The amazing story of the biggest bust in theme park history

September 9, 2019, 12:31 PM · What is the one theme park you most wish you could have visited... but now it's too late?

Since theme parks are multi-million (and sometimes, multi-billion) dollar capital investments, the companies that own them tend to perform exacting market research before opening them. That's why major theme parks stick around for decades. But a few parks don't pass the test of time and close before some of the fans who had wished to visit took advantage of that chance.

I have been fortunate to visit several parks that are now closed, including Busch Gardens Los Angeles, Marineland of the Pacific, Opryland, and Boardwalk and Baseball. (I never got to Hard Rock Park, but several Theme Park Insider readers did, during its soft opening, official opening, and after its close.) But the park I really, really, really wanted to visit as a kid closed before I could talk my parents into planning a trip — The World of Sid and Marty Krofft.

Our friend Dave Cobb shares an obsession with this Saturday morning TV-themed indoor park that stood in what is now the CNN Center in Atlanta, and he recently posted a link to a video that showed more detail from inside the park than I've seen before.

The World of Sid and Marty Krofft lasted just six months in 1976. The brothers had created some of the most wildly imaginative shows on Saturday morning television, including H.R. Pufnstuf, Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, Land of the Lost, and Electra Woman and Dyna Girl. But the park really needed a Buzz Price to do a better feasibility study than it got. Located in downtown Atlanta at a time when that was, well... not exactly a desirable tourist destination, the park did not offer enough entertainment for the price in comparison with Six Flags Over Georgia, just outside the city, or even the new Walt Disney World that was luring tourists down the road to Central Florida.

Watching the video, The World of Sid and Marty Krofft looks kind of lame compared with today's world-class indoor theme parks, including Warner Bros. World and Ferrari World. It makes me wonder what I had seen in this park and why I wanted to visit it so badly.

But then I remember that, for 1976, what The World of Sid and Marty Krofft offered was amazing, and it's no wonder why the park inspired so many Gen-Xers. A dark ride through a pinball machine? Hell yeah! To me, that The World of Sid and Marty Krofft closed after just six months, despite the power of its brand and all that national TV exposure, makes it the biggest bust in industry history.

Who knows what could have happened had the Kroffts chosen to work with another developer or built their park in a different location? It might be hard for younger readers to imagine, but in 1976 "Krofft" absolutely was a bigger name than Disney in family entertainment. Would the Kroffts own half of Hollywood now, as Disney does, had they had a Buzz Price guiding them at their moment of opportunity, as Walt Disney did? Again, who knows? But it says something about what the Kroffts accomplished that they continue to inspire thoughts like that from their fans, even today.

If you would like to visit the site of The World of Sid and Marty Krofft — CNN Center — today, its tour is part of the Atlanta CityPass, which also includes admission to the Georgia Aquarium and World of Coca-Cola.

In the comments, please tell us which now-dead theme park you most wish you could have visited.

Replies (17)

September 9, 2019 at 1:05 PM

Luna Park/Steeplechase/Dreamland circa 1910.

September 9, 2019 at 1:10 PM

Fascinating. I remember the dark ride they built at Six Flags as a kid, but had no idea this park ever existed.

September 9, 2019 at 2:23 PM

As a Sea World fan, without a doubt my pick for this is Sea World Ohio. As a really young lad in the 90's I always found it curious how there was that one Sea World up north. The three others were almost evenly split across the southern part of the country but you had that one up in Ohio.

Honorable mention to Hard Rock Park in Myrtle Beach.

September 9, 2019 at 3:12 PM

Circus World, Ocean World, Parrot Jungle, Cypress Gardens, Pirates World, Six Gun Territory - all in Florida, 1960's-70's.

September 9, 2019 at 3:27 PM

Plenty of company for The World of Sid & Marty Krofft in the Graveyard of Lost Parks. MGM Grand Adventures in Las Vegas deserves a place on this tally, as does Marco Polo Park and Pacifc Ocean Park and Freedomland U.S.A. and, of course, the aforementioned Hard Rock Park- and that is just in the U.S.A. with plenty more casualties abroad.
I did get to enjoy The World of Sid & Marty Krofft thanks to being in Atlanta that summer as a kid, as discussed in an earlier comment here when we were discussing Lionsgate Entertainment World in China calling itself the world's first "vertical " indoor theme park- since The World of Sid & Marty Krofft was in fact the first vertical indoor park....

September 9, 2019 at 3:41 PM

I don`t know if anyone remembers, but a park opened -- and closed within a year -- in Orlando a few years ago. No, I don`t remember the name of the place, nor did I visit. Maybe the biggest question: how on earth did they think they were going to compete with WDW and Universal?

This isn`t a theme park, but I did get to visit the Star Trek Experience in Vegas before it closed. It was the closest thing to a Star Trek theme park that we`re likely to get.

September 9, 2019 at 3:47 PM

Epcot Center.

The real one.

