In China's remote northeast, construction is underway on one of the world's largest indoor theme parks—and a miracle of modern engineering—Jurassic Dream. Set for a 2014 opening date, it will contain more than 13 acres of attractions anchored by a massive dome-covered atrium. The park is located in the heart of China's oil and natural gas producing region, in the city of Daqing, which has a population of nearly three million.
The Thinkwell Group, the U.S.-based theme park design firm behind the park's concepts and attractions, previously worked on projects such as Ski Dubai and Warner Brothers London's Making of Harry Potter Tour. Although the park is immensely ambitious and technically complex, it also serves a unique demographic: Many Chinese visitors, especially in Daqing, may never have visited a Western-style theme park before. Although town residents enjoy relatively high incomes, Daqing lacks a cultural life similar to that of Shanghai, Beijing, and other major Chinese cities.
Thinkwell's creative director Dave Cobb told Fast Company that many local factors, from lack of familiarity with western-style theme parks to different cultural expectations, all meant special challenges in attraction design. The attractions, rides, and shows have been tailored towards Chinese culture. One such attraction, "Flames of Fury: The Wrath of Zu Rong," tells the story of the Chinese god of fire. Other attractions include a gigantic walk-through exhibition where guests are "attacked" by animatronic raptors, dinosaur-themed roller coasters, flyable pteranodons, a brachiosaurus half-pipe ride, a nightly Las Vegas-styled water show in a gigantic indoor lagoon, a "fire and water" theme show based on Chinese mythology, and rides for children.
The initial construction will make Jurassic Dream one of the world's five biggest indoor amusement parks. The theme park is being built by workers engaged in continuous construction during the spring and summer—since Daqing is subjected to the brutal wind and cold of the Manchurian steppes, its ground freezes over in October, making seasonal construction impossible. From the time the ground thaws in early spring until the great freeze in October, workers are covering multiple shifts to open the park for 2014.
Thinkwell's preferred term for it is a "strategic segmented production schedule" and it's part of a much larger construction boom in Daqing—the city's oil fields are the largest in China. The same geological processes that led to Daqing's oil wealth also led to a treasure trove of fossil discoveries (including, of course, dinosaurs) in the countryside surrounding the city. From there, the idea of a dinosaur-themed park came naturally to Thinkwell and developers Daqing Dream City Investment Management.
A second phase of construction at Jurassic Dream, set to conclude at a future date, will include a surrounding "Jurassic City" with hotels, nightclubs, restaurants, shops, and apartment buildings.