Friday, March 14, 2003

SpongeBob ride opens in May

Kings Island visitors can go 'under the sea' in 3-D

By Erica Solvig
The Cincinnati Enquirer

MASON - The first 3-D movie ride based on the popular sea sponge who lives in an underwater pineapple will open at all Paramount parks - including Kings Island - this year, officials announced Thursday.

In "SpongeBob SquarePants 3-D," viewing goggles and moving seats transport guests into the animated character's undersea hometown, Bikini Bottom. There, they'll be among the new fry cooks at SpongeBob's workplace, the Krusty Krab, trying to create the ultimate Krabby Patty.

"SpongeBob actually pulls you into his world," said park spokesman Jeffrey Siebert. "It literally is a 3-D version of an episode."

The attraction opens in the Paramount Action FX Theater May 10 - about one month after Kings Island's April 12 opening day.

Nickelodeon's SpongeBob SquarePants - a square yellow sea sponge who lives in the Pacific Ocean - premiered in 1999, and has been the highest-rated show among children ages 2-11 for six straight quarters, according to the cable network. It attracts more than 51 million viewers a month, and about 30 percent of its audience is adults.

"SpongeBob has a huge crossover appeal," Siebert said. Park officials had been hinting that another attraction was in the works since they announced the two other attractions that open this season.

Delirium is a multimillion-dollar thrill ride that sends 50 outward-facing passengers spinning on a continuous ring. Scooby-Doo and the Haunted Castle is an interactive ride in which visitors travel on Mini Mystery Machines through graveyards and dungeons to solve a mystery of a haunting green ghoul.

The 5-minute SpongeBob film will be played in Paramount Action FX Theater. The last 3-D simulated ride there, 7th Portal, was open for two seasons, Siebert said.

SpongeBob is produced by Paramount Parks Design and Entertainment in North Carolina and Blur Studios in California.

In the last five years, 3-D rides have been some of the amusement park industry's most popular attractions, according to Dennis Speigel, president of Cincinnati-based International Theme Park Services.

More than that, the self-proclaimed SpongeBob fan said the character's appeal to all ages will boost the ride's popularity.

"I love SpongeBob - we were all on the couch the other night watching it," said Speigel of his four grandchildren, infant to teen. "I'll be one of the first to ride it."


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