A California company is working to turn a 50-acre swath of land in Baghdad into an amusement park, complete with rides, a skateboard park, a zoo, a concert theater and a museum, according to a report in the Thursday edition of the Times of London.

Llewellen Werner, chairman of C3, a Los Angeles-based holding company for private equity firms, is investing millions of dollars in the Baghdad Zoo and Entertainment Experience, to be constructed in land adjacent to the Green Zone.

“The people need this kind of positive influence. It’s going to have a huge psychological impact,” Werner told The Times.

“There is a shortage of entertainment in the city. Cinemas can’t open. Playgrounds can’t open. The fun park is badly needed for Baghdad. Children don’t have any opportunities to enjoy their childhood,” said Ali al-Dabbagh, spokesman for the Baghdad municipal government.

The project will cost $500 million and will be managed by Iraqis, The Times reports.

Under the terms of the lease, Werner will retain exclusive rights to housing and hotel developments, which he says will be both culturally sensitive and enormously profitable.

“I wouldn’t be doing this if I wasn’t making money,” Werner said. “I also have this wonderful sense that we’re doing the right thing – we’re going to employ thousands of Iraqis. But mostly everything here is for profit.”

A $1 million skateboard park, the first phase of the development, will open in July, The Times reports. The larger entertainment park, designed by Ride and Show Engineering Inc, will follow in phases.

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