Tallinn in talks with amusement park giant

  • 2003-06-05
  • Justin Petrone

Last week the city of Tallinn and Tivoli International came one step closer to bringing one of the Danish firm's unique amusement parks to the Tallinn waterfront, a project that would generate billions of kroons in investments and tourism.

Toomas Vitsut, deputy mayor of Tallinn, signed a letter of intent with Tivoli International on May 28, and as of June 2 the city was waiting for Tivoli to sign the documentation.

"Tivoli International is in the process of signing a letter of intent with the Tallinn city government," said Anne Luik, a representative from TP Group, the Scandinavian real estate firm representing Tivoli International.

"This will start serious investigations into the opportunities for establishing a Tivoli park in Tallinn," said Luik.

If all goes well, construction could begin as soon as next spring.

To this end the Tallinn city government has formed a special commission to inquire into the project's logistics.

"The special commission will learn more about the topic and find out if the project suits the city's interests," said Alan Alakula, spokesman for the city government.

Preliminary estimates of the size of investments into the amusement park are said to near 1.5 billion kroons (96 million euros).

According to Luik, the inquiry into Tallinn as the site of the next Tivoli park is part of a $200 million project in the Baltic region to expand the Tivoli franchise.

If the city accepts the offer, the Tallinn park will become the third of its kind in the world.

The first Tivoli amusement park was established in Copenhagen in 1987 and has become a central tourist attraction in that city. Then in 1997 Tivoli International licensed another park to Kurashiki, Japan.

The central theme behind Tivoli's parks is to blend local cultural activities with music, performances, restaurants and thematic entertainment in a garden-like setting.

According to Luik, Tallinn is an attractive location because of the large waves of Swedish and Finnish tourists who visit each year.

If the city's commission finds Tivoli's offer suitable, the project will move quickly to the next phase. A commission made up of Tivoli and Tallinn city officials would compile a list of investors and begin sketching out ideas for the amusement park.

"Tivoli architects will come to Tallinn, and everything is possible," said Luik.

The commission would also decide on the best placement for the park.

"Tivoli is interested in obtaining 10 hectares in the center of Tallinn - as close to the Old Town and port as possible," said Luik.

The area that Tivoli is primarily interested in is currently occupied by buildings owned by Estonian Energy, the railroad company Eesti Raudtee and Tallinn's heating company.

However, Luik said that these companies were interested in selling their areas and may also become partners in the new Tivoli park.

There is also some speculation that Tivoli may wind up purchasing Tallinn's neglected Linnahall, a huge pyramidlike cement complex that was built for the 1980 Olympic games. Though the Linnahall is currently protected by the state's Cultural Heritage Foundation, the city is interested in selling the property.

"The city is not willing nor has the resources to restore the Linnahall, so the only option is to sell it," said Alan Alakula, spokesman for the Tallinn city government.

Alakula said that the city had tried twice to have the historical protection removed from the Linnahall so that they could sell it, but so far they have been denied.

While Tivoli may not wind up purchasing the Linnahall, it is certain that its third amusement park will be built nearby, close enough to draw the attention of the millions of tourists that enter Tallinn's port area each year.

Tallinn, however, isn't the only city in the region on Tivoli's agenda.

Similar talks are underway to bring the Tivoli park to the cities of Riga and Warsaw. Luik said that since these areas handled different waves of tourists, the plans to expand Tivoli there will not exclude plans to construct a Tivoli Gardens amusement park in Tallinn.

Still, the prestige of having the first amusement park in the area will be a catalyst for Tallinn officials to get the Tivoli project off the ground.