Sunday, September 27, 2009

AN ANSWER COMMETH

Many of my questions about the Children’s Park were answered recently when I met with people from the Bodi Corporation. Since my last post I have learned that Bodi is the principle investor in the park, so I paid an visit to their offices, located just off Sukhbaatar Square.

I spoke with Souger, the project manager for the “National Amusement Park”, which is being built by Bodi. He was cordial and open to revealing plans for a park. But first he gave a little background. Why has the park been closed for five years? I asked.

He summed up the mess in the park by saying that “land disputes” had caused a delay in the construction of the park, but everything seems to be resolved and its now full steam ahead. He didn’t go into detail about what these land disputes were, but they must have been ugly.

Souger explained that MCS and Shangri-La have managed to secure one corner of the park and they are now developing it into a hotel. This land grab should not have happened but fortunately it was just one corner of the park, representing probably 15-20% of the total space.

The other 80% of the land is controlled by Bodi, which seems to have some sort of joint ownership with the city. Personally, I do not subscribe to the belief that city parkland should be handed over to a private company to develop an amusement park (or anything for that matter).

I would have preferred that the city take on the responsibility for maintaining the park but they were clearly in no position to build any rides, which is why the land was handed over to Bodi. Unfortuantely, the city simply handed over too much of the park for commercialization. It seems that Bodi is under no obligation to leave any part of the park as open space. In theory they could develop the entire park into one giant money making venture.

I saw the plans of the park. It’s going to have roller coasters and various other rides, a food court, an indoor activities center (which will be open year round) and a barbeque area. As Souger explained to me, there would be a small entry fee (he said Tg500) and each ride would cost around Tg1000 to Tg2000.

So the big question was, will there be any open space left? A grassy space to sit down with a book perhaps? A trail for jogging and biking? A field for pick-up soccer games and picnics? The answer is unclear.

Clearly, Bodi is in this to make money. So they have little incentive to leave much open space. And even if they do leave open space they may end up charging people to enter it. This issue was seems to not be finalized but one hopes that the developers see the light of day and allow some part of the park to be free, open space for anybody’s use.

The park is meant to open in July 2010. If you have any suggestions for the development of the park, you can mail them to National Amusement Park, #400 Bodi Tower, Jigjidjav St, Ulaanbaatar 15160. Address your letter to Souger.