By Judith UFFORD, Features Editor
PRINCESS Abiodun Oyefusi, Managing director of SARNER PFM, Nigeria comes across as an easy going, unassuming personality. Well, that was my impression when I met her recently at Oleri, Udu, Delta State. The occasion was the ground breaking ceremony for a link bridge for the Theme park in Warri.
An excited Princess (as I choose to call her) told me the bridge project is just the beginning of a bigger project which promises to be the biggest and first of its kind in Africa.
“Sarner PFM signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)with Delta State for the development of a US$250m leisure project. The self -contained leisure complex will contain a water park, cultural centre, amusement rides, hotels and retail outlets. The inward investment by Sarner PFM will provide the much needed boost to the leisure market and local economy of the Delta State.
This project is unique because it is the first of its kind in Africa,” she stated. Sarner, she informed, is a leading company with over three decades of experience in the design and delivery of visitor attractions and leisure entertainment centres.
“During this period (30 years), we have gained an international reputation in the heritage, leisure, entertainment and corporate markets with clients in North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. In many respects, Sarner is unique in the industry as we employ both creative and technical engineering teams, this allows us to take a project from concept to completion ensuring perfect synergy between the various trades and expertise such projects demand.
Sarner has been awarded the contract to conceptualise, design, create, manage, produce and build the first ever immersive Doctor Who Experience which will open at London’s Olympia in February 2011. Quoting Sarner’s Creative Director, Michael Bennett, I can say authoratively that this massive project will take exhibitions to ‘another level’ because it will be unlike any other TV show exhibition as visitors will become involved in their very own Doctor Who adventure in a timed ‘dark walk’ show concluding with a free flow exhibition.”
Explaining more about Sarner’s other successes, the company she said was one of the very first companies to design a fully automated immersive visitor attraction at Lands End in the UK.
“The Last Labyrinth has, for over two decades, been the benchmark in the industry for other tourist attractions that followed A visitor attraction has to appeal and attract the fee paying visitor whilst the contents have to be sympathetic to the subject and location.
This is always a difficult balance to achieve but after some 30 years, Sarner has refined its techniques to a point where each attraction we build has been a sounding success. Testament to this is The Last Labyrinth which has now been in continuous operation for 20 years. In the last 30 years, we have also gained international reputation in the heritage, leisure, entertainment and corporate markets with clients in North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
In Hong Kong for instance, Sarner is putting together the first and only funicular with an immerse show which opens at the Oceanpark. The journey takes just over three minutes and links the Waterfront with the summit which previously was serviced via a cable car. Sarner was commissioned to theme the funicular and by utilising a host of special techniques, to creat an immersive experience for the park’s guests. We’re bringing all these expertise to bear in Delta State, Nigeria.
The project in Delta is split in two- Asaba and Warri. It’s a water theme park rolled in one. I find it a bit amusing when a resort is built and it’s called a theme park. The State government is providing the infrastructure ( the bridge is part of the infrastructure) and land while Sarner would providing the funding.
For instance, though the state government is building the bridge, Sarner would make a refund to the State government on completion of the entire project.
The Asaba theme park is an advanced zoo where animals would be managed but still be free to roam. There would be a Vet clinic on site and a variety of animals. 250 acres of land have been made available for this.
There would be tour guides and buses to convene visitors around the park.
250 acres of land have also been provided in Warri. The Warri theme park would comprise a Golf Course, Signature name, 50 holiday chalets, five and three Star hotels with 250 rooms in each hotel. The museum would have voices of African leaders. We have already got the cooperation from some Africa leaders. There would also be a Science and Antique park, water fall, commercial zones, 250 shops, four cinemas, casinos.
We want to make it as catchy as possible as well as make it available to all Nigerians. Big names are coming to the park and would take up stands. So, the foundation stone laying for the two kilometre bridge which would cost N1.9m is the kick off for the project.”
Why the choice of Delta State?
Delta in particular and Nigeria in general is strategic because of her population, she noted.
“When you build a theme park, you need population. Nigeria is the most populous black country in the world. So what we are building is a world class theme park. There is not a second like it anywhere in Africa. There is nothing like the Dubai park in Africa.
So, the Delta theme park is going to develop Nigeria by creating employment opportunities. We expect about 10,000 jobs would be created from both parks.”
The inspiration for the project Princess said “is the opportunity which is all around us. Delta State is strategically located and it has the best landscape. The Delta theme park is comparable to Disney in America, that is the best in the world. A theme park is not located in the world capital but somewhere that is easily accessible.
We find that many Nigerians spend so much travelling abroad but if such parks are in the country, we’ll conserve foreign exchange. Tourism should begin at home. In Malaysia, tourism is the second biggest revenue earner. So, it makes economic sense to have such a park in Nigeria.
The estimated period for completion of the project is two and a half years with a contingency period of six months. The private equity funding outside Nigeria is coming from GTB.”