The new year marks an exciting one for the coaster industry, but it also marks the end of an era for Space World in Japan. Opening in 1990, the park remained a prominent stop for Japanese coaster trips, heralding 6 roller coasters at its time of closing, making it one of the largest parks in Japan.
Built on the site of a steel yard, its owner, Nippon Steel, decided to build the park as a way to recuperate from a decline in Japan's steel industry. The park would take its theme of space to the max, and constructed an elaborate entrance that encompassed a train station, multiple space themed attractions, and a museum about space endorsed by NASA.
In 1994, the park would add its headliner roller coaster. The 166 foot tall beast was named "Titan". Built by Arrow Dynamics, it opened as Japan's 3rd tallest roller coaster, and received great reviews. Space World subsequently added more attractions to the park, including dark rides, water rides, and a 330 foot tall ferris wheel, another milestone at the time.
In 1996, Venus GP was added. This would be the park's first looping roller coaster, and was built along with a full scale model of the Discovery space ship. By 1997, the park became a hit with locals, peaking with nearly 2.2 million visitors.
As the internet was not large at the time, and trips to Japan were uncommon for amusement park enthusiasts, Space World was not well heard of overseas. Nonetheless, attendance held steady, and fans of the park loved its novelty and quirky space theming. The park would go without adding another roller coaster for almost 10 years.
2006 marked the debut of Zaturn, an Intamin accelerator roller coaster that would be the first launched roller coaster for the park. This roller coaster also became the tallest and fastest in the park.
Once again, Space World was well off and would not add a roller coaster by their closing. This also marked a major decline in the park's image and attendance. With other parks opening around Japan, and rapidly expanding, Space World began to become outdated. Save for Zaturn, no other roller coasters were constructed in the 2000s at the park. The park did not have a large amount of space for expansion, and the owners felt that attendance was good enough to avoid buying larger attractions.
Rides weren't necessarily falling into disrepair, but were in need of refurbishments, paint, and upgrades to keep up with the times. Meanwhile, parks like Tokyo Disney, Universal Japan, Nagashima Spaland, and Fuji-Q Highland would be expanding their ride collections.
This combined with a changing Japanese demographic would begin to be the end for the park. In its last years of operation, Space World did not add any new attractions. Controversy loomed the park in October of 2016 when an ice rink embedded with over 5,000 dead fish caught bad publicity and was shut down by the park. While the intention was to make a unique skating surface, and hopefully gain some attention, only bad attention would prevail as locals were outraged. The rink was closed, and shortly after it was announced that 2017 would be the park's final year.
No reason was given for the park's demise, but consistently declining attendance is likely the largest factor. The owners of the park see the land as more profitable in the long run than the park. Some of the park's attractions including Venus and Zaturn were listed for sale.
On it's final day of operation, the park celebrated Space World's history with a massive fireworks display, sending Venus' train around with lit sparklers, and the naming of a constellation after the park.
The fate of the salvageable attractions is still unknown, but some rides such as Titan and the water rides will likely be scrapped due to complexities with dismantling them. Space World will be remembered as a quirky, unique park, and will be the first defunct item to join the site's graveyard.