U.S. businessman aims to bring ‘badly needed’ fun to Baghdad

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES — Llewellyn Werner acknowledges he is facing obstacles most amusement park developers never have to deal with. Such as mortar attacks, stray gunfire and random looting.

But when you’re building your amusement park in downtown Baghdad, those risks come with the territory.

The California businessman is pouring millions of dollars into developing the Baghdad Zoo and Entertainment Experience, a massive U.S.-style amusement park that will feature a skateboard park, rides, a concert theatre and a museum.

“The people of Iraq need this kind of positive influence. It’s going to have a huge psychological impact,” said Mr. Werner, chairman of C3, a Los Angeles based holding company for private-equity firms.

The mayor of Baghdad has granted Mr. Werner a 50-year lease on a development property for an undisclosed sum.

The 20-hectare swath of land, which sits adjacent to the Green Zone and encompasses the Baghdad Zoo, was looted, left without power and largely abandoned after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

In the years that followed, it became an occasional target for insurgent attacks.

However, in recent months, Iraqi families have begun to return to the area for weekend picnics. Renovations have already begun on the zoo, with cages being repainted and new animals arriving, including ostriches, bears and a lion.

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