September 9, 2019 at 4:40 PM

I lived in Athens, Georgia at the time. We were supose to make a trip to Atlanta to visit The World of Sid and Marty Krofft during the Thanksgiving holidays. That trip never happened. I was so disapointed. I still am. I do remember seeing the H.R. Puffinstuff characters at SFOG as a kid and attending the S&MK puppet show in the park. Such a shame it didn't work out.

September 9, 2019 at 10:35 PM

This video is such a great find. Also on Dave Cobb's FB post is a clip (in the comments) of a movie that used the location for one scene.
I loved those shows. Saturday mornings used to be so great. That would have been a fun place to visit.
I miss the Japanese Deer Park that we had in Buena Park near Knott's. We went there a few times.

September 9, 2019 at 11:24 PM

"Since theme parks are multi-million (and sometimes, multi-billion) dollar capital investments, the companies that own them tend to perform exacting market research before opening them."

So what was the exacting market research before opening Galaxy's Edge? People prefer the new trilogy over the old? People want to live their own Star Wars adventure? People want more immersion and interactivity? People would go to a planet they never heard of before? People will pay $200 for a lightsaber experience? That's what makes it a head scratcher...

I can see Disney wanting to equal or top Harry Potter on immersion, and thinking that the trend is more interactivity, but some people don't want to 'work' while on vacation, they would rather be passive observers and soak up the experience.

The reason Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland is still popular is that it gives the passive observer a great experience. The Millenium Falcon ride makes you work, and on top of that, the outcome is usually poor, making you feel kind of down, rather than exhilarated.

When I do poorly on a video game, I want to play it again to hopefully improve my score, but with MFSR you're at the mercy of the other crew members in the cockpit. Hondo Ohnaka at the end kind of lets you down softly, but the message is still that you messed up. Not exactly a fist bump moment when you exit.

In addition to that, when you have to search for the flashing buttons to push, you're missing the visual action outside the cockpit. Overall a mixed experience.

September 10, 2019 at 8:31 PM

Fantasyland in Gettysburg, PA - As a kid of the 70s, it was a pretty awesome park.

Six Flags - The Power Plant in Baltimore Md, another indoor marvel that didn't market itself well and ceased to exist within 2 years.

September 10, 2019 at 9:30 AM

I don't know if there are too many defunct parks that I never had a chance to visit. I made it to Hard Rock Park, though I would have liked to have gone back for a second visit even after it became Freestyle Music Park. I went to Opryland USA, Boardwalk and Baseball, and Power Plant on various high school trips. I also visited Sea World Ohio under all its different configurations and owners (including Six Flags Worlds of Adventure and Geauga Lake).

While I watched Land of the Lost as a kid, I think I missed out on the peak popularity of Sid and Marty Crofft, so really didn't have any desire to see their park in Atlanta. However, I have done the CNN tour a couple of times.

I guess given today's climate, I think I would want to visit the newer theme parks in the Middle East before they disappear, because I doubt any of them will survive more than another 3-5 years. It's probably unlikely I will ever make it to them, but if I had to craft a bucket list, those would be near the top since I feel that the more classic theme/amusement parks in Europe and Asia will still be open decades from now.

September 10, 2019 at 1:05 PM

Hard Rock Park did sound like something truly special. Shame that they had way too lofty attendance projections.

September 11, 2019 at 1:06 PM

Thanks Robert. Really enjoyed this feature. Having lived in ATL since the early 80s, I knew of this park but did not understand what it had to offer. I just assumed it was a collection of flats and maybe a small coaster within that space. For better or worse, Six Flags is the only game in town other than a few small other venues.

I did visit Boardwalk and Baseball during a high school trip back in '82. Don't remember much about it other than a decent wooden coaster and a spinning flat ride that one of my classmates kept riding repeatedly.

September 11, 2019 at 5:34 PM

H R Pufnstug at 6FOG was where I first noticed the mesh that allowed vision. I can't imagine any show as weird as Lidsville. The only extinct park I can recall visiting in my own history is Astroworld.

September 12, 2019 at 3:39 PM

Have always been disappointed that I did not get to visit this park. Had several business trips to Atlanta but never had time to visit until it was too late. The other total bust of a park would be "Auto World" in Flint Michigan. I watched it being built and did visit it. They hired Six Flags to manage it but I predicted it would only last a year. I was an optimist, Six Flags cancelled their contract and the attraction closed in six months.

Other closed attractions I visited included Cyprus Gardens, Circus World, and Six Gun Territory in Florida. Also an indoor park outside Chicago that I can't remember the name of.

Going back in time of course are the old amusement parks that existed prior to the theme park era. I grew up at Euclid Beach in Cleveland and then Riverview Park in Chicago.

September 12, 2019 at 4:08 PM

Someone should steal the idea of a dark ride inside a pinball machine. Seriously, that was a genius idea, and imagine what a park could do with that, with today`s tech and a higher budget...

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