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  Business Times 18 Oct 06
Kerzner, CapitaLand take on rivals ride for ride

Water theme park will have 14 rides with capacity for up to 5,000 people
By Arthur Sim

The Straits Times 18 Oct 06
Aquarium showdown: It's a battle of gallons

Front runners Kerzner and Genting are both claiming their fish habitats will be the world's biggest

THE one-upmanship between the two front runners in the Sentosa race began yesterday - over the size of the housing for their fish.

It began first with Kerzner International coming back at Genting International's boast on Monday of building the world's largest aquarium in its proposed Resorts World.

Meeting reporters yesterday to reveal details of its resort Atlantis Sentosa, Kerzner's president for its international division Tobin Prior referred to Genting's claim and said - no fewer than three times - that Kerzner's proposed aquarium would outsize any oceanarium.

Asked to respond yesterday, Genting said its aquarium will have over 20 million gallons of water. That is enough to fill about 37 Olympic-size swimming pools.

The comment drew a swift return from Mr Prior, who trotted out a 24 million-gallon figure, counting in all the aquatic exhibits scattered around Kerzner's resort.

Gallons are typically used to indicate the size of aquariums, with a gallon being the equivalent of eight pints, or 4.5 litres.

The exchange marked the first time the two bidders have locked horns since the race began in earnest in June.

Mr Prior also offered a last word: 'It is not about having the biggest number of fish or largest volume of water attractions, but how we use these to develop the best experience.'

In any case, both bidders' aquariums are larger than the world's current biggest one - the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, at 6.2 million gallons.

Going into the highlights of Kerzner's project, Mr Prior said it will have nine attractions, ranging from a water theme park to a coral dive lagoon and public artworks.

Non-hotel guests to its aquarium and theme park will have to pay entry fees, but its gardens and waterfront promenade will be free-access.

Kerzner has lined up nine star chefs, including three triple-Michelin star ones - Britain's Gordon Ramsay, France's Joel Robuchon and Spain's Santi Santamaria - to offer fine dining beside mass- market offerings from local food chain Food Republic and seafood restaurant Jumbo.

Mr Prior yesterday downplayed the role of robots at its Atlantis Sentosa. Kerzner unveiled these high-tech highlights on Monday, but the machines seem to have already overshadowed its core attractions.

Redressing this, Mr Prior said: 'Atlantis is all about the sea. The real emphasis is on the amazing fish of the sea - there will be a huge amount of real fish.'

He also offered ambitious visitor projections that pipped even Genting's: Kerzner expects to attract 10 million visitors in 2010, its first year; thereafter, it expects 13 million visitors by 2016. Genting is targeting 10 million visitors by 2015.

On Atlantis Sentosa being a magnet for jobs, Mr Prior said it will hire more than 8,000 workers in its first year, and at least 1,000 more in the next five. It plans to have Singaporeans fill up three in every four positions.

Touching on the casino, he said the resort's projected revenue is likely to see an equal split between gaming and non-gaming receipts. If Kerzner wins the bid, he said it would fund a third of its $5.28-billion bid from equity and the remaining from bank borrowing.

Architect Frank Gehry's glass-and-steel structures for Kerzner, which resemble a pair of sails, captured the imagination of six architects contacted by The Straits Times.

With little explanation from the architect himself, they could not agree if it was beautiful, but felt it was exciting and distinctive. Mr Lee Cheng Wee, a designer with architectural firm Studio Moth, said: 'It is really an eye-opener, whether you like the design or not. It's something that will make people stop and reassess what is acceptable.'

The challenge will lie in putting the structure together, said Mr Alan Tay from Formwerkz Architects. However, once it is up, it could well become a must-see for architects from around the world, much like the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain - also a Gehry work.

One of the requirements laid down by the authorities was that the integrated resort was to reflect the tropical island character of Sentosa.

The architects interviewed were divided on whether Gehry's design met this criterion. Some, like Mr Khoo Peng Beng from Arc Studio, pointed out that Gehry's work, on first look, never seems to fit the context - it 'challenges what the reading of that context should be'.

Mr Lee said it is a matter of debate as to whether 'blending in' meant mimicking what was already there, or bringing in a new element that tied in with the context, 'and from that taking it to the future'.

