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Europe’s Second Major Theme Park Planned In Spain

November 2, 1992

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) _ Despite the somewhat disappointing launch of Euro Disneyland last spring, Anheuser-Busch Cos. and a Spanish partner are forging ahead with plans to develop Europe’s second major theme park in the resort town of Salou.

Tibi Gardens, expected to open in 1995, will occupy 500 acres featuring five major attractions representing the Wild West, Polynesia, China, Mexico and the northeastern Spanish region of Catalunya. It will have 31 rides and 11 daily shows.

St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch and Grand Tibidabo, S.A., also plan a 300- room hotel, an 18-hole golf course and 200 private homes nearby.

″There is nothing about what has happened at Euro Disney that bothers or discourages us,″ Charles Vilarrubi, president of Grand Tibidabo, said in a recent interview.

″It is absurd to draw conclusions about Euro Disney after only the first year,″ he added. ″These parks are always designed as long-term investments. It is also absurd to compare Euro Disney and Tibi Gardens.″

The Euro Disney theme park and resort - which opened in April in Marne-la- Vallee, France, about 20 miles east of Paris - has fallen short of Walt Disney Co.’s original projections.

The company expected 11 million visitors for the first year but so far it has logged only 7 million. Disney also said it would earn a profit the first year, but company officials recently acknowledged the park will register a net loss.

Tibi Gardens does have more modest goals. Officials say the first year would be a success if only 3 million visitors pay the $30 admission charge.

The project also is much smaller in comparison - expected to cost $450 million, a fraction of the $4 billion cost for Disney’s massive 4,800-acre development.

Vilarrubi said Tibi Gardens ground-breaking began last May, and workers were now ready to begin putting the infrastructure of the theme park in place.

″We will have spent $14 million by the time we are done with the second phase in June of 1993,″ he said.

Spain’s Catalunya region had been considered a strong candidate for Euro Disney. However, Disney executives opted for the Paris area because of its accessibility to a huge market in northern Europe and an attractive incentive package from the French government.

Vilarrubi said the joint venture with Anheuser-Busch made a ″very nice fit.″

″They have a 20 percent interest and are providing the technical know-how for building and managing the park, based on experience with their Sea Worlds and Busch Gardens in the (United) States,″ he said.

Vilarrubi said Catalunya’s sunny climate and the brisk tourist industry in nearby Barcelona - the region gets about 20 million visitors a year - should help make Tibi Gardens a success.

He pointed to the success of the small Tibidabo amusement park, which Grand Tibidabo bought in 1986.

The park was badly deteriorated from its heyday at the turn of the century and drew about 500,000 visitors a year. After a $10 million renovation, Tibidabo is now getting a million visitors annually - and making money, he said.

But critics aren’t so sure about the theme park. They note that if the project loses money, it won’t just be Anheuser-Busch and Grand Tibidabo that suffer.

Taxpayers would bear a large brunt of such a failure since the Catalan regional government is guaranteeing $100 million in loans and the central government in Madrid is providing a package of low-interest loans and credits worth about $250 million.

End Adv Monday, Nov. 2

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