Friday, April 14, 2000 | 10:48 a.m.
Ocean Spray Cranberries said Thursday it will close its Cranberry World West tourist attraction in Henderson after five years of operation.
The attraction's 12 full-time employees were notified of the closure Thursday. The last day of operation will be April 20.
"This facility (Cranberry World West) did not generate any revenue, and it (the closure) was a corporate decision geared to utilizing our revenues as best as possible," said plant manager Doug Reifsteck.
"I want to emphasize that this in no way affects our manufacturing and distribution facilities here. We employ 180 people at our plant, and this move has no affect on that operation."
Reifsteck said laid off employees will receive transitional assistance and could be eligible for other positions in the manufacturing plant.
Located adjacent to the Ocean Spray plant at 1301 American Pacific Drive, the free attraction drew about 250,000 visitors a year and more than 1 million visitors since its 1995 opening.
Cranberry World West featured information on cranberry production, a view of the manufacturing plant and free samples for visitors.
In a statement, Ocean Spray Chief Executive Officer Robert Hawthorne said this is "a move to pare costs at a time of changing priorities."
He said despite the visitor center's popularity, attendance was down as of late.
"The resources associated with increasing that attendance could not be justified," he said.
In recent months, Ocean Spray reported financial difficulties resulting from a glut in the cranberry market.
Still, Reifsteck said Ocean Spray recently invested $6 million in infrastructure at its 210,000-square-foot Henderson plant.
"This plant services all of the Western United States and Canada and is of critical importance to our company," he said.
Reifsteck said the company had no plans to reduce Henderson's manufacturing workforce.
The cooperative, owned by its 900 growers, produces about half the cranberry juice sold in the United States.
Officials from the city of Henderson say they regretted the attraction's closure.
"This is a real loss for school children from across the Valley who frequently visited the site," said Henderson spokeswoman Vicki Taylor.
"It's also been a popular attraction for visitors to the Valley. It was a really great attraction and we will miss it, but we understand the economic reasons behind the move."