New Mall of America rides put an extra nick in your wallet

  • Article by: CURT BROWN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 12, 2008 - 10:32 AM

The soon-to-open Nickelodeon Universe at the park in the Mall of America.

Photo: David Brewster, Star Tribune

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Get ready to fork over megabucks at the megamall when six new rides start spinning Saturday, launching and whirling customers at the Mall of America's newly overhauled amusement park.

The price for an annual pass to the remodeled Nickelodeon Universe will be $250, compared with the old $99 yearly fee for those taller than 3-foot-11. An unlimited, one-day wristband will cost $29.95, up $5.

Mall spokesman Dan Jasper said it's the first hike in the annual pass price since the mall opened in 1992 -- back when the park was called Camp Snoopy -- and is needed to offset $25 million of improvements, with $6 million more in the plans.

Among the new rides are a SpongeBob SquarePants Rock Bottom Plunge that flings riders toward the mall's roof before dropping them on a roller-coaster ride.

The Avatar Airbender is a U-shaped wave with spinning seats on a swinging surf board. A Splat-o-Sphere launches people 60 feet in the air before bouncing them back down its tower.

And for the little ones, there are kid-friendly bumper cars, a Pineapple Popper bouncing room and a Blues' Skidoo that replaces the old Red Baron plane ride.

The new prices compare to Disneyland's $259 annual pass in California or the $245 Florida residents can pay for annual passes to Disney World in Orlando -- both of which black out prime holiday weeks. For a day visit, those parks cost more than twice the new rate at the Mall of America.

Valleyfair in Shakopee and Six Flags north of Chicago both charge about $100 for season passes and $40 and $55, respectively, for day passes at their seasonal, outdoor parks.

Tom Schmidt, a computer repairman from New Hope, said he's planning a summer trip to Disneyland -- and was shocked to hear about the hometown park's prices.

"The scale of Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure and our local park are night and day," said Schmidt, father of a 7-year-old girl, "and to price them in similar ballparks, it's just ridiculous.

"Being a dad, and with the economy the way it is, I was just flabbergasted when I heard the new prices from another dad. I was like, 'Well, good God, you've got to be kidding me.'"

But a local spokesman for the 8,000-member American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) club says the increase is justified.

"All in all, it's priced at a good value if it's used as frequently as many will," said Kevin Schreiner, a Minneapolis postal payroll clerk and assistant regional representative for the organization of roller-coaster enthusiasts.

"I think with the expenditures they're putting into the park, and the amazing transformation that's taking place, you've got to pay for it somehow and bumping up prices is something that's going to happen."

Most ride packages are going up about 25 percent, too. For example, a single point will cost $1 instead of the old 80 cents. An 85-point package goes from $50 to $62.90 and a 50-point deal will now run $44.10 instead of the old $35.

Jasper said the new annual passes "pay for themselves" if you go to the park eight times a year.

"Real enthusiasts go once a month, so there's value if you really use the park," he said. "We had to make decisions in order to make it a possibility, and this is what we came up with."

Curt Brown • 612-673-4767

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