Friday, December 31, 2010

Fun Spot Action Park to Triple In Size

The greater Orlando area is highly competitive, really about as competitive as you can get.  That's not standing in the way of the owners of the two Fun Spot parks - instead they're kicking into expansion mode in order to make an even greater name for themselves.

Family owned and operated, the parks have become "the largest of the second tier attractions in Central Florida"  The owners were happy to announce that they have just purchased an additional 10 acres of land adjacent to Fun Spot Action Park, located just off International Drive in Orlando and quite close to the Universal Orlando Resort.

Here is a current aerial of Fun Spot Action Park with the newly purchased land highlighted:

Plans call for the area to be fully developed by 2012 or possibly 2013.  When complete approximately 200 jobs will have been created.  According to the park's blog plenty of ideas for the expansion are being tossed around.

"The new, expanded park will include more tracks, more rides, including some possible water rides, and a smaller version of the SkyCoaster located in the Kissimmee Park.  Paint Ball and batting cages have also been suggested but no commitment has been made."

The other property, Fun Spot USA, previously announced the addition of a Wild Mouse coaster, purchased from Cypress Gardens, that will open in March.  The park also purchased a Flying Eagles ride at IAAPA that will be added in February!

Great to hear such promising news from another independent park.  And a happy new year to you all!  Have a happy and safe one - we'll be seeing you in 2011!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Blast From The Past - Grinchmas 2004

Sometimes we tell of parks that are small.
Out of the way, far from the mall.
Parks that are near, parks that are far.
Parks that charge nothing to park your car.

Parks that don’t cost you a leg and an arm.
Parks that are full of tradition and charm.
But, this exception we must make to our rule.
To tell this tale of Grinchy Yule.

Twas the season of holiday cheer.
So, we’ll tell this tale of memories held dear.
Of odd creatures, both the tall and the small.
Who celebrated Christmas, with no presents at all.

By now, a guess you may wish to venture.
This week we write of Universal’s Islands of Adventure.
At the Landing of Seuss was a joyous celebration.
The festive sounds of a Whoville Whobilation.

The perils we did dare of the Mount Crumpet Ice Slide.
In our sled we did slip and we did glide.
We entered the slimy lair of that creature of green.
Not a who. No! This one was smelly, gnarly and mean.

Mr. Grinch, you know, hated the Christmas season.
Please don’t ask why, there’s probably a logical reason.
Some thought his head wasn’t screwed on just right.
Or, perhaps his shoes were a little too tight.

But, the reason most thought, myself included.
Was the size of his heart, as Dr Seuss has alluded.
Please read on and don’t fuss all that much.
As we tell the warm tale of IoA’s Grinchmas.

Islands of Adventure has been one of our favorite parks since our first visit, which was the ACE Preview Day way back in April of 1999. In December of 2004 we visited Islands of Adventure and while the park and Seuss Landing are wonderful places to visit any day of the year, from just after Thanksgiving until just after the New Year, Seuss Landing dons a flavor of holiday cheer. Citizens of Whoville are roaming about and the Grinch is slinking around, so you better watch out! Sorry, it seems that anytime I talk of Seuss, my words seem to rhyme much like Mother Goose

Anyway, a 24-hour toll-free Grinchline was set up from 12/8 to 12/25, for the green one to dispense his “unique” holiday tips. Those that called may have received the following words of wit and wisdom.

*If you have a friend who is going through a tough financial patch, pay a bill that he or she owes. You will be loved and revered for your generosity. Did I mention I owe a bundle to whoBay?

*Get organized and get done early. It’s really hard to steal Christmas all in one night, trust me.

*Rent one of your favorite movies. I highly recommend, “Dr Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” Every time you watch it, it’ll put you in touch with the true meaning of Christmas….. and I get a check for eight cents.

Skip Sherman, Senior Vice-President of Entertainment for Universal Orlando saw the Grinchline as a way fans all over the world could connect directly to the Grinch and enjoy his particular brand of wisdom and humor.

