Dracula park plan in doubt as mayor may pull out stake

Saturday, January 18, 2003

BUCHAREST, Romania -- The future of a Dracula theme park has become uncertain with disagreement among stockholders on where to locate the facility, officials said Friday.

Mayor Dorin Danesean of Sighisoara, the medieval town originally picked as the site for the park dedicated to Romania's most infamous son, said the location now was undergoing a feasibility study headed by consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The company was hired by the project developer, the Fund for Touristic Development Sighisoara, said Danesean, as part of efforts to attract foreign investors.

The mayor, whose city owns a majority stake in the fund, said local officials will decide next week whether the city, located some 170 miles northwest of Bucharest, would abandon its stake in the project if auditors recommend building the park elsewhere.

"We worked hard for two years to get this project started," he said by telephone, adding that the city's residents want the park.

If Sighisoara quits the project, it will be threatened, as new investors will have to step in.

The park, to be privately funded, will cost about $15.6 million, with an additional $19 million needed for infrastructure improvements, if it remains in Sighisoara, the birthplace of the medieval prince who gave rise to the Dracula legend.

Authorities are hoping the park would create 3,000 jobs and attract foreign tourists to the Balkan nation.

The Romanian government is believed to favor moving the park to a location near Bucharest or to a seaside resort, hoping to take advantage of better infrastructure in the south.

Sighisoara is two hours away from a regional airport and five hours by car from the capital on a serpentine highway that twists through the Carpathian mountains.

Sighisoara was initially chosen because it gave birth to the 15th century prince Vlad the Impaler, or "Dracula," who according to legend impaled captured Turks and other enemies on stakes. That legend inspired Bram Stoker's novel of the bloodsucking count.

The park is to include amusement rides, a golf course, a Gothic castle wired with spooky effects, a zoo, horseback riding, restaurants and shops.

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