Monday, February 29, 2016

Busch Gardens Tampa Places Cobra's Curse Two Highest Points

© Busch Gardens Tampa
The updates keep coming with regard to Busch Gardens Tampa's new roller coaster, Cobra's Curse.  The Tampa theme park just installed the two highest points on the new coaster, the 70 foot tall vertical lift hill and the 80 foot tall snake statue that greets riders at the top of the elevator lift.

Here is the giant head of the snake statue, still on the ground waiting to be lifted into place.

© Busch Gardens Tampa
The 'snake king' statue weighs a massive 30,000 pounds, so this is certainly not a small addition to the ride!  For an even better grasp on the huge size of the snake, the two fangs are each four feet long!  The snake's body was already assembled when the giant head was carefully lifted into place.

© Busch Gardens Tampa
While the construction was done off-hours to ensure no park guests were around for safety, it also created some pretty lighting opportunities.  As described by the park, "dozens of artists united to design, engineer, fabricate and thematically paint the snake icon, creating a centerpiece for Cobra’s Curse that will bring riders just inches from its fangs. Standing at 80 feet tall, with 4-foot-long fangs and 3-foot-wide eyes, the icon was constructed of nine stackable pieces with an internal steel spine and an outer shell composed of carved foam and fiberglass."

© Busch Gardens Tampa
With the snake's head in place the park could show off this view from the top of the 70 foot elevator lift hill.  Trains will slowly move forward right toward the menacing open mouth of the snake.  If you look closely you can also see that the track that turns past the snake is banked outwardly, leaning riders even closer to it.

Before even boarding the new family spinning coaster, in the queue guests will be treated to a "400-cubic-foot snake exhibit which will include Jameson’s mambas, Angolan pythons and rhinoceros and gaboon vipers. The design of the multi-level exhibit not only reflects the theme of the ride, but also features several animal husbandry and enrichment components designed with the snakes’ welfare in mind, including naturalistic design elements, controlled heat sources and humidity control."

For more information on Cobra's Curse at Busch Gardens Tampa, click here.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Intamin Reveals New LSM Launched Zac Spin Coaster Design

Known for thrilling roller coaster experiences, Intamin has released details for an exciting modification to its existing Zac Spin design.  To make an even more thrilling ride in and equally small space, the company has added a LSM launch to the Zac Spin layout to amplify the excitement levels of riders.  This new version is also larger than the previous Zac Spin rides that have been installed around the globe.

© Intamin
Here is an overall view of the ride's layout.  The coaster's design is certainly similar to that of S&S's Free Spin rides, only containing a launch at the start.  Intamin's version will stand 105 feet tall and have 995 feet of track.  It is being designed to utilize three trains each seating eight riders - the trains are able to be built with the seats facing forward, backward and even inward facing one another.  The ride cycle time of 120 seconds and a moving platform in the station gives a theoretical hourly capacity of 720 passengers.

© Intamin
The ride actually sounds like it will use a launch at first out of the station and part way up the first hill at about 23 miles per hour.  Then a LMS lift will actually continue the car upward, when a final LMS boost will take the cars up over the top at 25 miles per hour.  The rest of the ride will use gravity with a top speed of over 30 miles per hour.  Because of the initial lift launch there will be no need for evacuation stairs or loud anti-rollbacks, as the cars would return to the launch area if they needed to.

Intamin just put out the press release covering the new ride, so no word yet on when or if we may see one open.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Spain's Ferrari Land Tops Out the World's 5th Tallest Roller Coaster

© Ferrari Land
Ferrari Land, being built adjacent to Spain's PortAventura Theme Park, reached an exciting milestone this past week when they topped out their new Intamin launched coaster.  The new ride is now the 5th tallest roller coaster on the planet, standing 367 feet tall.

PortAventura released these photos of the tallest pieces going into place.  As you can well see, this ride is very similar to Cedar Point's Top Thrill Dragster and Six Flags Great Adventure's Kingda Ka in design.

© Ferrari Land
The support tower for this ride is a bit different though, featuring a more angled back support that makes the tower narrower as it goes up.  The work crews assembled the highest piece on the ground before using a pair of massive cranes to slowly lift it into place - you can see that taking place in this photo.

