Man wearing a sandwich board announcing the official opening of Tivoli amusement park. SUR
Tivoli celebrates 52 years, remembering its glorious past and looking towards an uncertain future

Tivoli celebrates 52 years, remembering its glorious past and looking towards an uncertain future

It was the first amusement park to be created in Spain and has been closed for four years, although it remains 'in good shape' thanks to the efforts of its workers. Now it awaits a new opportunity...

Lorena Cádiz


Friday, 24 May 2024, 12:54


On 20 May 1972 the first amusement park in Spain threw open its doors. It was the park that transformed the concept of tourism on the Costa del Sol, putting a twist on the usual sun and beach set-up by promoting leisure activities to pursue as a family. On a 60,000 square-metre site in Arroyo de la Miel, Benalmádena, Tivoli welcomed its first visitors on that day. To celebrate the opening a prestigious event was organised with representatives from local business and ruling authorities, including Enrique Bolín as Benalmádena's mayor (then also the youngest mayor in Spain).

Back in 1972 the entrance fee was five pesetas for children and ten pesetas for adults. For many years just to enter Tivoli was like opening the doors to a new world, especially for children. The Olsen family, the park owners at the time, had built a space there with 16 fountains, some of them with light and water shows, an artificial lake, large green spaces, buildings representing different parts of the world and restaurants with cuisine typical of many of those places.

For a long time, when the boom in music festivals was the stuff of dreams, Tivoli was the place to go for the big shows. For half a century the most outstanding artists of those times graced the stage of the auditorium there. Several generations will remember seeing the light aircraft pass over the beach, a long tarp banner fastened to the tail-fin, announcing the next scheduled performance.

Former workers cut a cake to celebrate the anniversary of Tivoli

Former Tivoli staff, along with Benalmádena Mayor Juan Antonio Lara and several local councillors, gathered at the amusement park in Arroyo de la Miel on Monday to celebrate the 52nd anniversary of its opening.

Although the group sang happy birthday and cut a celebratory cake, the anniversary was marred by the fact that Tivoli has now been closed for four years.

With banners asking for the reopening of Tivoli and demanding that Tremón, the company that owns it, listens to the requests of the former staff, the workers said they wanted to convey a message of “hope”.


In 2004 the Olsen family sold the park to businessman Rafael Gómez Sánchez, alias Sandokán. Three years later he sold it to the Madrid-based Tremón Group as part of a property package valued at 370 million euros, which included seven million square metres spread throughout Andalucía.

But the deal did not go down as it should have. Sandokán, who believed that the acquisition had not been completed and took the matter to court for alleged non-payments by Tremón. This court fight led to a stalemate situation in that the ownership of Tívoli was assigned to Tremón, but the park continued to be managed by a company linked to Sandokán, the businessman from Cordoba, who was then sent to prison for five years in 2017 for non payment of taxes. Those years were when the park's debts really racked up, employees went on reduced hours contracts, even made redundant, and then, finally, the pandemic happened, which forced the park to close for a few months. Even so, in July and August 2020 it re-opened and, despite the circumstances, it proved to be a profitable summer season. But after those months it closed its doors once more, never again to open them to the public. This summer makes it four years since that closure.

One of Tivoli’s standard ways of advertising throughout its history.
One of Tivoli’s standard ways of advertising throughout its history. SUR

Still in good shape

Just two days before Tivoli turned 52, the park's workers were still checking on the place. They had faced a long legal battle that resulted in one setback after another for them. The final ruling was that they no longer have an employment relationship with Tivoli.

Still, they pass their time picking up the leaves that the dry, windy weather has been throwing to the ground inside the park. They grease the rides, go round cranking them up one by one so that they don't rust, clean the streets, feed the peacocks and keep watch 24 hours a day to ensure no one enters. They don't earn a single euro for this work, but they are aware of its importance. Nobody will be able to say that the park has no future, that it has collapsed, that it is abandoned, stripped bare, that it is no longer worth opening. The park looks in very good condition considering that it has not been operating for four years, and it is wholly thanks to this team.

New investors

Recently, at a meeting of the former staff to discuss Fogasa (the Department of Employment's wage guarantee fund for employees in, for example, bankruptcy cases) and the wages still owed them, the former owner Sandokán turned up to announce that the park is still his. The workers are no longer taken aback by what each new chapter in this soap opera throws at them - it has been hanging over their heads for such a long time, the same goes for all the people of Benalmádena.

It so happens that a court hearing is scheduled for July between Sandokán and Tremón to resolve their battle over the deal they signed all those 17 years ago. "We could write a book," say the park's workers. For months now several investors, both domestic and overseas, have also passed through Tivoli's gates. They are interested in taking over the amusement park and opening negotiations with Tremón. Yes, several companies are wanting to re-open the park, but months and years go by and everything remains the same. The current ruling party in Benalmádena town hall, upon entering power one year ago, took up a mediating role between the interested parties and Tremón.

Julio Iglesias with his daughter on stage at Tivoli.
Julio Iglesias with his daughter on stage at Tivoli. SUR

Last January Juan Antonio Lara as mayor gave categorical assurances that talks were progressing and that Tivoli would re-open as an amusement park before the end of his term of office. Meanwhile, the council has reached an agreement with Tremón to re-open the underground car park next to Tivoli, also owned by Tremón as part of the package of real estate assets that Sandokán sold the Madrid-based group way back in the day.

It also remains to be seen what will happen to the open-air car park located next to the underground car park and the amusement park, which until now has been a godsend for vehicles trying to park in Arroyo de la Miel. This too is owned by Tremón.

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