Monday, April 30, 2012

Scott and Carol Present: Leviathan at Canada's Wonderland

Don't let the bright sunshine fool you, we awoke to snow flurries and had grave doubts that a steel coaster would be able to even run due to the cold. We were very relieved to see coasters testing all through the park from a neighboring McDonald's. The highest temperature during the media day was 44 degrees Fahrenheit, or 6 .66 degrees Celsius. A big round of applause to the maintenance staff at Canada's Wonderland who keep the rides operating in these low temperatures.

Here is the skyline view from outside the parking lot before we got close to the sign. You can see the steepness of the first drop and how the track stretches from one end of the park to the other. Guests standing in line to buy tickets will hear the roar of the train every one and a half minutes on a normal day.

The Medieval Faire section of the park is where the Leviathan station is located, and the bright colors nicely frame the fountain. There is something about being in an amusement park early in the season, when everything is pretty and fresh, that adds to the park experience.

The design and execution of the sign/fountain, was done entirely in house, according to Norm Pirtovshek, the Vice President & General Manager of Canada's Wonderland. "They built me a model, and I asked them if they could do it 16 feet wide and 10 feet tall, on top of a fountain. They assured me they could, and they are amazing fiberglass molders, and pretty good with an airbrush too." We think most park visitors will agree.

The back side of the dragon has a drawing of part of the track, which is done to scale. It was so cold that day we were expecting the fountain to freeze, but it never did. The Leviathan in mythology is a fire-breathing sea serpent, the eyes light up at night and vapor spurts from his nostrils. We could have used some of his fire breathing today.

A few details about the coaster are incorporated into the retail shop. The important figures are 306 feet or 93.3 metres tall, and top speed of over 90 mph or 148 kph. We were old that on the Leviathan Media Day the weather reduced the top speed by 12 kph to about 84.5 or 136 kph, not that we noticed. Our wind chill chart does not go that high but just be aware that we lost feeling in our fingers midway down the first drop.

Norm Pirtovshek started at Canada's Wonderland 30 years ago as rides maintenance manager. "The placement of the ride was set to disperse the crowds, he says, because we were thrill heavy in Action Zone. My favorite part of the ride is the first drop. I also appreciate how close the ride is to the midways, to help entertain the guests who don't ride." So when you see Norm in the park, feel free to say high and mention that you saw him on News Plus Notes. He also wanted us to mention Dinosaurs Alive, their new family attraction.

Here a train of auction winners begins the first drop. The First Riders Auction raised over $41,000 for the Sick Kids Foundation, which works with local Toronto hospitals. None of them were reported as suffering frostbite, and the screams of joy indicated their lungs were working just fine. Leviathan is restricted to riders 54 inches and taller.

In a departure from recent B & M giga coasters, the seating arrangement is four seats straight across, which speeds up the lines for both the front and back seats considerably. Each train seats 32 riders, and with no seat belts, around 1600 guests per hour should keep the line moving constantly.

With so many airtime hills, the ride provides many thrills along the way. The long left curving dogleg extends the longest float during the ride, at least on this day.

The overbanked turn by the front gate signals beginning of the return run back to the station.

Leviathan has limited interaction with Dragon Fire, the old Arrow/Huss multilooper. The return run pops up above first loop before the diving brake run just outside the station.

Here a group of riders is nearly to the top of the first floater hill following the first drop.

Looking though the first loop of Dragon Fire, you can see the front seat rider's legs are still high from the negative g force of the preceding airtime hill.

So with $28 million Canadian dollars, Bolliger & Mabillard has built their tallest coaster yet. The 16th coaster for Canada's Wonderland, the only park worldwide with both a 230 foot or 70.1 metres, and also a 306 or 93.3 metres, there is no longer an excuse not to get a passport and visit the Great White North for some good coaster riding.

Editor's Note: Here's a cool video of Scott and Carol taking a spin on Leviathan! If you're wondering about the amount of air-time to be found on the ride, make sure to pay attention to Scott's legs! ~ Mike


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Details of the Reimagined Test Track at EPCOT

Test Track, one of the most exciting attractions at Disney World's EPCOT theme park, has now been closed in order for the ride to undergo a serious reimagining.  The new version of the ride will be dramatically different than the previous ride experience, shifting the focus of the attraction from real life automotive testing to the digital design of vehicles.

