September 12, 2005
Hong Kong -- Thousands arrived today for the grand opening of Hong Kong Disneyland theme park. The new $1.8 billion theme park is Disney's first park in China.
Chinese Vice President Zeng Qinghong, Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang and top Disney executives Michael Eisner and Robert Iger officiated at the park's opening, with performances including traditional Chinese lion dances and children singing.
Michael Eisner, CEO of the Walt Disney Company, declared the park "officially open" while standing at the end of the new Main Street USA.
"I remember the first time we stood in this spot. We were on the deck of a boat in the middle of what was then Penny's Bay, envisioning what could be, what would be, what will be," said Eisner. "Six years later, through our dream partnership with the Hong Kong government, the creative dream is now a reality."
The Hong Kong government owns 57 percent of the theme park that is expected to draw 5.5 million visitors in its first year. Disney expects the park to generate $19 billion over the next 40 years.
Disney hopes its 11th park will be a draw for Chinese tourists.
Robert Iger, president of the Walt Disney Company said Hong Kong Disneyland is a "first big step" in expanding the company's reach into China.
Guests arriving to check out the new Disneyland theme park had to endure hot weather with temperatures peaking above 90-degrees.
The new Hong Kong Disneyland is very similar to the original park Anaheim. Hong Kong Disneyland has Adventureland, Fantasyland and Tomorrowland built around a central hub at the end of Main Street USA. Like the original Disneyland, Sleeping Beauty Castle at the end of Main Street is the entrance to Fantasyland.
So far the guest reaction during the soft-opening period has been mostly positive, but some have been voiced concerns over the small size of the park and lack of attractions.
Lines for major rides have been more than an hour. Also, the park is Disney's smallest ever at 40 hectares.
Disney said that more attractions are planned and will be added to the park in the coming years.
The entire Disney resort, including the two hotels is currently 121 hectares, and there's room to expand to 200 hectares.
Of course, Hong Kong Disneyland hasn't been without some opposition.
The theme park has recently been the focus of a protest by environmentalists for deciding to serve shark-fin soup. Neighbors have also been upset with the noise and pollution caused by the nightly fireworks display.
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