Thursday, October 8, 2015

Unique New Plants Vs. Zombies 3-D Attraction Opening at Carowinds in 2016

Having already announced new live entertainment, a Starbucks and an enormous new water park named Carolina Harbor, Carowinds has revealed the icing on its 2016 cake: Plants Vs. Zombies Garden Warfare: 3Z Arena.

The innovative new attraction is being created in partnership with both Electronic Arts and PopCap Games, who created the popular Plants Vs. Zombies franchise of games.  The attraction is being dubbed as the first "intra-active 3-D game experience," and will take place in the park's soon-to-be highly renovated and rethemed Action Theater.

Rider perspective of the 3Z Arena
For those not familiar, in Plants Vs. Zombies a battle for suburbia takes place between the two foes, in a shooter style game.  At Carowinds, the new ride will feature new "characters including Super Brainz, a zombie super hero who thinks he's an 80's action movie star, and Citron, a bounty-hunting orange from the future."  The ride will premier as a sequel to the first game is released next Spring.

The 3Z Arena is the home of the attraction, and it will feature two large screens (one for each team), each with several rows of motion-based seats in front of them.  The ride is "inter-active" because each team is able to interact with their opposition's screen.

Aerial view of the new 3Z Arena
Once on their motion-based seat, riders will be able to take in the "3-D technology, massive screens, surround sound" and other special effects as they shoot the action playing out on the screen during a five minute battle.  Riders will be able to score points as they use their blasters, and track their scores as well.  The nearly 3,600 square foot arena will have 68 motion-based seats that will allow for around 600 to 700 people per hour.

The theme design for the motion-based seats.
“Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare: 3Z Arena is another example of how Carowinds is committed to bringing unique and innovative experiences that the entire family can enjoy together,” said Mike Fehnel, Carowinds Vice President and General Manager. “This wildly popular brand has such a universal appeal and aligns perfectly with our promise to deliver the best day experience ever.”

Theming to be applied outside the Arena
Once the attraction is complete, and the winning team declared, visitors can purchase Plants Vs. Zombies merchandise in a new retail store adjacent to the ride.

This addition marks the second new game-themed attraction to open at a Cedar Fair park next year, both taking advantage of parks' older 3-D theaters.  The smart licensing that has been employed will resonate with a new generation of gamers while giving the whole family - regardless of how familiar they are with the games - an exciting ride.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

More Scares, Terror + Fun Than Ever Before at Six Flags Great Adventure's 2015 Fright Fest

Welcome to Fright Fest!
Let's face it, these days there are an awful lot of attractions fighting for the attention of scare-seekers around Halloween, and it's getting harder and harder to compete.  That said, it only makes sense for parks to kick it up a notch and offer more scares to keep their name at the top of the heap - and that's just what Six Flags Great Adventure has done for this year's Fright Fest!

The event has slowly been expanding for many years now, but 2015 marks the largest addition to Fright Fest since I've been covering it here on NewsPlusNotes.  The event now features 22 Halloween themed attractions when you combine all the daytime and nighttime fun, considerably larger than ever before.  Specifically for the haunted evening activities, Six Flags Great Adventure has added three new haunted attractions and several new live shows.

Much more sinister at night.
There's good reason for the park to be so interested in expanding Fright Fest, as it is now one of the most important parts of the park's season, from an attendance perspective.  “Fright Fest has become the most popular time of the year at Great Adventure, and this year’s event is our largest and scariest yet,” said Park President John Fitzgerald. “Fall is also the perfect time to enjoy our award-winning thrill rides like El Toro, Kingda Ka, Zumanjaro: Drop of Doom and the new El Diablo in the crisp night air.”

While our interests run more on the dark and scary side of things, Fright Fest at Six Flags Great Adventure has plenty to offer during the day for smaller kids and their families.  The Safari Off Road Adventure is a great treat during the fall, and kids can explore Trick-or-Treat Trail if they need a sweet treat.  New shows like Just My Rotten Luck, which features a mix of comedy, magic and juggling, and the Six Flags Spooktacular Street Party will have them entertained and dancing.  Trainer Talks is an great show at the Seafari Theater that showcases Great Adventure's Asian small-clawed otters and baby sea lion pups - both ranking high on the cute meter.

