A grand vision for a R1,5-billion "edutainment" facility on the KwaZulu-Natal coast is being promoted by a US hospitality group that plans a fleet of six see-through tourist submarines, underwater restaurants and nightclubs, and a 17000-seat amphitheatre for live music performances.
Toney Watkins, the president and CEO of the firm of the same name and a former entertainment industry producer and talent coordinator, yesterday unveiled the "Music City, SA" concept at the South African Maritime Industry Conference in Cape Town.
The Aquamusical Experience is a two-part project. On land there will be a music-themed hotel, conference centre and retail area. Offshore a 60m-long, twin-hulled platform known as the Mother Ship will be moored with the "all-acrylic" submarines docking between the hulls.
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The Mother Ship will have underwater restaurants, a nightclub and hotel suites, and a games centre for children.
The project is being pursued in partnership with the South African Maritime Safety Authority (Samsa). Samsa CEO Tsietsi Mokhele said maritime tourism opportunities were overlooked in SA and the project had the potential to create jobs and stimulate economic activity.
He was speaking on the sidelines of the investment conference, which is hosted by Samsa.
Samsa was in the process of narrowing down the site for the project, said Rudolph Dahl, president of Global Holdings Corporation, which is advising on the project.
SA, along with Hawaii and San Diego in California, had been identified as the most promising sites for the project.
Letters of intent from Washington-based Ex-Im Bank worth $20-million have been extended to the project’s promoters, giving them the confidence that once a site for the project is identified and the environmental approvals have been granted, construction of the facility would be completed within 18-24 months. This funding would be sufficient to get the first phase of the project under way.
"This thing is going to make money," Mr Dahl said. "Once people are on board they are a captive audience."
The 66 luxury, cinema-style swivel seated submarines will be wheelchair friendly. They will offer passengers floor-to-ceiling views and will be able to travel to a depth of 250ft, according to a schedule of the Sea View’s technical specifications.