The historic Hong Kong amusement park Lai Yuen will launch its first long-term project in mainland China, when it opens an indoor go-kart racing park in Chengdu in partnership with a mainland entertainment company.
Lai Yuen’s chairman Duncan Chiu Tat-kun told the Post of the plan at the China International Import Expo in Shanghai. News of the park, set up in conjunction with China Media Capital, will be officially announced next week in Chengdu.
Once the largest amusement park in Hong Kong, Lai Yuen opened in 1949 at Lai Chi Kok, Kowloon, and closed in 1997. Taking over the business from his late father, Chiu reopened the park for a temporary period in Hong Kong in the summers of 2015 and 2016, and in Guangzhou in late 2016.
“We aim to bring entertainment, sports and technology together in an indoor amusement park,” Chiu said. “With new developments in technology, we will have indoor electric go-kart racing, which, as well as being an exciting sport, is a fun and safe experience.”
The park will open in 2020 and will occupy an area of 3,700 to 4,650 square metres (40,000 to 50,000 square feet) on two floors of a mall in the centre of Chengdu. As well as the go-kart section, called SparkLap, there will be a hall showing mini-concerts and variety shows, which will be run by China Media Capital, which has extensive investments in film and television media.
Lai Yuen has previously run go-kart circuits in the two short-term carnivals held in Hong Kong and Guangzhou in 2016.
“All the go-karts are run on electricity, rather than petrol, as some older go-kart parks on the mainland are,” Chiu said, adding that this means a more environmentally friendly and safer experience. Operators will be able to control the speed of the karts according to the drivers’ skill levels and halt them in case of an emergency.
The racing track, to be designed by experts from Europe, will be 300 to 600 metres (984 to 1,968 feet) long.
Chiu said that, with Lai Yuen being a historic brand associated with the collective memory of Hongkongers, the new project was effectively Hong Kong professional services being exported.
“Hong Kong brands are still perceived as reliable. The entertainment industry is, after all, about management,” he said.
He also admitted however that the growing demand for entertainment in mainland China, as well as the presence of huge malls with low rental costs, offered opportunities he could not find in Hong Kong.
The 44-year-old said he had no plans to bring back nostalgic icons like the park’s emblematic dinosaur in the new project. “Lai Yuen’s success in the 60s and 70s was built on bringing the latest technology to Hong Kong. We were the first to build an ice-skating rink, for example. We want to keep that spirit of changing with the times and focus on bringing in more new technology and experiences,” he said.