Terror - this way!
When darkness begins to fall at the park, the cuteness is ushered away and the scares begin - starting with the Awakening parade and show, where over 200 monsters are unleashed on the park by Dr. Fright.  Once complete, the ghouls spread out over the park and invade their nightly homes, meaning one of the 4 freaky scare zones or 7 haunted trails and houses.

Joining the existing scare zones of The Bloody Fountain, Circus Psycho and Bone Butcher Terror-tory is Demon District, new for 2015.  The entire Movietown area is transformed in a desolate city that's been overrun with villains.  The park has put out a bunch of props and other decorations, along with some eerie green lasers that interact with the fog, creating a fake 'ceiling' of light.  It's a great effect and works well to distract visitors from the scares that are lurking in the shadows.

Six Flags Great Adventure has long been known for their terror trails, paths that utilize the wooded sections of the park as long haunted mazes.  These are still intact with Voodoo Island and the Wasteland, the former filed with crazed voodoo practitioners and their victims, the latter with toxic mutants.  Recent years have seen additional mazes being built indoors that allow them to open before the sun sets, and protect them from weather.  Returning examples of these include both The Manor and Total Darkness which are built inside the old motion theater building.

The scary clown on the sign is a ... well sign of things to come!
One of those new-for-2015 indoor haunts is Big Top Terror 3-D, a traditional are-you-afraid-of-clowns haunted house, only presented in 3-D.  The house is filled with elaborate sets and is awash in bright neon 3-D effects that are as disorienting as they are fun.  This house is really well done, and seemed quite popular judging from its constant line.

The eerie feel of the Demon District.
Several of the park's haunts are hybrid trails/tradition mazes, meaning they're like a haunted house but take place outside with high walls along the paths but no traditional ceilings along the way.  Asylum, located behind The Chiller's old station, is set up this way and still draws a large crowd.  New this year is Blood Shed, filled with "half-human, half-pig mutants in a backwoods adventure through a gory slaughter farm."  The first room of the new maze is especially well done, filled with menacing looking slaughterhouse tools and impressive lighting.

Ouch!  That's one way to stay awake!
Six Flags Great Adventure's Fright Fest may be filled with scary attractions, but it is also well known for its extensive live entertainment offerings as well.  While the daytime shows are family-oriented, the evening ones are a bit more bold.

Plenty of folks looked away at this part of the act!
Returning this year is Doc Swan's Sideshow of Oddities, a live show in which Doc Swan shows off his impressive feats of skill.  From hammering items into his head to hanging stuff from his eye lids, the show is both entertainment and disturbing.

Other shows include the new Hypnosteria, where Denny More gives audience members a hypnotic treat of laughs and the Circus of Thrills which has a new high-wire motorcycle act this year.  If you're going to line up early for one show though, I would suggest it be the uber popular Dead Man's Party.

The ghouls are singing and dancing for you!
Set up on a large stage on the edge of the Demon District, Dead Man's Party continues to be a high-energy showstopper of dancing, popular Halloween songs and plenty of pyro. The legions of Fright Fest fans absolutely adore this show, and each performance is always packed.  Rightfully so - it's one of the best shows I've seen in a long time outside of the destination theme parks.

Plenty of special effects in Dead Man's Party
If you're looking to check out Six Flags Great Adventure's Fright Fest, the event will run weekends through November 1st.  You can read more about the event here.  Many thanks to the park for having us out to experience the scares, and also to Scott and Carol for additional reporting and many of the photographs in this story!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Dorney Park Proposes Catering Changes for 2016

We've finally got some news on Dorney Park's plans for 2016, though it doesn't have anything to do with a shiny new ride.

The park is going to the local planning commission to gain approval to tear out the existing go-kart track that is located under Steel Force's lake-adjacent turnaround.  Replacing the go-kart track (of note is that the go-karts have been closed for several years) in the 1.91 acre construction area will be a new catering facility.

