LONDON, United Kingdom. London Evening Standard. July 16, 2013. (English) by Jonathan Prynn. –Britain’s first “reality theme park” where children take jobs and earn “money” in a virtual city centre is to be launched in London by the former owners of the Groucho Club.
The £20 million KidZania centre —complete with streets and moving vehicles — will open at the Westfield London shopping mall in Shepherd’s Bush late next year or early 2015. Instead of having roller coasters and other rides, KidZania will recreate adult workplaces such as operating theatres, plane cockpits, TV studios and banks — all at two thirds lifesize — where children will play at carrying out jobs.
The 80,000sq ft two-storey attraction will issue its own currency, kidZos, which the four- to 14-year-olds will be able to spend on treats such as sweets or activities such as go-karting.
But once all the kidZos have been spent, the children will have to earn more by taking on jobs. They will be able increase their earnings by taking a course and “graduating” from the KidZania university.
Ticket prices have not been set but in Lisbon, Portugal, the only other KidZania in Europe, they range from £10 for a four-year-old to £17 for a teenager. They are thought likely to be broadly comparable in London.
Each “edutainment” visit is expected to last up to four hours and parents will be able to leave their children or wait in a lounge where they can watch a film or use a computer.
Xavier López, a Mexican businessman who came up with the idea after investing in a day-care centre in Mexico City, said: “London is a premier city and vacation destination so we are really pleased to bring this amazing, interactive experience to another global market.” It will be operated by a leisure company called Longshot, founded by entrepreneurs Joel Cadbury and Ollie Vigors, which has previously run Soho members’ club the Groucho, the Soho health club, gym Third Space and pubs including the Admiral Codrington in Chelsea.
London’s KidZania is expected to attract up to one million visitors a year and will be constructed above the Marks & Spencer store at the shopping centre.
Each workplace will be sponsored by a major employer such as a supermarket group or an airline. Sponsors at foreign KidZanias have included Coca-Cola, Domino’s Pizza, Honda, HSBC, Nestlé and Sony.
KidZania was founded in 1999 and has 13 sites in locations such as Tokyo, Seoul, Dubai, Bangkok and Kuwait. It has further openings planned in Cairo, Mumbai, São Paulo, Istanbul and Jeddah.