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Developer plans $2.2-billion Universal theme park in Dubai

Times Staff Writer

Dubai, the Western-friendly tourism boomtown, is building its own version of a Hollywood back lot using a familiar name.

Tatweer, a United Arab Emirates developer, announced plans for a $2.2-billion theme park called Universal City Dubailand under a licensing agreement with NBC Universal Inc., operator of the Universal Studios theme parks.

Tatweer, a state-owned company, will finance the development, though Universal will help design attractions similar to ones it has in its Orlando and Hollywood parks. The deal means NBC Universal and its parent, General Electric Co., can tap into a rapidly growing tourism hub without the risks and costs of building its own park.

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Scheduled to open in 2010, the Dubai park will span nearly 7 million square feet and include about 4,000 luxury hotel rooms and 100 restaurants.

For Dubai, the project comes amid an effort to boost tourism as oil reserves in the kingdom decline. Tourists have been flocking to the city, known for its lavish hotels, indoor ski slopes and shopping malls that rival those in such places as Milan and Beverly Hills.

The Universal theme park will be the centerpiece of Dubailand, a massive $64-billion tourism destination also being developed by Tatweer.

“There is no doubt that the new project will contribute to highlighting Dubai as a global tourist destination,” said Saeed Muntafiq, executive chairman of Tatweer.

Though it has scaled back its global theme park operations in recent years, Universal maintains licensing agreements with parks in Japan and Spain and for a park under development in Singapore.

richard.verrier@latimes.com

Times staff writer Kimi Yoshino contributed to this report.


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