© Ferrari Land
This rather stunning photo shows the top structure in place, and also gives a great feel for how tall the roller coaster is.  PortAventura can be seen in the background, including another tall roller coaster, a B&M hyper ride named Shambhala that stands 249 feet tall.  This view also gives a nice progress update on the rest of Ferrari Land, which will function as a separately gated park.  Plenty of the Italian themed buildings are starting to go up, and you can see sections of the elaborate go-kart track being formed on the bottom left.  The park will also have two free fall towers that are not yet installed.

© Ferrari Land
This last photo shows the very top of the support tower with Ferrari Land and PortAventura flags on it.  That must have been quite a view for the works on top of that crane!

For more information on the new ride and the rest of Ferrari Land and PortAventura, check out the park's website.

Friday, February 26, 2016

New Documentary - The Legacy of Arrow Development - Now Available

© American Coaster Enthusiasts
After hosting several viewing events at locations such as Six Flags Magic Mountain, the American Coaster Enthusiasts have made their new documentary, The Legacy of Arrow Development, available for public viewing.

The new film - the first feature length one from the organization - chronicles the extensive history of amusement ride manufacturer Arrow Development.  The company is responsible for a number of the original Disneyland attractions, and later went on to become one of the world's largest amusement ride producers.  From Matterhorn at Disneyland (credited as the first tubular-steel roller coaster) to the heights of Magnum XL-200 at Cedar Point, the company was well known as the premier roller coaster builder in the 1980's and 1990's.

The new documentary covers all this history and more through great interviews, little known facts, and extensive media content.

If you're ready to dim the lights, you can head over to The Legacy of Arrow Development site and watch the film.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Cobra's Curse Getting Ready to Spin as 2016 Debut Nears

© Busch Gardens Tampa
While not the biggest or baddest of the new for 2016 class of roller coasters, Busch Gardens Tampa's Cobra's Curse still may come in under the radar as one of the year's best.  The new family spinning coaster features a vertical and traditional lift, plenty of elements to enhance the cars' spinning, below grade trenches, interaction with other park rides and some neat Egyptian theming on top of it all.

The coaster's physical construction is nearing completion, and that presented a good time to invite some media to the park to check things out.  Busch Gardens Tampa had one of the ride's cars on display, rotating to give an idea of its capabilities.

As shown in the original concept art, the trains will be made up of traditional Wild Mouse style cars that have been 'plussed' so that they can spin freely.  Cobra's Curse is a Mack design with a 70 foot tall lift, 2,100 feet of track and a top speed of 40 miles per hour.  The coaster will have a height requirement that will allow smaller passengers to be able to ride with an adult, which is a great move for the theme park.

The tour not only showed off the current construction and ride cars, but also plenty of new concept art for the queue and ride area, along with details such as the fact that the ride will use a moving walkway for loading to help increase capacity.  Plenty of these details and photos of the ride and concept art can be seen in this story from Pixels at the Parks.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Carowinds' Transformation Continues in New Park Update

© Carowinds
Carowinds is currently in the middle of a multi-year series of expansions that will totally transform the theme park into a bigger, bolder version of itself.  After a record-breaking 2015 season that saw the debut of Fury 325, things are progressing nicely on all of the 2016 additions and changes.

The park has so much going on at once that it is almost hard to keep up with it all, thankfully the park is helping us out with regularly updated photos of the work.  Above is the brand new Starbucks that has been built just inside the new North entrance gate that premiered last season.  The 3,000 square foot location will have indoor seating for 100 guests - that's a seriously big Starbucks!  The building will also create a new atmosphere to the space where many visitors start their day.

© Carowinds
Another major project Carowinds is working on is the transformation of the old Action Theater into Plants Vs. Zombies Garden Warfare: 3Z Arena.  The attraction could easily stand on its own as a major addition to the park, but is just one piece of the 2016 puzzle.  The attraction will feature motion based seats that put riders into a "intra-active 3D game experience" themed around the popular Plants Vs. Zombies games.  The attraction will be fully themed to help 'plus' the ride, and much of that theming is now being installed inside the theater.  This photo shows some of that going into place - looking really great so far!

© Carowinds
Carowinds is also totally transforming their current water park into Carolina Harbor, a massively expanded and rethemed water park.  A plethora of new attractions are being added along with a new entrance and other amenities.  Above is the largest new slide tower that is being built, known as Blackbeard's Revenge.  The tower will feature a total of six water slides of three different varieties.  In the foreground of the above photo are the run-out sections for the trap-door launch slides to be known as Pirate's Plank.  You can see the twisted sections of the other slides already in place in the middle of the tower, awaiting more pieces to be added.

