Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Comcast Rumored To Take Full Ownership of Universal Orlando

According to sources that are close to the deal, Comast is planning to purchase the other half of Universal Orlando from the Blackstone Group.

The sale is reported to come in somewhere between $1 and $1.5 billion, and remember, that's really only for half of the resort.  Premier purchased the Six Flags parks for $1.8 billion in 1998, and Cedar Fair the Paramount Parks for $1.2 billion in 2006, for comparison purposes.

Comcast, an enormous TV cable company, will have full ownership of the Orlando resort if the deal goes though, and now Blackstone will own only the SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment properties in Florida.  It's a significant change of hands for Comcast, a non-theme park company, to hold on to the parks instead of allowing both Blackstone and their halves to go up for sale.  You can't help but wonder if the amazing results that Harry Potter brought to the resort have anything to do with their decision.

And how's this for appreciation?  Blackstone purchased their half of the resort in 2000, paying $275 million - and now selling for somewhere between a billion and a billion and a half!

Monday, May 30, 2011

With Summer Comes New Rides!

How sweet is the inside of the station for Canobie Lake's new Untamed coaster?  I love the deer antler chandeliers, too - a perfect fit for the theme of the ride.  The coaster currently has a targeted opening day of June 11th.

WindSeeker at Knott's Berry Farm is now well on its way up to the sky.  The ride has a drastically different paint job than it's brethren at the other Cedar Fair parks - and I have to say I like this one better!

Martin's Fantasy Island is excited to soon open its two new rides for the 2011 season.  Above is the Devil's Hole, a ride that will spin and literally stick riders to the wall!  The other attraction, Mind Warp, is a wild looking ride that should keep riders flipping and spinning all summer long.

Dinosaurs Alive Open At Kings Islands

This past week Kings Island opened the world's largest animatronic dinosaur park, aptly named Dinosaurs Alive!

"The multi-sensory and interactive dinosaur park brings inspiration, science and technology together at Kings Island where guests also hear the sounds and see the movements of 60-plus full-sized animatronic creations made to replicate nearly every feature of the dinosaurs. Each of the animatronic dinosaurs is hand-carved and covered with skin-like materials."

The area, which required a separate $5 admission fee, features six main displays along the path, which is over 4,000 feet long and spread out over 12.5 acres.  The park describes the "long-term investment" as something that compliments the other rides and attractions offered, but with a distinct educational side as well.  Retail and food locations are included in the area, along with interactive learning elements.

Kings Island has a full website up for Dinosaurs Alive! where you can find out much more about the area and its dino inhabitants.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Scott And Carol Present A Watery Blast From Alabama's Adventure

Alabama Adventure opened their new ride on 5/27/2011. Custom designed to blend into the
hillside, riders are lifted 5 stories to the tops of the trees.

A unique sign directs riders to the entrance, complete with fake rust and the new logo.

The ribbon was cut with a chainsaw, ably wielded by General Manager EJ Randolph, assisted by Alisha Rohan, Promotions Manager.

The inaugural boatload of riders, 20 per boat, with 2 boats total. Lots of screaming was heard as some of the riders remembered an important meeting in the near future.

That is City Councilman Jesse Matthes and com padre Council Woman Donna Thigpen gamely realizing their next meeting was with a wall of water that exceeds the height of the lift hill when the boat is fully loaded. According to their expressions, that realization is just becoming apparent.

Another way for guests to cool off is to stand on the exit bridge and wait for the water to reach them after the drop. When you stand on the bridge however, you don't get the thrill of the drop.

After the boat emerged from the mist, many accusations were heard as to allegedly who was screaming and who wasn't. Despite all of the finger pointing, the exact facts remain unclear. What was clear however, Buzzsaw Falls is a thrilling way to cool off on a hot Alabama Adventure day.

Designed with wood supports instead of steel, Buzzsaw Falls imparts a rather rustic look to a very modern ride.

Here you can see the view from the Giant Wheel that accentuates how the ride is blended into the park. But if you sit down on the opposite side of Celebration Street, you can see the splash rise above the buildings. This makes it easy to find from that whole side of the park.

So that is the latest from Alabama's Adventure, another airtime attraction to reduce the heat stress but raise the adrenaline levels for their guests. The Exclusive Ride Time for the Season Pass holders was well attended, with lots of excited riders feeling they weren't quite wet enough, and rejoining the line to get completely soaked.

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Wacky Factory is Open for Business!

Chattanooga, Tennessee's own Lake Winnepesaukah is rounding out its impressive collection of family attractions with a new version of a true classic.

