The resurrection of Wonderland Sydney is set to get the Walt Disney treatment with the appointment of David Bakas, currently Operations Manager at Walt Disney World in Orlando, as the General Manager of Western Sydney Theme Park Pty Ltd.
Mr Bakas is considered to be a theme park guru by many and was hand-picked by Ammar Khan, the US millionaire property developer, who recently received a commitment from Indian oil company Fox Petroleum Ltd to invest $1billion
over five years for construction.
Mr Khan worked at the old theme park for nine years and hopes the addition of Mr Bakas brings the right kind of expertise that Wonderland requires. The appointment was decided after Khan made two visits to Orlando, where the two attended trade expos to brainstorm ideas for a new Wonderland.
“The best thing we want to bring in is Disney park ideas and what we call their ‘imagineering’,” Mr Khan said. “David has connections with ride manufacturers and industry operators in the US, Asia and Europe.”
The Eastern Creek located Wonderland Sydney closed more than 10 years ago, a sore spot for many Australians and tourists who were sad to see it go. However, this new and improved facility is not simply a resurrection according to Bakas, who has 32 years of experience in both the development and operation of theme parks.
“We are not trying to recreate a park that failed to stay in business,” Mr Bakas said. “There will be elements that will remind you of the original park. But why is there a Demon (one of the rides)? Why is he here in Sydney? Everything has a purpose. There will be story-boarding, written scripts, it will have a beginning, a middle and an end.
“That is kind of different to the original Wonderland.
“People come to escape the real world so it has to give a sense of place.”
The new theme park only has working titles at the moment, but so far the name will potentially be “Worlds of Wonder”. Worlds of Wonder will include “Sydney’s Wonderland”, “Sydney’s Wilderlands” and two themed on-site resort hotels at a year-round water park facility called “Sydney’s Waterlands”. As reported in our previous coverage, all these parks will be connected by a multi-themed ‘boulevard’ with hotels, cinemas, restaurants and entertainment facilities for guests to enjoy.
Mr Bakas has visited Australia before and is now only waiting for the Department of Immigration to approve his visa before he “tells Mickey Mouse that I’m leaving”.
The park’s location is yet to be finalised but Badgerys Creek is the latest space under consideration, which falls into both Penrith and Liverpool local government areas. Penrith Mayor Karen McKeown said locals would welcome a park.
Thanks to John Raciti
for the tip.