© Carowinds
Seaside Splashworks, a large water play structure, is also nearing completion.  The park will soon pour concrete around the structure now that most of it is in place.  This attraction was built on the location of the park's former wave pool, which is being replaced by a much larger, more modern pool.

More photos of all the work on these changes can be seen at this link, and also from the Carowinds' official website.

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Latest Photos of The Joker at Six Flags Great Adventure

© Six Flags Great Adventure
After the recent announcement of a name change to The Joker: 4D Free Fly Coaster from Total Mayhem, Six Flags Great Adventure has proudly been showing off the construction of the innovative ride.  The park's website for the coaster is featuring some very recent construction photos, like the one above.   In this photo the entire bottom level of the ride can be seen in place, with the great purple and green color scheme shining bright in the sun.

© Six Flags Great Adventure
Construction moves fast on a 'stacked' ride like The Joker, evidenced in this photo.  The middle layer of track is quickly being assembled onto the supports, bringing the ride higher and higher in the air.  This new roller coaster will feature a vertical 120 foot tall lift hill, using individual 4-D winged cars that seat eight riders.  On-board magnetic technology will make riders invert at least six times during their ride on The Joker.

Six Flags Great Adventure also released the first in a series of construction video updates for The Joker a couple weeks ago.  While the footage is a little outdated when compared to the above images, it's still a pretty neat watch:

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Heard On... Six Flags' Q4 2015 + Full Year Results Call

Just like we saw with Cedar Fair, Six Flags also had their 4th quarter and full 2015 year results announcement this past week.  And also just like Cedar Fair, Six Flags had another great year of financial results, posting the company's sixth straight year of record figures.  Six Flags' conference call as held this past week as well - here are some highlights.

• The 4th quarter of 2015 saw a 22% increase in attendance and an 18% increase in revenues.  Halloween and Christmas have been good to Six Flags, and the addition of the entire new Holiday in the Park event at Great Adventure was a big part of the gains.

• For all of 2015, total revenue was up $88 million to $1.26 billion - every park in the chain posted increased revenues over 2014.  Attendance was up 11% to 28.6 million.  Adjusted EBITDA was up 10% to $481 million.

• Holiday In The Park and Fright Fest are two events that have created huge gains for the company is the slower 4th quarter.  Or at least traditionally it was slow, now it's quite a profitable quarter for the company - 5 years ago the 4th quarter showed an EBITDA loss, this past year the quarter saw $62 million of EBITDA.  Holiday In The Park will be added to two parks in 2016, Six Flags America and Six Flags St. Louis, for a total of 9 parks holding the event.

• Six Flags' season pass and season membership program has continued to skyrocket in terms of numbers sold.  At the end of 2015 the number of active pass holders and members was up 26% over the prior year.  The huge attendance increase of 2.9 million in the year was in large part due to the pass and membership holders - in total they represented 56% of Six Flags' attendance in 2015.

• Six Flags spent $114 million on capital expenditures in 2015, which is in line with their typical spending of 9% of revenues on additions.

• Six Flags has signed two additional non-binding (meaning it could fall apart) letters of intent for Six Flags branded parks in two additional countries.  These deals are very profitable for Six Flags, the existing ones created $16 million in revenue in 2015 and $13 million in EBIDTA, that's an 81% margin on these projects.

• They will also now operate a previously closed water park in Mexico, located 50 miles from Six Flags Mexico.  Branded as Hurricane Harbor, the water park will see a capital expansion of between $15 and $18 million before it reopens in 2017.  This capital will be above the normal 9% of revenues amount.

Changes are being made to the executive leadership of the company.  Jim Reid-Anderson will be moving into the Executive Chairman position, with John Duffy becoming President and CEO.  Marshall Barber, who's been with Six Flags for 20 years, will become the CFO.  The changes were stated to allow for development and innovation within the organization, better corporate governance, and for Mr. Anderson to see his family a bit more.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Heard On... Cedar Fair 2015 Full Year Results Call

This past week Cedar Fair made its formal announcements of earnings for the 4th quarter of 2015, along with the entire year.  2015 marked the 6th consecutive year of record results - here's some items I found interesting on the investor conference call to cover the news.

