By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
An IMAX cinema-centred entertainment destination cannot open until a $1.2 million roadworks project is completed, its developer revealed yesterday.
Carlos Foulkes, the Atavus Group's chief executive, told Tribune Business it expected to hear from the Government "in the next week" on the way forward for expanding the northern entrance of Gladstone Road to accommodate the extra traffic its project is expected to generate.
He disclosed that Atavus, whose project dominates the skyline overlooking JFK Drive, was seeking to share the cost of upgrading Gladstone Road to a four-lane corridor with the Government and create "a permanent solution for 50 years".
Pledging that the Fusion Superplex will "definitely be open before the end of this year", Mr Foulkes said the roadworks - a condition set by Town Planning for approving the project - would take at least two months to complete.
"We have had some delays with construction," he told Tribune Business. "We have yet to start our roadworks. We're waiting for the Government to sort out the Gladstone Road expansion and Munnings Road. That's two months of work for sure. Our opening won't be before that.
"Part of our requirements, as required by the Town Planning Committee, is to improve the roads in the area. We're waiting on the Government to do their Traffic Analysis, and then we'll get cracking."
Mr Foulkes said Atavus had already submitted a traffic impact study conducted on its behalf by a Canadian company recommended to it by the Government, and explained: "We're waiting for the Ministry [of Works] to analyse it, and give us the OK.
"All of the road from the roundabout with JFK Drive all the way to the entrance of our property, that's going to be expanded to four lanes. The Government may choose to extend it beyond that; that's what they're looking at now - they may go to Munnings Road.
"We're hoping to have this settled in the next week. We won't be open until the roads are done. We've been speaking to the Office of the Prime Minister and Ministry of Works, and they're just as anxious to get this problem sorted out as we are," Mr Foulkes told Tribune Business.
"The Prime Minister was looking at this matter with the greatest urgency. We're expecting to have an answer next week. The Government has been very helpful, and we want it to be a permanent solution for 50 years."
The Fusion Superplex was initially scheduled to open by April 20 this year, but Mr Foulkes conceded that the project had also incurred "some internal construction delays" that have pushed it beyond its initial $42 million investment budget.
"Because of the roadworks there's no need to go faster than we need to do," he added. "If the roadworks to start on July 1, the earliest they'd be completed would be August 31. Our interior stuff will be done before then. All the interior, fine finishes will be done in seven to eight weeks. If the roads start now they will be finished at the same time."
Atavus expects the Fusion Superplex to attract "north of 800,000" persons annually with its nine theatres, including the five-storey IMAX and 4DX (four dimensional experience) cinema.
Mr Foulkes said the project now had 418 staff on its "employment plan", and was in the process of calculating its construction cost overruns. He added that some had been incurred to improve the product, upgrading operational details, technology and back-of-house areas that will boost staff efficiency.
"It started out as a $42 million investment," he told Tribune Business. "We obviously have cost overruns as anyone does. We're actually determining those overruns now.
"There will be cost overruns, no doubt about it. Any time a project is delayed there's cost overruns, with your carrying cost of staff and construction change orders. A project this large, 100,000 square feet, there's bound to be overruns."
Atavus Group and its contractors began site clearance and levelling efforts in January last year, with the foundation poured in September 2016 prior to the start of vertical construction.
Targeted at all age ranges and tastes, the Fusion Superplex will also include an indoor playground and Children's Daycare Centre, plus an arcade area and the normal movie theatre drinks and food concessions - including a Starbucks coffee lounge and Sub-Zero ice cream that is made from liquid nitrogen.
"This is world renowned," Mr Foulkes told Tribune Business of the Atavus Group's vision. "We're competing at a global level. Getting you out of your home to a facility, it has to be more than you get at home."