In an interview with Spot, the park’s director, Furkat Shukurov, talked about the process of transition, the cost of maintaining the park for the company, and the goals it has set for the near future.

The Telman Park of Culture and Leisure opened in Tashkent in 1934. During its nearly 100-year existence, the park has become a cherished and beloved place for Tashkent residents. In 2017, at the initiative of the president, the process of transferring parks, including Telman Park, to private companies for management and improvement began.

Since then, Telman Park, now known as Mirzo Ulugbek Central Park, has been under the management of Jet Invest, a company that invested in its reconstruction and development. Today, Central Park’s territory includes not only attractions but also the famous alley with food outlets, the “Sea” water complex, and the company plans to launch a health and bath complex and build an indoor entertainment center.

In an interview with Spot, the park’s director, Furkat Shukurov, talked about the process of transition, the cost of maintaining the park for the company, and the goals it has set for the near future.

How the Park Came Under Private Management

As is well known, almost all parks of culture and leisure in the capital were created during Soviet times. They were managed by the Ministry of Culture. In 2017, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev put forward an initiative to lease the parks to private investors for 49 years. The investors were expected to invest in improving the territories and establish attractions that meet safety norms and international standards.

One of the first parks to undergo this transition was Lokomotiv Park, whose success led to other locations being handed over to the private sector.

Our company also responded to this initiative and reached out to the city’s hokimiyat (mayor’s office). We were offered the opportunity to take on the reconstruction of either Mirzo Ulugbek Park or Bobur Park, now known as the Friendship Park. Our choice was clear, and we began designing the project.

At that time, unfortunately, the park was not well-maintained, the engineering networks were outdated, and the attractions did not meet basic safety standards. We decided to reconstruct the park of our childhood because we wanted to give it a new look while preserving its history.

An important milestone was our visit to the world’s leading amusement exhibition, IAAPA, in Orlando, USA, where we signed a contract to supply 30 attractions of Italian and French manufacture.

Investment and Reconstruction

At the time of acquiring the park, there was no exact regulation regarding investment obligations. We presented a conceptual project to the city authorities and the Department of Culture, focused on using European equipment from leading manufacturers.

In the first phase of the park’s reconstruction and launch, we attracted $3 million in investments from our Dutch partners for the acquisition of attractions. For the remaining work, we took out a loan of 50 billion soums from a local bank.

The first phase of reconstruction involved replacing engineering networks, improving the territory, restoring historical elements such as the stage, fountains, and stairs, and constructing new facilities in the park.

Next came the installation of the attractions. They were purchased from Italian manufacturers Zamperla and Visa. From the moment of manufacturing to delivery and launch, about a year passed.

The park’s hallmark became a carousel manufactured by the French company Concept 1900 and hand-painted. A carousel from this company is also installed in Paris, near the Eiffel Tower. After installing the attractions and conducting test runs, the park reopened its doors to visitors.

In addition to attractions, the park has a children’s playground that was considered the largest outdoor play area at that time, covering about 3,000 square meters. We added a variety of play elements to this playground to make it interesting for both young children and teenagers. When designing the playground, special attention was paid to children’s safety: extra soft ground coverings were installed to prevent injuries from falls.

The second phase of reconstruction included the construction of the “Sea” water complex. Due to the pandemic, construction and installation work dragged on for two years, although initially, the project was planned to be completed in 14 months. The opening took place in the summer of 2021. This complex was designed with a focus on family recreation. During the relatively short summer season, it attracts up to a thousand people a day.

Maintaining the park costs between 20 and 25 billion soums annually, of which 10 to 14 billion is spent on employee salaries. The park’s main sources of income are attractions, entrance tickets to the “Sea” water complex, and the rent from food outlets. The park has an average monthly attendance of 150,000 people during the season, and about 90,000 people visit the water complex throughout the summer. Currently, there are more than 20 food outlets in the park.

Every day, we receive many requests from potential tenants for placement in the form of containers, food trucks, or mobile stalls. However, we have revised the park’s infrastructure policy and are moving away from the practice of placing chaotic mobile food points that do not meet sanitary standards. Instead, we are building new modern cafes and restaurants within the unified concept of the park.

Cultural Life of the Park

We were very fortunate to be involved in the fate of a park with such a rich history and culture. This is where we see the main line of our strategy – an old park in a new world. We bear a great responsibility because it is not our personal property; the park belongs to the city and its residents. Every person has their own story and memories with it, so it was crucial for us to preserve its spirit and keep it as a recreational area while also making sure that young people can find their new story here.

That’s why we strive to balance entertainment programs that attract both the older and younger generations. For example, we organize concerts in the style of those times to evoke nostalgia in the older generation, while modern interpretations and entertainment appeal to young people and children. We organize events on national holidays such as Navruz, Remembrance and Honors Day, Sabantuy, and various themed events. In 2018, we partnered with Coca-Cola to launch New Year’s and Christmas celebrations in an open-air format for the first time in Tashkent. These events have now become an integral part of the capital’s traditions and are held annually.

Preparation for each major event, like the New Year Festival, begins several months in advance and includes searching for and negotiating with sponsors. During our work, we have collaborated with large companies such as Click, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Beeline, Ucell, as well as smaller initiatives like Yangia Market, Swap Bazar, and with government organizations, embassies, and cultural centers.

In late August last year, we planned to hold Uzbekistan’s first geek culture festival, Geek-Con, in our park. Both we and the initiators were actively preparing for the event, but the weather forecast predicted rain on the event day. And this is the biggest problem for our park – dependence on weather conditions. It was decided to move the festival to the end of September since the organizers wanted to create comfortable conditions for all participants. But with the onset of autumn, the weather did not improve, and we had to cancel the event. However, we do not rule out the possibility of holding Geek-Con next year in our park if we receive such a proposal.

Development Plans

As I mentioned, the park’s operations are heavily dependent on seasonality, which affects both staff consistency and profitability. More than 200 employees work daily to maintain the park, and this number doubles during the season. Reducing staff after the summer period and hiring new ones before the next season is a challenging task because we operate in the service industry. Therefore, we decided to transition the park to a year-round format.

In 2022, we signed an investment agreement with the Japanese company Balcom for over $12 million. This investment is directed towards building an indoor entertainment center on the last undeveloped area of the park and a health spa complex in the “More” water complex. These projects will complement the existing concept of the park, making it richer and providing activity throughout the year. The indoor entertainment center will complement the attractions, while the health spa complex will expand the water complex’s capabilities, providing year-round relaxation.

As for short-term goals, there are many, as we are constantly working on improving the park and its landscape: every year, we replace 1,000 square meters of paving stones and plant thousands of young trees and shrubs. Currently, for example, we are reconstructing the lake. This is a very important issue for us because the lake itself has historical value. We cannot simply turn it into a pool with chlorinated water, but maintaining it in a natural, living environment, especially with wildlife, is incredibly difficult because the water quickly starts “blooming” due to dust, wildlife, and tree pollen. To date, we are working on the bio-plateau project— a special ecosystem with vegetation will be created in the lake that will naturally maintain water cleanliness. I think visitors will soon be able to see our idea in action.

This spring, we will also launch a new Ferris wheel 62 meters high and several new cafes and restaurants.

The park is expected to become profitable in the long term because, as of today, the costs of maintaining it are hard to recoup. We are betting on new projects that will help us optimize our expenses. For our large team, this place has become home, you could say a second home. Our goal has a deeper philosophy and goes beyond a regular business. It’s a long-term project, a long game, but I think we will succeed.

by Zarina Hismatullayeva, Spot.
https://www.spot.uz/ru/2024/04/01/central-park/

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