Khon Kaen Railway Land Considered For … Theme Park?

Original photo: Si Ri Wat Yupin / Facebook

KHON KAEN — Land by Isaan’s rail hub could be developed into condos, offices – or even a theme park, according to railway officials.

A plot of 108 rai (17 hectares) near the Khon Kaen Railway Station, currently used for golfing and residences, will be leased out by the state railway, which is brainstorming possible ideas to entice developers to enter a long-term lease.

At a Monday session spitballing ideas for the land, a railway finance officer said he envisioned an amusement park that travelers would flock to.

“The park could be a tourist destination for the province, and have rides like roller coasters and water parks,” Worawut Mala said. “We would apply the model of a movie theme park, like Movie World or Universal Studios.”

The area slated for development has been divided into five zones: 16.2 rai for residential and commercial use, 26.5 rai for a possible hotel and convention center, and another 8 rai for office and residential use.

The largest section, a 58.6-rai area currently used as a golf course and employee housing, could be made into a theme park, of the state railway said Monday.

Pouring cold water on Worawut’s dream was project property manager Jitlekha Detcharoen – she says it’s too small.

“Maybe the land doesn’t have that potential yet. Theme parks overseas are huge and all on one piece of land. So this land could be about half a park,” she said.

Still, there’s hope, if the right investors pulled through.

“The investors probably saw that there’s no full-fledged theme park in Isaan yet, with rollercoasters and carousels. So they think one would draw a lot of people,” she said. The train station receives around 20,000 to 38,000 travelers daily.

Whatever the outcome, Jitlekha said that there’s little chance of it becoming a mall.

“This land isn’t adjacent to the main road, which malls need,” she said, laughing. “And Central Khon Kaen is right by.”

She said the most realistic and profitable plan would be chosen.

“When it comes time to take bids, an investor might say they could make 100 million with a theme park, but then another investor can defeat them by saying they could make 200 million with a hotel,” she said. “It’s up to the investors what this will be; what will earn the most profits.”

The cash-strapped and debt-saddled state enterprise has been seeking to leverage its extensive land holdings through development deals for years. Those efforts have run into opposition to the development of green areas such as a large plot in Bangkok’s Makkasan area.

The land in Khon Kaen is already partially developed.

“It’s not an empty area. It’s where some employees’ homes are, so investors will need a course of action for relocation,” she said.

Jitlekha said that more fully fledged proposals would start pouring in by the middle of the year, with one selected around mid-2020 at the earliest.

Prasertsuek Saipawan, who’s also involved in the railway’s development projects, said the land will be leased 30 to 50 years to a project he expects will cost 5 billion baht to 8 billion baht to build.