The ride is slated for a Fall reopening, which puts one of the park's major rides out of commission for quite a while.  The wait will be worth it, as it sounds like quite an interactive adventures is planned for the Chevrolet sponsored ride.  Guests will be able to design their own car in the pre-show area, allowing them to choose different vehicle attributes in the name of customization.  Their design will then be stacked up against the ride's test track in order to see how their car performed.

Test Track's ride experience will still consist of both slow and high speed sections, as in its former life.  The inside of the building will be totally redone however in order to take riders inside a computer design program where vehicles are often tested in current day.  Above are some concept images of the new building interior, which are pulling many comments of similarities to the Tron film.

After the ride guests can revisit their car design and interact with it through various methods in the post show area, including having it in a commercial or having their photo taken with it.

To really understand the change that are coming to the ride I highly suggest watching these interviews with Imagineers who are working on the attraction.  Test Track was great in its former life, but it looks like its upgrade into the digital age is going to be just as thrilling.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

SeaWorld Orlando Opens Turtle Trek

On top of several recent announcements about future developments, SeaWorld Orlando has also opened a brand new attraction, Turtle Trek.

Billed as the only adventure of its kind in the world, Turtle Trek combines live sea turtles and manatees in naturalistic habitats with a unique 3-D 360 dome theater experience.

Guests first visit two different habitats before the dome theater.  These are the homes of gentle manatees and sea turtles, and each encounter is paired with plenty of educational material which explains why the creatures are so unique.

As guests enter a giant domed theater they know they're in for a treat.  Using 3-D glasses, visitors experience a full 360 degree film that "takes them on the amazing journey of a special sea turtle named Nyah."  The "turtle's eye view" gives a first of a kind experience that totally surrounds visitors.

Turtle Trek also has some interactive attractions in the post show area, as well as a full gift shop.  A portion of each dollar spent at the shop will directly benefit research to help save animals.

As part of their commitment to nature, SeaWorld and all of its parks will be eliminating plastic gift bags within the next year.  This move is to not only keep them out of landfills, but also to stop animals from accidentally eating them.  A nice move!

Orlando Attractions Magazine visited Turtle Trek and created this nice preview video:

Friday, April 27, 2012

A Western View - NorCal Two-fer

Today we are going for a NorCal two-fer.   That’s right, we are checking in with not one but 2 Northern California parks.  First up, a quick look at California’s Great America. 

Fresh off the announcement that Cedar Fair would retain ownership of the park and invest in it’s future, the park is already benefiting from it’s parent company’s renewed care for the park.  The park looks absolutely beautiful, the staff was upbeat and friendly and the overall feel of the park has become very positive.  This was one of the best visits I’ve had to the park in quite a few years, something I’m very excited about as this was the park that I grew up with.

First off, a few attractions received some fresh paint.  The Columbia Carousel got the full work over and looks stunning.  Flight Deck and The Demon also got some fresh paint; unfortunately it looks like the park decided to just paint portions of the coasters and not the whole thing.

Grizzly received some significant track work on the fan turn near the station.  The work has greatly improved the roughness of what was easily the worst part of the coaster.  While the ride is still not particularly exciting, many riders were getting off raving about how fun it was which I think is proof that the ride has a place in the park, even if enthusiast don’t care for it.

Lastly, the park’s new neighbor recently broke ground.  49ers Stadium is set to open in the park’s former overflow parking lot for the 2014 season.  It’s going to be an interesting couple of years watching the stadium go up right next to the park.

Next up we visit Six Flags Discovery Kingdom where construction of the park's new roller coaster, SUPERMAN Ultimate Flight is well underway.

The park has a good portion of the ride’s track and support pieces in the guest parking lot prepped and waiting to be moved to the ride site. This track is not tiny either; in fact it’s massive.   I’m not sure why I was under the impression the ride would have small track, but these piece are almost the size of typical B&M track.

The rides support structure is starting to go up, and what is surprising is how drastically different from the concept art it is.  What appeared to be a linear structure is turning out to be rather wide, in fact it takes up the majority of the old Zonga pad.

Workers were on site putting the structure together, which has really gone up quickly over the last week.   At this rate it’s likely the entire ride will be up within the next 2 to 3 weeks.

