Friday, April 24, 2015

SeaWorld Orlando Building Area's Largest Roller Coaster in 2016

A big surprise announcement came this morning when SeaWorld Orlando sent out a short press notice that the theme park would be building a large new roller coaster for the 2016 season.  Very brief, here's the release from the park:

"Something is stirring beneath the surface at SeaWorld Orlando, preparing to rise from the ocean depths and soar to thrilling new heights. Get ready for the frenzy of SeaWorld’s new 200-foot-tall coaster. In 2016, this thriller will take its place atop the food chain as Orlando’s tallest, fastest and longest coaster.  More details on the new addition will surface in late-May.  SeaWorld is a one-of-a-kind theme park with a variety of attractions including awe-inspiring animal encounters, thrilling rides and spectacular shows.  Follow #nothingfaster as the frenzy starts."

The new ride, looking at the statistics on RCDB, will have to be longer than Expedition Everest, which is 4,424 feet, and faster than the Incredible Hulk's 67 mile per hour top speed to meet the claims in the release.  Obviously, 200 feet is taller than any ride, with Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit the tallest in Orlando now, at 167 feet.

There have already been recent rumors of site work and markings inside SeaWorld Orlando, around the Shark Encounter building.  Above is an aerial of the park with an orange dot where a station for the coaster might go, with Shark Encounter on the left and the Nautilus Theater on the right.  This area would give the ride the ability to go out into some open space along a retention ditch in the back of the park.

The orange area highlighted, which seems more likely to me, would give the ride plenty of space to travel out and back.  The pink is smaller, which to me makes it less likely.  Perhaps a combination of both will end up being used.

As for the type and theme, well it sounds like a hyper coaster based on height and speed - perhaps B&M as the park already has two, or the greater SeaWorld company has used Mack recently as well.  The park's release hints at sharks - top of the food chain (after killer whales which I refuse to believe they would name a coaster after right now) and also the word "frenzy" - often used to describe shark's "feeding frenzy."  Plus they already have Great White as a coaster name in Texas.

We won't have to wait too long to know what's being planned, since more will come at the end of May!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Heard On... Six Flags Q1 Earnings Conference Call

Today Six Flags Entertainment announced strong first quarter 2015 results.  These include total revenue that increased by $11 million or sixteen percent.  The increased revenues came from a 17% increase in ticket sales, 9% increase in in park revenues, and an extra $3 million in licensing revenues - from the overseas park deals.

A call was held today to go over these results - here's some notes:

• Season Pass sales and memberships have remained strong, growing the number of active pass holders by 53% at the end of March.  That's a really big increase in the number of overall pass holders and to me means that many of last year's memberships were renewed.

• The company is also continuing to increase the number of surveys it sends out each year, reaching over one million people surveyed last season.

• First quarter attendance was up 13%, or 181,000 visitors.  Admission per capita was up 83 cents, while in park spending per capita was down 74 cents.  The per capita figures were negatively affected by the strong dollar, making earnings from Six Flags Mexico pull down the numbers.

• Holiday In The Park, as previously announced, will come to Six Flags Great Adventure this winter.  The experience opened at Magic Mountain and Over Georgia last year and was a big success for them.

• An all-season shopping pass, which gives discounts throughout the year for retails purchases in the park, is being tested currently.  Six Flags is also debuting an all-season picture pass as well.

• While a handful of Six Flags parks have significant extra land attached to them, the company does not see any additional solar fields being built after Six Flags Great Adventure's.

• More international licensing deals are being worked on, though the only area that is specifically mentioned is Malaysia.  It sounds like there are a lot in the works, though.

Management believes that the diverse capital additions at all the parks for 2015 will lead to another record year.  Let's hope so!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Canada's Wonderland's SkyRider Standing Tall in New Home

© Cavallino Matto
The ride known as SkyRider at Canada's Wonderland may just be a memory in the minds of visitors to that park, but it's an exciting new attraction at a park across the globe.  Located in Italy, Cavallino Matto is a small amusement park that picked up the coaster when the Canadian park was ready to retire it.

Now known as Freestyle, the stand-up coaster was designed by Togo and operated at Canada's Wonderland from 1985 to 2014.

