Mickey Mouse had better watch out. Yves Jégo, a Parti Radical representative, is set on giving the famous animated mouse some competition, just seventy kilometres from Disneyland. Montereau's mayor is behind plans to create the world's first theme park set up in honour of the French emperor, using the Puy du Fou model, created in 1989 following an initiative led by Philippe de Villiers. The proposal includes shows, a conference centre, a museum and various history-related activities on the theme of the Revolution, Consulate and First Empire. There will also be grand historical re-enactments, including the emperor's coronation ceremony and the Retour des Cendres.
Plans outline a site of fifty hectares, which for the moment has been baptised the "Montereau bivouac": the inauguration could take place as early as 2017. Two million visitors per year would be required to make the operation profitable. The site of the theme park is the very one on which the Battle of Montereau, fought on 17 and 18 February 1814, took place during Napoleon's Campagne de France.
Yves Jégo has indicated that two-hundred million euros would be needed to make the project a reality. He has given himself until 18 February 2012, the 198th anniversary of the battle, to "put together the project [proposal]". The next stage of the project will be to find investors. "I do not want to begin seeking investment without a balanced, concrete business plan," Jégo explained, who appears reasonably confident that one can be formulated, "given the level of interest, notably in the media".
Jégo also cites the relative "lack of theme parks" and a well-defined, almost standardised "economic model" as further reason for optimism. Moreover, investors are likely to be interested in the project from a purely cultural point of view. "Russia, China, it doesn't matter: there are always enthusiasts for this period in history".
The mayor also believes that the state could contribute to the costs, and intends to hold meetings with the Ministers for Tourism and Culture. His goal is that the French national and local authorities agree to finance the cultural side of the project. Further financial support, in the form of public grants, could be obtained to contribute to the construction of the "commercial section" of the park, namely the conference centre and the family-orientated activities.
Jégo remains convinced that France has much to gain from this project. Such a combination of culture and entertainment could, he argues, contribute to a more creative brand of tourism and stimulate economic growth. It has been suggested that the new park would create between 2,000 and 3,000 new jobs. It is hoped that work on the park will begin in 2014, the battle's bicentenary year.
Laurent Ottavi, 8 February 2012
(tr. & ed. H.D.W.)