The Lionel Messi theme park planned in the Chinese city of Nanjing is set to open in 2020.
The Lionel Messi theme park planned in the Chinese city of Nanjing is set to open in 2020, the head of the company handling the ambitious project has revealed this week.
Dubbed the 'Messi Experience Park' (MEP), it was originally supposed to be a museum, rivalling the one dedicated to Cristiano Ronaldo on his home island of Madeira. But the 'MEP' is now set to be much more than that, with far greater levels of visitor engagement.
"It will be a tribute to football, not a space for self promotion," David Xirau of Mediapro Exhibitions is quoted as saying by Goal.com after a launch event in Barcelona this week.
"In China, football is growing at an exponential rate, encouraged by the authorities. Nanjing is a football capital here. It is a China-scale project, very big. It is around 80,000 square metres, most of which will be inside for weather reasons," he explained.
"It will be connected with Shanghai and we expect 4-5 million visitors a year, the vast majority of which will be Chinese tourists. It is expected to be working in 2020. The project will cost €170m as well as urban investments."
Messi himself visited Nanjing, second in size only to Shanghai in the East China region, during the summer and spoke of his hopes to inspire a new generation of young players.
"I hope to provide them the experience they never had before and to inspire them to pick up the sport early on. Hopefully, they will feel that I am around when visiting the park," the five-time Ballon d'Or winner said at the time.