Netherworld will scare visitors for one final season in its longtime home in Norcross this fall before moving to Stone Mountain, owners Billy Messina and Ben Armstrong told the AJC. The new location, about 10 miles from its current one, will be bigger and will feature attractions like escape games in addition to the main haunted house.
"We started this in 1997 never expecting it to grow in the manner it has," Messina said. "So many people have said, 'I just want to let you know I have been coming here since (childhood) and now I’m bringing my kids.' That’s awesome."
This fall's final season in the current location will be sort of a "thank you, Norcross tour," he added. " There will be some nostalgia, a lot of excitement."
Gwinnett officials are thrilled they're staying in the county.
“Netherworld is a world-class haunted attraction. They are powerful marketers who have had an incredible economic impact in Gwinnett,” Nick Masino, Chief Economic Development Officer at Partnership Gwinnett, said in a statement. “After 20 years, their name and Gwinnett County have become synonymous and we knew it was important to keep them here. We are thrilled that this has been accomplished.”
“We are pleased and excited that Netherworld is relocating within the Evermore Community Improvement District of Gwinnett," added Evermore CID Executive Director Jim Brooks in a statement. "With the recreational history of Stone Mountain coupled with the fact that the Tennis Center is being removed, Netherworld will be the first new venue to change the face of the area. Ultimately, we are looking at creating an entertainment complex to give residents a higher quality of life within the district.”
The move has been in the works for quite some time. AJC reporter Tyler Estep has been keeping up with progress at the 9.5-acre site on West Park Place Boulevard, just south of U.S. 78 near Stone Mountain Park.
A report Estep filed in December noted that in planning documents, the new facility aimed at broadening its functions, including serving as a filming location and as an events venue. Here's a look at the plans filed with the county. As a super early sneak peek, the new location will unveil "Escape the Netherworld" games late this summer, even though the haunted house will serve out one last season in Norcross.
Although Netherworld has been a mostly seasonal event, running it is a year-long endeavor. The attraction maintains a permanent roster of between 12 and 20 employees, in addition to the 380 or so hired for Halloween duty. Those numbers are all likely to rise, and the Netherworld team is ready to welcome growing numbers of guests as well.
"Generally in a year we will have over 75,000 visitors," Armstrong said.
He and Messina are not only at work now on this fall's spook-fest (they have been for months, actually) - they're looking ahead at what the 2018 season will look like in their new home.
"It’s a fresh start," Armstrong said. "We grew over time into what we are. The plan is to take all those years of knowledge and shape (the new facility) to exactly what we want to do."
Hauling 20 years of costumes, props, animatronics, electrical gear and countless other items is going to be a challenge.
"I was working on inventory sheets the other day," Armstrong said. "I think I stopped at 18 pages."
The guys couldn't even estimate how much stuff there is to move.
"If we went by tonnage I can’t even imagine," Messina said. "It's going to be a back breaker."
But they're ready for the move - and for the next 20 years and beyond.
"We’re in the business of scaring people but we’re really in the business of entertaining people," Armstrong said. "It’s a tradition. It’s a chance to get off the couch and have an adventure."
For your planning purposes, Netherworld's last hurrah in Norcross starts the weekend of Sept. 22 and opens seven days a week starting Sept. 29 through Halloween. After the nights of Nov. 3-5, it's off to Stone Mountain.