Shanghai Plans $3.6 Billion Disney Theme Park

Disney plans to open its next big theme park in Shanghai. Just days after Shanghai wrapped up its role as host to the World Expo, China's commercial capital is setting its sights on another big tourism draw, a long-awaited Disney theme park.

Walt Disney (DIS) and the city government inaugurated a new company to manage the project, expected to cover 4 square kilometers (1.5 square miles) out of a total 20 square kilometers (nearly 8 square miles) for the entire resort, the city government said Friday in a statement.

The cost is reportedly estimated at 25 billion yuan ($3.6 billion).

Approval Not Yet Final

Plans call for the theme park to be a "strong international tourism resort," with a pleasant, low-carbon environment, the city said. Shanghai Shen Di (Group), a joint venture with Disney, will be responsible for construction, management and operation of the Disneyland theme park, it said.

Some residents were long ago moved off farmland in Chuansha, a part of Pudong district near the city's main international airport, to make way for the park.

Disney issued a statement confirming its discussions with the Shanghai government.

"We can confirm the statement from the Shanghai government that we have taken another step forward in the approval process," it said.

But the company said it was still awaiting final approval of the joint venture by the central government and completion of necessary procedures.

"We will not have any further comment at this time," it said.

A World Expo Construction Frenzy

The six-month-long World Expo, which ended Sunday, drew a record 72 million visitors, mostly Chinese tourists. That event was the culmination of a construction frenzy that gave the city of more than 20 million nearly a dozen new subway lines, new highways, airport upgrades and other modern facilities.

With the Disneyland project due to start, the city appears likely to resume its building boom.

The agreement Friday came exactly a year after China's national planning agency approved the plans for the park - a major step toward getting the project started.

The park will give Shanghai, the mainland's main financial and commercial center, a new showcase. While the city is one of China's most modern and affluent, it has relatively few big historic landmarks compared with ancient capitals like Beijing and Xi'an.

Disney has said the Shanghai resort will include a "Magic Kingdom-style theme park with characteristics tailored to the Shanghai region."

Disney has been expanding its presence in mainland China after opening a theme park in Hong Kong in 2005. That venue, which has suffered from disappointing attendance, is in the midst of an expansion as it maneuvers to compete with the future theme park in Shanghai.

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