The development is planned to include two new pavilions and a food preparation building.  The aerial of the park above shows the space of the go-karts; Steel Force cuts directly through it so positioning the new buildings may be tricky.

Hopefully the nice design aesthetic of Cedar Point's new Lakeside Pavilion catering facility will be used in these plans as well, since they are also technically "lakeside" as well.

Dorney Park has a good deal of additional catering pavilions spread across the park, so perhaps this addition will allow the redevelopment of a couple of those?  Pure speculation on my part.

SeaWorld Entertainment Creates New Business Development Position

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, Inc. has announced that Matt Rearden has been appointed to the newly-created role of Senior Business Development Officer, effective immediately. Rearden previously served as the Corporate Vice President of Business Affairs for the Company. 

Reporting directly to Joel Manby, the company's CEO, Mr. Rearden will be "responsible for developing new business and strategic partnerships and capitalizing on international and domestic development and merger and acquisition opportunities, while continuing to lead strategic planning initiatives for the Company."

It is quite interesting to hear SeaWorld Entertainment put words like "merger and acquisition" in his job duties, less of a surprise is domestic and international development.  I would love to hear more about what they could be considering merging with, or acquiring!

"Matt has been an integral part of this Company, leading many successful initiatives over the course of his career with us. His talents and track record make him the perfect person for this position,” said Manby. “We know that Matt will continue to bring value to our Company as we look at new and exciting partnership and growth opportunities for the future.”

Mr. Rearden also held the position of Associate General Counsel for the company during his career, and previously worked at the International Speedway Corporation and NASCAR.

SeaWorld Entertainment plans to give a full look at its future long-term plans and vision on November 9th, so I must wonder if this announcement is a hint of what could come at that presentation.  We shall stay tuned!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Islands of Adventure's Hulk Track Coming Down as Part of Major Refurb

© Islands of Adventure
Ever since the nearly year-long closure of The Incredible Hulk coaster was announced I've been wondering just how extensive the refurbishment would be.  Turns out very extensive.

The park has slowly started disassembling the famous green roller coaster, literally pulling the track down and hauling it off park premises.  For now at least it appears as though the supports are staying in place.

For anyone wondering if the track might just be going off site to be painted, tested, etc., well it's already shown up in a local recycling plant.  The ride's trains can also be clearly seen on that trash heap, so we can safely assume that the new Hulk will have updated rolling stock.

Few operating coasters that I'm aware of have ever had a full track replacement, only a couple Disney rides come to mind right away.  The stress of year-round operations does wear them out faster I suppose, but it also makes sense to think in the Hulk's case that new track might be necessary to handle updated trains.  We've seen B&M put out new trains with vest-like restraints, but I believe the trains are a bit wider on those models.  Perhaps they will be coming to the Hulk as a benefit of the track replacement?

Either way it's going to start to look quite weird in Islands of Adventure when they remove the track from the first drop, cobra roll and loop! 

Canada's Wonderland Testing Virtual Reality Coaster Rides with the Public

© CWMania
As promised earlier this Fall by Cedar Fair, the chain has moved forward with testing a virtual reality system on one of its roller coasters.  We now know that the company has chosen Canada's Wonderland's Thunder Run coaster for the trial, as shown in this news piece from CWMania.

Thunder Run is a powered family coaster that goes in and around the park's iconic Wonder Mountain, so the test is starting out on a smaller ride.

According to the report, visitors can check in at the Thunder Run Virtual Reality booth seen above, where guest must sign a waiver and agree to participate in a questionnaire about the experience.  They're given an access card to enter the line, at which time they get to ride.

From the photo, the virtual reality system looks like it is in the form of goggles that riders wear, which allow them to enter the virtual world.  The report suggests the goggles are synced with the ride's motion and give a fun experience - though no word yet on the content of the virtual world.

Now that we have seen how the "virtual reality on a coaster" plays out, I have to wonder if the chain would make this a pay-extra experience at the parks.  I would think it could put a lot of stress on ride capacity if employed to all visitors.  Looking forward to hear more reviews of the test as they come in!