Saturday, January 20, 2024

Iron Menace at Dorney Park Update


© NewsPlusNotes

My apologies for not getting up some photos sooner, however Dorney Park is doing such an amazing job at keeping us updated it almost feels unnecessary!  Still, here are some shots from last weekend.  It snowed a bunch this week so the site looks way different now... but we'll get to that.  

 

Iron Menace's lift hill, first drop and Immelmann are totally complete, and the giant zero-g roll is half complete as of today.  The ride is impressive as heck to drive by and see, and excitement is building in the Lehigh Valley with folks taking notice of this giant new ride.


© NewsPlusNotes
The construction will soon be super visible from the intersection of Lincoln Avenue and Dorney Park Road, as the focus on the tilted loop will soon take place  In the photo above the track leading to the highest support of the zero-g roll wasn't installed, but it was placed this past week.  Nothing else was added though, as it was snowing an frigidly cold most of the week.


© NewsPlusNotes
One major development is the placement of the steel for the ride's station.  You can see it's a reddish color and the actual ride transfer storage shed is gray.  The station is a pretty nice sized structure, I like how it's all one connected building.  Also take note that the box on the far right will have the Zephyr train run under it - I love this design element as the park totally didn't have to do it!  Applause for little things like that which will make a more complete experience for visitors.


© NewsPlusNotes

Here is one last close-up photo of the track exiting the Immelmann and heading up into the zero-g roll.

 

I also want to share this video from East Coasters which has a super recent update on the ride and also some very interesting updates on the park:


The park has no only been having wonderful updates on their own but also partnering with a lot of other sites and YouTubers for updates.  This one is worth checking out because there is news on:

 

- Changes to the Cedar Creek Flyers

- Changes to the food offerings in the lower park

- Changes to Possessed

- A sense of the new 'themed area' that is being added

- Thoughts on how the park arrived at Iron Menace's layout

- Some light teases about future new attractions


Sunday, December 17, 2023

Iron Menace Topped Off at Dorney Park!


© Dorney Park
So I did drive by just to stare at Iron Menace's newly completed lift hill, and I did take some photos, but they pale in comparison to these beautiful shots shared by the park!  Yes, in case you've not heard yet, Dorney Park placed the highest piece of Iron Menace's lift hill into place late last week, and it's as beautiful as the renderings show.  Well, actually much more beautiful in person!


© Dorney Park

© Dorney Park

© Dorney Park

© Dorney Park

© Dorney Park

© Dorney Park
With the ride's lift hill complete Iron Menace is now towering 160 feet over the lower portion of Dorney Park.  The new skyline of the park is beautiful and feels very balanced once again with a taller ride in that section of the park.  It's a real sight to behold as you come down Lincoln Avenue and turn into the park as well!  The ride's relative muted colors (you catch mostly the gray of the catwalks on the lift hill) are a nice contract to the nearby Possessed tower, and both are always framed somewhat by Steel Force in the background.


© Dorney Park
Dorney also released some awesome drone footage of the ride being topped off which allows us to see the entire worksite in its splendor.  The park has put down a packed stone layer so the crane can get around the worksite, and you can also see all the planters on the midway have been removed to allow for better traffic flow next year - it's sure to be a lot busier in the lower part of the park.


© Dorney Park
You'd never know there was a Rita's building down there from the way it looks now!


© Dorney Park
Tons to see in this one, but I'm focused on the ride's station area.  You can see a lot of new support work for the building that will cover the transfer storage area.  There's also more footers out further and I think the Zephyr will pass through between that area.  I can't wait to see that part of the ride go up, but I'm equally excited to see the ride's first drop and Immelmann go up soon!

 

Stay tuned for more updates from the park - they are providing the BEST construction coverage and updated I have seen a park do in many, many years.  And not just saying that because we love the park!


Sunday, November 19, 2023

Digesting the Cedar Fair and Six Flags Merger


© Six Flags
I had to really let this one sink in for a while before covering it here - but as I'm sure you've all heard by now Cedar Fair and Six Flags have reached an agreement to merge into one company.  The new company will trade on the stock market under the ticker FUN but will be called Six Flags Entertainment Corporation.  Essentially that means that the company we all love named Cedar Fair will cease to exist when the deal closes in the first half of 2024.


Technically neither company is buying the other in the merger, and shareholders of each company will receive shares of the new Six Flags according to set multipliers announced already.  The new company will have an enterprise value of around $8 billion and they will own and operate "27 amusement parks, 15 water parks and 9 resort properties across 17 states in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico."  A big plus for the merger is that the company will be less exposed to bad weather in one specific part of the country as they'll have parks much more spread out.


