind the project?

AA: “As outlined in Vision 2030, the blueprint for the future of the Kingdom, Qiddiya is one of the giga projects under PIF, led by His Royal Highness the Crown Prince. It will enhance the Kingdom’s competitiveness to attract international investment and result in benefits to the Saudi economy and ultimately, to its people, and catalyse innovation and growth in the creative, hospitality and entertainment sectors.

“At Qiddiya, there will be something for everyone. We will provide recreational and cultural activities to suit all segments of society: for all ages, all abilities – able-bodied and disabled – for men and women. It is an inclusive destination that will welcome everyone.”

TSB: Could you tell us more about the tenders that will be launched?

AA: “I’m developing the Sports and Wellness offering at Qiddiya which will offer unique athletic experiences for men, women and children of all abilities, allowing them to participate in a range of sports and training programmes, from beginner to elite levels. Now is the time to lay the foundations on which these experiences will be built, so I am currently cultivating the world’s best experts in the field for input and guidance, as well as developing partnerships for investment to propel the development of what will be our world-class facilities.”

TSB: Could you tell us about the concept design at this moment in time?

AA: “The masterplan for the project is under development presently, but Qiddiya’s overall vision is based on five cornerstones. These are values or strategic imperatives that will guide the content and delivery of a large portfolio of offerings along with the support facilities and industries needed to sustain Qiddiya as a self-contained economic ecosystem.

“The sports and wellness cornerstone will offer exemplary facilities, programmes and events across a variety of athletic endeavours to unlock the values, character attributes and wellness benefits uniquely achieved through sports. We will provide sporting options across the spectrum catering to recreational participants as well as professional athletes – and all of those who support them.”

TSB: What will be the challenges that must be overcome in delivering this project?

AA: “Qiddiya sits at the centre of an enormous, untapped market. There is nothing like Qiddiya in the whole country, so there’s near limitless opportunity for the future. But that also means we are building entirely new sectors in Saudi from the ground-up as we progress – which can be challenging. But, I think that also makes this project exciting and unique.”

TSB: What sort of technology are you expecting to incorporate into the project?

AA: “Utilising the latest technology drives much of Qiddiya’s development and will be an integral part to the overall visitor experience. Next year Qiddiya will have a Visitor Experience Centre that is a high-tech interactive exhibition area built on-site and powered by the latest visual and experiential technology. This centre will give visitors a glimpse of what they can expect to see at Qiddiya on opening day and beyond.”

TSB: What are your hopes for the future of the project?

AA: “This project will ultimately support the central goals outlined in Vision 2030 and make these lifestyle opportunities accessible and available for Saudis and visitors alike. In accordance with Vision 2030, Qiddiya will unlock tremendous opportunity, catalyse economic diversification and enhance the quality of life for Saudi citizens – each of which are core aspirations of the vision.

“Qiddiya will create thousands of job prospects for young Saudis and open up currently non-existent industries for the private sector. Perhaps most importantly, though, Qiddiya will make a significant positive impact on the lives of Saudi citizens by enhancing the Kingdom’s well-being and producing future generations of Saudi national athletes and sports stars.”

Images: Qiddiya