Anywho, since 2000 Seuss Landing has been transformed into Whoville and the citizens of Whoville celebrate a holiday that’s anything but ordinary, Grinchmas! Having snow in Central Florida is a rarity, but not in Whoville, Universal used eight snow machines to create a continuous snow flurry and a special ice-shaving machine to create six tons of snow per day. The decorations are 1st rate and plentiful, there are 55 shining stars on Mulberry Street, more than 35 wreaths scattered around the Landing and if you connected all the garland in Whoville it would stretch for more than a mile. But, the focal point of this Whoville celebration is the Seussian Christmas Tree that stands 35-feet tall and is decorated with more than 2,700 light bulbs and 500 ornaments. The finale of the last Whobilation show of the day is the lighting of this Christmas Tree and what a wonderful finale it is.

But before we get to the end, let’s start at the beginning, The Mount Crumpit Snow Plummet. This ride is an actual 60-foot ice slide made for family enjoyment. Guests sit in a rubber raft and plummet down the slick, twisted course. Our ride may have been a faster than when the kiddies ride (more weight equals more speed.) In fact, we spun around backwards and bumped off the “stopper” at the end of the run. And, even at that it fun, not scary and it was especially cool to ride the slide wearing shorts.

After our Mount Crumpit Snow Plummet experience, we were off to investigate the Grinch’s Lair. Much of the Grinch’s Lair’s decor, such as the rickety bed, the dilapidated sleigh, Max’s doghouse, the ancient appliances, and the tattered recliner were used in The Academy Award winning Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Brave souls walking through the Lair will encounter some of the many booby traps the Grinch has set. Although, he has disguised them (very cleverly) with warning signs that one cannot resist, such as “Don’t Pull This Rope!” And of course, you must pull it. The result is a horn blares and a blast of air surprises un-expecting guests several places along the cavern path. The adventure climaxes with meeting the green one, and his little dog Max, face-to-face, making for a perfect photo opportunity. The Grinch was slightly obnoxious and very funny and Max, a real live dog by the way, was as ever, his obedient servant. True to himself to the end, the Grinch even follows you to the door and yells for you to quit bothering him as you walk away across the midway.

Our final stop on this Grinchmas tour was center stage, for the Whoville Whobilation! We were pleasantly surprised with the warm-up act, a four member acapella group who sang some Christmas songs, with a special Whoville flair. The main attraction was a 20 minute musical loosely base on part of the Grinch movie, including the Grinch sneaking into town, the Cheermeister scenes and the joyous ending where the Grinch has a changed of heart, both physically and literally. There were Whos of all sizes, the big and the small. The Mayor, Martha-Mae, Cindy-Lou and a dozen or so citizens of Whoville lead the celebration. But, the star of the show was definitely, the one and only Mr. Grinch! From his first entrance, in disguise, to his grand entrance in a 19-foot sleigh, decked out with seven wreaths, all the Whoville presents and Max, that kicked off the finale, the green one was all that and a green eggs and ham sandwich!

Check Spelling

A lot of behind the scenes work goes into a production like the Grinchmas and makeup is just one aspect. According to Universal’s Supervisor of Makeup, Jim Udenberg, it took nearly eight months to make the 1000 Who noses, 600 sets of Grinch appliances and nearly 30 sets of lace hairpieces and eyebrows used in this years Whobilation. Not to mention 34 sets of Grinch dental appliances. In 1995 Universal Studios Florida started it’s own makeup department and Jim was one of the four original artist hired to start that department. Within a year, he was chosen to lead the team. And now some eight years later, Jim supervises the 2500 square foot Makeup Effects Shop, as well as a year round staff of 15 makeup artists and hairstylists. During peak seasons artist staff increases to 30-40 artists and stylists, for the Grinchmas his crew consisted of 37 talented men and women.

And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.
“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.
“Maybe Christmas … perhaps … means a little bit more!”

Fah Who Foraze! (Welcome Christmas!)

Holiday Crowds Descent On The Parks

Tis the season to visit your favorite theme park.  At least that's what it sounds like if you read some headlines over the past couple days. This is traditionally a busy time of year for many theme parks that are open, with many folks having off this week and the kids out of school.

Universal Orlando is still doing the happy-dance over the smash success known as the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  Islands of Adventure has seen massive crowds since the area opened this past summer, and this week they've been pushed to the breaking point.

The park actually had to suspend admission to guests for several hours twice this week, according o the Orlando Sentinel.  Even if you made it in the park you'll have to wait in a queue just to get into the Wizarding World section - no that's not for a ride or anything - just to be able to walk into the area!  The response to good old Harry has been amazing.

