Headed by former Disney executive John Cora, American developer Cora Alpha has announced plans for an integrated resort in the comarca of La Siberia in Badajoz province.
Extremadura looks set to finally see the fruit of new legislation which opened the door for the creation of integrated resorts in the region, as a US-based company confirmed it aims to built a multi-billion dollar project in the autonomous community.
On 3 December, officials in the autonomous region of Extremadura announced plans for a new multi-phased $13.5bn mega-resort dubbed Elysium City or Ciudad Feliz in the comarca of La Siberia in Badajoz province.
To be located in Castilblanco – a site once considered for Eurodisney – the project is headed by Californian development firm Cora Alpha, a division of Cora Global, fronted by John Cora, a former Disney executive with an extensive background in theme park operations and resort development.
The new development is scheduled to open its doors in 2023, with the first phase set to include a casino, four hotels, a golf course, several theme parks, along with a football stadium, a 200,000 home residential complex. The project will reportedly also see the construction a railway station, although at present there are no rail links nearby.
The second phase will follow in 2028 and will add additional residential space, a solar power plant, a Formula One racing track, a convention centre, and other amenities.
Earlier this year, the local government in Extremadura passed a new bill setting out the conditions for the creation of integrated resorts in the autonomous community.
On 28 August, the Official Bulletin for Extremadura published the text of Ley 7/2018 or the Extremaduran Law for Large Leisure Complexes (Ley Extremeña de Grandes Instalaciones de Ocio or Legio).
The new law stipulates that a resort project should cover at least a thousand hectares, include 3000 hotel rooms, and represent a minimum capital investment of a billion euros.
The casino portion of a resort development will be exempt from existing local licensing regulations, which require a public licence tender and allow only one casino per 500,000 inhabitants.
Situated in southwestern Spain, Extremadura’s remote location and current level of transport infrastructure development could pose a challenge for the new project.
Canadian developer Triple Five Group had previously proposed a similar integrated resort development – including an airport – in Castilblanco, but in July, the firm announced that it had opted not to situate the project in Extremadura and was instead considering neighbouring Andalusia.
“The business needs to be profitable, something which would not have been possible in Castilblanco. It wasn’t the right location,” said Paul Watson, Head of Triple Five in Europe.
Speaking at the time, analysts suggested that the development of the airport would have been key to the overall success of the project.
“Extremadura’s location is quite remote from the main cities of Spain and it has no international airport,” explained Warwick Bartlett, CEO and founder of Global Betting and Gaming Consultancy (GBGC).
“So to get there you would have to go to Madrid then fly internally, this is not conducive to the development of a major international resort.”
During the press conference which announced the new development, the president of the Government of Extremadura, Guillermo Fernández Vara stated that he will request that the central government make improvements to the N-502 highway, creating a direct link between Extremadura and the capital.
He also suggested that traffic to the IR will also be boosted by the new A-43 highway which will connect Badajoz with eastern Spain, the construction of a second airport in Madrid, and the renovation of the rail link connecting Mérida and Ciudad Real.
In a similar vein, Cora highlighted that in the US, both Disneyland in California and Disneyworld in Florida had been successful despite the fact they were built in out of the way locations.