The Yokohama integrated resort designed by Melco Resorts & Entertainment was planned to be home to a number of major sporting groups, including a major tennis organization in Japan, IAG has learned.
Both Melco and the other contender to develop a Yokohama IR, Genting Singapore, were forced to drop their bids earlier this month when the city’s new mayor, Takeharu Yamanaka, officially cancelled further pursuit of an IR license.
That decision not only ends any chances of integrated resort development in the near future but also a variety of initiatives that the operators had been working on with the local community.
Melco told IAG that one of its planned initiatives was to build a sports center within the IR following input from the company’s brand ambassador, tennis superstar Naomi Osaka. Naomi had suggested to the developer that it’s important to provide a variety of sporting options for people because when she was growing up and when she trains now, she likes to play a whole range of different sports rather than just tennis.
The sports center would have included a football ground that would have been a training ground for local teams, because they don’t have many suitable facilities. A major tennis organization in Japan would have also made the center their training ground.
Melco officially joined the Yokohama IR race in September 2019 after the city’s then-mayor Fumiko Hayashi declared its intention to bid, and in the two years since had embarked on a range of initiatives aimed at connecting with the local community.
The company’s work began with a collaboration alongside the Kyoto Cultural Association that saw them commission 23 museum-quality kimono pieces to raise awareness of the kimono and its cultural value. Thirteen of these detailed and skilled works were then displayed at an exhibition in Tokyo, attracting significant public and media attention.
Melco also ran an event called “Smart Summer” in Motomachi, Yokohama, which aimed to support local tourism and economic growth by drawing crowds to the district.
Among the cornerstone initiatives of Melco’s community work was its sponsorship of professional football team Yokohama F Marinos. This relationship grew over time and in March this year the two organizations signed a partner contract to provide support for select shopping streets across the city.
The “Stay Strong Together and Support our Hometown Shopping Streets!” project saw five streets invited to a Yokohama F Marinos home game where a shopping street support video, produced by Melco, introduced the participating streets on the stadium’s large screens. Supported by free tickets and signed goods giveaways plus social media posts to promote sales, the project aimed to increase awareness of shopping options in areas impacted by COVID-19.
In the proposal, Melco had repeatedly expressed its desire to be part of the city, creating awareness and connecting with local people. A senior Melco executive mentioned, “We didn’t want to be the foreigners coming in to dictate things.”
Within the IR itself, Melco was also planning to develop a dedicated food and beverage space, called Bamboo Village, specifically for local restaurateurs to open businesses, as well as a similar concept for local retailers.
Evan Winkler, President of Melco Resorts and Entertainment, told IAG, “One of the things that has always set us apart is the depth to which we care about our impact on the world we all share. We respect and are sensitive to the local ways of doing things.
“Collaboration and partnership with authorities and local organizations is a core principle of this, and we invest in strengthening these relationships with efforts that are tailor-made for each of our communities.
“Ever since Melco began its journey in Japan 10 years ago, we have been committed to being a great partner and a force for good in the community. For 10 years, we have collaborated with authorities, local businesses, charities, educational institutions and community organizations to create unique programs that address specific local issues and needs of the community.
“From enhancing economic prosperity of local suppliers and SMEs, to promoting sports and wellness with Yokohama F. Marinos and our brand ambassador Naomi Osaka, as well as promoting Japan’s culture and heritage, we are immensely grateful for the friendships that we have built with our local community partners in Yokohama and Japan.”