The only constant is change, and Sentosa is the perfect example. Its latest change is the closure of the Sentosa Merlion, which has officially walked into history on 20 October 2019. Come end of the year, the gigantic landmark will be demolished to make way for Sentosa’s newer developments.
Since its transformation from a sleepy fishing village and military barracks in the seventies to become one of Singapore’s top tourist destinations, Sentosa is destined to keep evolving.
Over the years, its iconic landmarks came and disappeared. Various generations of Singaporeans would have their different memories of the leisure island. The Coralarium (1974-1983), Monorail (1982-2005), Musical Fountain (1982-2007), Fountain Gardens (1989-2007), Underwater World (1991-2016), Asian Village (1992-2001), Fantasy Island (1994-2001), Volcanoland (1995-2002) and Tiger Sky Tower (2004-2018) formed part of those memories.
Sentosa’s various attractions – many of them were successful, others not quite – had boosted the visitorship to the leisure island. In over two decades, the number of visitors to Sentosa grew from about 5 million (in the mid-nineties) to 19 million (2018). The idea of another attraction in the form of a gigantic Merlion was mooted in the early nineties. When the proposal was finalised, tender was called, with seven bids received in 1991. Two years later, the groundbreaking ceremony was officiated by Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew.
Finally completed in 1995 at a cost of $8 million, the Sentosa Merlion stood 37m tall, making it the tallest Merlion in Singapore and many times taller than the original 8m-tall Merlion at the Singapore River and the two 3m-tall Merlions at Mount Faber and Singapore Tourism Board (STB) office along Grange Road.
The Sentosa Merlion received its fair shares of distinguished guests after its opening. The Crown Prince Albert of Monaco, Estonia Prime Minister Tiit Vahi and Vietnam’s Minister for Culture and Information Nguyen Khoa Diem visited it between 1996 and 1998.
Some of the memorable displays at Sentosa Merlion included the green laser beams’ shooting from its eyes, forming the grand finale of Musical Fountain shows. Another would be the Magic Lights show in which the Merlion transformed into a captivating colour-changing spectacle of lights and sounds.
The expected demolition of Sentosa Merlion by the end of 2019 will make way for a new $90-million multi-sensory walkway. The walkway, expected to be completed in 2022, will be a part of the Sentosa and Pulau Brani’s redevelopment plan, which, in turn, is under a much larger-scale Greater Southern Waterfront (GSW) project.
Published: 26 October 2019