Tuesday, November 30, 2010

CNL: Multiple Operators Likely for PARC Properties

More details are emerging on the possible new operators of CNL's eight theme and water parks that were run by PARC Management.  This article focuses on Darien Lake, but provides some new details.  For one, CNL says that it is likely that different operators will take over the parks - instead of one like PARC did.

CNL is currently taking bids from many different parties, but hopes to have new management lined up across the board by year's end.

CNL is also already hard at work planning capital for the parks over the next two years, saying they are working with ride manufacturers to finalize things now.  Darien Lake could see a new ride or two, as well as accommodations improvements over the next couple years.

I'm anxious to see what parks end up being managed by whom.  Frontier City is already rumored to have Herschend interested, and a resort like Darien Lake could attract some bigger names, too.  A new management company could also be formed just to manage some of the properties, too.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Peek At Sea World Parks & Entertainment's Future

The Orlando Sentinel has an interesting article that takes a look at Sea World Parks and Entertainment's first year under the Blackstone Group - and they're calling it pretty forgettable.  Attendance, sales, and worse of all, public opinion was down in 2010 significantly.

Sunny days are here again though, as the Sea World Parks will spend almost $200 million next year on new attractions, which is really a pretty astronomical number these days.  That will result in eight of the group's ten parks receiving a significant attraction next year.

New killer whale shows will open at the Sea World Parks among other attractions, Busch Gardens Tampa will spend almost $40 million on the Cheetah Hunt project, and Busch Gardens Williamsburgs' two year expansion seems to be included as well.  Sesame Place will debut an all new parade, Discovery Cove recently announced a large expansion, and Water Country USA is adding some slides, too.  The money spent on the parks in 2011 will be four to five times the amount that InBev allowed during their year of ownership.

The future could still see the addition of a foreign park to the company's portfolio as well.  They've got their eyes on possible locations in China and Southeast Asia.

Cheetah Hunt Update

Things are going to get pretty exciting soon at the Cheetah Hunt construction site at Busch Gardens Tampa.  In a recent batch of photos posted on RCPro it looks like one of the next items the park will build will be that kooky first turn around tower.

They already placed the track for the first launch, with just the first bit of the turn also in place.  From there its down into the second trenched launch, then up to the tower element.  Supports for the tower element are being brought on site according to the photos, so hopefully we will get to see that soon.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Book Review: Walt Disney Imagineering: A Behind The Dreams Look at Making More Magic Real

It may have an extremely long title, but for a book that has as much packed into it as Walt Disney Imagineering: A Behind The Dreams Look at Making More Magic Real does, that almost makes sense.

I purchased the first Disney Imagineering book 12 years ago shortly after it came out, and I had to have read that baby cover to cover ten times over.  That was before almost everything Disney related was readily available on these interwebs we love so much, so it was - and still is - a real gem.

Fast forward all those years and while we can google or wiki almost anything and get instant gratification, there's still something to be said for a large format, high quality, full color book like this one.  'Imagineering 2', as I've started to call it, picks up where the first book left off in terms of attractions covered.  As you can imagine the Imagineers have covered a lot of ground in the past decade plus.

New attractions at the parks across the globe - and even ones announced for the next few years - are covered in both textual and photo detail.  Yes, that means more concept art than you can imagine.  Plus the pages have tons of 'goodies' packed in them, special pull-outs and things.  The behind the scenes look at the Imagineering process is also detailed as well, which we fans always love to read about.

I can't recommend it enough if you are a Disney fan - I just hope that we don't have to wait another 12 years for another one!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Weekly Rewind 11.27.10

Alabama Adventure has announced that their new splash boat ride will be named Buzzsaw Falls.  Yes, that was the name of a flume/coaster hybrid at Silver Dollar City some time ago.  The name is the result of a contest where readers could submit ideas, for which over 500 entries were received.

I honestly thought that Six Flags New England would have tackled painting their new Gauntlet coaster in the sunny Springtime, but I was wrong.  In new photos posted by the park it appears as though almost all the ride's track has now been painted an alternating yellow and white color scheme.