© Cavallino Matto
Freestyle has received a bright new paint job, with electric yellow track that can be seen for what looks like miles - even brighter looking when set on the black supports.  The park has cleared out a highly wooded area that's just large enough for the ride's track, which includes a vertical loop and large helix.

For more photos of Freestyle's construction, follow this link.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Major New Attraction Announced for Mall of America

The Mall of America has announced that an exciting new $23 million advanced flight simulator attraction, FlyOver America, will open in Spring 2016.  The new attraction will be a stand-alone operation, but will be built in the Southwest corner of Nickelodeon Universe.  FlyOver America will have a separate admission ticket from Nickelodeon Universe.

The ride experience is described as similar to the uber-popular Soarin' ride at Epcot in Disney World, and suitable for riders 4 years old and up.  FlyOver America's press release calls the ride a "flight simulation ride that brings guests on a breathtaking, aerial tour of some of the greatest landmarks and regions throughout the United States in virtual flight technology. The attraction will be a fully immersive experience including wind, mist and even scents while soaring across some of America's most spectacular sights."

The ride seats will be elevated 10 to 25 feet above the ground in front of a giant half-spherical screen, and their motion in combination with the film and special effects will make passengers feel as if they are flying.

The new attraction is being created by a group that includes well know former Disney Imagineer Rick Rothschild.  Crews will be out during the course of this year filming segments for the attraction all over the U.S. from a helicopter.  FlyOver America will be based on the success of FlyOver Canada, which is already operating in Vancouver.  The Canadian version boasts a 30 minute experience, including preshow, with the flight simulator portion lasting 8 minutes.

"The addition of FlyOver America will offer guests a one of a kind experience while adding to the many lifelong memories we are committed to helping our guests create during each visit to Mall of America," said Jill Renslow, Senior Vice President for Mall of America. "The innovative technology and talent behind the attraction reinforces Mall of America as a must-visit tourist destination."

Construction on the new attraction was scheduled to start today.  There's some additional details on the experience in this news article.  This sounds like a great ride - here's hoping it is a hit so other versions may open around the country!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Darien Lake Ready to Rock with Rolling Thunder

© Darien Lake
Darien Lake will open for its 2015 season on May 9th, and has already completed one of its new attractions.  Rolling Thunder, seen above, was installed very quickly and began testing right away.  I would think the largest part of the project was the foundation - at least in terms of construction time.

The new ride will be joined by a pair of new trap-door drop water slides, called Brain Drain, which will open later this season.

© Darien Lake
This aerial view gives us a great idea of just where Rolling Thunder is located inside the amusement park.  The ride, which stands 73 feet tall, is a Giant Loop manufactured by Larson International.  It replaced Darien Lake's older UFO spinning ride.

© Darien Lake
Here is another way we know that Darien Lake has the ride pretty much ready to go - they released this on-ride photo of Rolling Thunder testing!  The ride will send the train through several full rotations, fully inverting riders as it does.  It will also perform the same tricks backwards, so that all riders (who are seated face-to-face) will experience both directions of travel.

This season is an exciting one for the park, with two new attractions opening.  The park is advertising them under the slogan "One Wet One Wild," fitting for the additions!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Bigger, Better Planet Snoopy Now Open at California's Great America

With the 2015 season now underway, little visitors to California's Great America are already enjoying a greatly expanded Planet Snoopy.  The California theme park has expanded Planet Snoopy into the former KidZville area, making one large, cohesively themed wonderland for kids and their families.

In addition to retheming several existing rides and repainting and refurbishing the land's structures, the expansion also brings three new rides to the park.  Snoopy's Space Buggies features lunar bopping cars that spin in a circle, Gr8Sk8 is a giant skateboard that simulates nearly going off the edge of the track, and the Peanuts 500 is a race car themed mini-whip ride.

California's Great America created this video which shows off the festivities they had for the Plant Snoopy expansion opening, and also of the new rides.  They certainly look like they are a hit with visitors to the park!

This year mark's the park's 40th anniversary, a big milestone for sure.  They have not only expanded Planet Snoopy, but are also featuring longer operating hours, new live entertainment and food offerings such as a Starbucks. It is so wonderful to see current Cedar Fair management believe in the future of the park - I'm sure more great things are on the horizon!