An abandoned Ankara amusement park given a big opening by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan three years ago has been transferred by a court to the city council after a two-year legal fight.
“Ankapark Wonderland Eurasia”, opened just prior to Turkey’s 2019 local elections, is now under the control of the Ankara municipality run by the main opposition party to Erdogan’s AKP, the Republican People’s Party (CHP). City mayor Mansur Yavas is highlighting what he says was an abominable misuse of public funds by the AKP—the project cost $801mn, according to Yavas—with the prospect of the parliamentary and presidential elections, which must take place by June 2023, expected to heighten the war of words over the fiasco.
“Fifteen thousand social housing units or 300 student dormitories could have been built to meet the needs of the Ankara people,” Yavas was reported as saying by Reuters after the city council took control of the park.
The news agency also reported how the dinosaur models, for which Ankapark was famous, were now falling apart, lying strewn around a defunct weed-covered area the size of around 120 football pitches.
Ankapark’s operator shut down the attraction after eight months of operations in November 2019, citing losses.
AKP deputy provincial head in Ankara, Mehmet Yilmazer, attempted to shift the blame for the amusement park debacle on to Yavas, writing on Twitter: “Mansur Yavas has not provided any service to Ankara. He made Ankapark go bankrupt and then left it to rot.”
The Ankara municipality is seeking development proposals for the site via a website.
In the year prior to the opening of Ankapark, there were portents of doom as its developers struggled to hit completion deadlines and safety demands—Melih Gokcek, the former AKP mayor of Ankara, was pictured stuck at the top of a rollercoaster shortly after the park was finished.
On opening day, in his speech in front of a model dinosaur and a fountain decorated with cat statues, Erdogan said the park would provide the Ankara municipality with 50mn Turkish lira a year. “Ankapark … isn’t just a symbol of pride for Ankara, but for all of Turkey,” Erdogan told a gathered crowd of thousands.
The park was meant to boast some 2,117 attractions including 14 rollercoasters. It was targeting 5mn visitors in its first operational year.
Populist Erdogan is known for pushing mega-infrastructure projects, including Istanbul’s three-year-old mega airport and mega hospitals across the country.
The Turkish leader’s “crazy”—as in “crazy wow” — project, the multi-billion-dollar Canal Istanbul, which is to slice through Turkey’s cultural and commercial capital in parallel to the Bosporus strait to link the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara with an alternative route for shipping, is moving forward. But it is under a lot of fire.
CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu last November appealed to foreign investors not to back it, saying experts have concluded the canal is entirely unnecessary and would hurt the environment. “In a period where the entire world is struggling with the devastating effects of the climate crisis, supporting a project like Canal Istanbul, which will disrupt the integrity of the ecosystem and cause irreversible damage to nature, stands in stark contrast to protecting nature and combatting the climate crisis,” Kilicdaroglu wrote in a letter sent to diplomatic missions.
Credit: Turkish Presidency.