This story is a good update on the trouble that Belmont Park operator Tom Lochtefeld has been having with the city over the lease payments he owes to them.  According to the city they did not raise his rent at all - the uptick was part of the agreement all along.  Now bankruptcy court is involved, so things will be stretched out.  The Giant Dipper is operated under a separate lease, so it won't be affected by these proceedings.

Kentucky Kingdom has a new website, and it's much better developed than the previous version.  This one includes lots of data, including a very detailed and interesting history of the park.  Check out the site here.

It's time for Christmas at Wild Adventures theme park!  Festivities include the Let It Snow Dance Party, O Holy Night: A Living Nativity, and the Elf's Workshop Craft Station plus much more.  Plus the park is decorated in its holiday finest.

Check out these great photos of Superman at Six Flags Magic Mountain.  The paint job is flying along, and there's even a great shot of the ride lit up at night.  It looks so much better than before!

Blackpool Pleasure Beach is hard at work on their new Nickelodeon Land, and has posted some new construction photos for us.  That is going to be one very orange wooden roller coaster!

The famous Calico Mine Ride at Knott's Berry Farm celebrated a very special 50th anniversary last week.  Fans of the park know that the ride is just packed with history and is still one of the greatest of its time.  Mice Chat published a nice look at the ride for it's anniversary.

Miracle Strip at Pier Park is still working on its plans to rebuild the Starliner coaster, but in the meantime they are not holding off on expanding.  The park is currently refurbishing a Scrambler and Tilt-a-Whirl to add to the park, and also recently opened a butterfly pavilion.

PARC Mangement Heads In New Direction

PARC Management and CNL Lifestyle Properties have agreed to terminate their lease arrangement, which means several large theme parks are now without a management company.

PARC sent out a release that explains that they "will expand the Company’s development and operation of new concept theme and water parks, enhance its current properties, including NASCAR SpeedParks, and provide development and operational management services to third-party owners, joint venture partners, and government entities."

PARC has purchased CNL's interest in Myrtle Waves water park in Myrtle Beach, SC.  PARC will now own/operate family fun centers and water parks across the nation.

A CNL Lifestyle Properties release explains that they have already reached an agreement for Amusement Management Partners to take over operations of 8 family entertainment centers formerly operated by PARC. 

Probably the most interesting part of this is that the big parks do not have new operators yet.  These include Darien Lake, Elitch Gardens, Wild Waves, Frontier City, Magic Springs and several water parks.  The rumor mill has already kicked in on that front, Screamscape reports that Herschend Family might be interested in running Frontier City.

Perhaps the parks will receive separate operators, or a new company will take them all on.  Either way both PARC and CNL promise a smooth transition and no disruption to the park's 2011 seasons.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Six Flags To Have Less Wiggling In 2011

What was rumored has been confirmed, Six Flags is dropping several of the licensing arrangements for use of characters and themes in its theme parks next year.  Thomas the Tank Engine, The Wiggles, Evel Knievel, and Tony Hawk will get the boot - look for generic rethemes to take place this winter on dozens of rides at the parks.

Six Flags will continue to use DC Comics, Looney Tunes, and Hanna-Barbera characters in the park.  This is a pretty effective wiping clean of the themes added by the previous set of management, which I'm sure will save the company big bucks in licensing fees.

The move is not too dissimilar to Cedar Fair's decision to end their agreements for the former Paramount Parks to use movie themes and the Nickelodeon characters in their parks.  In Six Flags' case the parks had an even larger array of character franchises going on, so a thinning of the herd does make sense. 

It will be interesting to see the rethemes take place, since many of the areas were built specifically to fit their theme.  The Big Spin coasters will be easy, but I could see the Wiggles being a little more difficult.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Blast From The Past - Knoebel's Phoenix

Playland Park in San Antonio Texas opened in the spring of 1940, It was a small park, consisting of the some of the usual fare of the day, a carousel, bumper cars, a train, a Ferris wheel, a Rollo plane, a fun house and some kiddie rides. Even though it didn't draw big crowds, the park's slogan was "The Fun Spot of San Antonio."

