National

Kitakyushu’s Space World draws early morning crowd for farewell party

Kyodo

Fans began lining up at 4 a.m. Sunday to enter Space World amusement park in Kitakyushu for its final day in business.

Attendance at Space World, which opened in April 1990, peaked at 2.16 million in fiscal 1997. But the gradual decline in business since then recently prompted its operator to close the park at the end of 2017, capping a 27-year run.

Parents and children were among those lined up at the gates before the park opened at 8 a.m. Shingo Aramaki, a 26-year-old graduate student from neighboring Yamaguchi Prefecture, showed up shortly before 4 a.m. with a group of friends.

Noting that Space World has been running for nearly as long he’s been alive, Aramaki recalled his best times at the park and said he wanted to give it once last spin.

“I had my coming-of-age ceremony here,” he said. “Although I regret that the park will be closed, I want to enjoy it fully today.”

A 60-meter replica of the space shuttle Discovery became the park’s symbol after it was built on an unused lot at the Yawata steel works by Nippon Steel Corp. The steel-maker, one of the predecessors of Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp., set up the amusement park in an attempt to diversify amid sluggish demand for steel at the time.

The amusement park was to host a New Year’s Eve fireworks display before officially closing at 2 a.m. Monday.