Business Times 18 Oct 06
Kerzner, CapitaLand take on rivals ride for ride

Water theme park will have 14 rides with capacity for up to 5,000 people
By Arthur Sim

(SINGAPORE) Kerzner International and CapitaLand would have attractions at Sentosa that would match those of their competitors ride for ride.

Revealing details of the partners' proposal for the Sentosa integrated resort (IR), called Atlantis Singapore, Kerzner's international division president Tobin Prior said a water theme park called Aqua-venture would have 14 rides spread over 12 acres (4.8 hectares), and a capacity of up to 5,000 people.

Atlantis Singapore would also feature the world's largest live coral lagoon - 10 metres deep and filled with 750 species of fish - in which visitors could snorkel or even dive.

There would also be Aquasphere, the 'world's largest and most technologically advanced' aquarium, with a holding capacity of 10 million gallons - bigger than rival Genting International and Star Cruises' proposed 'world's largest oceanarium' of 6.6 million gallon. 'And with more shark species,' said Mr Prior.

There would be fewer species of sea creatures at Aquasphere, but who needs real marine life when you can have robots as well? Employing the know how of robotics company iRobot, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and Edge Innovations, Aquasphere would also be home to the next generation of robotic animals.

Walt Conti, founder of Edge Innovations, created the killer whale in the movie Free Willy. Aquasphere would 'blend the natural world with modern motion technology', Mr Prior said.

There would be other attractions too, like the AquaLabs featuring interactive and edutainment content, and the Gardens of Robotanica with natural and robotic fauna and flora.

Not surprisingly, Mr Prior put to rest rumours concerning a tie-up with theme park giant Disney. 'Kerzner's core competency is in creating, building and managing all aspects of an integrated resort, and one of the things that we do best is in marine attractions and water rides,' he said. 'As such, Kerzner and CapitaLand would manage all attractions on Atlantis Sentosa.'

Kerzner would, of course, be operating a casino too. But it would be a low-key affair. Explaining that the casino has not been planned along the traditional lines of dominating the main areas, Mr Prior said it would be tucked underneath the Gardens of Robotanica. 'You won't have to cross the casino to get to your hotel room,' he said.

Nevertheless, he expects gaming revenue to make up 50 per cent of the IR's receipts - significantly more than the 33 per cent it commands at Kerzner's flagship Atlantis in the Bahamas.

Non-gaming revenue would come from ticket sales for attractions, supplemented by revenue from 1,800 hotel rooms and convention centre facilities. There would be 14,000 sq metres of convention centre space with capacity for 4,000 people.

More than just a resort and theme park operator, Kerzner is also familiar with meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (Mice) business. 'We are one of the leaders in the American and Caribbean market,' Mr Prior said.

Most of Atlantis Sentosa's clients would come from Asia. And this is reflected in the food offerings. There would, of course, be the requisite Michelin starred chefs like Joel Robuchon, Gordon Ramsay and Santi Santamaria coming. But also cooking for Kerzner would be Nobu Matsuhisa, Sanjeev Kapoor, Alan Yau and even Jumbo Seafood.

Building on its media network, Kerzner would have a dedicated studio for producing media content. 'We will activate the resort through high-profile content,' Mr Prior said. 'It will provide a dramatic backdrop for music videos, films and television shows.'

All this would need a considerable work force, and Kerzner intends to hire up to 8,000 staff in the first year. 'About 75 per cent will be local,' said Mr Prior. Within five years, staff strength would be expected to rise to 9,000.

The IR would not be cheap to run. And it would not be cheap to build either. Judging by the complex design by renowned US architect Frank Gehry, structures like The Sails - billowing planes of glass that would form the centrepiece of the resort - could account for a substantial portion of Kerzner/CapitaLand's $5.28 billion investment.

Mr Gehry's Guggenheim Museum in Bilboa - a fraction of the size of Atlantis Sentosa - is said to have cost US$120 million. On financing the investment, Mr Prior said a third would come from equity and the other two-thirds from borrowings.

Have something to say about the project?

Genting International plc
Corrinne Ling
Tel: + 60 3 2333 6073

Weber Shandwick
Ivan Tan
Tel: +65 6825 8027
Mobile: +65 9635 9765

Kerzner International (Singapore)
Hill & Knowlton (SEA) Pte Ltd
Amy Kong DID: (65) 6390 3376 HP: (65) 9452 7626

Julie Ong DID: (65) 6823 3541 HP: (65) 9734 0122

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