In 1945, owner Jimmy Johnson decided to add what would become the centerpiece of Playland. The Philadelphia Toboggan Company was contacted and Herbert Scheck designed the Rocket. With Frank Hoover supervising, construction began in 1945, but due to WWII, the lack of building materials and labor the coaster's opening was delayed until 1947. The first hill measured 78 feet, with a 72 foot drop, and there was some 3200 feet of track. At the time of its opening the Rocket was hailed as "the largest roller coaster in the world."

Playland Park closed in 1980 leaving The Rocket standing silent. In 1984, Knoebels Grove Park in Elysburg, PA purchased the coaster and began the huge project of dismantling the ride and moving it to Pennsylvania. De-construction began in January 1985, under the supervision of Charlie Dinn. The move was quite a challenge, every board was individually numbered and cataloged on site. And, then loaded and transported to Pennsylvania. Thirty five trucks were used to accomplish the move.

Even without blueprints, construction proceeded smoothly throughout the winter and into spring. Dinn had continued to head up the crew and Leonard Adams was responsible the track work and other essentials. On June 12th, 1985 one of the trains completed its first successful trip around the reborn coaster. And, on June 15th, Knoebel's first traditional wooden roller coaster, the Phoenix opened to the public.

The coaster was named the Phoenix, after the mythical phoenix bird which rises, reborn from its own ashes, to symbolize its rebirth. A quarter of a century later the Phoenix still thrills riders and consistently ranks as a top ten coaster.

The project was also the first large-scale wooden roller coaster relocation in many years, and it said to have sparked the restoration and relocation of other roller coasters standing but not operating.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving from NewsPlusNotes!

Universal Studios Hollywood's Evolution

A part of NBC Universal's "Evolution" plan for Universal Studios Hollywood includes some hefty changes to the famous theme park.  I was just reading some of the details of the plan on the Funland Blog and realized just how much of the Studio Backlot would be going away.

The War of the Worlds set, Wisteria Lane, Jaws, and several other staples of the tour would have to be removed for a residential development.  Sad, but I suppose that's the cost of progress.

Universal Studios Hollywood

The rest of the theme park would see changes as well, mostly in the form of 146,000 square feet of new attractions.  That's a significant amount - Curse of DarKastle at Busch Gardens Williamsburg is about 40,000 square feet.

Other older attractions would also be removed in the 20 year plan, including Termindator 2: 3D and the Waterworld Stunt show.  The recently opened King Kong attraction, along with the Transformers ride that will open in 2012 are not included in the evolution plan.

I know it may sound dramatic, but I'm quite happy the plan is to even keep the theme park.  In the world of movie studios and sky high California real estate it wouldn't have been totally shocking to see the park be repurposed.

So, will they build a Wizarding World of Harry Potter?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Water Magic Coming to Pigeon Forge

Here's an interesting story that grabbed my pre-Turkey day attention.  Plans for a $40 million "innovative" and "magically themed" water experience for Pigeon Forge, TN, have been announced.  But this is not a water park, that is being made perfectly clear.

To be located across the street from the current Titanic Museum attraction, Water Magic will be a 40,000 square foot attraction that involves water in every was possible.  The interaction starts outside the building, where a 100 ft. tall kinetic water sculpture greets guests along side a gigantic tipping bucket.

Once inside, the first area will be Emporium Square, a two story lobby of sorts that has synchronized fountains to music.  From here there are portals to areas where guests can feel like they're walking on water, enter a water tunnel, or go through a water and mirror maze.  A Water Theater will have another musical water show, and the Deep-Sea Exhibition lets guests experience a dive to the ocean floor.

So basically Water Magic will be a gigantic water funhouse of sorts, with some educational aspects.  It's not set to open until 2013, I'll be quite interested to see photos and videos of the attraction though.

Kings Dominion 2011: Snoopy's Starlight Spectacular

While we suspected this addition for a while now, Kings Dominion has confirmed to KDFansite that the park will add Snoopy's Starlight Spectacular in 2011.

