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Walt Disney to Close Chicago DisneyQuest

Entertainment: Poor financial results lead to closing of arcade-theme park and loss of 270 jobs.

July 07, 2001|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Walt Disney Co. said Friday that it will close its DisneyQuest arcade-theme park in Chicago at the end of the summer after two years of poor financial results.

About 270 jobs will be eliminated when the venue closes Sept. 4, said Disney spokeswoman Leslie Ferraro. More than 70% of the employees are part-time workers, she said, and some of the park's staff may be hired by other Disney operations.

Disney said last year that it wouldn't build any more of the brand-name indoor theme parks. The other DisneyQuest, part of the company's resort in Orlando, Fla., will remain open.

Although tourist foot traffic provided an audience for the 3-year-old Orlando venue, downtown Chicago proved a hostile climate for a stand-alone DisneyQuest. The venues offer unique virtual-reality games and cater to young adults and families.

"We have concluded that the expected returns on the investment required to achieve DisneyQuest's cutting-edge technology standard in a stand-alone environment will not meet the company's financial requirements for this type of business," said Randall Baumberger, senior vice president of Disney Regional Entertainment.

Other upscale arcades have struggled to meet expectations as well. GameWorks, the arcade chain co-founded by Steven Spielberg, once intended to open 100 sites but was forced to retrench. GameWorks' stable of arcade-restaurants numbers fewer than 20 today, and the DreamWorks SKG studio, an early investor, pulled out in February.

Disney's 5-month-old California Adventure in Anaheim has managed to double its daily attendance in recent weeks using discounts and new attractions to fight a slowing economy and flagging consumer interest.

Cynthia Harriss, president of Disneyland Resort, told Bloomberg News that she's optimistic the current volume of traffic will hold up through the summer, based on the number of calls Disney's travel business is receiving.

Disney shares closed at $27.71, down 48 cents, on the New York Stock Exchange.

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Bloomberg News was used in compiling this report.

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