© Six Flags
The new Six Flags also expects to quickly achieve around $200 million in "annual synergies" - meaning cost savings to the bottom line.  From purchasing power to being able to remove duplicate jobs, the new company can push more toward profits by leveraging their larger enterprise.  They think they can turn that into as much as $80 million in EBITDA within three years.


© Six Flags
The new company will have a 12 person board with six members coming from each company.  The current Cedar Fair CEO, Richard Zimmerman, will service as the new Six Flags' CEO.  Six Flags current CEO, Selim Bassout will become the Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors.  Cedar Fair's CFO will keep the position in the new Six Flags and current Six Flags' CFO will become the Chief Integration Officer.  The new company's headquarters will stay in North Carolina where Cedar Fair's currently is.


Based of where both companies are currently, the new Six Flags will have around $3.4 billion in revenue, $1.2 billion in EBIDTA and entertain around 48 million people per year.  In the end Cedar Fair unit (stock) holders will own 51% of the new company and Six Flags stock holders 49%.


© Six Flags
On a call regarding the merger leaders of both companies were quick to point out that the plan will allow for a larger amount of free cash flow that they can use to pay down debt.  They also say that the larger cash flow will be used for investing in the parks.  Exactly how that will work, at least to me, will depend on their performance as paying down debt to support the new company's stock price will typically come first.  Since the new company will still be publicly traded the burden of making decisions to support the stockholders will always be #1 - not what the coolest coaster is to build.


© Six Flags
To me the leadership set up is telling (along with other facts sprinkled so far in this story).  I know this is a merger of the companies but to me personally it feels like Cedar Fair is adding Six Flags to their company.  From the CEO placement to headquarter location, Cedar Fair seems to be running things here.  And from a purely personal opinion that makes sense as Six Flags' leadership feels underwhelming when compared to Cedar Fair's.  There are definitely pluses from both companies to explore but Cedar Fair even notes that they think they can vastly improve Six Flags' parks in-park spending, mostly through food and beverage.


However no one can ignore that Six Flags is a clear national brand, perhaps a bit global even, and Cedar Fair is not at all, their parks names' are their real brand.  This will also gives all Cedar Fair parks access to Looney Tunes and D.C. Comics, which when done right could be cool, but if smothered into the parks like Six Flags does it could be pretty not cool.  Cedar Fair in the past few years entered a new 'make it themed' era and I pray it doesn't stop with this merger.


© Six Flags
When the deal was announced there was a lot of fear about park areas between the two companies that overlap, and rightfully so.  Northern and Southern California, Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey for example.  Six Flags and Cedar Fair leaders were asked about this and they do not seem to view these as redundancies, instead they see an opportunity to grow season passes that would allow visitors to go to both parks with one pass - creating an even bigger base of visits, and in turn money.


© Six Flags
But, when pushed again about the value of divesting "lower return lower quality" parks Cedar Fair's CEO said "As we look at the portfolio, I said this before, there were these are really irreplaceable assets. We’ve always struggled with, how do you grow if you shrink your portfolio. But I do think as we look at the combined portfolio, we’re going to evaluate a whole range of ways to unlock and maximize the
values. I’m most excited about focusing on all 42 to see how we optimize and, and create the ability to generate as much revenue uplift and cash flow generation as possible.
 

But over time, as stewards of capital in the market, I think our Board will have the opportunity to evaluate what really drives and maximize shareholder returns once we get to that targeted leverage ratio, and we’re looking forward."


So, the new company will most certainly not be afraid of selling (or I shudder to think of other options) parks that are not meeting their standards or present other opportunities that are too good to pass up.  Recall that Cedar Fair sold the land under California's Great America well before this merger, knowing full well it meant the eventual end of the park.  The comment does acknowledge that these are "irreplaceable assets" but at the same time makes it clear that their job is to "maximize shareholder returns."  So while they do not appear to have an immediate plan to divest any parks, it is by no means off the table.


© NewsPlusNotes
In order for the deal to happen there are several items that have to take place.  Largest is an affirming majority vote from the Six Flags Entertainment stockholders.  The new company also needs antitrust approval, though that doesn't seem a real issue at all in their minds.  Also, the deal can be killed for a number of reasons including if Six Flags board of directors changes its recommendation that stockholders approve the deal or doesn't make the recommendation at all, then a "Cedar Fair Triggering Event" takes place and then Six Flags owes Cedar Fair a cool $63.2 million.  The deal itself is about 140 pages long, and I personally can't get through it, but you can at this link if you like.


The fact that if the deal falls through Six Flags owes Cedar Fair that much money is also telling to me about who holds the power in the deal.  That gives me some comfort, but as we've seen in countless other large mergers in other industries, there's always some good and often plenty of bad.  Buckle up for this one, indeed.


Thursday, November 16, 2023

Official Photos of Iron Menace's First Track Pieces Installed


In addition to the not-so-great photos we got when driving by the park, Dorney has also sent out some definitely-great photos of the track for Iron Menace that has been put into place!