• Cedar Fair posted record attendance (24.4 million, up 1.1 million), guest spending ($46.20), out-of-park revenues (up $11 million to $138 million), overall net revenues (up 7% to $1.24 billion) and EBITDA (up 7% to $459 million) in 2015.

• The company saw increased revenues at all its properties except for one, which remained unnamed, and that one property just came off of 7 years of increasing revenues.

• Knott's Berry Farm and its Soak City water park combined had over 5 million guests, and was an all-time record for Knott's.  The park is performing very strongly under the string of image-changing capital projects that have continued to rebrand the property and celebrate its history.

• Carowinds also had a very strong year on the debut of big changes that included Fury 325, surpassing 2 million visitors for the first time.  The park has also been rebranded in the local marketplace and the company will "aggressively invest" in the park moving forward.

• The recently announced WinterFest at California's Great America is a test run for the event; once the park learns from it at the end of this year they plan to bring it to additional parks in 2017.  They won't say which parks yet, but pointed out that they're focused on parks in slightly warmer climates for now.

• Cedar Point was another big performed in 2015, with the Hotel Breakers exceeding the company's estimates - leading to overall increases at the park.  The hotel work was so well received the company will use what it learned from it when planning additional resorts at other parks with available land.  And speaking of, it sounds like they may have news for us on that front as soon as the next conference call.

• FunPix, the company's new photo souvenir system, is tied into new apps that are debuting in season at the 5 largest parks.  It just started at Knott's and has had a great response so far.

• To date season pass sales and the amount they are being sold for are both up over 2015 numbers.  The season pass base was a huge portion of the company's attendance in 2015 and they plan to continue to grow it.

• Total capital expenditures in 2015 were $175 million, larger than any year I can remember for Cedar Fair.  The next two years should come in around $150 million each, and the company is no longer giving an estimate of spending going forward due to many variables - one of which are for large growth opportunities that also cost more (like a new hotel).  Long ago the company stated they spend about 9% of revenues on capital expansions on a consistent basis each year.

Exciting Park Expansion - Ocean Explorer - Opening in 2017 at SeaWorld San Diego

Big news has been released for SeaWorld San Diego's 2017 season with the announcement of the Ocean Explorer expansion. The addition is a "fun, interactive and educational attraction" with several components, effectively creating a new land at the park. Inside the area will be a series of research bases that contain aquariums with unique undersea creatures, and interactive exhibits.

© SeaWorld San Diego
One of the most exciting parts of Ocean Explorer and its "signature" ride will be an immersive dark ride where guests travel in submarines on a global mission of scientific discovery. "Embarking on these mini subs, visitors will become researchers on a mission to collect data and learn how they can help animals. This three-minute experience will include an onboard digital navigation dashboard, as well as a few other surprises along their journey, enhancing the riders’ understanding of the ocean ecosystem."

© SeaWorld San Diego
Along with the submarine dark ride, a new wave swinger - themed as a giant jellyfish - will twirl guests around among thousands of real bubbles in the area.  The park will also add three yet-to-be-disclosed family style rides to the Ocean Explorer area.  I would expect these to be children's rides that accommodate parents as well.

As this is SeaWorld after all, there will be a host of new animals that can be seen and interacted with in this expansion.  The concept art above shows guests checking out Japanese spider crabs, the world’s largest arthropod, in a new reef area that will have multiple viewing areas and crawl tubes. 

© SeaWorld San Diego
This piece of art shows another of Ocean Explorer's new inhabitants, a octopus.  The area will be home to different kinds of the animals, like the Giant Pacific, along with hundreds of jellyfish in several aquariums.

Ocean Explorer, the “newest, fully immersive attraction at SeaWorld San Diego is the next chapter in creating experiences that matter for our guests,” says Brian Morrow, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment’s vice president of theme park experience design. “Ocean Explorer demonstrates our ongoing commitment to creating new and fresh attractions, exhibits and events that provide the exciting, educational and entertaining experiences SeaWorld is known for.”

Work on the addition should begin this summer, located on a three acre plot of land in the southeast part of the park, where Animal Connections and the circle of flags are located.  The expansion will officially open in the spring of 2017.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Holidays are Even Brighter at California's Great America's New WinterFest 2016

The long awaited return of holiday events to the Cedar Fair chain of parks has arrived! California's Great America has announced that toward the end of this year the theme park will be holding WinterFest, described as "a spectacular larger than life holiday event."

