The World of Sid and Marty Krofft – An Amazing Park With An Untimely Ending

Posted by Rachel S on Friday, September 13th, 2013

The World of Sid and Marty Krofft at Omni Hotel in Atlanta

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.

History

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).

Layout of The World of Sid and Marty Krofft

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.

Unique elements

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.

Ernest Borgnine riding on the Crystal Carousel at the celeb-filled opening of The World of Sid and Marty Krofft

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.

Financial issues

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?

Pinball machine ride at World of Sid and Marty Krofft

Value Concerns

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.

Location Issues

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.

The World of Sid and Marty Krofft - Pinball ride

Perspective

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.

Lofty Goals

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.”

Sid Krofft (l) and Marty Krofft (r) at park opening in Atlanta

Sad Closing

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.

 

image sources: ViewGoods.com, Tumblr.com, Facebook.com, HotDamnCharlotteAnn.com, AtlMalcontent.wordpress.com, TimidFutures.com

10 Responses to “The World of Sid and Marty Krofft – An Amazing Park With An Untimely Ending”

  1. Andrew Hansen says:

    The Kroft’s had actually been involved in Six Flags Over Georgia. They designed the original walk around characters and as well as a live show in the USA section of the park.

    For those who do not know, since it was not mentioned, the space occupied by the park is now bustling with visitors as it is the CNN Center.

  2. John Dyer says:

    I was able to go when they opened – the pinball ride was very slow (disappointing to a kid expecting a pinball roller coaster). Thanks for the flash back, and yes the park sat shuttered for a pretty long time after closing.

  3. Carolyn says:

    Fun fact: Georgia-native Steve Whitmire, the man who has played Kermit the Frog since the death of Jim Henson, puppeteered at “The World” for a time as a teenager with one of his home-made puppets.

    Thanks for the article. And the pictures!

  4. Gail Solomon says:

    This article brought back many memories. My daughter had her 6th Birthday on opening day at The World of Sid and Marty Kroft. I had a few pictures, in the pinball machine ball and one of Caren and Sid Kroft. I think the problem was you were allowed to go through it once and had to leave. You should have been able to go back and spend time on attractions that you really liked. As you said, it was a quick couple of hours and you had to be finished. Great article. It was a wonderful place.

  5. cks says:

    Yes Andrew is correct, it is now the CNN Center! Interesting building, I was born in ’80 and grew up in Atlanta going to Hawks games and was at the CNN Center quite often, yet had never heard the story of the genesis of the design and building.

    By the way, the long escalator is no longer “motionless” —- if you ever take the CNN tour you will ride it all the way to the top – - certainly the tallest, longest escalator I’ve ever seen outside of an airport.

  6. Dennis says:

    I was the Operations manager during pre opening and opening. It was an amazing place, but as stated, the location at the time was not advantageous to bringing families out. But I did meet my future wife there, so that was a good thing.

  7. Josh says:

    I really enjoyed this article. Seeing as how I was born in 1982, and missed much of the Krofft boom, I am fascinated by The World’s history, and research it frequently, well, what can be researched anyway. Thanks for the write-up. If only I had known this stuff when I went to Georgia and the CNN Center for Wrestlemania a few years ago, I would’ve been more aware of what I was truly seeing.

  8. My brother and I were among the visitors to the park. I had been a huge fan of the Krofft’s shows and was excited to visit but my parents felt it would be better to just drop us off. The trouble was, as mentioned in another comment, that you weren’t allowed to move about as you pleased. You basically were forced to go through the park in a particular way. When we were done, we were so early that we had to sit and wait for our parents to come back and get us. We’d all expected a much longer experience.

  9. John Gilbert says:

    Not all the film was burned. I have reels of 16mm film with Bill Tush doing interviews.

  10. Ashley Alsup says:

    My dad is Al Alsup, the man in the middle of Sid and Marty photo. He was the president of the World of Sid and Marty Krofft, and the park was his dream. It’s no minor exaggeration to say that he was crushed by its failure. My brother and I were little kids when it opened and enjoyed every moment of the trippy 70s experience. It was far more imaginative (but perhaps less thrilling) than any other theme park we had gone to before or since. On the day it closed, my mother pulled us out of school and let us go one more time. My dad played it safe with his career after it closed. In his mind, he had flown too close to the sun.

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