Disneyland Shanghai is one step closer to becoming a reality. Today, Disney signed a contract with Shanghai Shendi Group Company to build the first-ever theme park in mainland China. The new park would be Disney’s fourth outside of the United States, and the third on Asian soil.
The company has been interested in building in China for “quite some time,” and had actually received government approval to build the park last year.
Analysts say the move signals that construction project bans, which had been in place during the Shanghai World Expo, have been lifted. The Expo, which drew more than 73 million visitors during its six month duration, was part of an investment campaign to attract attention to Shanghai, which China hopes to establish as a global financial center by the year 2020. Billions have been spent by the government on infrastructure upgrades and improvements.
Shanghai’s ability to attract record crowds may allay concerns that another Disney theme park in Asia would not be money well spent; low attendance at Hong Kong Disneyland has caused some lawmakers there to question the large public investment for that city’s park.
Still, plans seem to be moving forward, and those involved agree that the new park, which will have a Magic Kingdom theme but will also incorporate regional cultural elements to set it apart, will be a boon for the ever-growing Chinese economy.
While Disney awaits final approval from the necessary agencies, state media has reported that construction, which they estimate may cost $3.8 billion, could begin as early as this month.
The theme park, which is set to open in stages, may welcome its first guests as early as 2014.