The 2016 season marks the park's 40th anniversary, and WinterFest will extend the season by five weeks; the events will start weekends-only on November 25th and then run December 19th through 23rd and the 26th through the 30th.

California's Great America has a variety of holiday events planned for WinterFest, including "one of the Bay Area's tallest Christmas trees adorned with hundreds of twinkling lights and accompanied by giant toy soldiers."  The winter wonderland will include the ability to ice skate in front of the Carousel Columbia, live holiday shows, Santa's workshop and Mrs. Claus' kitchen, 18 rides and attractions and of course plenty of lights and decorations.  The park will offer special holiday food and beverage treats, along with WinterFest retail opportunities.

WinterFest will be free for both Gold and Platinum level season pass holders, adding even more value to the passes than ever before.  Also new in 2016 is the previously announced Mass Effect 4-D attraction, featuring motion based seats, an in-theater live actor, special effects and 3-D glasses.
"WinterFest will be one of Northern California's most spectacular winter events, delivering a unique experience where friends and families can create memories and traditions during the holiday season," Great America's Vice President and General Manager Raul Rehnborg said. "Mass Effect and WinterFest are the first of many exciting additions planned for Great America in the coming years."  We can't wait to see what else is in store!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

SeaWorld Orlando Reveals Mako's Sleek Train Design

© SeaWorld Orlando
SeaWorld Orlando recently received a special delivery for Mako, the park's new B&M hyper coaster.  The ride's trains started arriving and the park was proud to show them off at a small media event today.  To keep the suspense, the park had hidden the lead car from one of the trains inside this giant box.

© SeaWorld Orlando
As the park lifted the giant faux shipping crate the sharp design of the 200 foot tall coaster's train was revealed.  Since the ride has an overall shark theme, the lead car features detailing that is meant to remind riders of the Mako sharks that give the coaster its name.  When completed Mako will be the tallest, longest and fastest roller coaster in the Orlando area.

© SeaWorld Orlando
This close up view of the car shows the theming that evokes the shark appearance.  This lead car will eventually be flying around the nearly mile-long track at 73 miles per hour.

© SeaWorld Orlando
Here is a real "beauty shot" of the entire lead car.  According to SeaWorld Orlando the trains were designed "in a collaboration between SeaWorld’s animal experts and ride engineers."  "The car is inspired by the physiology of an actual Mako shark, including five gills on each side, eye placement and sleek, hydro-dynamic look."  The running wheels that can be seen on the underside of the car are designed with a "special compound" that reduces friction and helps create a faster ride.

© SeaWorld Orlando
Mako will feature three trains when it opens, each with seven rows of four passengers for a total of 28 riders.  The trains feature the extremely comfortable seats that B&M are known for, with lap-bar only restraints that keep riders firmly, yet comfortably, in their seats.

Mako, which the park says is "engineered for speed," is planned to open in time for the busy Summer season.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Hong Kong Disneyland Posts Declined Operating Results for 2015

© Hong Kong Disneyland
After posting several years of increased attendance and overall profits, Hong Kong Disneyland has reported decreased figures across the board for its calendar year 2015.

Blamed on a softening in the local tour and travel industry, Hong Kong Disneyland saw a 9% decrease in attendance to 6.8 million visitors in '15, down from 7.5 million in 2014.  Total revenues for the property also declined 6%, along with increased costs of 2% and lower hotel occupancy rates of 79% (from 93% the year before).  These results caused the park to post an overall loss for the first time in several years.

It must be noted, however, that this past year was the park's 10th anniversary and the first to take place after a series of expansions that added three new 'small' lands to the park and a major parade.  Despite all the decreases, the property still increased guest per capita spending and spending per room in '15.

The current year holds more promise for Hong Kong Disneyland, as a major Iron Man themed attraction is set to open in Tomorrowland.  Next year, in 2017, another resort will open on property featuring 750 rooms named the Disney Explorers Lodge.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Mako's Layout Nearing Completion at SeaWorld Orlando

As seen in this video update from Thrill Geek, SeaWorld Orlando's new B&M roller coaster, Mako, is making great construction progress.  Since the last time we checked in, the ride's second turn was completed and now more recently, the third hill is going in.  The park is constructing the 'return' track at the same time as the 'outward' run, meaning probably 75% of all the track is now installed.

