• Kyodo

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An amusement park in Fukuoka Prefecture that sparked a flood of criticism for inserting thousands of frozen fish into its ice skating rink said Friday it will close next year.

Space World in Kitakyushu closed the rink last month after people complained about the attraction, in which around 5,000 fish purchased from a market were embedded in the ice to give the impression of skating on the sea. An online rumor at the time claimed the fish had been frozen alive.

The theme park, which opened in April 1990 on an unused lot at the Yawata steelworks, did not specify why it has decided to close.

The park was getting 2.16 million visitors a year at its peak in fiscal 1997, but the number of visitors has dwindled recently.

“We will be closing on the last day of December 2017 for various reasons,” the park’s website said. “We thank you for your patronage for such a long time.”

Space World informed the Kitakyushu Municipal Government of its intent to close on Thursday, municipal officials said.

The city held talks the same day with Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp., which owns the land, about what to do with the 240,000-square-meter site.

NSSMC promised to seek a new tenant for the land, taking promotion of the local economy into consideration, the officials said.

Both Kitakyushu Mayor Kenji Kitahashi and Fukuoka Gov. Hiroshi Ogawa expressed concern about how the theme park’s closure will affect the local economy.

Space World “has led the tourism industry as a symbol of the city,” Kitahashi said in a statement. “It is truly regrettable,” he said.

Resort operator Kamori Kanko Co., based in Sapporo, is managing the theme park.

A subsidiary of what was then Nippon Steel Corp. filed for court protection from creditors in May 2005 and handed over the management rights to the park to Kamori Kanko in July that year.

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