The million dollar light and sound walk-through experience will be similar to those already showing in several other Cedar Fair parks.  At Kings Dominion the spectacle will start at the Eiffel Tower and stretch along the center midway behind it to the Grove area.

The display will feature more than one million lights, static displays, theatrical lighting, and other special effects with a unique soundtrack.  The show will take place each night the park closes at 10 p.m. or later starting June 18th, 2011.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Hawaiian Falls Opening New Water Park In Texas

Hawaiian Falls water parks is building an entirely new property in Roanoke, Texas which will open in 2011.  The new water park will technically be owned by the city, but Hawaiian Falls will operate the park under a long term lease.

When it opens next summer, the 10 acre Hawaiian Falls Roanoke will have a large wave pool and lazy river, but also one of the largest aqua play structures in the world.  Named Water World (pictured above), the structure will stand six stories tall and feature "20 slides, including a three-lane racer, a family raft ride and several body slides, 500-gallon and 1,000-gallon dump buckets, numerous interactive pulleys, wheels, and water features."

The new park should debut in May 2011, and will cost $10 million to build.  Hawaiian Falls currently has three water parks in Texas.  Read more about the park's development from this article.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Aerial Antics: Marineland Canada

Everyone Loves MarineLand, located near Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada.  It's a odd looking park though - well, I've never been there so it is not fair of me to assert that - but it really looks weird from the sky.

I have been to Niagara Falls, which has turned into a rather large tourist trap in the last few decades.  The falls are pretty, though.

Take for instance Clifton Hill, which has one of the oddest mixtures of haunted houses, rides (like the Ferris wheel and drop tower), simulators, dark rides, bars, restaurants, and just about anything else you can think of that tourists might pay to do.

But Marineland is located just far enough away from the falls that it sits in a much calmer area.  The park is certainly not meant to be an average theme park, instead it combines a Marine park with rides and other attractions.  Like deer.  But we'll get to that.

Above is the entrance to the park, which actually took me a bit to locate.  There's several family sized rides placed in the area (on the left) and a whale stadium and aquarium too.

One you move past that first area the park opens up into some seriously large spaces, sparsely populated with attractions.  Here's a couple flat rides located near one of the animal interaction areas.  I think the park might have the widest midways I've ever seen - it looks like a 6 lane road could be on some of them!

Here is a perfect example of how isolated everything in the park seems.  This is a HUSS Topple Tower that was added a few years ago.  Does it not look like it's located along a dusty road in Mid-American farm country?

Oh yes the deer.  You can visit the Deer  Park that's seen above - it even has a big fancy castle for an entrance! It must be a royal deer park.

There is also a really big mound of dirt located in roughly the center of the park.  At the top of it is Sky Screamer, a triple tower of S&S combo rides.  The towers are about 300 ft. tall, but that mound they sit on is another 150 ft., leading the park to advertise that the attraction is 450 ft. tall.

I really love tower rides, but the thought of that big, spiraling 150 ft. climb to get to the ride might make me think twice!

The biggest attraction at Marineland is Dragon Mountain, a 1983 Arrow Dynamics designed looping coaster that features four inversions, 5,500 ft. of track, and two tunnels. The ride closely follows the landscape and passes through a Volcano (which was only finished in 2006) and the now rusty support structure of a never finished waterfall section.

As much as I've been a little hard on Marineland I really want to go to experience it myself.  Plus I like Canada.

Here's a link to Bing's aerials of the park.

A New Queue For Winnie The Pooh

© Disney

The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh at the Magic Kingdom in Florida sits on the outside edge of the massive Fantasyland expansion project that is currently underway.  There was a small play area across the path from the ride, and when expansion construction kicked into high gear the play area got the boot.

But that was for the best.  To make Pooh fit in better with his soon-to-be fancy new neighbors, Disney has creatively reused the main tree structure from the play area and incorporated it into a highly themed, interactive queue for the ride.  The new area takes up some extra real estate, but the heavy layer of theming that was applied was well worth it.  The ride's exit gift shop and loading area were also renovated, both were given new looks as well.

