Phoenix Seagaia: Look on my works, ye Mighty

Heading north out of the eponymous prefectural capital of Miyazaki, the traveler soon finds the flotsam of modern life giving way to a more manicured world, one of trim box hedges, pansied plant troughs, and sedately whispering pines. Then from out of nowhere, there it looms, the loneliest skyscraper on earth.

 

Skyscrapers are by nature gregarious animals, to be found in dense hordes in city centers, in tight packs around the watering holes of international airports, and in majestic ranks along the beaches of a Benidorm or an Acapulco. They are even known to breed in small numbers in that most inhospitable of habitats, the antique European capital. But this skyscraper had been expelled from the herd and condemned to eternal exile in a prison of pines. 

For a decade after it was topped out in 1994, the 154m, 45 storey Sheraton Grande Ocean Resort—as it is now known—was the tallest building between Osaka and Taipei. It remains the tallest building in Japan west of Hiroshima and its nearest 100m plus companion is 150km to the north, in Oita. What a lonesome existence it must be, the life of a solitary skyscraper. 

At the Sheraton reception, it took several hundred keystrokes, a couple of phone calls, and a quarter of an hour to summon up the price of a single. “Y19,200,” (about $230) was the oddly precise answer. “Fine.” Picking up a resort map (“let’s design the you from tomorrow”, it said in Japanese), I made it to the 12th floor room in time to capture a Seagaia sunset, the lone and level pines stretching far away. 

 

The unfunny pun and bloky jokiness of the message on the plastic wrapping on the bathroom sponge—“Get yourself all in a lather”—and the enormous condescension of the instructions—“Just add shower gel”—brought on a grimace, although with the words only in English and French (“Enrobez-vous de mousse”), the nuances of the patter would be fortunately lost on almost every guest. 

I made a beeline for the top-of-the-tower 42nd floor bar, Stella, to snatch a sundowner, but a sign declared that it was closed due to that most embracing of catch-alls, tsugo (“circumstances”). Turning tail, I headed for the first floor cocktail bar, Pacifica, and settled in on a sofa for the long haul. 

An Australian lounge bar duo, Kishh, were tuning up and threatening schmaltz. Was that a spelling mistake, I wondered to myself. Shouldn’t it have been Kitschh? While navigating the drinks menu for ways to keep the tab below $100, I pondered ways of escape, but there were no other bars left in which to hide. Teeth grated, I braced myself for the first set, which went like this:

Sheryl Crow, If it makes you happy

Toto, Georgy Porgy/Africa

Roberta Flack, Killing me softly with his song

Olivia Newton-John, Have you never been mellow

The Carpenters, Close to you

Abba, Chiquitita

Carole King, It’s too late 

They knew their audience, full credit for that. ONJ’s Have you never been mellow was a 1975 flop around the world but a hit here. The heavily tattooed Mandy and Michael joined me for a drink between sets. 

“I’ve heard Killing me softly before, you know.”

“Tell me about it,” Mandy guffawed. “Thing is, when people here latch on to something, they never let it go. I mean, Abba, Whitney Houston, The Carpenters. Imagine playing The Carpenters to anyone under 60 back home!”

“This is our fifth six-month contract at Seagaia,” Michael said. “We love it here—open your window and you’ve got a fresh breeze coming in off the sea. We’ve played all over Japan, Chiba-chuo, Narita, but this is the best.”

He let slip that Seagaia had been hit hard by the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease ravaging the prefecture, which had brought the shutters down on several eateries as well as “top bar” Stella.

“Tonight’s the busiest it’s been in months. This bar is the only place that’s making any money, apart from the breakfast restaurant.”

“Any requests”, asked Mandy as they prepared to take the stage for their second set.

“Got any Motorhead?” 

It turned into a lively enough Saturday night: a woman in tight denim shorts for which, despite her lithe figure, she was a touch too old, partied like it was 1989, dancing on a tabletop as if the Bubble had never popped. A party of minor-league rock stars and their groupies swilled champagne and guzzled cocktails at the table next door. Eventually one of their number asked drunken unsociable me in fractured English where I was from. I played my cruelest card. “I’m from the UK.” So simple yet so devastating, it floors the enquirer every time.

With all respect to the charming and competent Mandy and Michael, when Seagaia opened it was able to attract a different league of celebrity: Sting played the opening night concert on October 31, 1994. He also recorded a couple of TV commercials for Seagaia, ones that a definitely older and perhaps wiser Gordon Sumner almost certainly doesn’t want you to see today.

