Attractions kickoff: 2018's biggest openings
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Attractions kickoff: 2018's biggest openings

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As the Visitor attractions sector gears up for the year ahead, Attractions Management looks at what’s in the pipeline for 2018, with openings, redevelopments, landmark projects and new innovations across the world set to add more fuel to an already booming industry.

Pixar Pier comes to Disney’s California Adventure

Pixar Pier

One of the major openings for 2018 comes from Disney, which is in the process of reimagining Paradise Pier at its California Adventure park into an area dedicated exclusively to Pixar creations.

Renamed Pixar Pier, the new attraction is set for the third quarter and will four different themed neighbourhoods using the studio’s most popular IPs, anchored by the new Incredibles-inspired 'Incredicoaster' – a transformation of the existing Ingenieur Büro Stengel GmbH-designed California Screamin’ ride.

First opened in 2001 at a cost of US$60m (€51.5m, £45.9m), the reimagined rollercoaster will be given a complete makeover, with the new experience featuring a mid-century, modern-style loading area, new character moments and redesigned carriages.

Panda paradise at Zoo'>Copenhagen Zoo

Copenhagen Zoo

Renowned architect Bjarke Ingels is behind a new panda enclosure at Copenhagen Zoo, with the yin-yang shaped habitat set to open to the public at the end of the year.

The US$22m (€20m, £17m) exhibit will house two giant pandas that China has offered to loan to Denmark, and will be built on the footprint of the zoo’s former elephant enclosure, which is now empty and will be demolished.

Ingels and his design firm, BIG, is working on the design with another Danish firm, landscape architects Schonherr. The team has designed an environment as close to the pandas' natural habitat as possible, with the careful planting of trees and bamboo to provide plenty of shade, as well as climbing trees, rocks, logs, waterfalls, pools and streams to provide stimulation.

Sydney’s cage-free zoo

Sydney Zoo

Another major zoo project set to open in 2018 is a AU$36m (US$28.8m, €24m, £21.3m) 'cage free' zoo in Sydney, Australia.

First touted in September 2015, the proposal for the Western Sydney Parklands – masterplanned by Australian design firm Misho + Associates (M+A) in conjunction with landscape architecture from Aspect Studios – will create natural-looking spaces developed to showcase animals from around the world over 165,000sq m (1.8 million sq ft).

The zoo will feature 30 exhibits, including African safari animals and an Aboriginal and natural heritage programme focusing on Western Sydney’s Darug people. The zoo is expected to draw around 745,000 visitors each year.

According to Australia’s environment minister Mark Speakman, the zoo will boost Sydney’s economy by AU$45m (US$36.2m, €30.2m, £26.8m) annually with 120 full-time jobs created when it opens later this year.

Méga Parc’s mega makeover

Méga Parc

In Canada, one of the country’s largest indoor theme parks is undergoing a total redevelopment, with a record-breaking gravity coaster travelling through a spokeless Ferris wheel at the heart of the CA$52m (US$41m, €34.6m, £30.8m) redevelopment.

Built in Quebec in the 1980s, Méga Parc is getting a complete overhaul, with the majority of existing rides replaced and the park to be themed on steampunk and the industrial revolution.

Designed by Extreme Engineering, the suspended Cloud Coaster will hang 60ft (18.3m) above the ground from the attraction’s ceiling, combining elements of a rollercoaster and a zipline with special lifts to propel passengers during uphill segments. The longest of its kind in North America, the 405ft (123.4m) coaster will also offer a world-first, being the only one to go through a Ferris wheel.

The park sits within Quebec’s Les Galeries de la Capitale mall. A grand reopening is set for December 2018.

Warner Bros billion dollar build

Warner Bros World

IPs such as Bugs Bunny and Scooby Doo will sit alongside brands including Batman, Superman and Wonder WOman, when a US$1bn (€882m, £698m) venture by Warner Bros opens its doors on Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island.

Construction is well underway at the park, slated to open later this year. A wide range of Warner Bros’ global IPs will feature at the park and hotel, as will DC Comics, with the brands incorporated into Gotham City, Metropolis, Looney Toons and Hanna-Barbera themed zones.

The Miral owned and operated Yas Island is one of the Middle East’s major leisure and entertainment destinations, attracting 25 million visitors a year. Miral predicts an increase to 30 million visitors with the opening of Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi.

Sochi’s Olympic reimagination

Sirius Art and Science Park

A unique “crossover of art biennale and science gallery” is coming to Russia in February, with the former media centre for the 2014 Winter Olympics currently undergoing a transformation as it is repurposed to become a culture venue for Sochi.

With 40,000sq m (430,500sq ft) of exhibition space, the Sirius Art and Science Park is being developed as a hybrid science centre and museum. Educating visitors with day and night activities, the attraction will also expose the public to the Sirius talent programme – a scheme which teaches Russia’s brightest youngsters maths, science and innovation.

Divided into four themed zones, the development features interactive media and experiences using new technology, while also incorporating hands-on science centre exhibits. In addition to scientific exhibits, contemporary artworks of both local and international artists will be on display.