The big screen over the ride’s entrance plays a constant loop of the ride’s promotional video.

SUPERMAN is starting to become a part of the park’s skyline, something we expect to see looking very different very soon.

Check back soon for a look at another Northern California park we don't see very often, Gilroy Gardens.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Universal Studios Florida Previewing Cinematic Spectacular

Universal Studios Florida is currently previewing their expansive nighttime spectacular to guests of the theme park.  The show, named Universal's Cinematic Spectacular: 100 Years of Movie Memories, takes place on the park's central lagoon and is able to be viewed from just about anywhere near the water, making it able to accommodate many guests each evening.

Several large water fall projection screens, lighting, fountains, and fireworks are used along with footage of some of Universal's most famous movie moments that is narrated by Morgan Freeman.   Lighting dots not only the fountains and screens, but also the buildings along the water, helping to create a complete environment for the performance.

The show's full debut is May 8th, but many guests are lucky enough to catch a preview during their visits before then. 

The show certainly has its own vibe, and is not exactly what I expected when the grand nature of the production was announced.  It can be hard to gauge a nighttime show from video, but if you want to try Inside the Magic has a great quality video of the whole show, plus many photos and information on viewing.

The Latest Bluegrass Boardwalk News

Some promising developments have recently taken place in the plan to reopen Kentucky Kingdom as Bluegrass Boardwalk in 2013. 

Developers have received preliminary approval for $3.9 million in tourism tax credits from the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority.

The park will be eligible to start receiving the credits once Bluegrass Boardwalk has opened.  A study will be conducted to ensure that the plan meets the requirements for the credits, hence the preliminary status.  A nice write up on the latest tax developments is available here.

Developers have also released some initial details on their plans for the revitalized park:
  • Goal: Open Bluegrass Boardwalk in May, 2013, with revitalized rides and water park.
  • Provide: Safe, clean, friendly, fun experience for families, with “freebies” including free soft drinks, free sunscreen and free use of inner tubes.
  • First year investment: $15.6 million. Additional investments will be made by Bluegrass Boardwalk, Inc., each year to ensure steady attendance growth.
  • First year’s schedule: Open for 106 days in 2013.
  • Destination Marketing: Staff will work with area tourism entities to create and promote destination marketing programs to ensure at least 25% of attendance will be from out of state.
  • Projected Attendance Growth: 600,000 in 2013, growing to 782,864 in 2022.
  • Projected Job Creation: 25 fulltime/805 seasonal in 2013, growing to 43 and 976 in 2022.
  • Projected Payroll: $4.7 million in 2013, growing to $6.1 million in 2022.
  • Projected State Fair Board Revenue: $880,000 in 2013, growing to $1.8 million in 2022.
The first year investment of $15.6 million is plenty enough to add a nice variety of attractions at the park, and get it cleaned up and ready to go.  They're also being more than reasonable with their attendance goals, with a realistic growth estimate over 10 years.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A New Resort and Antarctica Details from SeaWorld Orlando

SeaWorld Orlando has made a few exciting announcements over the past days, one of which involves reconfiguring the park as part of a vacation destination.  Now known as SeaWorld Parks & Resorts Orlando, the theme park will partner with seven different hotels in order to offer "full vacation experiences offering money-saving travel values, exclusive benefits, and a convenient location."

The resort atmosphere is highlighted by two additional parks in the chain, including the all-inclusive Discovery Cove park and Aquatica, SeaWorld's water park.

Guests staying at one of the partner hotels are granted exclusive benefits, including:
  • Complimentary transportation to SeaWorld, Aquatica, Discovery Cove and Universal Orlando
  • Complimentary Quick Queue Unlimited (front-of-the-line access) at SeaWorld
  • Exclusive access to the “SeaWorld Rescue Tour” at SeaWorld on Early Entry dates and every Saturday all year long
  • Free shuttle to Busch Gardens Tampa on the Busch Gardens Shuttle Express (Busch Gardens Ticket and shuttle reservation required)

Equally exciting is SeaWorld Orlando's largest expansion ever, arriving at the park in 2013.  Named Antarctica - Empire of the Penguin, the addition will be an entire new themed section of the park including ride, restaurant, penguin habitat and gift shop.  The park has released some additional details of the expansion, previously kept secret by park designers.

