On Aug. 3, 1990 -- 25 years ago -- the original World of Coca-Cola opened at Underground Atlanta to celebrate the past, present and future of the world's most cherished consumer product.
In a press release, then-Chairman and CEO Roberto Goizueta called the $15 million, 45,000-sq.-ft. pavilion "a tribute to the unique relationship that exists between consumers and Coca-Cola."
The World of Coca-Cola was more than a decade in the making. At the time, there was a strong demand for a tourist attraction where collectors and fans could learn more about the heritage of their beloved brand. "People had been coming to our headquarters for years asking if we had a museum, only to be turned away at the front gate," retired Coca-Cola archivist Phil Mooney, said in a 2013 interview. "They'd leave disappointed after hearing there was nothing they could see in the hometown of Coca-Cola."
Mooney hired a design firm in 1977, his first year on the job, and sketched out some initial ideas and a budget for the World of Coca-Cola. Management approved the concept, but the lack of a suitable location stalled the process.
"I tell people that we had the concept for the World of Coke after about six months, but that it took 13 years to make it a reality," he said. "We didn’t have the right combination of circumstances to make it happen until the city of Atlanta decided to reinvigorate the downtown area. We saw an opportunity to contribute to these efforts by making our museum the cornerstone of the Underground Atlanta development."
The $15 million, 45,000-sq.-ft. pavilion took guests through the then-104-year history of the world's most popular consumer product, and provided a glimpse of its future, with state-of-the-art displays and interactive exhibits. World of Coca-Cola featured more than 1,000 artifacts and pieces of memorabilia chronicling the evolution of Coca-Cola since it was first served at an Atlanta pharmacy in 1886. Highlights included a “Bottling Fantasy” exhibit, which presented a visual tour of the earliest bottling lines and a first-hand look at modern, high-speed bottling equipment, and a 4,500-sq.-ft. store offering the world's largest selection of Coca-Cola licensed merchandise.
"We really wanted it to be a place to tell stories," Mooney explained. "We decided to do a chronological treatment of the brand. We had an operational soda fountain that could serve Coca-Cola the way it was served back in 1930s and a film depicting the brand’s global reach. And we had a place for our guests to taste beverages from around the world – which, to this day, remains our most popular attraction."
The architectural focal point of the World of Coca-Cola was a neon Coca-Cola sign suspended 18 feet above the entrance. The 30-ft.-by-26-ft. landmark restored a major Coca-Cola presence to downtown Atlanta after the the historic Margaret Mitchell Square sign was dismantled several years before.
The World of Coca-Cola moved to its current location in downtown Atlanta's Pemberton Place in May 2007. To date, more than 23 million guests from 80-plus countries have visited the attraction at its two locations. The attraction has positively impacted the tourism industry in its hometown city and state, with a $28.9 million total annual impact on Atlanta’s economy and an annual impact on Georgia’s economy of $35.8 million.
The “Home of Happiness” is celebrating the milestone and its role in downtown Atlanta’s revitalization with new exhibits and more. Learn more at www.WorldofCoca-Cola.com.