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Aquatica, SeaWorld, Discovery Cove and Busch Gardens all coming to Dubai

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Busch President and COO Jim Atchison announces the new parks to be built in Dubai. The screen behind him shows how the parks will be layed out on the island shaped like Shamu.

The big announcement today at SeaWorld didn’t bring any news for Orlando, but it is big news for Busch and Dubai. Worlds of Discovery – SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, Discovery Cove and Aquatica – will soon have a home on a whale-shaped island located on “the Crown” of The Palm Jebel Ali in Dubai. The announcement was made this morning by Busch Entertainment Corporation, the family entertainment division of Anheuser-Busch Cos. and Nakheel, one of the world’s largest property developers.

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Busch and Nakheel, a key company in Dubai’s transformation into one of the fastest growing cities in the world, reached agreement earlier this month on the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding that calls for the phased construction of four theme parks on the second of the company’s three Palm man-made island developments. Nakheel will invest the necessary capital to build and operate the parks. Busch will license its brands to Nakheel and operate the parks under a management contract.

Worlds of Discovery will occupy a section of The Palm Jebel Ali known as “the Crown,” which will resemble a giant killer whale when reclamation work is complete. Nakheel’s plans for The Palm Jebel Ali, currently the world’s largest man-made island, also call for the development of commercial, residential and shopping districts, as well as resort hotels and restaurants.

Busch President and Chief Operating Officer Jim Atchison announced the deal today with Nakheel’s Chief Executive Chris O’Donnell in a ceremony at SeaWorld’s Shamu Stadium. Also present were Busch Chief Marketing Officer Joe Couceiro and Marwan Al Qamzi, managing director of The Palm Jebel Ali.

“Dubai has become one of the world’s leading tourist destinations, and a key part of the strategy has been attracting world-class entertainment brands to the emirate. We have already concluded partnerships with major brands such as Trump, Cirque du Soleil, and Atlantis, and the partnership with BEC is a further example of Dubai’s growth as a city of global prominence,” O’Donnell said. “We are extremely honored that The Palm Jebel Ali will become home to the first Worlds of Discovery theme parks outside of the U.S., which is not only a major coup for Nakheel, but for the whole of Dubai.”

The Worlds of Discovery project will be phased. Worlds of Discovery on The Palm Jebel Ali will also include a variety of other family activities, including resort hotels, spas, shops and restaurants. Preliminary design work and site planning is underway, with the first phase expected to open in 2012.

More than 300 million cubic yards of sand and 10 million tons of rock have been used in the construction of The Palm Jebel Ali, with the island adding more than 52 miles of coastline to Dubai. Reclamation of the island is nearly complete and Nakheel has already begun putting an infrastructure in place that will eventually support a population of more than 280,000 people.

The Worlds of Discovery in Dubai will be designed and managed by Busch. The parks will be staffed by a combination of Busch expatriates and executives trained in Busch parks in the United States and workers recruited regionally.

SeaWorld Dubai will include many of the attractions visitors have come to enjoy, including killer whale, dolphin and sea lion attractions and marine themed rides. Busch will provide all animals for the parks developed in Dubai.

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