“OK Miyadzaki, let’s go,” exclaims the prickingly monikered one as he leaves his palatial country estate to his tune, Take me to the sunshine, written specifically for Seagaia, as the voiceover intones, “Our first guest is Sting. A resort of sun has been born. Miyazaki Seagaia.” 

In the second, a sleep refreshed Sting throws open his windows with a hale “Good morning, Seagaia,” to the chords of When we dance. The narrator continues, “A place abounding in sea, wide open spaces, and sun. Book now and relax big time. Miyazaki Seagaia, a global resort of sun,” leaving Sting to sign off with “Miyadzaki, I love it!” 

Dubiously reliable muckraking hack Christopher Sandford reports that Sting was paid around £500,000 for the Seagaia deal, which if true, works out to almost £50,000 a word, two out of the eleven of which he cheerfully mangles. (Although it is not beyond the realms of chance that he was told to mangle them, for that deftly clunky foreign touch.) 

There’s a national penchant for counting things in trios, the “Three Greats” (三大). Wikipedia lists 242 examples, ranging from the familiar, such as the three great gardens or the three great night views and the now obscure, such as the three great brushes of the Kan’ei era (1624-1643) and the three great centers of child kabuki actors, to the prosaic, such as the three great garbage bands (you read that right) of Kanto and the three great centers of seven-flavored pepper condiments. 

There is no listing, however, for the Three Great Structural Legacies of the Bubble (三大バブルの構造物遺産). With so much competition, one of the three is tricky to pick: could it be the absurd 158m Play Park Gold Tower in the tiny town of Utazu on the Inland Sea, with its gold throne and gold toilet slippers, the ridiculous recreation of a French chateau in the heart of Tokyo, Taillevent Robuchon, or the risible mock-medieval Hotel Kawakyu on the remotest tip of the Kii Peninsula? Two are shoo-ins, however: Dutch theme park Huis ten Bosch and Seagaia.

Desperate to regain the tourist luster it had lost since its days in the limelight as the locus of the honeymoon boom of the 1960s, the Miyazaki prefectural and city governments, spearheaded by six-term (1979-2003) governor Suketaka Matsukata (1918-2007), teamed up in 1988 with local travel and leisure firm Phoenix International Tourism and its president, Muneyoshi Sato (1919-), to begin planning Seagaia, the very first project approved under the notorious Resort Law of 1987, which offered tax breaks, flexible approval procedures, and—disastrously—easy financing from state-backed banks to resort plans that met with the blessing of the government.     

A prime spot on the coast north of Miyazaki was selected and 135 hectares (335 acres) of state-owned pine forest that had been planted as a windbreak on the sandy shores before the war was sold to the Phoenix Resort Group at a knock-down price. Garlanded modernist architect Yoshinobu Ashihara (1918-2003) drew up the plans, and with an initial budget of Y80bn (about $1.1bn at the time), construction of Seagaia—which for starters necessitated the uprooting of 100,000 pines—got underway in 1989. 

The sheer scale and audacity of the vision was—and remains—breathtaking: in addition to the centerpiece hotel, Ocean 45, which was to become the Sheraton, Seagaia was finally to be graced with three other hotel complexes, two 18-hole country clubs, a golf academy, a tennis club, an onsen, a spa, a marina, a bowling alley, a zoo, a world-class convention center, and last but very much not least, Ocean Dome. 

When it opened in advance of Ocean 45 in July 1993, Ocean Dome was a repository of superlatives: the world’s largest indoor pool, with a 140m long beach, featuring the world’s largest retractable dome, at 300m by 100m, and the world’s largest and most sophisticated wave-making equipment. The real beach was only 500m away, but how could cantankerous reality compete with the seductions of the hyperreal, a temperature-controlled, Caribbean-themed paradise where the water was maintained at a constant 28°c and the air at 30°c, where the “sea” had been purged of its saltiness and there were surf juggler shows, synchronized swimming spectaculars, and amusement arcades to keep boredom at bay? Mere sand, so humdrum, could not have been expected to satisfy the dictates of the hyperreal, although it could have been sourced from anywhere; instead, the beach was made of marble, imported from China and crushed to powder. 

Ocean Dome reached the apex of the hyperreal when the wave machines were cranked up and stoner surfer dudes were given free rein to frolic. Pinch yourself sporadically as you watch the following to recall that it all plays out indoors.