Enough describing, check out photos at WDWMagic.  Be sure to check out this photo of the outside before the renovation, for comparison purposes!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Amusing Ads Archive - S&S Sports Power 1997

This advertisement from S&S Sports Power was from 1997 when it was still somewhat difficult to bump into one of their Space Shot towers.  As we well know, that soon changed.

I remember seeing this and not even knowing what some of the listed parks were: Liseberg, Reino Aventura, Suzuka Circuitland.  I did know that I wanted to go on the rides that were pictured, though, because they looked like crazy fun.

And I had totally forgotten that Action Park once had a Space Shot.  Anyone know where that one was moved to?

Finally, check out S&S's new website, which has a nice list of installations and interesting Flickr account.

Green Lantern at Great Adventure Update

Six Flags Great Adventure is a tricky park to follow in the off-season due to its secluded location... but not too secluded for an airplane!

Flyin' Phil has posted a batch of new photos of the park taken from the air that show the progress of the Green Lantern stand-up coaster, currently under construction.  Many footers have already been poured, and the location of others are clearly visible.  I honestly thought that there would be more leftover space from where Scream Machine was - but really Green Lantern will take up pretty much the whole space (and then some) for the former ride.

Check out all the photos at Flyin Phil's Blog.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Weekly Rewind 11.20.10

Cedar Fair's largest unit holder is not happy with the company's current leadership structure, and wishes to have a separate individual be Chairman of the Board and CEO.  They asked for a special meeting to vote on their request, which Cedar Fair has agreed to.  No time and date are set, yet, but it could be soon.

Lagoon hasn't provided much detail on their new family coaster for 2011, but has added the ride's name and the above graphic to their website.  According to Wiki a Bombora is a series of big waves that break offshore over a shallow part of the sea.  Hmm.

Trouble with PARC Management - CNL Properties, owners of 18 parks and FECs in the US are looking to break their deal with PARC to manage the properties.  Seems that PARC is having problems meeting their financial obligations.  CNL hopes to have a new operator for the parks by next season.  The big question is who?

A sad looking short film that hit the web showcasing the remains of Six Flags New Orleans that said the park would be demolished in January has prompted officials to call those plans 100% untrue.  In fact, they say there is still an offer to redevelop the park pending.  What plan is that, I wonder?

The Zippin Pippin may be going a bit over budget (but additional fundraising should fix that), but the ride is also continuing to make quick progress.  The ride's tallest bent was recently lifted into place.  Photos can be found here.

Legoland Florida is proud of their recycling efforts currently going on while they renovate Cypress Gardens.  The park will reuse 18,000 tons of concrete from former walkways as base for new paths, and moving and then replanting 660 trees while construction finishes.  Nice!

IAAPA 2010 has drawn to a close, but the coverage of the event is in full swing.  Theme Park Review has a full roster of photos, videos, and interviews available from the convention. 

Busch Gardens Tampa is getting ready to open Cirque Dreams at the theme park on December 3rd. According to the park, "Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy is an exotic encounter inspired by nature’s unpredictable creations, brought to life by an international cast of soaring aerialists, spine-bending contortionists, acrobats, jugglers and musicians."

Ed Hart has a new series of videos up on YouTube answering questions from fans about the reopening of Kentucky Kingdom.  This time he tackles some ride questions, like if Twisted Twins will reopen - to which he says yes, the park will spend $3 million for a total renovation and new trains.

Busch Gardens Tampa has been making progress on Cheetah Hunt as well - the park now has track and supports up!  RCPro has a nice update showing off the recent additions.  I'm loving the colors of the ride.

Check out this release from Cantilevered Coaster Systems, which just joined with Setpoint to try to commercialize their idea for a new type of coaster.  They're currently offering two different layouts that would cost a park between $4 and $6 million.  But will any parks bite?

If anyone was wondering if former President of Freestyle Music Park will try to move any rides to his new Orlando Thrill Park development, the answer is no.  He says he has no connection to Freestyle at this point.  That nice B&M ride is still available folks!

