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Lionel Messi theme park to open in China in 2019

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I hope to provide children the experience they never had before and to inspire them to pick up the sport early on

footballer Lionel Messi has inspired a new theme park in China, which will have over 20 multimedia attractions dedicated to the FC Barcelona star.

A consortium of developers, including China’s Phoenix Group and Spanish conglomerate Mediapro, are backing the Messi Experience Park in Nanjing – described as “a unique global experience” that will allow visitors “to immerse themselves in all things Messi”.

The park will utilise virtual and augmented reality technologies for both rides and special football clinics teaching some of Messi’s skills, and the park will also have its own football pitches for visitors to use.

In total there will be 46,000sq m (495,000sq ft) of indoor facilities alongside 12,000sq m (130,000sq ft) garden game areas and 25,000sq m (270,000sq ft) of public space. The complex is set to be opened in early 2019.

A large team of designers, including the Catalan architecture firm DAW Office, are working on the project.

Mediapro’s attractions arm has worked on the design and construction of several sports-related exhibition spaces and theme parks, including FC Barcelona’s Camp Nou Experience, the Real Madrid Museum, the Ferrari Land Gallery at PortAventura, the AC Milan Museum and the Brazilian Confederation of Football Museum.

Messi himself is consulting on his eponymous park, which is conceived by the consortium as a way of channeling his popularity to “strengthen the ties between Europe and Asia.”

Launching the project during a recent four-day trip to China, he claimed the attraction could increase the number of children taking up football in China.

He said: "I hope to provide them the experience they never had before and to inspire them to pick up the sport early on.”

Messi’s move into the world of attractions sees him taking on his old adversary, Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo, off the pitch.

The two regularly contest the annual Ballon d'Or prize for the world’s best footballer, and their respective clubs battle each year for the Spanish La Liga title.

Ronaldo is also involved in a number of international attractions and leisure projects, including a football-themed entertainment centre in the Middle East, developed with Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar; his own range of CR7 gyms, created with US-based health club chain Crunch Fitness; and a museum dedicated to himself in his hometown of Funchal, Portugal – complete with a much-mocked statue.

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Footballer Lionel Messi has inspired a new theme park in China, which will have over 20 multimedia attractions dedicated to the FC Barcelona star.
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