According to the park's press release, The Wacky Factory takes elements from classic fun houses and haunted houses, and provides an experience where "water comes to life as it glows in the dark, your own reflection is distorted beyond recognition, and hilarious surprises hide around every corner as your world is turned upside down!"

Journey Into Her World

The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure has recently had some spotty preview openings at Disney California Adventure park.  Only watch the video if you want to see exactly what the ride is like!

The ride has come with a lot of hype and a rather significant budget, so does it live up to expectations?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Scott And Carol Present - Cheetah Hunt Establishes It's Position As The Apex Coaster At Busch Gardens Africa

It was just before dawn, and like a cheetah, we were out hunting. Our prey was to be Cheetah Hunt, the newest roller coaster at Busch Gardens Africa, in Tampa FL. The lights from below made it appear alive, which was good because we were there to ride it after all the progress reports.

Mark Rose, Vice President of Design & Engineering gave us the rundown.  "This has been an idea of mine for about 5 years, a low to the ground coaster emphasizing speed with sudden changes of direction to mimic how a cheetah chases down its prey. We really liked Maverick but we wanted to give it our own special treatment." Rose continues, "while it is a slight energy hog, the already low level of noise is reduced by filling all the circular support pipes with sand for the sake of the cheetahs."

The 7 feline residents have been spending time in the new Cheetah Run habitat for a week and a half, according to Tim, Assistant Curator. "We have added a waterfall, dens for shade, multiple levels for them to chase each other around, and some cool air vents up by the window so they will come closer to the guests." During our visit, we saw the glass fogging from the breath of the cheetahs, and they watched the guests as much as the guests observed them.

"The ability for them to follow a guest with their eyes along the outside of the enclosure provides stimulation for them mentally, and we run them several times daily using a different path all the time," says Tim, "we want them to not know which way the lure is going to go, but merely to react to its path, like they do to prey in the wild." For some reason, the big cats today had a great interest in the hats of the guests, watching their favorites as they walked along the edge.

But now it was our time to ride, and we experienced our first ride on Cheetah Hunt in the dark. With the camera lights shining in our faces, everything was just a blur, and Scott described the ride by feel rather than sight. The initial launch subjects guests to 4 Gs of straight ahead acceleration, the way a cheetah can reach full speed in just three strides. If it wanted, a cheetah could out run its namesake coaster by 4 miles per hour, as the coaster will only reach a speed of 60 miles per hour itself.

Frequent bursts of airtime simulate the cheetah falling back to earth and the back and forth track in the re-purposed Rhino Rally river section is an authentic replication of observed behaviors exhibited by cheetahs in the wild and the speed hills duplicate the way cheetahs can move 20 feet with a single bound.

After our ride, Scott talked with Park President Jim Dean. "We use the old monorail building and created a special area for both our guests and our cheetahs. It is critical for us to provide guests with new experiences since we are a year round park." When asked about the 'wind catcher,' the signature element on the new ride, he said, "The location is not an accident. We wanted a unique attraction and by putting it high and in front, we can create excitement before the guest even purchases a ticket."

He was especially proud of how the custom trains incorporate the cheetah theming and how the track was put below ground so guests gain a cheetah eye level perspective while on the ride. He concluded, "I would like to invite all the readers of News Plus Notes to come and experience Cheetah Hunt for themselves."

But it is not all just fun with Cheetah Hunt and Cheetah Run. The SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund have supported the Cheetah Conservation Fund since 2005. Mike Boos, Vice President of Zoological Operations brought a special guest on behalf of the vanishing cheetahs worldwide. Kasi, Swahili for "one with speed," and Mtani, "close friend," surprised us with an appearance during an interview. Mtani, a boundless puppy wanted to experience it all, and Kasi was content to just lie in Mike's arms. The serious part of the attraction is the interactive guest room where you can view your on ride experience, look at some of the components that are included in the building of Cheetah Hunt, and learn more about the plight of cheetahs in the wild. Mike is better at explaining this because all Scott wanted to do was look at Kasi.

Cheetah has several launches, the first one launches you through the ruins after you roll out of the station.

You dive into the first tunnel and up into the wind catcher.

More of the subterranean features of Cheetah Hunt

Here Cheetah Hunt demonstrates that it can out run the train.

Because Cheetahs don't like water, you soar above the Rhino River, undergoing many changes of direction.

Cheetah's one inversion takes you high above the Serengeti Plain ... upside down.

Cheetah readies to dive under the Nairobi Bridge.

