Sentosa Merlion demolition (2019)

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The 37-metre tall Sentosa Merlion being cleaned in 2015. Photo from The New Paper.

On 20 September 2019, it was announced that the Merlion statue in Sentosa would be demolished to make way for a themed linkway between the north and south shores of Sentosa island. This linkway is a part of a revitalisation plan for Sentosa and Pulau Brani under the upcoming development of a Greater Southern Waterfront district.[1]

History

Unveiled to the public in 1995, the Sentosa Merlion was designed by Australian sculptor James Martin and cost S$8,000,000 to build. At 37-metres tall, the Sentosa Merlion is the largest Merlion statue in Singapore.[2]

Attractions & admission fees

The Sentosa Merlion had a Mouth Gallery Viewing Deck on the 9th storey and another viewing gallery on its head. It also featured a three-dimensional animation screening of how Sang Nila Utama discovered Singapore.[3] The Sentosa Merlion had lasers installed in its eyes as part of a multimedia show.[4] In 2019, the admission fees for the Sentosa Merlion were S$15, S$12.50 and S$9.90 for adults, children and seniors respectively.[5]

Closure

The view from the Sentosa Merlion's mouth. Photo from Guide Gecko.

Sentosa Merlion’s last day of operations was on 20 October 2019. The admission tickets were reduced to half-price for Singaporeans and Permanent Residents and were free for those aged 60 and above.[6]

Redevelopment plans (Sentosa Sensoryscape)

On 20 September 2019, Sentosa Development Corporation announced the plan to demolish the Merlion statue in Sentosa and the adjacent Merlion Walk. This is to give way to the Sentosa Sensoryscape, a S$90,000,000 themed linkway between Resorts World Sentosa and the beaches that can support double the current pedestrian capacity with a wider thoroughfare.[7]


Experts said that a major revamp of Sentosa and Pulau Brani can boost Sentosa’s general appeal as an attraction. Plans to include sightseeing elements will give Resorts World Sentosa an edge over its competitor Marina Bay Sands. The recreational elements on the island would also attract MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) organisers.[8]


Dr Michael Chiam, a senior tourism lecturer at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, highlighted that the Sentosa Merlion is “a bit dated and run down” despite the sense of nostalgia tied to the statue. Moreover, Sentosa needed new attractions to keep tourists coming back.[9]

Demolition & commemoration

The special edition of the Sentosa Merlion Light Show in commemoration of the demolition. Photo from The Straits Times.

Due to the Sentosa Merlion’s large size, it will not be relocated. Instead, a new Sentosa mascot and a proper commemoration for the Merlion statue is being considered.[10] Throughout October 2019, a special edition of the Sentosa Merlion Light Show had been run four times every night at the Merlion Plaza.[11]

Public response

Singaporeans & netizens

Singaporeans lamented the Sentosa Merlion’s demolition, calling it “[a representation] of Sentosa Island” and that “without it [Sentosa] would be.. meaningless, even if there are many attractions built”.[12]


Netizens have taken to The Straits Times’ Facebook page and the Facebook group “Wake Up Singapore” to voice their displeasure over the demolition of the Sentosa Merlion.

Online petitions

Stanley Ngo, a tourist guide, started a petition on Change.org to stop the demolition of the Sentosa Merlion statue on 24 September 2019. As of 31 October 2019, it has garnered 2,189 signatures.[13] Another online petition started by user Steven Lim has 6,803 signatures as of 31 October 2019.[14]

Chinese netizens

The announcement of Sentosa Merlion’s demolition on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like service, attracted 90 million views and drew over 8,000 comments by 23 September 2019.[15] Merlion fans from China also left comments on the WeChat service sharing their fond memories at the Sentosa Merlion.[16]


On the other hand, some users highlighted that the Merlion’s demolition was “a domestic affair of Singaporeans” and Chinese netizens should not be too bothered by it.[17]

References / Citations

  1. Tay, Tiffany Fumiko. “Sentosa Merlion to make way for new $90m themed linkway as part of Sentosa-Brani masterplan”. The Straits Times. September 20, 2019. Accessed October 31, 2019. Retrieved from The Straits Times.
  2. Ang, Prisca. “Sentosa Merlion to be demolished: 6 things to know about the Singapore icon.The Straits Times. September 21, 2019. Accessed October 31, 2019. Retrieved from The Straits Times.
  3. Ang, Prisca. “Sentosa Merlion to be demolished: 6 things to know about the Singapore icon.” The Straits Times. September 21, 2019. Accessed October 31, 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/sentosa-merlion-to-be-demolished-6-things-to-know-about-the-singapore-icon
  4. The Must Share News Team. “Iconic Merlion Statue At Sentosa Will Be Demolished After 21 Oct To Make Way For New Linkway.” Must Share News. September 20, 2019. Accessed October 31, 2019. Retrieved from Must Share News.
  5. Yan, Jacqueline. “Going To Visit Sentosa Merlion One Last Time? Here's How You Can Save Money On Entry Fees And Activities!Seedly. September 25, 2019. Accessed October 31, 2019. Retrieved from Seedly.
  6. Ang, Prisca. “Sentosa Merlion to be demolished: 6 things to know about the Singapore icon.The Straits Times. September 21, 2019. Accessed October 31, 2019. Retrieved from Factiva.
  7. Tay, Tiffany Fumiko. “Sentosa Merlion to make way for new $90m themed linkway as part of Sentosa-Brani masterplan”. The Straits Times. September 20, 2019. Accessed October 31, 2019. Retrieved from The Straits Times.
  8. Tay, Tiffany Fumiko. “Demolition of Sentosa Merlion a pity, some lament, but experts say new attractions needed.The Straits Times. September 21, 2019. Accessed October 31, 2019. Retrieved from The Straits Times.
  9. Tay, Tiffany Fumiko. “Demolition of Sentosa Merlion a pity, some lament, but experts say new attractions needed.The Straits Times. September 21, 2019. Accessed October 31, 2019. Retrieved from The Straits Times.
  10. Tay, Tiffany Fumiko. “Sentosa Merlion to make way for new $90m themed linkway as part of Sentosa-Brani masterplan”. The Straits Times. September 20, 2019. Accessed October 31, 2019. Retrieved from Factiva.
  11. Yan, Jacqueline. “Going To Visit Sentosa Merlion One Last Time? Here's How You Can Save Money On Entry Fees And Activities!Seedly. September 25, 2019. Accessed October 31, 2019. Retrieved from Seedly.
  12. Tay, Tiffany Fumiko. “Demolition of Sentosa Merlion a pity, some lament, but experts say new attractions needed.The Straits Times. September 21, 2019. Accessed October 31, 2019. Retrieved from Factiva.
  13. Ngo, Stanley. “Save Sentosa Merlion.Change.org. September 24, 2019. Accessed October 31, 2019. Retrieved from Change.org.
  14. Lim, Steven. “Prevent the National Icon, Merlion at Sentosa from being demolished!.” Change.org. September 26, 2019. Accessed October 31, 2019. Retrieved from change.org.
  15. Yan, Alice. “Nostalgia in China as Singapore prepares to demolish Sentosa merlion.South China Morning Post. September 23, 2019. Accessed October 31, 2019. Retrieved from South China Morning Post.
  16. Yan, Alice. “Nostalgia in China as Singapore prepares to demolish Sentosa merlion.” South China Morning Post. September 23, 2019. Accessed October 31, 2019. Retrieved from South China Morning Post.
  17. Yan, Alice. “Nostalgia in China as Singapore prepares to demolish Sentosa merlion.” South China Morning Post. September 23, 2019. Accessed October 31, 2019. Retrieved from South China Morning Post.