Hong Kong lawmakers approve Disney expansion


June 18, 2010 Updated Jul 10, 2009 at 1:14 PM EDT

Hong Kong's lawmakers on Friday approved a long-awaited plan to expand the beleaguered Disneyland amusement park in the southern Chinese city.

The deal, which will see Disney invest 6.2 billion Hong Kong dollars (795 million US), was approved Friday night after a long debate at a legislature meeting, with some members doubtful over the benefit to visitor numbers.

Hong Kong Disneyland -- one of the smallest of the firm's global franchises -- will be enlarged by 23 percent with three new theme areas.

At the heart of the project is the addition of 30 new attractions over the next five years, the government said earlier.

"With the proposed expansion and realignment of the financial arrangements, we believe that the Hong Kong Disneyland would rise up to the keen competition in the region on the tourism front," John Tsang, the city's financial secretary, said in a statement released after the legislature's go-ahead.

Under the deal, the government will retain control of the park with a stake of 52 percent, although that is reduced from 57 percent as a result of the injection of new funds.

It is hoped the expansion will create about 3,700 jobs, the government said.

Disney has been desperate to boost the number and quality of the attractions at the three-billion-US-dollar venue which has been hit by a string of controversies since it opened in 2005.

A long-running feud with staff unions over working conditions, several food poisoning scares and a ticket mix-up that provoked a near-riot with customers clambering over spiked fences, forced the park to reshuffle its management team within just a few months of opening.

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