The area's main attraction will include a family adventure ride that "utilizes new technology for an experience that can change from visit to visit."  Guests will be able to choose the level of thrill they experience on the ride, and each car will seat eight guests.  New drawings of these vehicles can be seen in the concept art above.

The full storyline of the ride has not been revealed, but the park has said that a young gentoo penguin will be the ride's guide as guests travel through the "dangers and wondrous beauty of the Antarctic."

Actual penguins will be involved as well, and guests will be able to get closer to than ever before via a design first.  The attraction will also be cold, quite cold, as penguins are only comfortable in the low 30s and as such guests will have to enter that environment.

More details are planned for release in the future on the Antarctica expansion at SeaWorld Orlando.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Feel the Sting at Dorney Park in 2012

Dinosaurs Alive! is a truly great addition, but if you're headed to Dorney Park in 2012 and are looking for thrills, then Stinger is probably what you're going to make a beeline for when the gates open.  The new roller coaster is located in the lower section of Dorney Park, resting nicely in what was once Laser's home.

Here's some perspective on how the coaster fits into things at the park.  The midway that follows along the ride curves and ends in a large circular area that will be used for special events on an as needed basis.  There is no trace of the additional children's rides that were located along the creek, a nice grassy area has been created.  Also worth noting is that the area under Stinger is nice grass, not mulch or stone.  Easy on the eyes, indeed!

Before moving on with more of the ride, I had to snap a photo of the cool (pun intended) ice sculptures that the park had for the event.  Very nice touch!

Dorney Park's history of creating fantastic ride marquees has not been broken with Stinger.  This sizable 3-D sign has been placed at the ride's entrance complimenting the cool blue and teal color scheme.

Inside Stinger's station awaits the train for the ride, which seats riders in a face-to-face position.  Since the ride travels both forwards and backwards through the course, the direction of the seats still means each rider experiences both directions of travel.

The station structure is brand new for the ride, since it was uncovered in its former life.  Park Vice President and General Manager Jason McClure noted that they, "appreciate Vekoma, the ride's manufacturer, who helped us get the ride commissioned and ready to open."

I've covered Stinger's construction in many posts before here on NewsPlusNotes, so it was refreshing to finally get shots with the train in it!  The ride starts as the train is hauled up the 138 foot tall lift hill.  Slowly you climb, pause, then click - you hear the brakes release and the train falls back down the hill, blasting through the station and up into the first inversion.

The first inversion is really an element that contains two flips, a cobra roll.  The naming of the element is for the shape that a cobra makes before it strikes, however, Stinger also looks quite similar to a scorpion ready to strike.  I wouldn't want to be involved with either creature, personally!

As the train navigates the cobra roll element (seen above in a fish-eye view), it flips as it both enters and exits, with only a brief moment of right-side-up in the middle.  From there riders really have no time to catch up because it's about time to flip once again.

And this nice 72 foot tall vertical loop is there, ready and waiting, to do just that.  Remember that the seats face each other on Stinger, so that the whole time during all this flipping and twisting you're able to stare straight into the face of those riding with you... both hilarious and a bit unsettling at the same time.  Hope no one gets too motion sick!

Stinger actually hits 55 miles per hour at the base of the first drop, so things happen very quickly here.  It wasn't the warmest day today and the coaster was still moving at a good clip - and as things heat up in the Summer that's only going to get faster!

The ride then heads up the second lift, and again we hear the brakes release and down again we go.  Depending on how you sat you are now either face-forward or backwards, making the journey quite different than the out-bound route.  Really, if you haven't been on a shuttle coaster before you'll know what I mean once you experience it!

Back through the course Stinger's train goes, covering the 985 feet of track just as fast as the first trip.  Before riders know it, the one minute and thirty second ride has come to an end and a total of six inversions have been experienced.

Stinger is Dorney Park's 8th coaster and according to the park is "the only suspended boomerang coaster on the East coast with face-to-face seating."  The ride will have an official ribbon cutting ceremony on the park's 2012 opening day, this Saturday the 28th of April.

Check out this short video of the ride in operation:

Many thanks to Dorney Park for having us out to the park today.  We're looking forward to the rest of the 2012 season and the other treats the park has in store!