A similar story can be told for the Disneyland California Resort, where Disneyland and Disney California Adventure also had to stop admitting guests twice this week.  I'm not at all surprised that happened at Disneyland - I believe that's a normal occurrence around the holidays - but that's a good sign for California Adventure!

Disney World in Florida is also having a busy week, but that's also business as usual for the time of year.  Attractions Magazine has tweeted some photos and wait times while at the parks - for once I'm not jealous that I'm not there!

All a good sign though, as we want our favorite industry to stay as popular as ever!

An Update To Yesterday's Aerial Antics

One of our readers, Chris, was kind enough to write in to point out where DelGrosso's Amusement Park has stored the track pieces for the coaster they purchased from Libertyland.

It's not too far from the park, they're highlighted in the photo above.  The amusement park sits at the bottom of the photo.

And here's a closer look.  I suppose the only question that remains is if the ride will ever be built!

Aerial Antics: DelGrosso's & Lakemont Park

Known as Bland's Park for the majority of its life, this family run amusement park was rechristened DelGrosso's Amusement Park in 2000 to better reflect its ownership.

The park sits in Tipton, PA, and is known for it's free admission policy (ride tickets and wristbands are available) and free parking.  The DelGrosso family is known for their Italian food products, but has owned and run the park since 1946.

DelGrosso's has a small water park area named the Tipton Waterworks.  Slides include Twin Twisters (right) and Midnight Express, Great White, and the Gravity Groove.

Guests must cross Route 220 via pedestrian bridge in order to reach the park proper. When they do the are greeted with many rides and attractions in a purely traditional park setting.  You can see the park's Kids Kingdom, which is one of the first things you'll encounter.

The rest of the park sits among mature trees, hiding many of the rides.  The park's largest coaster is the Crazy Mouse, added in 2004.  The park purchased the Revolution from Libertyland but has yet to build it.  DelGrosso's also has one of the few remaining Caterpillar rides left in the world known as Space Odessey.  Here's a link to the aerials.

Lakemont Park is located not too far from DelGrosso's in Altoona, PA.  The park has gained much notioriety for having Leap The Dips, currently the world's oldest operating roller coaster.  The park coexists well with its neighbors, which include a large baseball stadium, shopping area, and indoor ice venue.

Guests at those baseball games have a perfect view of the Skyliner coaster just in back of the outfield.  Scott and Carol recently posted a great history of this coaster, which if you haven't already you can read here.

Lakemont features a nice selection of rides and attractions that will entertain the whole family.  Don't head to the park looking for the latest in big thrill rides, instead Lakemont offers a selection of classic rides that have remained popular through the years.

The Island Waterpark may be small, but it's still great for cooling off on a warm summer day.  It's also situated right on the Lakemont Reservoir, which the famous Casino at Lakemont also borders.  Here's a link to the aerials for the park.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Martin's Fantasy Island Announces Another New Ride

Martin's Fantasy Island has announced another new ride for 2011: The Devil's Hole.  This comes after previously announcing a spectacular new thrill ride for next year, which will be the park's 50th anniversary.

The Devil's Hole will replace the park's Starship 2000 ride, which is similar in design.  Devil's Hole will be a new ride though, not a dress up of Starship 2000.  Martin's Fantasy Island previously had a Devil's Hole attraction which was removed some years ago, but that was a Rotor style ride.

The park also plans to revive its Garden of Fables for next season, adding a new story with the promise of more to come in the future.

Looks like an exciting year is shaping up for the park!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Zippin Pippin Nearly Complete

Yesterday I tweeted a link to a news story about how the Zippin Pippin at Bay Beach Amusement Park is 75% structurally finished - and then I happened across these photos.  It looks like even more than that is now done!

There's just a small section of the turnaround yet to go up, then the structure will be complete.  As seen in the photos they are also starting to work on the station, queue entrance, and more.  There's going to be plenty of time to test the coaster before opening next year.

Kentucky Kingdom Attendance History

The Kentucky Kingdom Redevelopment Company created the above video that details the history of attendance at Kentucky Kingdom under its different ownerships. It's pretty interesting to see just how far down the park's attendance fell during the Six Flags years.

It is a little hard to hear so you may have to bump up the volume, but it's worth checking out.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Weekly Rewind 12.26.10

Orlando Attractions Magazine has launched a new weekly show that takes a look at the latest news from all the Orlando area parks.  Each episode ranges from 10 to 30 minutes in length.  You can find all the recent episodes on the Attractions Magazine website.