Six Flags appears to be saving some cash next year on licensing fees by dropping several themes from all the parks.  Rumor has it that the Wiggles, Thomas Town, Tony Hawk, Evel Knievel, and possibly more themes will not exist at the parks in 2011.  Six Flags Fiesta Texas has already posted their Holiday In The Park ride list - and Tony Hawk is simply called Big Spin, and all the Wiggles rides have generic names now.  Very interesting, indeed.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Lake Compounce 2011: Mega Disk'O

Lake Compounce has announced their new ride for 2011, a Mega Disk'O from Zamperla Rides.  The family thrill ride will replace the Rotor, which will be retired from the park.

24 riders will sit in outward facing motorcycle-like seats as the ride vehicle starts to spin and rock at the same time, reaching up to 50 ft.  These rides have been very popular at other theme parks, and give a very enjoyable ride.   All the ones I've encountered have always had a long line!

According to this article the park will allow fans to vote for their favorite name for the ride starting the 22nd, and the chosen name will be announced on December 10th.  The potential names have not been revealed yet.

New "Hyperion Wharf" Opening At Downtown Disney

© Disney 2010

Since the closing of the club-centered nighttime district Pleasure Island at Downtown Disney fans have wondered what would replace the area.  Disney has let the mouse out of the bag and announced the new Hyperion Wharf area, planned for a 2013 opening.

As described by Disney, "the district will come to life with a nostalgic yet modern take on an early 20th century port city and amusement pier. By day, stylish boutiques and innovative restaurants will draw you in and by night, thousands of lights will transform the area into an electric wonderland."

The new area will feature a relaxing waterside park (seen above), expanded pedestrian walkways, and increase overall dining options at Downtown Disney by 25%.

Other areas of Downtown Disney will see renovations as well.  The LEGO Imagination Center will be expanded and feature new outdoor displays that feature classic Disney movies.  The AMC Theatre will receive new digital technology, a do-it-yourself concession stand, and the State's first Fork & Screen Theatre.

Check out more drawings of the new area on the Disney Parks Blog.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Blast From The Past - Hillcrest's Little Dipper

Hillcrest Park was a 58.8 acre private picnic park located in the Chicago suburb of Lemont, IL. One of several small parks owned by the Berry family, Hillcrest opened in 1952. Catered outings at the park ranged in size from 200 guests on weekdays to 2500 guests on weekends. The biggest day it ever had was when a large political gathering was hosted.

Hillcrest's two main attractions were the train and the Little Dipper. Like it's sister coaster at Kiddieland, the Dipper was a junior figure eight, but a mirror image. Designed by Herb Schmeck it was previously moved from Kidtown, a downtown kiddie park formerly located at the corner of Addison and Harlem. Hillcrest Park closed on September 1st 2003, due to a decline in corporate outings and an increase in value of the land, due to the new interstate construction.

The park's rides and equipment were auctioned off on October 25th. The land was sold to developers to build a several large warehouses. The Little Dipper was purchased by Little Amerricka for $9,000. The pieces were numbered as it was taken apart

The dismantling and relocation the Little Dipper to Marshall WI was done in-house, with Darrell Klompmaker supervising. However, the park was busy on other projects, as they are a major supplier of miniature coal-fired steam locomotives, so the coaster sat in piles in Little Amerricka's bone yard for several years.

The park had several other issues to overcome; they had never built a wooden coaster from scratch and they didn't have any blue prints to follow. The ride had to be submitted to the ride inspectors as a new ride since they were moving it across state lines. And they had the rest of the park to maintain in the meantime.

When they were trying to determine the exact position where the roller coaster would fit some extra chairs from the picnic shelter were use. The fit was so tight that part of the handrail close to the Test Pilot ride had to be removed to provide proper clearance.

The single PTC Junior train had to be totally reconditioned, which took one person most of a year to accomplish. Now that same person walks the track every day, to look for loose bolts and oversees any other of the Meteor's needs. So it's in good hands, for he reports that he has only had to tighten a few bolts, and replace even less.

After three years of trial, error and tweaking the Meteor opened on August 8, 2007. It continues its proud tradition as the reigning king of the midway at Little America, thrilling riders of all generations, sometimes simultaneously.