Nickelodeon and Marriott plan child-friendly resorts

Times Staff Writer

Nickelodeon is teaming up with Marriott International Inc. on a chain of kid-friendly resort hotels that will feature elaborate water parks and live entertainment from SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer and other stars of the cable TV channel.

The first hotel, set to break ground in January and open in early 2010, will be a 650-room facility with a 100,000-square-foot water park in San Diego’s Liberty Station, former home of the Naval Training Center, Viacom Inc., which owns Nickelodeon, and Marriott said Thursday.

They said they expected to build 20 hotels in the United States and abroad by 2020.

For Nickelodeon, it’s a chance to extend its brands deeper into the resort industry, a process started two years ago with the opening of an Orlando, Fla., hotel, Nickelodeon Family Suites by Holiday Inn.


Nickelodeon has been using that property as a pilot for future growth, conducting extensive guest surveys and other research, said Howard Smith, senior vice president of Nickelodeon Recreation.

Smith said the new initiative was targeted at “the first Nickelodeon generation” -- that is, people who watched the network as children and are now having kids of their own.

Although disclosing no specifics on anticipated revenue, Smith called the deal “a pretty standard licensing arrangement” under which Nickelodeon would contribute its popular brands and marketing support and Marriott would manage the properties and provide marketing.

The hotels will be developed and owned by Miller Global Properties, developer of the Orlando hotel and a partner with Marriott in other ventures. Miller Global’s contract with Holiday Inn on the Orlando hotel expires in 2009, and the developer already has notified the hotel chain that it won’t be renewed.

Judy McGrath, chairwoman and chief executive of Viacom’s MTV Networks Inc., which oversees Nickelodeon, joked during a news conference Thursday that it would be a safe bet which way kids would vote if their parents gave them “a choice between SpongeBob SquarePants and another trip to Colonial Williamsburg.”