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Riverfront plaza set to fill capital’s tourist entertainment gap

An artist’s rendering of WB Arena’s spacious riverfront promenade. Photo supplied
An artist’s rendering of WB Arena’s spacious riverfront promenade. Photo supplied

Riverfront plaza set to fill capital’s tourist entertainment gap

Phnom Penh is short on tourist attractions and has never really had a “destination” for local families and tourists to visit for dining, shopping, leisure and live entertainment, so the Worldbridge Group decided it was time to build one.

Construction is already underway on a new integrated leisure and entertainment complex on the Bassac River south of Phnom Penh designed to attract local families, expats and foreign tourists.

Local developer Worldbridge Group is investing $10 million to build WB Arena, an open-air plaza on 1.3 hectares in the capital’s Chak Angre Krom commune set between the river and National Road 2. The project includes retail, dining, leisure and entertainment components, anchored by a 400-seat theatre for nightly live events.

Tan Teck Kee, executive director of Worldbridge Land, said he expects the riverfront complex to become “the go-to place for family leisure” when it opens this November.

“It will be a riverfront entertainment destination for local families, tourists and expats,” he explained. “We have put in place an arena that will be holding many sports and other events. We have also planned activities within for all ages.”

Designed by Chin Kam and Associates (CK&A), the same Singaporean architect firm that Worldbridge Group and its joint venture partner Oxley International Holdings brought in to design The Bridge and The Peak, the WB Arena project is modelled loosely on Singapore’s Clarke Quay. Careful thought was given, however, to adapting the waterfront entertainment concept to the local setting.

“We have uniquely planned it to suit Cambodians and appeal to tourists visiting Cambodia,” said Tan.

According to Simon Griffiths, managing director of Urban Asset Solutions, the project’s commercial consultant and leasing agent, WB Arena will include 6,000 square metres of net leasable space divided into areas for retail, F&B and leisure.

The retail hub centres on a shopping market with 90 stalls where local vendors sell a range of fashion goods, gadgets and health and beauty products.

“We want something that appeals to tourists,” said Griffiths. “About 70 percent of the 90 stalls will target tourists, the rest will be cross-over targeting both tourists and local shoppers.”

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A concept illustration shows an overview of the WB Arena project. supplied

There will be plenty of food and beverage options for visitors, as well as al fresco dining along the wide palm-lined riverside promenade. A dozen F&B brands have already booked spaces, and Urban Asset Solutions is in talks with three operators to manage a unique concept of food court.

The heart of the WB Arena complex is a 400-seat theatre designed for a stage or boxing ring. The building will be used for nightly live events, such as Khmer boxing or performances by local theatre guilds and special events.

“For local residents we considered a cinema as an anchor, but we settled on a theatre, which is more appealing to tourists but we hope everyone will enjoy the shows,” explained Griffiths.

But the live performances will not just be in an arena. Electrical outlets will be set in three entertainment zones – one on the river and two inside the complex – where buskers can plug in their equipment.

“The idea came from the London Underground, where they put a sticker on the floor where musicians can perform,” said Griffiths. “We’ll have coloured floors in these zones and there will be no fees to perform.”

There will also be an area for children, with carnival stalls and a supervised play area.

Designed as a “destination” and reachable by road or river, WB Arena is intended to fill a glaring gap in the capital’s tourism market.

“Phnom Penh really lacks things for tourists to do, especially at night,” said Griffiths. “This is the first integrated entertainment destination for the whole family.”

Private boats and charter vessels will pick up and drop off tourists at WB Arena’s pier, and the complex could become a stop on the capital’s new water taxi service, which is set to run from Prek Pnov in the north of Phnom Penh to Takhmao City.

“It’s designed around entertainment and fun, starting from the boat trip that gets you there,” he explained. “We expect to see tourists coming at night to dine by the river, see a show, do a little shopping and have a massage while the kids play.”

Construction on WB Arena, already underway, is scheduled to wrap up in June with F&B tenants to start fitting out their spaces in July. A soft launch is set for November 1, with the grand opening two weeks later – just in time for the annual Water Festival.

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