Nickelodeon Strikes Deal for Attraction in China

'SpongeBob SquarePants'

Facebook is supposed to be only for people over 13, but the kids' series about a porous, absorbent yellow sponge who lives in a pineapple under the sea has accrued more than 46.5 million Facebook fans, nearly a quarter of whom are based in the U.S.

The project, which will feature such characters as SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, will open by 2020 and cost an estimated $1.85 billion.

Viacom's Nickelodeon has struck a deal with two Chinese partners to open a "branded attraction" in Southern China by 2020.

The partners in the project in Sanshui New Town  which will be Nickelodeon's first branded attraction in China and is estimated to cost $1.85 billion (RMB11.9 billion)  are the Sanshui New Town Management Committee and Elite Global.

The attraction, which the partners also called a theme park in one reference in their Monday announcement, is set to be part of the Foshan Cultural and Ecological Coastal Project, which is set to bring cultural and other sectors, including tourism, sports, science and technology, to the city.

“We are thrilled we will develop our first branded attraction in China, which will open up further opportunities for our recreation business in Asia,” said Ron Johnson, executive vp, Nickelodeon and Viacom Consumer Products. "We look forward to working with Elite Global Group and Foshan to create a series of branded attractions that will appeal to kids and families across China, enabling them to connect with some of the most beloved Nickelodeon characters in the world, including SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles."

The partners said they plan to include in their development a China Cultural Creativity Base "committed to incorporating Chinese culture, stories and values into world-level works," a China Cultural Product & Derivative Exchange and energy-efficient buildings.

Nickelodeon's attractions and theme parks outside the U.S. include Nickelodeon Land at Pleasure Beach Blackpool in the U.K., Nickland at Movie Park Germany and Nickelodeon Land at Parque de Atracciones Madrid in Spain.

Several entertainment industry giants have previously unveiled plans for Chinese theme parks. Walt Disney is opening Shanghai Disneyland in 2016, and NBCUniversal is looking to open a Beijing park in 2019.