A Closer Look at Mission Hills
The Barça Experience
FC Barcelona digs deep into its video archives and makes use of interactive multimedia technology in its first attraction outside its hometown. The 4,000-square-meter Barça Experience showcases the football (soccer) club’s 120-year history and is the largest museum space of any such club outside its home country.
A massive video wall at the back of the room pays tribute to the “Greatest of All Time,” Lionel Messi. Here, you can watch every goal scored by the club’s most iconic player. Images and footage move randomly across the space as the screens refresh. Best of all, visitors do not need to touch the video wall to activate a photo into a video or to get more information. They simply hold their hand close to the wall, and a video will play.
Elsewhere, visitors can use a simulator to take a free kick against goalie Marc-André ter Stegen, use the WeChat social media app to add a selfie to a video map of FC Barcelona fans, and enter a virtual reality zone of the team’s stadium, Camp Nou. In the retail store, which is designed like the tunnel at the stadium entrance, Messi jerseys sell for the same price as in Europe, about 100 euros.
Why did FC Barcelona, one of Europe’s most popular soccer teams, choose Hainan Island as the site of its first overseas experience?
“We actually received numerous expressions of interest in similar projects from other companies in China, but we’ve always felt a lack of synergy—until we met with Mission Hills Group and the Chu family,” says FC Barcelona’s point person for the project, Jenny Yang. She cites Mission Hills’ track record as a pioneer in the Chinese sports industry, as well as the company’s vision to branch into more sports. “We were especially impressed by their passion to nurture youth sports, which definitely resonates with Barça’s values and visions,” says Yang.
A young Chinese tourist strikes a dance pose behind two 1970s-era Chinese People’s Liberation Army musicians—one playing the accordion, the other a wooden flute—as her husband takes a photo. Dressed as members of a military art troupe during the Cultural Revolution, the soldiers are key characters in the 2017 Feng Xiaogang coming-of-age drama, “Youth,” which was largely filmed at Mission Hills’ Movie Town in Hainan Island, China.
Launched in June 2014, more than 2 million people a year visit Movie Town to rent costumes, hire professional photographers, and walk the stone streets of Republican-era Chongqing, with buildings like Chiang Kai-shek’s home and a reproduction of a Cathay Theatre as they appeared in other epic Feng movies.
The attraction is a partnership between Feng, an award-winning director often referred to as the “Spielberg of China,” the Mission Hills Group, and Huayi Brothers, one of the country’s largest production companies.
There are affordable boutique hotels, acrobatic performers, singers, and shops reminiscent of epochs gone by. A temporary set for a reality show modeled after American television program “Wipeout” can be seen behind a theater, while a massive studio complex with 8,000 square meters of space sits half a kilometer from the tourist zone. Nearly 15 films are produced here annually. Two Movie Town sections, Nanyang Street and 1942 Street, are currently open; a third, modeled after 1950s/1960s Beijing, will welcome visitors once Feng finishes filming in it, possibly as early as December.
Blackstone Golf Course
Designed by Brian Curley and built on acres of black lava, this 7,808-yard course hosted a head-to-head match between Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy in 2013. Blackstone is the hardest of 10 public courses at the Mission Hills resort, with greens fees ranging from US$30 to US$300. The 10 courses were built in just 14 months.
Once the Hard Rock Haikou opens next year, Mission Hills will have 1,265 rooms, suites, and villas on Hainan Island. There are currently three hotels. In addition to the 539-room Mission Hills Resort, Marriott operates The Ritz-Carlton, Haikou and Renaissance Haikou Hotel.
Wet’n’Wild Haikou features 30 slides, pools, and attractions. A partnership between Mission Hills and a state-owned investment company, this 50,000-square-meter seasonal water park is operated by Australia’s Village Roadshow Theme Parks. It’s the first time Village Roadshow has ventured outside Australia and the United States. The slides are from WhiteWater, while the lifeguards have been trained by Australian coaches and hold national licenses. Highlights include a six-story, 360-degree AquaLoop called “360Rush,” the 30-meter-high “Vortex,” a surf rider, and a 3-million-liter wave pool with a state-of-the-art digital screen that serves as a backdrop for visiting DJs. There’s also a Splash House and several rides for younger guests.