Failed Ankara theme park to close after municipality wastes $750 million

AnkaPark, a heavily criticised theme park in Ankara featuring statues of robots and dinosaurs, is to be transferred to the city municipality, according to BirGün on Saturday. 

The project, commissioned by former Ankara mayor Melih Gokcek, only opened for seven months before being abandoned. The Yenimahalle District Governorship has now taken the decision to close the park.

Ex-mayor Melih Gökçek resigned from his position in 2017 after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan put pressure on him to step down. Ankara Metropolitan Municipality (ABB) issued a "90-day notice of termination" to the company operating AnkaPark on April 30.

Erdoğan dinazor

Around $750 million was spent on AnkaPark during Gökçek’s tenure as mayor of the city.

Turkish social media users criticised the money spent on the project, saying that half the country’s vaccine needs could be met by the money spent on the park.

“The fact that the vaccine needs of ~ half of the country can be met with 750 million dollars spent on three or five dinosaurs in Ankapark.”

Others demanded answers about who had profited from the failed project. There has been speculation among Ankara residents that the project was used by the AKP to funnel public money into private companies with good relationships to the government.

The Ankara Branch of the Chamber of Architects filed a criminal complaint with the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office against Gökçek and said “Ankapark is an example of corruption”.

“Who has become rich with the $ 750M spent on Ankapark and it seems like it went to waste? What a pity.”

The park, whose name was changed to ‘Wonderland Eurasia’, was billed as the biggest theme park in Turkey and the biggest of its kind in Europe. It was opened by President Erdoğan, who called it a “symbol of pride for Turkey”.

According to theme park website Blooloop, “Erdoğan said the park will generate an income of 50 million lira per year, with around 5 million visitors expected to visit annually.”

Gökçek also stated that the park would “bring 10 million tourists to the capital annually. We will enter the Guinness Book of Records.”

In 2019, the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost control of Ankara in municipal elections to the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).

However, the crowds did not materialise, and six months after the park opened in March 2019 days before the local elections held, employee salaries started going unpaid.

“The cost of Ankapark is $ 750,000,000, while the cost of 5 Jurassic Park movies so far is $ 549,000,000. While Ankapark could not earn 1 cent, 5 films of Jurassic Park grossed a total of $ 3,500,000,000 at the box office.”

Ankara's eccentric mayor, Melih Gökçek, resigned after 23 years of running the Turkish capital, regularly appearing on media and pushing conspiracy theories to his millions of Twitter followers regularly.