The park has also kept working on the coaster's station, and it appears as though track and supports for Mako's finale, a dive over the park's lagoon, are nearly ready to go in.  The skyline of SeaWorld Orlando is already dramatically changed, especially from the roads adjacent to the park.  Mako is acting like one heck of a billboard for the property!

For nearly daily construction photo updates, make sure to keep tabs on the Mako Madness facebook page as well.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter In Previews at Universal Studios Hollywood

© Universal Studios Hollywood
The next chapter of Harry Potter in U.S. theme parks has begun, as previews of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter have started at Universal Studios Hollywood.

The new area has an official opening date of April 7th, but we all expected there to be a lengthy preview period for such a large addition.  This will allow Universal Studios Hollywood to do adjustments to the area as more and more crowds flow through it, testing the best ways to handle the crush of visitors during the upcoming Summer season.

As for the actual Wizarding World, well it's also as we expected - which is largely a copy of the original land in Florida's Islands of Adventure theme park.  The Hollywood version does have some changes that were incorporated into the Japan version when it opened in '14, so this really is Wizarding World 3.0 you could say.  Die hard fans will note small changes from the Florida original like the location of Ollivanders, the model of coaster used for Flight of the Hippogriff (it is a Mack this time around), and a Hogwarts Express photo op. created since the train can't be ridden in California.

You can count on a flood of content coming online now that previews have started, but to get your feet wet check out this story from Entertainment Weekly, and this piece at Inside Universal.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Fan Favorite Hershey's Chocolate Tour Receiving Major Renovation

© Hershey's Chocolate World
Located just steps from the gates of Hersheypark, Hershey's Chocolate World is one of the busiest company visitor centers on the planet.  Chocolate World features a handful of attractions, dining and retail options that make it an essential stopping point when in Hershey, PA.

One of the oldest attractions in the center is the Chocolate Tour, which opened in 1973 and takes riders on a pretend tour of the Hershey chocolate factory.  Riders are treated to an in-depth look at how some of Hershey's most popular treats are created, and as everyone knows there's a piece of candy waiting for visitors at the end of the ride.

The attraction is currently closed, however, since Chocolate World is giving it a major redo during this off-season.  This will be the 5th version of the Chocolate Tour, having been renovated about each 10 years since opening.  A major change going on now is new passenger cars, which will replace the original vehicles and feature themes of Hershey's products as well as an in-car monitor displaying additional information in multiple languages.

© Hershey's Chocolate World
Fans of the ride will have to say goodbye to Gabby, Harmony and Olympia, who were added in the last renovation.  They're catchy song will also be replaced with a new tune, however the gals will be able to be spotted somewhere else in the new ride.  New animatronic animals, including new cows that will be named by a contest, will be added, along with changes to scenery and lighting throughout.  Digital projection technology will also be added, keeping the ride fresh and relevant to modern audiences while still telling the story of how chocolate is made.

This article features more details on the renovations - which are being done by Granaroli Design and Entertainment and On Track Themes.  The ride is currently closed for three weeks but will reopen as a work in progress at the end of February.  When all the changes are complete the Chocolate Tour will have a grand reopening in May.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Cedar Point Reportedly Removing Shoot The Rapids Before 2016 Season Start

The Sandusky Register is reporting that Cedar Point has started the removal process of Shoot The Rapids, the park's more modern take on a traditional flume ride.  The article, posted this afternoon, states that deconstruction of the ride just started this Tuesday.

© Cedar Point
Shoot The Rapids opened in 2010 and was viewed by many as a replacement for White Water Landing, a traditional log flume that was removed in part of make room for Maverick.  Built by Intamin, the ride had some mechanical issues that may have led to high maintenance costs, as well as an incident in 2013 where a boat traveled backward down a lift hill.  Current Cedar Fair executive management has shown in the past that they are not afraid to remove older, costly rides to partially offset the addition of new ones.  This year Cedar Point is opening Valravn, a B&M dive coaster.

The Register article has a quote from Cedar Point in which they do not confirm or deny the removal of the ride, simply saying they haven't made any announcements about "changes" to their "current ride lineup."  One might assume if the ride was not being removed there would be no harm in the park confirming it was staying.  For now, at least, the Shoot The Rapids section of Cedar Point's webpage is still live.