So that is the new Cheetah Hunt and Cheetah Run attractions at Busch Gardens Africa. And we want to leave you with one final picture of us with our new BFF, Best Friend Feline. Yes we did get to pet her, and she will be a wonderful ambassador for cheetahs everywhere. If you want more information about how you can help, here is the website for the Cheetah Conservation Fund.

Feel The Squeeze At Wet'n'Wild Phoenix!

Sam previously detailed the new Constrictor slide that Wet'n'Wild Phoenix has added for their 2011 season, but now we have some photos of the attraction to share.

The slide is a new design from WhiteWater West, and according to the park riders "will speed down flumes into massive corkscrews, snaking back and forth in a series of spirals, slithering down its insides on multi-person rafts."

As you can see, the launch tower for the park's existing racing slides was utilized for Constrictor.  The new slide features some of tightest turns you'll be able to find on any water park slide, anywhere.

The new slide will make its debut this coming Memorial Day Weekend, on May 28th.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

CIHP Commemorates the Dreamland Fire Centennial

Allow us to re-introduce the Coney Island History Project, a not-for-profit whose mission statement is "to increase awareness of Coney Island's legendary and colorful past and to encourage appreciation of the Coney Island neighborhood of today."

In keeping with its mission, the Public Exhibition Center, an extension of the CIHP located near the Wonder Wheel, opens for the season on May 28th with a large focus on the catastrophic fire that destroyed Dreamland on May 27th, 1911. It will include historic photos of Dreamland, as well as a number of interesting artifacts and films.

In addition, the Coney Island History Project is announcing a series of walking tours of the historic landmarks and current attractions of the amusement area. These tours will be led weekends and holidays through Labor Day.

To specifically commemorate the Dreamland Fire Centennial this weekend, there will be special walking tours led by Coney Island historian Charles Denson, who is noted for his publication Coney Island: Lost and Found.

To make walking tour reservations and to learn more about CIHP's mission, visit the Coney Island History Project's website.

Earn Your Wings! SkyScreamer at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

Mother Nature must have known someone would be invading her airspace today and broke the long running sunny streak in the Bay Area by giving us a rainy media day at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. But a little rain didn't phase the park one bit in debuting their all new ride, SkyScreamer. I was fortunate enough to attend the event.

The event began with a presentation by the park's ambassador, Captain Lee. If anyone has ever met Captain Lee, you may be aware that even though he will hop in a Tiger or Lion cage without blinking an eye, he is deathly afraid of heights. In the photo above he shows us his diaper that will act as a final back up just incase dramamine and a brown paper "barf bag" dont prevent him from-- making a mess.

Next up to speak was Park President, Dale Kaetzel. Dale spoke about the new ride and how it makes a great addition to the park as they celebrate their 25th year in Vallejo, CA. He pointed out that when you reach the top of the ride you have an outstanding view of the surrounding mountains and Lake Chabot that borders half the park, not to mention the great views of the park itself.

Looney Tunes characters await the cutting of the ribbon.

Following Dale's speech, he moved to officially cut the ribbon with the assistance of Captain Lee and a representative from the local Travis Air Force Base.

And just like that, we were ready for departure! The ride is in a fairly unique location. It resides it the former Tram maintenance yard. To access the ride, the park cut a path through the former Medusa Plaza Fountain (which was later turned into Oasis Stage and now serves as planter boxes) and under Medusa itself in order to reach the ride. The path allows some pretty amazing views of Medusa that we were otherwise unable to see before.
The view of Medusa from the new SkyScreamer path.

The SkyScreamer queue line sits right next to Medusa's heartline roll.

Eager riders waiting to ascend the tower.

So how is the ride? Though it's not quite as "scary" as some had led me to believe it might be, it was quite the experience! The views of the park are stunning and the speed of the swing was much greater than I had ever imagined where you can actually feel the Gs as you speed around the tower.

The big question surrounding Discovery Kingdom's model is about the lower height and if it detracts from the ride. I haven't been on any other StarFlyers so it's hard for me to really pass judgment, but while on the ride I never felt like I was being let down by how high I was. With fantastic views overlooking Medusa, Cobra, Roar, Kong and the Front Gate the ride really satisfied. The only thing I wish was different was the ride length, because frankly I could sit up there all day just enjoying the view!

SkyScreamer officially opens Friday, May 27th which is also the park's first day of daily operation. If you are a season passholder, the park will be holding Coasters After Dark once the park closes friday night. This special season passholder only event will feature private ride time on Medusa, Kong, Cobra and of course, SkyScreamer.