Turkey’s Disney dream fades as $750-million theme park closed

A theme park in Turkey’s capital Ankara that cost $750 million to build has shut down, Sözcü newspaper reported.

More than 100 staff have been laid off and barriers are raised at the park’s entrances, Sözcü said on Tuesday. The facility, which opened in March last year, ceased operating despite discounts introduced on tickets, the newspaper said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan opened Ankapark, which includes a large rollercoaster and a display of giant dinosaurs, just prior to local elections on March 31 last year. The facility, built on 1.3 million square meters of land, would attract 5 million local and foreign visitors in its first year, Erdoğan said at the opening ceremony.

Ankapark was the brainchild of former city mayor Melih Gökçek, who was removed from office by Erdoğan in October 2017. Gökçek, who said the facility would break Guinness world records and attract more visitors than Disneyland, joined Erdoğan at the opening.

A life-size tyrannosaurus rex, which Gökçek had placed on a traffic island near Erdoğan’s multi-billion-dollar presidential palace in the city, was removed in November 2017 and placed into storage at the park.

The park’s main rollercoaster broke down when the park opened and riders were forced to dismount from several metres above the ground, Sözcü said.

A firm operating the park at the cost of 26.4 million liras ($4.4 million) a year had run into financial difficulties, the newspaper said.