© Dorney Park

There's lots to be seen in these photos, much of which we discussed in the previous story.  Here we have the track immediately before the transfer piece - with Possessed looking on approvingly from the background.


© Dorney Park

Zooming back out to the road you can get an idea of the part of the construction site that is now active with supports and track in place.


© Dorney Park
Moving in a bit you have footers for the end of the tilted loop and the start of the ride's corkscrew spin in the foreground here, with the brake run in the background.


© Dorney Park

© Dorney Park

Additional images of the track standing from different angles give the same views of beautiful B&M track.


© Dorney Park

This view of the transfer track will feed directly into the station track piece, which will be immediately on the left.  From there its immediately up and onto the ride's lift hill.


© Dorney Park

This little park that could held in there for many years and was rewarded with a great B&M coaster.  It is pretty cool to think that the park will have three B&Ms when it opens... that is something reserved for much larger parks, usually.



© Dorney Park

© Dorney Park
I can't wait for more track to arrive at the park so we can see the lift hill (hopefully) go up before things get too cold out.  The station track piece with the base of the lift hill should also go into place soon, if it hasn't already.  Stay tuned!


Sunday, November 12, 2023

Iron Menace at Dorney Park Has Gone Vertical!


© NewsPlusNotes
Out running errands today and I figured, why not stop by the park and see what's up?  Well, a lot is!  Iron Menace at Dorney Park has gone vertical, with most of the brake run and the transfer track in place.  It is amazing to see in person, the scale is much larger than your mind might expect.


Up top is the view coming down Lincoln Avenue toward the park, immediately your eyes notice the giant coaster pieces starting to frame the background.  It will be much more impressive in the future when the B&M Dive Coaster's tilted loop will be right here as well!


© NewsPlusNotes
From the backside of the construction area you can get more of an idea of what is up so far - the pieces we're seeing here are for the final brake run.  In the foreground, not built yet obviously, will be the final helix that will connect with that track.  The footers for that helix look largely complete at this point.


© NewsPlusNotes
Looking at the vertical pieces from the other side we get a good look the structure.  At the end of the brake run is the transfer track piece, which is currently slide off to the side.  After that area will be the ride's station, harder to see here as it will be in the background.


© NewsPlusNotes
A bit of a better view of the station area, which I would assume will be the next to go into place.  The park shared video of the base of the lift hill (already connected to the station track) being taken to the work site, so that should be in place soon.


There isn't much new track in the staging area, so until more shows up the focus will be on the brake/transfer/station area.  I'm sure the park will give us some great looks at the now vertical track soon as they've been doing a fantastic job keeping us updated on Iron Menace's progress.


Thursday, November 2, 2023

The IAAPA Legends Panel for 2023



 Now that Halloween is over the scariest sight for November is the line for admission to the Legends Panel on Wednesdays at IAAPA. There have been reports from Galaxy's Edge and Shanghai Disneyland, and other giants of the entertainment industry with cool stories of their experiences. This year is no exception.


The subject is Universal's Beijing Resort and how they learned new strategies to remain successful during the Covid Pandemic. There will be three members of the the panel, Tom Mehrman, Sylvia Hase, and Mike Hightower. Keeping the discussion moving with piercing questions and great repartee will be Bob Rogers, of Founder and Chairman of BRC Imagination Arts, 


Tom Mehrman, who served at President and General Manager during the development of Universal Bejing Resort has a background of working in the amusement park industry with many perspectives. Being part of the management team at Knott's Berry Farm and learning how to compete with Disneyland, leading Ocean Park when Disney Hong Kong, and developing Universal Bejing Resort, he has examples of creative solutions that can be applied to many different sized parks. And beside that he has a wicked sense of humor. He is the President and Chief Operating Officer of Universal Destinations and Experiences, Pacific Rim Universal.


Sylvia Hase, President of Hasbas Entertainment, has produced world class events and live shows worldwide. Her work has won awards from both THEA and IAAPA and it covering multiple continents. She was also first female director for the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Her production of The Little Mermaid is the longest running show is Tokyo Disney Sea history, being experienced by over 35 million guests to date.


Mike Hightower started working in the aerospace/contracting industry after graduating from Stanford University. He is recently retired after being named President of Universal Creative. He has opened projects in China, Dubai, Singapore, Spain, and the United States. He spent some time working directly with Tom on Universal Bejing Resort and it will interesting to see if their recollections have any significant differences.


This is the Legends 2023 Panel, and it will always be too short, no matter how long it lasts. With this much experience on the dais, the audience will be standing room only and discussed many times on the trade show floor. Pardon us, we want to see where the head of the line starts so we know in advance. See you at S310EFGH at 4:00 pm!