Monday, July 27, 2015

Dollywood's DreamMore Resort Now Open + 2016 Announcement Date


© Dollywood's DreamMore Resort
Today marks the official grand opening of Dollywood's DreamMore Resort, which has been built as part of the greater Dollywood complex in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.  The resort features approximately 300 guest rooms and is full of amenities and special features for its guests.  The addition is a large one, part of a ten year, $300 million expansion of the entire Dollywood property - including the theme and water park.

“Seeing DreamMore Resort open really is a dream come true for me,” says Dolly Parton. “It brings me back to when my whole family would get together on the front porch catching up and swapping stories. I want families to spend the day experiencing the fun of our parks, then come to this beautiful resort to spend time together making even more family memories!”

© Dollywood's DreamMore Resort
In addition to the convenience of being close to both Dollywood and Dollywood's Splash Country, the DreamMore resort boasts the Song & Hearth full service, breakfast, lunch and dinner restaurant.  Other amenities include storytelling areas, live entertainment, a great lawn for events, indoor and outdoor pools, kid's play areas, and even a spa.  Those staying at the resort get also perks like transportation to the front gates of the theme and water parks, a TimeSaver pass for each guest, and park early entry.

With the resort now open the next chapter in the property's development is ready to be revealed, set for August 7th.  According to this article, Dollywood will announce the "largest single attraction" in the park's history for next year.  Can't wait to hear more!


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Heard On... Six Flags and Comcast Q2 2015 Earnings Calls



Six Flags released another record quarter for the end of June, 2015, at least in terms of revenues - however not in actual earnings.  The company had its usual conference call and while there isn't any big news, here are some notes:

• Revenue for the second quarter grew $10 million and attendance grew 9% to 8.9 million visitors.

• The park's active season pass and membership base has exploded, up 32% over 2014.  This is a huge part of the 9% increase in attendance for the quarter.

• The season pass and memberships have hurt per caps; down 5% during the quarter ($2.18).  Admission per caps decreased 7% and in-park spending was down 2%.

• Six Flags recognized $10 million in revenue for the parks under development in Dubai and China - they hope to be able to talk about those deals in more detail soon, and announce new ones.

• The chain is seeing a very high percentage of season pass holders move on to being members at the end of the first year - creating a trend of increased visitation.

• All-season dining passes have been a "home run" for Six Flags, and they plan to continue to focus on them in the future - also working on the retail side of things.

NBCUniversal, a part of Comcast, also held a call detailing the earnings and results for the Universal theme parks located in the U.S. for the 2nd quarter of 2015.  Since the parks are a small part of a gigantic company, they don't spend a ton of time on them but things certainly seem to be going well.

• The second quarter was another for the record books as the theme parks saw a 25.7% increase in revenue to $773 million, and operating cash flow increase 44.9% to $354 million.

• The massive growth is due to Diagon Alley and the continued success of the Orlando property, which has created double digit increased in two-park tickets at the resort and record per cap spending.

• At Universal Studios Hollywood the new Fast and Furious Supercharged attraction on the Studio Tour has led to double digit attendance growth at the park already.

• The company pointed out that five years ago they made about $400 million from theme parks, and this year will probably be that plus about one billion dollars.  Yes, billion.

•  The theme park segment is seen as a "major growth driver" for the company for up to the next 20 years - so expect the massive trend of expansion at the parks to (happily) continue.  They still want to have at least one major new attraction at each of the U.S. parks each year.

• The Orlando resort grew attendance 21% during the quarter - a huge increase.

• NBCUniversal is still "excited" about growing in the rest of the world, including China and "other parts of the world" that they haven't talked about yet.


Saturday, July 25, 2015

Dorney Park Christmas in July + Haunt Update - 7.25.15



A little update as Dorney Park celebrates Christmas in July, plus there's plenty of other work already going on around the park for the fall.  Upon arriving at the gates I noted this new bag check set up, much more elaborate and with better signage than previously.  It stinks to have to have this process in place at any park, but it seems in the world today it is a necessity - so at least it is clear and organized!


Dorney Park is celebrating their Christmas in July event with decorations on the main entrance, a festive holiday garland adorning the structure.  Pretty nice touch if you ask me - this is also where the collection bins are for Toys For Tots.  The entire park was playing Christmas music, too!


Those who wanted to get in the spirit could have a Christmas dinner meal, take part in a 5k run, or - as seen above - get a photo with Santa Snoopy.  Located at the Old Time Photos, guests could have their photo taken with the adorable pup... and as the park pointed out that could make a great 2015 holiday card!


Inside Good Time Gifts the park had this tree up, with select holiday merchandise as well.  Seen on the table here are the "ugly Christmas sweater shirts," a cute idea.  I believe everyone who had tickets for the Christmas dinner meal received a shirt as well.


Being that it is a beautiful Saturday in late July, the park was packed.  They were parking in over, over, overflow space (I unofficially count there as being 4 overflow areas) and on this gorgeous day Wildwater Kingdom was packed.  See above for an example of that - the tiny dots in the background are all people!

However, even with the park this crowded things were moving along like a well oiled machine: there were tons of staff all over, I didn't see a single window closed at any food stand, retail locations had plenty of employees, etc.  If anyone ever wonders why Dorney Park has seen plenty of money put into the water park, this is why!


Moving into Dorney Park, things are already in high gear to get ready for this year's Halloween Haunt VIII.  As noted on the sign above, things kick off this year on September 18th, which is a Friday night.  I won't say too much, but I do believe that the use of a witch on this sign is a bit of a hint, or at least foreshadowing.


Focusing in on what was behind that sign, there has been a huge structure put up on the site of the former go-karts.  The look, to me anyway, is that of a farm house.  The walls that are different color on the right are maze walls - you can see more of what's going on from Steel Force.  There are several rooms in the structure behind that facade, and then all along the former go-kart track are props in the process of going up... looked like some undead characters and a tractor of body parts!


Over by Steel Force (this photo taken from the ride's exit staircase), the park has gotten work underway on their new Haunt building.  You can gather the L-shaped layout of the building from this image.  I would expect the structure to continue to go up very fast from this point forward.


That's it for now, hope you're all enjoying a fun weekend at a park (or two!).


Friday, July 24, 2015

Kennywood Ready to Open New 4-D Theater on July 29th


© Kennywood
Kennywood is nearly ready to open its brand new attraction for 2015, a 4-D theater that the park has been working on for many months now.  The theater's first show is Ice Age: No Time For Nuts 4-D, and will be open for guests for the first time July 29th.

According to Kennywood, the story of the new show "follows the manic saber-toothed squirrel Scrat on an epic odyssey in time travel. From the Coliseum of Ancient Rome to the dance floor of Studio 54, Scrat survives everything from Excalibur to the Titanic as he chases after his beloved acorn that's been accidentally lost in time."

"We are thrilled to bring this new 'Ice Age' experience to our guests! The high action storyline engages all the senses with amazing scenes that maximize our in-theater special effects," said Kennywood General Manager Jerome Gibas. "The 'Ice Age' characters are well known and appeal to our audience - families and adults visiting Kennywood will enjoy this show."

The new show runs 9 minutes long and represents a new type of attraction for the park, and also adds one that can keep operating regardless of weather - setting things up to potentially be open for their holiday event.  It will also serve as a wonderful break from the Summer heat for visitors. 


Thursday, July 23, 2015

New Concept Art of Original Valleyfair Plans


© Valleyfair
Valleyfair recently hosted a visit from two of the men who originally created and opened the park back in 1976, Walt Wittmer and Dave Sherman.  While at the Valleyfair the pair shared some original concept art that was created before the park opened, and luckily for us Valleyfair has in turn shared it with us all.

Two of the images are shown here, and reveal a fairly different park from the one that actually opened.  That's not to take anything away from Valleyfair, but it doesn't take long when looking at this art to see the differences.  If anything, it seems the park might have opened with a stronger focus on rides, and less on the extensive landscaping and themed structures seen here.

© Valleyfair
A central waterway appears to have been a focus of the park's concept, with not only a large lagoon featured, but also streams extending out into the park.  The aerial views of the park show several rides that were planned for opening but eventually added in later years - such as the Rails coaster and the park's log flume.

I love when old concept like this surfaces - it's great fun to study the details in the larger images.  You can see those and two more pieces of art on Valleyfair's Facebook page.


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Christmas In July Comes to Dorney Park This Weekend


© Dorney Park
This weekend will be all about Christmas at Dorney Park as the park celebrates July 25th like it is December 25th.  The park will be collecting new, unwrapped toys for the U.S. Marine Corps' Toys for Tots program at the park's first ever Christmas in July celebration.  Guests who bring a toy for donation this weekend will receive a coupon valid for up to $15 off their ticket admission.  All the toys collected will be held until this winter and used as gifts for children in the local area who are in need.

The toy collection is just a part of the weekend's events, which start with a Christmas in July 5k on Saturday morning - hosted at Dorney Park in partnership with Run Lehigh Valley.

The park is also holding an All You Can Eat Christmas Dinner meal from Noon until 4:00pm on Saturday and Sunday, featuring "holiday favorites as well as cookie decorating demonstrations from culinary chefs interning with the park for the summer. Guests purchasing the meal will also receive a limited edition ugly sweater t-shirt as a part of their package, while supplies last."

Everyone likes a photo with Santa, but everyone loves a photo with Snoopy Santa!  He will be available at the park during a special season passholder Breakfast with Snoopy Santa on Sunday morning, and also at the Old Time Photo location in the park during the weekend.

The event sounds like a blast - I'm really loving the new special events that Dorney Park has been holding this season.  To sign up for the run, purchase meal tickets or to learn more, check out the Christmas in July page from the park.