LONG BEACH — First there was a queen--as in Queen Mary, the fabled passenger liner now permanently moored as a tourist attraction in Long Beach Harbor. Then there was a goose--as in the Spruce Goose, billionaire Howard Hughes' mammoth flying machine that flew only once and is now on display next to the British steamship.
Now Wrather Port Properties Ltd., the organization that operates the two exhibits, is planning a new attraction--a ride aboard a time machine.
Unlike the contraption in H. G. Wells' science fiction classic, which hurled its operator through the centuries, this new gizmo will leave audiences firmly planted in the 1980s.
But the "Time Voyager" will be designed to simulate time travel, using high-tech audio and visual effects to give visitors the sensation of soaring thousands of years into the past and future.
To Be Built Under Dome
Joseph Prevratil, Wrather president, said the $2.5-million project is expected to be operating by summer, 1986. It will be built beneath the geodesic dome that houses the Spruce Goose.
Prevratil refused to comment further on the planned attraction, saying the details will be announced in a few weeks. News of the time machine slipped out while Prevratil was discussing his firm's performance during a Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce meeting.
Plans for the new attraction come at an opportune time. Attendance at the Queen Mary and Spruce Goose is expected to dip slightly this year--by about 100,000 from last year's record high of 1.6 million, Prevratil said. It costs $10.95 for a ticket that admits an adult to both attractions.
Prevratil said the drop was expected because some of the "newness" has worn off the Spruce Goose exhibit, which opened in May, 1983.
'2 Good Years'
"It's a typical fall-off after you've had two very good years," he said.
In 1982, attendance was 500,000 with just the Queen Mary, but it jumped to 1.4 million in 1983 when the Spruce Goose was added.
"In our business, every couple of years you have to add something new, and we have to do the same," Prevratil said.
Although patronage is expected to edge down this year, revenues have jumped because of increased souvenir sales, a rise in convention business and increased occupancy at the Queen Mary Hotel, Prevratil said.