The park will also feature a planetarium, food court and an outdoor area with a cinema and observatorium. Included among the exhibits will be a full-size replica Russian space shuttle, created by RSC Energia.

Oman’s undersea adventure

Oman Aquarium

Oman will soon be home to one of the largest aquariums in the Middle East as the Sultanate continues to diversify its tourism offering to draw overseas visitors.

Set to open in the city of Seeb’s Palm Mall in the first quarter of 2018, the aquarium will be 8,000sq m (86,000sq ft) in size and will feature a collection of 30,000 marine creatures across 55 exhibit tanks and three storeys.

The main ocean tank will be 1.7 million litres and will house fish and sharks found on the coast of Oman. The tank will have a walkthrough tunnel, as well as a large viewing panel in the aquarium’s main gallery. The majority of the aquarium’s exhibits will showcase Oman’s local marine life, while there will also be a number of freshwater exhibits from Asia and Africa.

The aquarium will be based around Ahmed Ibn Majid, famous as the Lion of the Seas and the most illustrious of Omani seafarers.

Made in Jamaica

Appleton Estate

One of the major projects coming out of the Caribbean centres around a US$7.2m (€6.8m, £6m) upgrade to Jamaica’s Appleton Estate Rum Tour, with Jack Rouse Associates (JRA) taking charge of completely redeveloping the historic brand’s visitor experience.

Reopening on 18 January, the estate, which dates back to 1749, has undergone a major visitor-focused transformation, which includes the addition of modern rum tasting rooms, an expansive retail store, and a new restaurant and lounge offering Appleton-infused traditional Jamaican cuisine.

In addition to renovation work, the estate has received a 23,000sq ft (2,200sq m) expansion, as well as an expansive outdoor tour of the estate grounds, distillery and ageing house, highlighting the history and process of crafting a premium rum. There is also talk of possible future development of a boutique hotel.

Making a splash in Coventry

Coventry waterpark

Recently named the next UK City of Culture, Coventry is also making a splash in the waterpark sector, with a “game-changing” £37m (US$49m, €43.7m) waterpark set to open in the city this year.

Set to include a wave pool, six waterslides, a lazy river toddlers’ splash area, a 25m pool, a spa and a sauna, FaulknerBrowns Architects and Water Technology Inc (WTI) are behind the development, which sits adjacent to the historic Christchurch Tower.

“As a building typology, there have been few good examples and little by way of innovation of the waterpark in the last 20 years,” said Michael Hall, partner at FaulknerBrowns.

"The decision by Coventry Council to procure a waterpark right in the heart of its city centre is a bold one and we're delighted to be able to support this forward-thinking vision.”

V&A comes to Dundee

V and A Dundee

Heading north to Scotland, the long-awaited £80m (US$103.7m, €92m) V&A Dundee is set to open before the year’s end as part of the city’s revitalised waterfront.

The flagship Scottish museum will host major exhibitions, celebrate design heritage, inspire and promote contemporary talent, and encourage future design innovation. Its permanent collections in the Scottish Design Galleries will be accompanied by international touring exhibitions from the V&A, making Dundee the only location in the UK outside London to receive its works.

Architect Kengo Kuma’s design was inspired by the cliffs along Scotland’s north-eastern coastline, and as such none of the external building walls are straight. The shape was designed in advance using 3D modelling, and the panels were then cast in moulds.

Recognising a Country icon

Merle Haggard

Late Country music legend Merle Haggard will get with his own museum, bar and restaurant in Nashville, Tennessee later this year, following an announcement in November by the Icon Entertainment Group (IEG).

The museum in Downtown Nashville, Tennessee, is scheduled to open in the third quarter of 2018, next door to IEG’s two existing properties, which honour fellow country music singers Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline.

The museum will feature instruments, clothing, memorabilia, awards and other artefacts that belonged to Haggard, who died last year on his 79th birthday. Below the museum will be the southern-themed Merle's Meat + 3 Saloon – a bar and restaurant offering dishes made famous in the region.

Carnegie’s science expansion

Carnegie Science Center

June will mark the completion of the US$21m (€18.7m, £16.1m) expansion of Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Science Center, which is currently developing its new Science Pavilion, adding 14,000sq ft (1,300sq m) of new exhibition space.

Designed by Indovina Associates Architects, the three-storey building broke ground in late 2016 and is being built around the existing Omnimax Theater.

Facing out over the Ohio River, the Pavilion will feature nine STEM learning labs and a top-floor space capable of hosting corporate events and social gatherings.

The pavilion’s development is part of a larger US$34.5m (€30.7m, £26.5m) campaign to expand the science centre’s STEM programme. The largest donation came from the DSF Charitable Foundation, which gave US$5m (€4.45m, £3.85m) to finance the pavilion’s Special Exhibitions Gallery.

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As the visitor attractions sector gears up for the year ahead, Attractions Management looks at what’s in the pipeline for 2018, with openings, redevelopments, landmark projects and new innovations across the world set to add more fuel to an already booming industry.

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