By the time Seagaia opened to the strains of Sting, the bill had spiraled north of Y200bn ($2.5bn) and it needed 5mn visitors a year—nearly 15,000 a day—to break even. At first, the planes to Miyazaki were crowded with pilgrims, but the prices were prohibitive: admission to Ocean Dome cost Y4,200 ($50) for an adult, more than Tokyo Disneyland, and a two-night trip for a family of four could easily eat up Y400,000 ($5,000). Not much support could come from the locals, either, in Japan’s poorest mainland prefecture, and from the outset Seagaia was losing around Y20bn ($250mn) a year. In February 2001, Seagaia collapsed under the weight of an accumulated Y326bn (nearly $4bn) in liabilities. The press conference following the bankruptcy filing was a battle of the octogenarians, with the businessman Sato (81) heaping the blame on himself and the governor Matsukata (83) washing his hands of all responsibility. 

The notoriety of Seagaia was now such that only foreigners were to be found sniffing around its corpse, and in June 2001 it was sold for just Y16.2bn ($200mn) to US private equity outfit Ripplewood Holdings, whose founder and CEO Tim Collins claimed the price was “reasonable”. Ripplewood set about restructuring: one of the early victims, in December 2002, was the Tom Watson golf course. 

 

Down to the last purple swirl on the carpet, the clubhouse interior was an insect preserved in amber.

 

Colors at the Seagaia Tennis Club had been bleached and washed out. Depth of perspective had been drained from the scene, like a David Hockney painting of California.

 

Ocean Dome first shut its doors from October 2002 until the following summer, before closing for good in September 2007. In December 2009, Ripplewood offered it to the city and the prefecture for free, but in August 2010 they spurned the offer, citing the crippling expense of maintenance and repair. 

Is there anything more sinister, I asked myself, than an abandoned multistory car park?

 

Yes, plenty, came the answer swiftly: a bank of vending machines was still dispensing drinks to no one at all. Then there was the bus parking lot, which had been taken over by the prefectural riot police.

  

Were they expecting an outbreak of mutinous assembly and disorderly conduct at the 19th hole?

Ocean Dome was a stupendous structure by any measure, a geometrician’s heaven and a photographer’s dream. In marvel I wandered past its vast and trunkless legs of stone and sauntered round the decay of its colossal wreck.

Back at the Sheraton, the aerial approach road struck me as the embodiment in concrete of an elephant in white.

 

Few conferences have gathered at the World Convention Center, with its main hall able to hold 5,000 people, since a G8 summit in 2000; this Sunday, it was largely given over to wedding ceremonies.   

 

The aesthetic spirit of Seagaia is that of the country club and the golf course, of palm and pine and gin and Jag, of Beverly Hills and the Home Counties, with a dash of Bauhaus Modernism and just a drizzle of Albert Speer.

The illusion of affluence conjured up by the Rolls-Royce is undercut by the building behind it, a hotel falling helplessly into ruin.

Ripplewood closed the Phoenix Sea-Side Hall in December 2001, giving nature ample time to go to work. Around the back, mossy pipes created lovely abstracts and a bicycle turned into a trellis.  

 

Frogs plopped into the pool on my approach and paint blistered painfully in the men’s washroom.

Bereft of the consolations of the hyperreal, holidaymakers now are forced to deal with the inconveniences of the real. Down by the sea, a lifeguard hosed down a rubber ring while a lady with parasol stepped out of a 19th century watercolor of the beach at Deauville.

Ripplewood CEO Tim Collins may be ruing the day he struck the Seagaia deal: it took until the year to March 2007 to turn an operating profit and until the year to March 2010 to turn the bottom line black, with Seagaia reporting net profit of a measly Y500mn ($6mn) on sales of Y11.2bn ($135mn), down 8.9% from the previous year due to an aggressive discounting campaign. 

The strategy, fraught with geopolitical risk, is to lure visitors from the Sinosphere, above all China. It’s hard to see what the appeal might be, though: while the Seagaia Sheraton is one of seven Sheratons in Japan, with no more planned, there are already 29 in China, many in resorts, and there will be 55 by the end of 2013. Why pay the premium to venture overseas only to struggle with a strange tongue and funny foreign food? 

