Orlando Sentinel (Florida)
December 27, 2017 Wednesday
ITEC Entertainment, an Orlando-based company that designs and builds attractions, is expecting to capitalize next year on the flurry of growth in Asia in the theme park industry, with work on projects such as a $1.8 billion amusement park in China, a castle that houses attractions on a mountain in Vietnam and a mixed-use space with a water park.
“At no time in the past did we have this much diversity of work in the building,” said Bill Coan, president of ITEC Entertainment.
ITEC’s juggling of dozens of attractions overseas comes at a time of booming growth in Asia’s theme park industry, according to a report released last month by Orlando-based International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, a leading theme-park industry group.
“Asia is still seeing tremendous growth,” said IAAPA CEO Paul Noland, pointing to an emerging middle class in China as a reason for the rise in theme parks there. “Clearly, there’s pent-up demand.”
Disney has cited strong performance at the theme park it opened in Shanghai last year. Universal Studios Beijing is expected to open around 2019.
Other Central Florida companies, such as Falcon’s Creative Group, which designs theme park attractions and does master planning, have also turned to China to do business. The Orlando company did thematic and interior design services work on the billion dollar Atlantis Sanya resort in China.
ITEC declined to give exact numbers on its profits. But the money from work in China, for instance, was in the tens of millions of dollars — going against the common mantra of American work being lost to overseas, said executive vice president Jeff Jensen.
“We’re the exact opposite,” Jensen said.
ITEC is designing 35 indoor attractions for an amusement park in Jurong, China, that will be the same size as Disney’s Magic Kingdom. The Chinese real-estate developer Evergrande Group is seeking to build a fairy-tale land that could open in 2019.
One project is Kim Quy, a theme park in Hanoi, Vietnam, that ITEC is designing on 250 acres. Originally similar to Disney Springs, the plan now includes three roller coasters, water taxis and a marquee 250-foot wide building that houses technology and features a lotus flower. It could open in 2019 or 2020.
Another is Ravenstone Castle, which will feature 11 attractions, built on top of a mountain in Da Nang, Vietnam. The estimated $100 million, 400,000-square-feet castle project is projected to open in 2019, with ITEC’s involvement including design and control-systems engineering.
In Harbin, China, ITEC is designing an indoor water park and a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! as part of a mixed-use space that includes a hotel, a shopping mall and towers with housing apartments. The two attractions could open in 2019 as part of the total $250 million project. A spokeswoman at Ripley’s said it would be the company’s first project in China after opening 100 attractions in 11 countries.
Building mixed space as opposed to a large-scale amusement park — “This is the future of China right here,” Coan said.
With these projects under way, ITEC recently announced it hired T. Scott Schriefer as a new vice president for its Shanghai-based office. His career also included working as head of show and ride at Dubai Parks and Resorts.
In early January, three or four ITEC employees will live and work full-time on the projects in Asia in addition to the Orlando-based employees who typically fly over for a few months at a time to work on a project. ITEC, which was founded in 1985, employs about 90 people at its Orlando offices south of West Sand Lake Road.
That means work happens on a 24-hour cycle. When the American office is closed overnight, people are working in China, and vice versa.
What has helped ITEC navigate a different business world and cultural norms is a joint venture with a China-based architectural design and engineering firm, a partnership that began in 2015.
“As long as China can print money … the projects will keep coming,” Coan said, adding the pace is furious enough, ITEC needs people on the ground in China.
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