Toon gang will all be there at Marriott's Nick Resorts

First branded hotel to open in '10

Nickelodeon, Marriott International and real estate development company Miller Global Properties said Thursday that they are launching a global family hotel brand called Nickelodeon Resorts by Marriott.

The first hotel — filled with such favorite Nickelodeon characters as SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer and Diego — is set to open in early 2010 in San Diego, and plans call for 20 hotels around the world by 2020.

"We're here to unveil the next great chapter for Nickelodeon: connecting with kids and families everywhere," said Judy McGrath, chairman and CEO of MTV Networks, which operates Nickelodeon. "It's a terrific next step forward with a world-class partner for our booming recreation business."

Water parks will be the focal point of the hotels, where even the guest rooms and restaurants will be built with themes for kids in mind, said J.W. Marriott Jr., chairman and CEO of Marriott International.

"Besides being a great destination resort for families, we believe that these exciting properties will also attract younger adults and the young at heart," he said. "We expect these resorts to fill a very important segment of the marketplace, and we're very enthusiastic about the prospects for this new brand."

He said Miller Global will be the primary owner and developer of the hotels, which will be managed by Marriott.

Miller Global plans to seed an investment fund that is expected to initially provide $300 million of dedicated development equity capital. For its part, Nickelodeon will receive an undisclosed brand license fee for each hotel that is built.

The first Nickelodeon resort, designed by international architectural firm Gensler, will be a 650-room property built on an 18-acre property in the Liberty Station area of San Diego. Expecting to break ground in January, it will incorporate a 100,000-square-foot water park and activity deck complex featuring a variety of pools and interactive attractions.

Other locations are under consideration at family-oriented resort destinations in the U.S., the Caribbean, Mexico, the U.K., Europe, Asia, Australia and the Middle East.

"There's not a gadget or a screen where kids can't get to their best friends Dora, Diego, Drake & Josh, Neopets or the Naked Brothers Band," McGrath said. "And now they can share the good times with all of us on another frontier — the wildest adventure of them all — the family vacation."

Cyma Zarghami, president of Nickelodeon and MTVN Kids and Family Group, said that based on market research the network conducted with kids focus groups at Nickelodeon's pilot hotel — Nickelodeon Family Suites by Holiday Inn in Orlando — Nick realized that "bringing to life in physical manifestation the Nickelodeon brand and all of its fabulous attributes, which are playful and surprising and fun and kids first, was really an opportunity for us that we needed to make bigger. The first generation of Nickelodeon families will now have a place to go."