ESCAPE is owned and operated by Sim Leisure Group Ltd, an internationally-renowned theme park designer and builder, a PLC listed on Singapore Exchange. The founder, Sim Choo Kheng, was born and raised on this island.
ESCAPE was inspired by Sim's mischievous childhood in the kampong by the rainforest – climbing trees, launching friends into the air with tree branches, diving from the treetop into the pond, racing downhill on makeshift bicycles. Those were the good old days where life skills were learnt through fun and adventure.
Sim had his lightbulb moment during his 2-year business assignment to Lam Vien village in Thu Duc at the outskirts of Saigon in 1998. There, Sim had flashbacks of his childhood mischief when he saw how the village kids and adults played the same way he did growing up. ESCAPE would provide the most natural form of fun by addressing the lack of spark in children stemming from the absence of childhood play and growing disconnect from nature – symptoms of the modern lifestyle.
Sim recollected his childhood moments and refined those ideas for ESCAPE, presenting it as the alternative to conventional mechanical theme parks. As Sim Leisure expanded into new international fronts, the company promoted this new idea to many clients, but all of them rejected this new genre.
It wasn't until 2009 when Penang's newly-installed administration called for an open tender on a 44-acre construction wasteland in Teluk Bahang to boost the island's tourism industry. Sim Leisure won the tender based on ESCAPE's untested retro-eco concept.
The euphoria ended quickly when no banks would finance ESCAPE. All the banks in the country did not believe this retro-eco concept would see its light of day. This delayed this project and forced the development of ESCAPE into smaller phases where Sim personally funded ESCAPE Phase 1 with his life savings. Phase 1 - Adventureplay finally opened its doors to the public in November 2012. The park eventually completed the entire original design in 2019 when it would have taken 2 years otherwise.
Today, ESCAPE's success has not only won many accolades but also proved the world wrong with this Penang-born brand to expand to many cities.