The World's First Football-Themed Park Is Coming to Dubai

November 17, 2022, 10:00 AM · One of the world's most popular sports teams will be getting a brand experience attraction at a leading theme park resort.

Dubai Parks and Resorts has announced that it has reached an exclusive multi-year partnership with Real Madrid C.F. to create the first-ever Real Madrid-themed experience, which it is calling the world's first football theme park.

"Visitors will enjoy audio-visual displays, interactive experiences, playable gaming interactions, and unique attractions inspired by the spirit, passion, and success that make Real Madrid the Club of the Century," Dubai Parks said in its press release.

Set to open in the final months of next year, the Real Madrid experience will include rides and "signature rollercoasters," as well as a museum, food and beverage outlets, and "unique retail options featuring memorabilia from across Real Madrid's successful history," according to Dubai Parks.

"Real Madrid is a megastar of world football and one of the world's most recognized sports teams, with an unmatched track record of success and millions of passionate supporters from every corner of the planet," Dubai Holding Entertainment CEO Fernando Eiroa said. "We look forward to engaging sports fans, families, and children in new and exciting ways and supporting an active youth community across the UAE. This project is in consonance with our vision to contribute to enhancing Dubai as a leading tourist destination."

Dubai Parks currently includes the Motiongate Dubai, Legoland Dubai, and Bollywood Parks Dubai theme parks, as well as a shopping and dining district and resort hotels. For discounted tickets to Dubai Parks, please visit our international travel partner's Dubai Parks tickets page.

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Replies (11)

November 17, 2022 at 10:38 AM

I was a bit worried that this was starting to sound like the NBA Experience which lasted a few months at Disney World. But then it does mention rides and "signature roller coasters" which certainly elevates it past that failed experiment.

I don't think this will be one of the major parks of the UAE, mostly due to it being announced and completed in a 12-month span. Regardless, it's another option for theme park fans and hopefully a good place to work and have fun for the locals. That's a win.

November 17, 2022 at 10:46 AM

Dubai Parks said "designs are being finalised" now for the park, but I would love to hear from someone who has visited Dubai Parks recently if there is any sign of construction happening.

November 17, 2022 at 1:14 PM

I will wait until the park actually announces the attraction lineup, because what is described here is nothing more than a "brand experience" with perhaps a stock ride or 2 that has some Real Madrid badging. This doesn't seem very different than what Kennywood did with Steelers Country and Steel Curtain or what Port Aventura did with their Ferrari Land.

For RM this is a natural extension of their partnership with the UAE (Emirates is the club's primary shirt sponsor). I'm sure all their top stars will be on hand if/when this actually opens.

With the World Cup less than a week away and the controversy surrounding LIV Golf, the attention being draw to the idea of "sportswashing" has made me more skeptical of developments in the Arab world (I highly recommend the Netflix doc on FIFA and ESPN's recent piece on Qatar 2022), including theme parks that look amazing but have my conscience torn as to whether I can feel good visiting them.

November 17, 2022 at 2:32 PM

I wouldn't be so fast to lump the UAE in with Qatar and Saudi. The UAE was the one that started the whole idea of moving the Middle East from a petroleum-based to a financial-services and tourist-based economy, when its leaders did the math and saw what the future held for the oil industry. (Moving from a follower's role in OPEC to a more leading role in the region also surely factored into the decision.)

Once the UAE showed what was possible with more direct cultural engagement with the West, some in the region decided that they wanted nothing to do with the more relaxed social norms allowed in the UAE, while others looked at the UAE and saw potential new streams of revenue for their countries.

The UAE is not a Western country and does not operate under Western cultural standards, though they welcome Western visitors, acting in Western ways, to their country. (Plenty of out LGBTQ and atheist visitors have traveled to Dubai and Abu Dhabi without incident and enjoyed their trips, for examples.) But the UAE is far more welcoming of Western behavior than other Arabian peninsula nations.

When those other nations go after big sporting events, theme parks and other Western-style entertainment before making the necessary changes to put out the relatively tolerant welcome mat that the UAE has for its visitors, that's when they open themselves up to accusations of sportswashing and the like.

So I guess this is my attempt to explain why I'm open to what's happening in the tourist business in the UAE while I remain deeply skeptical and quite guarded about what's happening in Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

That, and I've always been Barca > Real Madrid, though if I had a reason for that, I have long forgotten it.

November 17, 2022 at 2:32 PM

How do you make a theme park ride related to soccer? Have it go on for an eternity with little to no action?

November 17, 2022 at 3:09 PM

@NCPete - sounds like you are describing baseball

November 17, 2022 at 8:09 PM

And the American tourists visiting will wonder where the field goal ride is.

November 18, 2022 at 8:56 AM

I understand where you're coming from Robert, but the skeptic in me wonders what the motivations are for these rich Arab countries pumping billions of dollars into different industries, and the recent investigative focus on "sportswashing" makes me wonder if the UAE started their own form of it over a decade ago, just in the hospitality industry instead of sports (though they also have purchased controlling stakes in sports teams - most notably PSG and Manchester City). It does seem that the UAE has been more tolerant to Western societal norms, but as Qatar demonstrated today by yanking beer sales from World Cup stadiums 2 days before the first game is scheduled to kick off, there's no guarantee that they will maintain that acceptance forever.

The biggest thing for me is that so many of the modern developments in the Middle East are being financed by massively rich individuals/families who are the government, and have no regard for standard business practices and ethics. If any of these developments had to be financed in a traditional way (through government-issued bonds or loans), they would not be nearly as opulent and would be required to generate profit within 3-5 years. Instead, the UAE (and other countries in the region) build these massive, luxurious attractions with their immense wealth, and continue to operate them with no scrutiny on their balance sheets because of the trillions of reserves available to cover any losses.

As a consumer, you always have to look at any product/service and wonder if it's too good to be true. When you look at developments around the Middle East where there are dozens of reports of corruption, human rights violations, shady accounting, and occasional intolerance of Western norms, you have to wonder what the "catch" is. The UAE is a shiny, sparkling oasis in the middle of the desert, and as much as I'd love to visit and see/experience the amazing architecture, attractions, and culture first hand, the recent criticism of the region and illumination into the way business is conducted by these infinitely rich individuals who love to flaunt their wealth in order to gain power both regionally and globally, you have to ask yourself if this oasis is really just a mirage.

To your last point Robert, IMHO, it's always come down to a simple calculus to get Barca>Real Madrid because Messi>Ronaldo.

November 19, 2022 at 10:54 AM

A lot of this comes down to individual risk assessment. The UAE is not as famous for unilaterally arresting dissidents, but it absolutely does so. While the tourist destinations roll out welcome mats for westerners, the US state department offers a heap of guidance for women traveling alone.

That’s not to mention the current travel advisory discourages travel because of the possibility of drone strikes toward civilian air craft.

The wide swaths of money spent to both diversify the economy and make for a better reputation doesn’t phase me. While it doesn’t completely comply with standard capitalism precipices, the idea of a bunch of rich people buying something just cause they want to or operating a large entity mostly as a plaything feels very global.

I tend to agree with Robert as far as the earnestness with which the bid into hospitality is concerned. I also think it’s wise to take all the information into account before booking your flight.

November 20, 2022 at 3:02 PM

@Russell Meyer - ??????????????????????

November 20, 2022 at 3:03 PM

Sorry emojis don’t work - that was a huge round of applause

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