Ethekwini planning to buy Funworld for R40m to boost Durban tourism

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Durban - THE eThekwini Municipality is proposing to purchase Durban beach front attraction Funworld for R40 million to bolster the city's tourism sector.

The proposal is a joint venture between the city and uShaka Marine theme park. The report approved by the municipality’s executive committee (Exco) is expected to be discussed at full council on Tuesday for final approval.

The Funworld Acquisition report put to the Economic Development committee in November 2020 sought approval for the valuation negotiation and purchase of Funworld amusement park rides and associated equipment and spares.

This was for the purpose of continuing its operations under a rebranded uShaka Funworld which will form part of its growth strategy and increased presence along the central Durban beach front.

Funworld CC trading as Durban Funworld has been on a month-to-month lease since 2017.

The objective was to support uShaka Marine World's growth strategy and presence along the central beach front by purchasing the rides.

Further to this, the committee sought approval to enter a design stage for the construction of a cable car/monorail linking uShaka marine world to the rebranded and repositioned uShaka Funworld. uShaka Marine World opened in 2004.

The report stated that connecting these two theme parks by monorail or cable car offered an unrivalled tourism experience. The monorail /cable car would eventually, in phased developments, link uShaka to the Moses Mabhida Stadium via Suncoast and the International Convention Centre (ICC).

This was still at a preliminary design stage. It would offer an unrivalled tourism and beach experience. The report also mentioned planned developments like the giant Ferris wheel (Durban Eye) and the passenger cruise terminal as motivating tourism factors.

The report sought approval for about R40 million which would include all refurbishment, cosmetic upgrades and rebranding of Funworld.

Durban Funworld owner Nic Steyn, 62, confirmed he had been approached informally by the city and that he had a month-to-month lease agreement.

“The concept they have in mind is brilliant, ahead of its time and based on forward-thinking, especially when you have it in a world-class locality like the Durban beach front. The concept will set Durban apart,” he said.

For Steyn, Funworld has many emotional attachments. It has been in the family business for more than 80 years. They have been on the site for 70 years. Steyn took over ownership from the family just after 2000.

“My father Nic Steyn sr stirred controversy back then when he opened the park to all racial groups. We were almost kicked out. He did not back down because he saw everyone as one.

“For me it's time to move on. I am willing to help the city realise their dream and for it to be a success,” Steyn said.

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