Space World amusement park in Kitakyushu to close at end of 2017


The Space World amusement park in southwestern Japan will be closing at the end of 2017, its operator said Friday.

The park in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture, has seen a dwindling number of visitors despite the fact that it has been one of the key local tourist attractions.

Space World, which opened in April 1990 on an unused lot of the Yawata steelworks, had 2.16 million visitors at its peak in fiscal 1997 but the number has since been declining.

"We will be closing on the last day of December 2017 for various reasons," the park said on its website. "We thank you for your patronage for a long time."

Space World informed the Kitakyushu city government of its closure plan on Thursday, municipal officials said.

The city held talks the same day with Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp., the landowner of the facility, about future plans for the 240,000-square-meter site.

Nippon Steel promised to seek a tenant for the land taking the promotion of the local economy into consideration, the officials said.

Both Kitakyushu Mayor Kenji Kitahashi and Fukuoka Gov. Hiroshi Ogawa expressed concern about the closure's effect on the local economy.

Space World "has led the tourism industry as a symbol of the city," Kitahashi said in a statement. "It is truly regrettable," he said.

Resort operator Kamori Kanko Co. in Sapporo, northern Japan, has been running the theme park.

A subsidiary of Nippon Steel Corp., which is now Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal, filed for court protection from creditors in May 2005 and handed over the management rights of the park to Kamori Kanko in July that year.

The amusement park came under public scrutiny last month for its "frozen fish" stunt, in which its embedding of some 5,000 frozen fish under an ice skating rink drew a flood of criticism.

People complained the attraction was cruel and disgusting, and the operator was driven to close the ice rink.


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