The one thing that might have saved Seagaia is a casino, but debate on casino legalization has been dragging on for decades with no end in sight, stymied by the vested interests of the pachinko industry and the legislators in their pockets. My guess is that Seagaia will stagger on for a decade or two and that centuries hence, a hunter in pursuit of deer amid the pines will stumble on some fragments huge, and pause to wonder:

“What powerful but unrecorded race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place.”

38 responses to “Phoenix Seagaia: Look on my works, ye Mighty

  1. What happened to the Ocean Dome itself? Could you enter?

    • Hi Juergen! If I could have entered easily, you would have seen the photos, believe me. I was as ever extremely pressed for time, but there was an intriguing sign on a door that suggested access might have been possible on application to the guardroom, wherever that was. We’ll just have to go down there together and bribe our way in.

  2. Seagaia! Being FOB in Tokyo in 1992, this was one of the first signs I got that there was something rotten in the State of Denmark . . .

    (and a college prof had lent me van Wolferen’s book beforehand, so I was fore-warned to some extent)

  3. Having never travelled to Miyazaki before, I had no idea this place existed (and is now a Sheraton, to boot).

    Thanks to your post, I now have a reason to go—even if I can’t surf indoors.

  4. Great post, great pics… I could go for some Carpenters right now though and I’m still under 60.

  5. What I find odd about this place in particular is that hundreds of thousands of Japanese still hit the beaches every year, abroad.

    Here in the States, the catch phrase over the last two summers has been”staycation.” In other words, getting away for a holiday, but not too far. Logically, because it didn’t take X number of hours of air travel and tens of thousands of yen in airfare to get there, Seagaia should have thrived as the economy turned down.

    • Fair enough questions, indeed. I don’t have the data to hand, but I suspect you’ll find that even, say, the cheapest two-night package at Seagaia is going to be pricier than one on Guam or Saipan or Bali, and probably comparable to one on Hawaii. And now there really is nowhere much to swim, nor even any pools worth speaking of to lounge around, at Seagaia.

  6. Those Seagaia commercials are so… wow. Both funny and depressing at the same time.

  7. Apparently he did a concert there too:

    • Yes, that was the concert I referred to in the post:
      “With all respect to the charming and competent Mandy and Michael, when Seagaia opened it was able to attract a different league of celebrity: Sting played the opening night concert on October 31, 1994.”
      Do try and keep up at the back of the class!
      Your next test is to find all the 19th century poetry references…

      • Ozymandias! both the Shelley version and the one by the other guy. It’s rare to see it applied so aptly to something so recent, so kudos for that. I dont think there are references to any other that I can tell at least.

      • Correct! The other guy was Horace Smith, Shelley’s friend and “manager”. But now have a go at finding all the other buried references to (both versions of) Ozymandias, aside from the title and the closing couplet.

        Just a little idle playing around on my part.

  8. Tragically superb as always. Keep it up.

  9. Fantastic – building an indoor beach only 500m away from the real thing…agreed that it’s one of the greatest follies of the Bubble.

    Have you been to see the Ushiku-daibutsu?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ushiku_Daibutsu

    That strikes me as one of the great バブルの構造物遺産…if not in the top three, then definitely in the top ten.

    • I haven’t ever seen the Ushiku Daibutsu, thank you for the link! So much to explore!
      I was probably a bit unfair on Ocean Dome (although I was trying to make it clear that I thought it was an extraordinary exercise in artifice). Most of the coast opposite Seagaia falls very quickly off into the deep and is beset by vicious riptides, with only the smallish inlet to the south that you see in the last couple of photos suited to bathing. That does of course make you wonder why the pine forests north of Miyazaki City were selected as resort territory in the first place. But ultimately you have to adore the exuberance of the Bubble – “No beach? No worries. We’ll build a beach better than nature can!”

  10. Great site, by the way.

    “. . . the cheapest two-night package at Seagaia is going to be pricier than one on Guam or Saipan or Bali, and probably comparable to one on Hawaii. And now there really is nowhere much to swim, nor even any pools worth speaking of to lounge around, at Seagaia.”

    Maybe when compared to Guam or Saipan, but I doubt you can fly to and stay in Bali or Hawaii for what the same stay would cost at Seagaia. And while the diving on Saipan is supposed to be great, Guam’s a dump, or at least was when I was there in the late ’90s. Supposedly all the best beaches are contained inside the U.S. bases there.

    And yes, an indoor beach was very much a head scratcher, unless you could guarantee sufficient guest from Fall to Spring. And that none of the outdoor pools have been maintained, which some people prefer to open water anyway, is idiotic to say the least.

