Plenty of sports teams invite fans to come watch them train, travel with them to away games, or come play ball with some of the players who were second-stringers way back when, but the Real Madrid soccer team in Spain is going way further than that.
The team has announced that it is constructing a $1 billion amusement-filled vacation resort and theme park on a manmade island in the United Arab Emirates that will be shaped like the team’s emblem and is slated to open in January 2015.
The club's management team told the press that they're confident it's "an emotional place for an emotional brand" — and a smart business extension that will satisfy hardcore fans and prove to be a 'real' money-maker. Critics aren't so convinced.
With an estimated 300 million fans and more than half of them in Asia, the whole thing could work out or, as the Financial Times points out, it could be a giant act of hubris (The Independent called it a "dystopian satire.") It will feature “hotels, a marina, a youth training academy, a stadium, and a club museum,” the FT reports.
"When the Real Madrid Resort Island opens its gates, visitors will become part of the legend of this club, which strives to be eternal and universal," stated Florentino Perez Rodriguez, Real Madrid’s president.
The team can certainly afford it. Unlike most European football clubs, the 110-year-old club is the richest football club (according to Deloitte) in terms of annual revenue, generating €438.6 million in 2011, and the second most valuable in the world, with an estimated worth of €1.4 billion.
Now, if only Ricardo Montalbon and Hervé Villechaize were still with us to reprise their roles as Mr. Roarke and Tattoo to greet Real Madrid fans as they land.
Below, Real Madrid TV gives more background on the resort development: