Saturday, February 23, 2019

Renovated Entrance Area + New "Play" Pavilion Headed to Epcot

© Disney
Epcot, one of Disney World's four theme parks, is already seeing a large amount of development that has been announced in the past year or so.  A Guardians of the Galaxy themed indoor roller coaster is currently being built, along with a brand new lagoon show on the horizon, the Ratatouille ride in the France pavilion, and a space themed restaurant for Future World.

But wait, there's more!  Additional changes for Epcot were revealed this week.  The park's entrance area will see the Leave A Legacy display moved to outside the park's gates and replaced with beautiful gardens and a "reimagined" fountain (see concept art up top).  The area will be much more open and feature plenty of green space, and honestly, seems like it is reverting back to how it was when the park first opened.

The park also plans more changes between Spaceship Earth and the Worlds Showcase promenade, but those will be detailed at a future time.

© Disney
Also announced this week was a brand new, not-yet-named, "play pavilion" that will be built in the long closed Wonders of Life pavilion.  The park describes the pavilion as a space that "will include first-of-their-kind experiences devoted to playful fun, inviting guests into an innovative, interactive city bursting with games and hands-on activities.  Guests at Epcot will interact with their favorite Disney characters in an energetic metropolis unlike anything ever seen before in the park."

That leaves a lot of room for interpretation, but the concept art for the attraction, shown above, makes it look visually impressive at the least.

These two developments, along with all the others previously announced, will be displayed in a new Experience Center that will be within the park.  That is planned to open its doors later in 2019.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Name + Opening Date Released for Islands Of Adventure's New Coaster

© Universal Orlando
This past week - finally! - saw some news break regarding the new launched family roller coaster that we have been watching be built at Islands of Adventure for months now.

The attraction will be called Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure.  That's a long name, and the acronym HMCMA doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, so I think most will just call the ride Hagrid's Motorbike Adventure, or with the general public, the "Hagrid coaster."

The announcement came with few details.  For one the full concept art up top was revealed, similar to a teaser version from a couple months ago, only this time showing the ride vehicle on the tracks, the ride's station building, and at least one magical creature.  As expected, the train will consists of cars that feature a motorcycle style seat along with a sidecar seat.

Second, the ride will have its grand opening on June 13th, 2019.  Of course we all know that major Orlando park attractions pretty much never open without a preview period, so I'd expect to have riders on it at least a couple weeks before that date... if not longer.

As for as the gritty details of the ride, well we'll have to wait on those.  The park's description of the ride is equally brief, acknowledging again that it is their most themed coaster to date.  They also say that you'll be able to, "for the first time ever, join Hagrid as you fly far beyond the grounds of Hogwarts castle on a thrilling roller coaster ride that plunges into the paths of some of the wizarding world’s rarest magical creatures."  The park promises more details as the opening date draws closer.

Hopefully you've all been following Bioreconstruct's aerial photos of Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, like the one above, as many details are becoming visible on the heavily wooden ride site.  If not, follow that link and make sure to check them out!

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Dollywood Offers a Look Inside Park's All-New Wildwood Grove Themed Land

© Dollywood
Dollywood is hard at work on their largest expansion ever, the 5-acre, $37 million Wildwood Grove themed land.  Set to open in May, most of the area's rides and attractions have already been installed and work is continuing on adjacent buildings, landscaping, and other special features.  When complete, Wildwood Grove will offers visitors 11 attractions set in a beautifully themed grove filled with unique surroundings including the massive Wildwood Tree, filled with hundreds of glowing butterflies.

© Dollywood
Fans of the project have probably been keeping tabs on the construction via the park's webcam, available on the Wildwood Grove website.  A shot of the cam can be seen above, with all of Wildwood Grove visible.  Guests will enter the area right by Mystery Mine's entrance, encountering rides and attractions as they move deeper into the land.  One of the largest rides in Wildwood Grove is the green and black roller coaster you can see in the upper left, a family suspended coaster named DragonFlier.

© Knox News
Dollywood just held a construction tour of Wildwood Grove, showing off all they have completed thus far.  The Knox News has a feature story on the expansion, along with an expansive photo gallery of the area - one photo from the gallery is seen above.  Check out the full story and photos at this link.

Wildwood Grove looks like it's going to be quite beautiful when it is finished, as the park is spending heavily to cover the area in new trees and other landscaping. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Innovative Flying Theater Ride Slated to Open at The Island in Pigeon Forge

© The Island
Located in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, The Island is an entertainment, dining, and shopping destination that aims to give families a multitude of entertainment options.  The location just announced a brand new, $20 million flying theater attraction that is scheduled to open in 2020.

The Island already offers many rides and activities, including the massive Great Smoky Mountain Wheel, a ropes course, fountain show, family roller coaster, bumper cars, a 7-D dark ride and more.  There are dozens of shops at the Island, along with restaurants such as Paula Deen's Family Kitchen and Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville.

© The Island
The new flying theater will "combine a state-of-the-art ride system and a custom film featuring some of the nation’s most beautiful natural wonders and iconic landmarks."  The experience is being created by Dynamic Attractions, which has provided ride hardware to some of the biggest names in the theme park industry.

“We are very excited to bring another premier attraction to The Island in Pigeon Forge,” said Island President Bob McManus. “This flying theater will truly be a one-of-a-kind, immersive entertainment experience. From The Island, guests will be transported to places that they otherwise may never have the opportunity to see, and experience the beauty of America in a unique and unforgettable way.”

Monday, February 18, 2019

Rye Playland Gets Yet Another New Development Plan + A New Ride in 2019?

© Standard Amusements
Unfortunately the past decade hasn't been a very productive one in terms of developments at Rye Playland, a classic amusement park located in Rye, New York.

The history of the operations and future development of the park in recent memory have played out like a soap opera, with several big plans being drawn up only to have pretty much nothing actually happen.  If you scroll the posts here, you can follow along with that history.

Still, the park has been managed by Standard Amusements for a couple years now though disagreements between the County and the operator have persisted and there has been no tangible investment to date.  Yet another new plan (seen above) has hit the internet now, showing what Standard Amusements would like to do at Rye Playland long-term.

There are plenty of new ride additions, changes to the beach, restorations of the park's classic midways, and most notably a recreation of Rye's former Aeroplane wooden coaster.  I'm sure that has grabbed a lot of people's attention... but will it ever happen?  This news article features some quotes from government officials that make it sound like this is very much a blue-sky plan, and there are by no means shovels ready to hit the dirt.

And then... more drama - but this may result in a new ride (the first at the park since 2008).  The County has put out a request for bids for an operator to bring a new ride to the park by July 3rd, 2019.  It sounds like a flat ride of some sort is desired, at least when reading this story.  The odd thing is that the County is looking to add the ride, and it seems their operator, Standard Amusements, is playing no part in this request - pretty much the opposite of what you would expect.  Perhaps some development, regardless of how it gets done, is better than none?

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Heard On... Six Flags Entertainment's 2018 Full Year and 4th Quarter Earnings Call

This past week was also Six Flags Entertainment's earnings announcement, covering 2018 in total along with 4th quarter results.  The stock market had a pretty substantial negative impression of the results, even though they were record breaking in many aspects.  Let's take a closer look.

•  For full year 2018 Six Flags saw record revenues of $1.46 billion, an 8% increase.  Attendance was up 5% to 32 million, though mostly due to adding 5 new parks mid-year.  Adjusted EBITDA was up 7% to $554 million and per capita spending increased 2% for the year.  They also report spending $133 million on new capital expenditures in 2018, $23 million to acquire the 5 new parks, and paid $267 million to shareholders via dividends.

© Six Flags
•  The 4th quarter also saw new records achieved, with revenues of $270 million, up 5%, fueled by a 6% increase in guest spending and a 3% increase in attendance.  The numbers benefited from the addition of two new parks offering the Holiday in the Park event.

•  Six Flags is happy to report that during the year the Active Pass Base, those who have either a membership or season pass, increased 8%.  They rolled out new tiers at the start of 2018, and this led to pricing increases that also helped increase revenues as more signed up for higher tier plans than they expected.  For the year, pass and membership holders amounted to 63% of all attendance.  At the end of 2018 there were almost 8 million active pass members, more than 2 million of those are memberships.

•  Six Flags has had a Project 600 goal for some time now, which aimed to see $600 million in EBITDA by the end of last year.  They hit $554 million, but the failure to meet the goal meant some big bonuses were unaccrued which also helped the 4th quarter results.  They also wanted to hit $750 million by 2020, and now admit that probably won't happen, but think it could in 2021.

© Six Flags
•  In 2018 Six Flags recognized $42 million in revenue from licensing agreements.  They had to reverse $15 million in revenues in the 4th quarter due to delays on the parks in China.  The first parks are now expected to open in 2020, previously 2019, then more in 2021 and 2022.  The Dubai park is permanently on hold, and my never happen.  Since starting these agreements in 2014, Six Flags has booked $133 million in revenues from them.

•  Six Flags plans to continue to purchase water parks and other smaller operations in coming years located in "feeder" markets to the big parks, with "dozens" of opportunities available.  Since starting this in 2017 they've already added 8 parks.