  11. Too bad you can no longer visit the failed LaLaPort SSAWS indoor ski slope, which was demolished and replaced by an Ikea:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SSAWS

    If ever a place truly cried out for your chronicling, surely SSAWS did.

  12. Great post.

    I was down in Miyazaki on holiday during Obon. I was massively curious about Sea Gaia but didn’t get the chance to visit and had to content myself with viewing it from afar as I swam on the free real beach just up the road.

    You tantalizingly allude to Huis ten Bosch, which I hope you visited on your Kyushu jaunt and will be regaling us with stories and photos of in the near future.

  13. Thanks for taking us on this trip. We’ve got some white elephants around the US as well, including this one standing alone in a suburb of Washington DC:

    http://www.nlc.gov.cn/yjfw/tsg/usa/index.htm

    (Ironically, the best pix of the moribund Department of Agriculture library was on a Japanese web site.)

  14. Very entertaining! Especially the bits about Sting. I’m amazed the hotel is still going. The only reason I could come up with was the golf, and when I looked at the Japanese website, it gets prime billing. By the looks, its only the Tom Watson clubhouse that has closed, not the course itself. It now shares a clubhouse with another course. Though it is a massive embarrassment, I guess they can’t afford to knock the dome down. Maybe they should have a quick word with some Chinese scrapmen.

    The SSAWS indoor ski dome was pretty mad, but has since been superceded by that one in Dubai, the great rival to Japan in the insane building stakes. Possibly the best ski-related bubble relic though is ARAI MOUNTAIN & SPA, the capitals being their idea of course. An exclusive ski resort for the discerning and very monied skier built in what must be the most likely place in Japan to have whiteout blizzard conditions. Its up in Niigata, turning off the highway after Myoko, and after Nozawa Onsen, and after Shiga Kogen, in case convenience matters to any of the skiing public. There are three big hotels built around a central courtyard, I guess 60 by 60 meters, and heated to melt away all that nasty snow. It limped on, but closed in 2005.

    • “By the looks, its only the Tom Watson clubhouse that has closed, not the course itself. ”

      Correct. I didn’t make that clear, apologies. Ripplewood merged the two courses and closed the Tom Watson clubhouse.

      ARAI MOUNTAIN & SPA – Thank you so much for the tip!

  15. my in-laws are in Miyazaki, so we have been going there several times a year for over 15 years now. as a family, we went to the ocean dome only once…. one reason being the cost, and the other being that we are beach loving people and there are plenty of real free ones up and down the coast…

    there’s a ryokan in the family, been there for at least 3 generations and one of the sons, (my husbands cousin) spent time working at Seagaia to gain experience and to study hotel “stuff”….he is running the ryokan/onsen now , just outside Miyazaki…

    seagaia is a great landmark… we know we have arrived after our long drive across Kyushu when we see the tower from afar…the ocean dome was great fun in it’s heyday… crowded and tropical feeling…. great swimming and amazing waves…. surrounding pools and hot tubs and water slides and polynesian dancers….. great great fun.

    oh. Nagasaki is a Mitsubishi town and i think Mitsubishi had special deals on package tours and i know lots of people who took vacations at Seagaia at Mitsubishi rates….lucky ducks!!!
    can’t wait to see your post on Huis Ten Bosch….. before that, we had “Orlanda Mura” which you can still see rotting away on the road between Nagasaki and Sasebo…

  16. Great post. Strictly speaking, the 2000 G8 meeting there wasn’t a summit; the foreign ministers met in Miyazaki, and the leaders held their summit in Nago that year. Probably the last time the area was so hopping, though—I worked in the press center that year and the closest we could get a room was in some business hotel in the city center.

    • Fair point – I was overenthusiastic in my interpretation of the Seagaia brochure: “Made famous by the Kyushu-Okinawa G8 Summit 2000 Meeting of Foreign Ministers”. Guess it depends on your definition of “famous”… You wouldn’t have trouble getting a room at Seagaia now.

  17. I’m really looking forward to your HTB post. I’ve been holidaying there every year since 1997, it’s been very interesting (and sad) to see the changes since then.

  18. Thanks!

    Your reporting is excellent- loved the Speer comment-keep up the good
    work!

