The World of Sid and Marty Krofft – An Amazing Park With An Untimely Ending
Posted by Rachel S on Friday, September 13th, 2013
Today we’re taking a look at a theme park that should have been great – could have been great – but instead went down in flames after just one short season. Here’s a look at The World of Sid and Marty Krofft – a visionary entertainment venue built in Atlanta, Georgia that opened and closed in 1976.
If you were a child in the 1970s, you were likely a fan of the TV shows of Sid and Marty Krofft. Top shows they developed included H.R. Pufnstuf, The Bugaloos, Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, Wonderbug and Land of the Lost were huge hits with kids and teens in the US and Canada. For an equivalent in today’s market, add up the popularity of Phineas and Ferb, SpongeBob, Good Luck Charlie and Jessie (Disney plus Nickelodeon combined).
Bear in mind there were no channels for kids back then – Disney Channel was a decade away – and there was limited children’s programming. The Brothers Krofft were the creators of all the best non-PBS and non-animated kid’s content on the tube back in the day. So when the Kroffts decided to create a theme park, it was genius and the opening eagerly awaited.
The World of Sid and Marty Krofft was the first ever entirely indoor amusement park which was great since they were setting up shop in Atlanta where summer (and fall and spring) is notoriously hot at 95 degrees and higher. The only competing local park was Six Flags Over Georgia where long lines left guests sweltering, sweating in the humidity and sunburned.
In addition to content based on their popular kid’s show characters, access to the park was via the world’s longest escalator at eight stories tall and 205 feet long. There was a crystal carousel that “floated” on a cushion of air, a ride that sat you in a metal ball and took you through a giant pinball machine, a dark ride based on the iconic characters of their popular TV shows, live entertainment and several more activities.
The World of Sid and Marty Krofft cost $58 million (in 2013 dollars adjusted for inflation) to build and was designed to accommodate 6,000 guests at a time with capacity to serve many thousands each day. But over the six months it was open, just 300,000 showed up. Ticket prices were $5.75 for adults and $4.75 for kids – sounds like a pittance, right? But in today’s dollars that’s $24 for adults and $20 for kids meaning their revenue fell so short of projections they couldn’t keep the doors open. So why didn’t this unique attraction rake in the bucks they needed?
For this park, cost versus benefit was a huge issue. The only other amusement park in Georgia was Six Flags Over Georgia that charged $5 a head for grown-ups and just $3.50 for the kids. That was significantly cheaper than the Krofft project for a drastically larger park. Not only were the ticket prices more, but the Krofft experience lasted less than three hours to do everything while Six Flags provided all day fun for the cost.
The World of Sid and Marty Krofft was located at the Omni smack in downtown Atlanta and not in the best area. This locale is much nicer now – very close to Centennial Olympic Park. But in the mid-1970s, this part of town was much more dangerous while competitor park Six Flags was in the suburbs in a much safer area. Ironically, three decades on and Six Flags’ environs is much less safe and the downtown area plays host to thousands each day at the wildly popular Georgia Aquarium a hundred feet from where The World briefly thrilled.
We’re very indulgent of our children these days and don’t blink at dropping several hundred bucks on an iPad for them to play on. But in 1976, this was simply not the case. Families weren’t as intensely kid-centric as they are now and parents were not into dropping cash that easily especially for just a couple of hours of amusement. And when you combine that with a drive of an hour or more, the hassles of downtown parking and the safety risks, for most it didn’t balance out as time and money well spent.
An article in the Atlanta Journal announcing the opening of The World of Sid and Marty Krofft stated, “Since our capacity is limited to about 6,000 people at any one time and visitors can plan to attend days, weeks, months or even years ahead because of our weather perfect indoor environment, we are introducing an advance ticket reservation system much like a Broadway show. Thus, we can maximize visitor comfort levels and eliminate those monumentally long lines that often occur in outdoor theme parks.”
Though the park was only open six months, I was lucky enough to be one of the only 300,000 people that enjoyed this short-lived phenomenon. It was an incredible experience and my whole family – three generations aged 7 to 65 – were all entranced. We couldn’t wait to come back, but the place was shuttered within weeks of our visit.
Virtually all that remains of this amazing park are memories of the few who attended and a few promotional stills. Guests were not allowed to bring cameras and all news film footage was destroyed in a fire at the local Atlanta CBS affiliate. For years after The World of Sid and Marty Krofft closed up shop, when you visited the Omni Hotel, you could see the darkened remnants of the amusement park’s accoutrements at the top of the motionless escalator. It served as a sad reminder of what once briefly was and what could have been.
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