Finland plans a new Arctic Circle theme park home for St. Nick

Republic of Santa Claus to offer giant ‘snow globe,’ hotel

AT: Dean Lamanna

ROVANIEMI, Finland — It may come as an icy shock to denizens of the North Pole, but a site just above the Arctic Circle near the capital of Lapland is being eyed as a new home for jolly old St. Nick.

The Republic of Santa Claus, a resort destination proposed by a group of Finnish entrepreneurs, is envisioned as a world-class winter theme park complete with a domed village that produces artificial snow, structures resembling gingerbread houses, a shopping district, a hotel tower designed like a Christmas tree, and what initial plans describe as the world’s largest sauna facility.

As of early October, the project, estimated to cost US$1.1 billion, reportedly had 17 major backers, and discussions were underway with additional potential investors from Europe, America, Asia and elsewhere. A letter of intent for a 50-year lease on a large, forested tract 20 kilometers northeast of Rovaniemi was inked in June with Metsähallitus, a Finland state entity that governs the Nordic country’s public lands.

The attraction intends to capitalize on, and continue increasing, the already growing winter tourist and Airbnb rental numbers in the region — setting an ultimate goal of entertaining 10 million visitors annually. Rovaniemi’s existing “home” for St. Nick, a shopping, dining and amusement area called Santa Claus Village, draws thousands to the city every year.

Characterized by the project’s website as “a land where children’s voices are heard, and where adults can be children again,” the Republic of Santa Claus comprises four main areas:

•Welcome Center — This public-access section includes a mall and marketplace for locals and tourists. To gain access to the rest of the land, visitors can purchase an “e-citizenship” at this location.

•Original Christmas — The spirit of the holiday is alive year-round in various attractions that adopt the storytelling traditions of different nations. The hotel and life-size gingerbread houses also can be found here.

•The Snow Globe — This 250,000-square-foot transparent dome shelters hundreds of townhouses containing unique restaurants, shops, hotel rooms and opportunities to relive childhood memories. In addition to artificial snowfall, it presents a skyward recreation of nature’s colorful northern lights.

•Health & Wellness — Guests can seek a variety of therapies in the resort’s extensive sauna facility, an “ecological oasis” offering yoga classes, massage, skin care treatments and locally sourced organic foods.

Aside from its holiday theming, the Republic of Santa Claus will place equal emphasis on sustainability and the pristine arctic environment. Project COO Kimi Sittari told The Barents Observer that the resort is a “value-based project… a showroom of everything that is needed [to ensure] our future generations are able to enjoy the beauty of nature.”

To that end, automobiles will be relegated to the periphery of the resort and their use discouraged in reaching the destination. A monorail system linking the center of Rovaniemi and the city’s airport with the current Santa Claus Village and the new resort is part of the project proposal.


This article appears in the DECEMBER 2019 issue of Amusement Today.
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