  19. While shopping for books this evening, I came across two volumes which I thought would be of interest to you and the readers of Spike Japan: Detroit Disassembled Photographs by Andrew Moore and Approaching Nowhere Photographs by Jeff Brouws. Both are large-format photo books with supporting notes illustrating the decline and abandonment of urban and rural life in North America. Each illustrates the end of an era in the 20th Century.

    As centre of the world’s automobile manufacturing in the early decades, Detroit built factories, hotels, concert halls department stores and housing to accommodate it’s industrial heart. Much of it now lies disused, crumbling and abandoned.

    In contrast, Approaching Nowhere captures the decline and failure of numerous small towns and rural life. Empty buildings fall down or, more likely, are blown down by the harsh winter winds of the Great Plains. Post-war motels, diners and strip malls have stopped delivering on the promise that they are the future.

    Whether Seagia or some lonely love hotel in Aichi, these books show that future can be surprising, disturbing and exciting.

  20. Enjoy the blog as always.

    You seem to be the sort who prefers to explore on your own, but if you would like a guide if and when you go to Arai, I’m very close and have been up there while it was operating and after. For those interested in other aspects of bubbledom, unfortunately you can no longer continue over the pass to see where the Aum minions buried the remains of the lawyer Sakamoto, even on foot, due to a landslip.

    • Thank you for the invite, but to be honest I’m not even sure where “Arai” is, excuse my ignorance. Perhaps you could enlighten me.

      • Apologies for not threading my reply in with Stew’s comment of 13 October above. Arai Mountain and Spa is in Myoko City in Niigata.

  21. Looking forward to your post on Huis Te Bosch. In the meantime, it seems that the Chinese may be coming to the rescue of a Dutch theme park in Japan:

    Huis Ten Bosch logs 1st net profit since 1992 opening

    SASEBO, Japan, Dec. 24 Kyodo – Struggling theme park Huis Ten Bosch in Nagasaki Prefecture has recorded its first-ever net profit since its opening in 1992 in the first half of fiscal 2010, the first year of rehabilitation led by travel agency H.I.S. Co.
    The theme park in Sasebo, which replicates a 17th century Dutch townscape, recorded sales of 5.5 billion yen and chalked up a net profit of 400 million yen for the April-September period, the facility’s operator said Wednesday.
    Visitors totaled 866,000, up 17.3 percent from the same period last year. Of these, 140,000 were from abroad.
    The theme park filed for bankruptcy protection from creditors in 2003 and it started rehabilitation under the aegis of H.I.S. this fiscal year.
    Hideo Sawada, president of Huis Ten Bosch Co. and chairman of H.I.S., said in a press conference Wednesday that a ferry service will begin around July next year connecting the port of Nagasaki with Shanghai to attract more Chinese visitors.

    • I’m working on it, I really am, although please be prepared for some odd diversions into the 17th century. And yes, I’m fully aware of the HIS boasts. I can’t help but feel HtB is too gargantuan a monster not to devour HIS in the end.
      Now you remind me that I *still* haven’t watched “A Story of Love and Hate” yet. Off in search.

  22. Really great read, especially having lived in Kyushu for 7 years and having seen many of these places first hand. Really impressed with the research.

  23. Great stuff. I had the good fortune to go to Seagaia in 1994, shortly after the Sting concert — the buzz was still in the air. The surfing waves full of the first generation of Japanese Hipster surfers — the life guards still wearing those “all too small” bathing suits that showed the tops of their butts, the girls still awkwardly wearing Hermes bikini’s — the bubble was gone, but not forgotten. I think I was most amazed by the black marble changing rooms. When I asked my Japanese friend why the marble, he said “We are so busy, it is nice to be able to wear a suit or nice shoes to the beach and feel like we are in a nice club. Not a place full of messy sand.” Got it, nature re-interpreted. Even the hotel concierge I questioned at the time — he chuckled at the irony of a the beach right next to the dome — knew the place was destined to be a failure. When I groused at the price, he comped us, agreeing that there was no way they would have enough traffic.

    • Would have loved to have seen Ocean Dome in its heyday, would love to go back and bribe the ghosts of the concierges to let me see the black marble changing rooms. Ocean Dome must be a huge headache for Ripplewood – too expensive to reopen, too expensive (in many ways) to demolish, too expensive (in many ways) to leave rotting as it is. Now the life guards have to make do with humdrum grey sand, concrete pier and bulwark reality and the bikinis come from Aeon or Ito-Yokado.

  24. Indoor ski hills and wave pools are a sure sign to get your money OUT!

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