If the removal is true the ride will have only operated at the park for six seasons.  Shoot The Rapids features an 85 foot lift hill and drop that sent ten passenger boats out across the central lagoon and onto Millennium Island.  The return trip included a second 45 foot tall lift with a drop (seen above) featuring elaborate waterfalls and rockwork.  Upon instillation the ride was reported to have cost $10.5 million.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

New Dorney Park Thunderhawk Train Construction Photos + Original Coaster Contract

© Dorney Park
Just recently Dorney Park announced some major changes to Thunderhawk, their wooden roller coaster that dates back to 1924, for the 2016 season.  One of the largest changes to the coaster, aside from a sparkling white coat of paint, are a pair of brand new trains fabricated by Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters (PTC).

Dorney Park sent some great photos, included in this post, of those new trains being fabricated at PTC.  Above are some of the front panels, complete with hold bars already installed.

© Dorney Park
PTC is building 8 three-seat articulating cars for Thunderhawk, with each of the two trains using four cars (a total of 24 riders per train).  The new trains are featuring a classic-inspired paint scheme, alternating in color pattern to differentiate the two trains.  One will predominantly feature a deep red color and be accented by a golden yellow, the other train will swap the two.  This photo shows off both of those schemes at play in the finished side panels for the cars.

© Dorney Park
Here is a closer view of the completed side panels, giving a really nice look at the new train colors.  These will really pop against the newly painted white structure of the coaster.

© Dorney Park
In this photo at left is Jim Schneck, Dorney Park's Graphic Services Manager and PTC's President Tom Rebbie inspecting the progress of one of the train's front car panels.  The park chose to go with a somewhat open design for the front of the trains, which is a throwback to classic wood coaster trains of the past.  The front will also feature the Thunderhawk logo, as shown in the park's concept art for the trains.

© Dorney Park
Moving on from the front and side panels of the trains, the true "guts" of the cars are also quite far along.  Here is a photo of the base components of the trains laid out in PTC's shop, already painted in a jet black colors.  I'm not a expert on the mechanics of wood coaster trains, but you can see that some of the wheel assemblies have been applied to the bases.

© Dorney Park
Here is one more final close up look at one of the train bases.  It's so wonderful to see Dorney Park put such effort into keeping one of their legacy rides in great shape.  I can't wait to try these out when the park opens this Spring.

© Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters
The park also sent to us this original contract document that PTC shared with them, from when Thunderhawk (then known just as The Coaster) was going to be built.  You'll have to click for the larger image to read it, but this is a wonderful find for those who appreciate roller coaster history!

The contract is between PTC and Richard Rusk and R. L. Plarr of Dorney Park for "all the cars, machinery, plans, specifications, etc." needed for the instillation of the coaster.  The total for the ride's train, machinery and chain and the ride's plans came to a cool $9,673.  In addition, the contract covers the services of ride designer Herbert Schmeck at $17 a day plus expenses.  Such a neat document to be able to read!

Many thanks to Dorney Park and Mike Fehnel for these items, and you can keep up to date on the new trains' progress via the official PTC website.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Is the Future of California's Great America Foggy Again?

In short: no.  But, the last ten or so years haven't been the most memorable in the history of California's Great America, that's for sure. After being fairly ignored and nearly sold during the planning and construction of the 49ers stadium, the park found some love once again with Cedar Fair's current management team after much strife.

That led to the green-light of Gold Striker, a highly regarded wood roller coaster, but not too much else with big wow-factor in recent years.

A rather outdated aerial of the park © Bing Maps
With the 49ers stadium up and running the park has found a way to coexist, however it seems that another important phase of its history will be coming soon.  The land the park is on is actually leased by Cedar Fair, and while it is a very long term lease they still do not own it.  The city will be selling the land for around $155 million in the near future, and that means it is possible for another developer to snatch up the land, offer Cedar Fair big bucks for the lease, take over, and bring and end to the park.

Granted, that's a very doomsday look at what could be, and probably not what will be.  This story helps paint that picture, detailing a much more positive outlook.  Firstly, Cedar Fair has first rights at purchasing the land, so if they choose not to buy it that might be a sign of disinterest in keeping the park.  Secondly, the park's general manager is quoted in the story saying that they still intend to expand and grow, regardless of who owns the land because of their air-tight lease.

We also know from Cedar Fair directly that they are working on a rezoning of California's Great America that might actually lead to not only bigger park growth, but also entertainment and retail projects adjacent to it.

So it seems the sun may be coming out after all, but we all know what high land value (or the promise of it) can do to a park depending on the operator.  Cough, AstroWorld, cough.  Let's hope not.