The SkyTubes are a type of playground structure found at some Chuck E. Cheese's fun centers.
The concept behind the SkyTubes is similar to the Tinker Towers playground from the Pizza Time Theatre era, but has a much more colorful look, is commonly attached to the roof of the location's building, and sometimes has structure located overlooking the dining area and arcade in certain locations.
Some locations also have a ball pit attached to the SkyTubes playground, with other locations having a similar concept for children 2 to 5 years called "Tot Tubes" located in the Toddler Zone area. In some cases the Tot Tubes are adjacent to - or directly attached to - the main SkyTubes playground.
The SkyTubes were conceived by Showbiz Pizza Time, Inc. at a time when Chuck E. Cheese's Pizza (SPT's flagship restaurant and family fun center chain) was coming under fierce competition from the more active and playful Discovery Zone chain. The first SkyTubes installations were erected in the early 90s, when Showbiz Pizza was in the process of shutting down to make way for the opening of more CEC locations, many of which took the places of old Showbiz locations.
The move was deemed to be overly successful, partially aided by a much younger-looking and child-friendly incarnation of the titular Chuck E. mascot and the "Pizza" tag being stripped from name as part of a chain-wide rebranding to "Chuck E. Cheese's" in 1995. Discovery Zone, possibly as a result of this SkyTube-related success, began losing customers to Chuck E. Cheese's, ultimately encountering financial difficulties. Discovery Zone filed for bankruptcy in 1998, with CEC Entertainment acquiring them in 1999, only to shut down their US locations for good in order to make way for another wave of new CEC locations. By the turn of the new millennium, the SkyTubes had become one of Chuck E. Cheese's main selling points.
In 2006, the "SkyTubes" name and Chuck E. Cheese's characters were used for a children's board game, officially licensed by CEC Entertainment Concepts.
By the late 2000s, it was discovered that the SkyTubes had serious long-term shortcomings. CEC Entertainment had dealt with very rare, albeit widely-publicised, incidents of adults and older teenagers becoming trapped inside the tubes (one such incident in Saniel leading to fire & rescue services being deployed), but in one of the concept's biggest flaws, staff could not easily do cleaning work on the SkyTubes, leading to serious general hygiene issues inside many locations' SkyTubes. Some staff members at selected locations also warned their managers of cleaning troubles in the ball pits attached to the exits of their SkyTubes.
CEC Entertainment responded by declining to install SkyTubes in new locations. A select few location managers decided to remove their existing SkyTubes (and in a large number of cases, their accompanying ball pits) as a discretionary measure. Many locations initially retained their installations, however the number began to noticeably decline as time progressed.
The last Chuck E. Cheese's television commercial to show the tubes in any capacity was aired in 2012, confirming that the SkyTubes were being phased out. A number of locations have resisted the removal of their SkyTubes, and a few installations remained.
When Kabushiki Gaisha ABS took full control of CEC Entertainment in June 2016, they claimed that they "still have use for the SkyTubes playgrounds", and planned to use their expanded staff base and newly-appointed dedicated cleaning teams to address the cleanliness problems that caused CEC Entertainment to pull back on the concept, whilst additionally making some small changes to enhance the experience.
Virtually all Chuck E. Cheese's locations opened under ABS ownership have new, modernised SkyTubes playgrounds and the slowly-declining number of locations with SkyTubes suddenly began to increase. As of the 30th of November 2016, CEC-ABS confirmed that the SkyTubes were a fully-integrated part of the Chuck E. Cheese's experience once again.
CEC-ABS' new SkyTubes are slightly wider in diameter to both ease cleaning by staff and reduce the tendency of older children and teenagers getting stuck inside the tubes during opening hours.