I'm starting to wonder about The Great Escape's future as a Six Flags park.  It is the only U.S. Six Flags park that isn't branded, it's shortening its season and hours next year, and not only did they retheme the Wiggles like the other parks, but they've also removed Looney Tunes from their stable of characters as well.  Prepping the park for a sale perhaps?  I bet CNL would snap it up in a minute.

Cedar Point's annual collection of loose change found inside the park and its water fountains totaled $1,500 this year and the park donated it to the Victory Temple Soup Kitchen.  The park also donated another $4,500 worth of goods to the kitchen and the Salvation Army.  Nice!

A visit to Disney California Adventure theme park in 2011 will be one filled with construction walls.  The park will have a modified entrance area for a big part of the year, due to construction on Buena Vista Street, a highly themed entrance street.  Check out the details from the Funland Blog.

The dueling Battlestar Galactica roller coasters at Universal Studios Singapore have started testing once again, after one of the seats fell off a train during testing earlier this year.  The ride is scheduled to reopen during the first half of 2011.

Idlewild and SoakZone had a Christmas present for us all - they announced the name of their new wave pool!  Wowabunga is a pretty cute name.  Perfectly fits the park's family theme and atmosphere.

Cedar Fair is once again experimenting with a skip-the-line pass.  They tried this briefly at Cedar Point some years ago, but killed it pretty quick.  Knott's will be selling Hate To Wait passes that will get you on five coasters and a few other of the park attractions with no wait.  The passes aren't cheap, though.  Read the details of the new program here.

The barns are up!  Dollywood has been working on building the thematic elements for their new Barnstormer ride.  Riders will swing in between two big chunks of barn when the ride opens next year.  Check out the park's latest gallery of construction shots here.

It is just a start, but Canobie Lake has shared some early shots of their work on Untamed, the park's new coaster for 2011.  It looks about as snowy there as it is here today!  I'd hate to be one of the workers out pouring concrete in that weather... but their work will be well worth it come next summer!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Have A Happy And Safe Holiday!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Blast From The Past - Paramount's Kings Island's Winterfest 2005

In honor of the Holiday season this weeks Blast takes a look back at Paramount's Kings Island's second attempt at Winterfest. Kings Island's original Winterfest opened in 1982 with the idea of extending the parks season.

When the gates opened that December the park had been transformed into a winter wonderland. The event was very successful, but there was a bit of a problem, with Kings Island's season lasting through the end of October there just wasn't enough time for the staff to make the transformation.

So, after a decade Winterfest was discontinued. For years Kings Island guests left comments, requesting the return of Winterfest. On July 25th 2005, after a thirteen year absence, Paramount's Kings Island had a media event announcing Winterfest's return.

Winterfest 2005 would feature many of the old traditions established at the park's original event, while adding many new traditions.The original decorations had been sold off or donated, so all the decorations were brand new. A new sound system was installed, more indoor dining establishments were added and the Royal Fountain was renovated.

The Eiffel Tower was once again transformed into a large Christmas tree. And the Royal Fountain was turned into a large ice skating rink. The Kings Island and Miami Valley Railroad became the White Christmas Express, complete with a cast of 1940`s era characters.

Holiday Illuminations, featuring an immersive light show took place nightly on Swan Lake and surrounding forest the in Rivertown. And, a Christmas parade wound through the streets.

The Toy Factory musical took place in the Paramount Theater with Nickelodeon Central have been transformed into Santa`s Christmastown. The Paramount Story was transformed into the Nickelodeon Holiday Tree lot. The Festhaus became the Winterfest Haus, with live entertainers on a revolving stage.

The classic Scrooge`s house, from the original Winterfest made a return to the park. And, every night a one lucky family was chosen to light the Eiffel Tower. The train wasn't the only ride operating, the Grand Carousel, the Hanna Barberra Carousel and Scooby Doo and the Haunted Castle, as well as several other kiddie rides were open.

The multi-million dollar event was produced by Jack Rouse Associates. And, while Winterfest was very well done and was moderately successful, it didn't survive the 2006 Cedar Fair takeover and was once again discontinued.

Seasons Greetings to all,
Scott & Carol