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LOS ANGELES-After spending millions of “real-life” dollars, Walt Disney Co. says it will close its two-year-old DisneyQuest facility in Chicago and has canceled plans to open several similar virtual theme parks around the world.

The DisneyQuest concept was launched in 1998 as a way of using technology to bring the excitement of Disney’s theme parks to people who didn’t have the time or money to visit the parks themselves. The company planned to open up to 20 of the indoor theme parks, which would feature computers and other cutting-edge technology to make visitors feel like they were actually riding popular attractions at DisneyWorld or Disneyland.

Though the Burbank-based entertainment giant will keep operating its DisneyQuest facility in Orlando, FL, the company says it will close its Chicago facility on Sept. 4 and scuttle plans to build complexes in other parts of the world. A Disney spokesman says the company will try to move some of the Chicago park’s 270 employees to its local ESPN Zone restaurant or one of its 14 area Disney Stores.

“Although the concept has been a great creative success and exceptionally well-received by our guests, we have concluded that the expected returns on the investment required to achieve DisneyQuest’s cutting edge technology standard in a stand-alone environment will not meet the company’s financial requirements for this type of business,” Randall Baumberger, SVP of Disney Regional Entertainment, says in a statement announcing the end of the company’s plans.

Baumberger says people who purchased annual passes or advance tickets to the Chicago complex will be issued refunds.

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