Friday, December 9, 2016

Fun Spot America Kissimmee Surprises with New Wooden Coaster in 2017

© Fun Spot America
Fun Spot America, located in Kissimmee, Florida, has surprised us all with the announcement of a brand new wooden roller coaster for Summer 2017.   The new coaster will feature one inversion and is being designed by The Gravity Group at a cost of $6 million.

The ride will feature a tight layout that crosses over itself several times, and includes a steep first plunge down directly into a 360 degree barrel roll.  Before the ride is complete there will be 11 different moments of air-time provided on the coaster.

© Fun Spot America
As far as hard statistics go, the ride is fairly large for a park of this size, and a bit larger than the Great Coasters design operating at the Fun Spot America Orlando park.  The lift hill stands 82 feet tall, and the first drop is 80.5 feet long.  The top speed will be 48.5 miles per hour, the maximum banking angle is 115 degrees, and the track extends a total of 2,256 feet.  The addition of the roller coaster, which will be named at a later date, will add 50 construction jobs to the park and then once open 20 more full time positions.

Are you ready for a ride?  Check out the video below!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Energylandia to Build Europe's Tallest Mega Roller Coaster in 2018

If you're unfamiliar with Energylandia, well you're not alone - I saw news of the park building a massive roller coaster for 2018 but my first thought was, "what's Energylandia?!"  The park is the largest amusement park in Poland, and just opened in the middle of 2014.  It has expanded quickly, however, adding new rides each year, often multiple in one season.  The park already has 7 roller coasters open, with 3 (yes three) more opening in 2017.

But the park has already announced that they will build that tallest Mega roller coaster in Europe - designed by Intamin - for 2018.  The announcement came with this video, which shows off the ride in detail:

The new ride will stand 253 feet tall, feature a 266 foot, 85 degree first drop into a dark tunnel and a maximum speed of 87 miles per hour.  The layout includes plenty of air-time hills, a diving turn-around plunge along with several high-speed, low to the ground elements.  There's a twisted finale along with a water-splash to end the ride.

This certainly looks like another highlight to an ever-growing list of already announced 2018 roller coasters - it is shaping up to be quite a year for coaster fans!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A Different Way to Wait for Attractions Without Standing in Line

Every so often we stumble across something on the IAAPA floor that stands out from the crowd and represents fresh thinking. This is another interesting concept we found while roaming the first time vendors area. Since they live in Columbus area, they must have done a lot of their research in both Kings Island and Cedar Point. Here is their unedited press release:

Accelowait LLC has introduced an innovative mobile app for iPhone and Android users that allows amusement park guests to have virtual “Robo-Buddies” wait in lines for them at popular attractions. The Accelowait slogan, “Waiting goes faster when you’re not standing in line,” speaks to the most common frustration of amusement park guests. The app and its associated behind-the-scenes technology are designed to be free for all park guests, inexpensive for park operators, and easy to use for both.

Long lines at popular venues have long been a source of diminished guest satisfaction and reduced revenues for park operators. Previous attempts to address these problems have helped to some degree but also have introduced new difficulties for both guests and operators. The Accelowait app pioneers a novel virtual queuing approach that avoids these pitfalls.

The co-founders of Accelowait LLC, Dr. Bruce Weide, professor emeritus of Computer Science and Engineering at The Ohio State University, and his son,Alan, are long-time roller coaster enthusiasts. Their many visits to amusement parks have made abundantly clear to them the problems with long queues.

“Our personal experience with amusement parks has made us painfully aware of the frustration of standing in lines for hours on end,” explains Dr. Weide. “We’ve also seen the limitations of other attempts to mitigate those problems. Alan and I decided that there had to be a better way, not just for guests but for park operators, too. We conceived of a new way to do virtual queuing literally while standing in lines waiting for roller coasters. So, I guess this shows waiting isn’t necessarily all bad. But standing in line to wait certainly is!”

Successful deployments of Accelowait technology at Firstlook Festival 2015 and 2016, a popular video gaming and pop-culture event in the Netherlands, have proved how well it works. But amusement and theme parks are the primary target of Accelowait. To introduce itself to this market, the company hosted a booth at the IAAPA Attractions Expo in Orlando from November 15-18, 2016.

According to Alan Weide, a computer science graduate student and roller coaster fanatic in his mid twenties, “The original goal was for guests not to be stuck standing in long lines. But Accelowait has many other advantages, too. It’s inexpensive and easy for park operators to deploy and use, and it’s designed to be available free to all park guests. 

It also offers new potential revenue opportunities for park operators with its ‘extra Robo-Buddy’ model for guests who want additional virtual queuing benefits, and it eliminates resentment toward those who pay more for these perks.”

Amusement park operators have used two basic schemes to try to reduce the frustrations of guests standing in long lines. One is sometimes called “virtual queuing” but is actually a reservation system that gives guests a chance to reserve a specific time for a ride, often with a limited window of opportunity. People then try to organize the day around these “commitments,” which limits the fun that often comes with being more spontaneous.

Further eroding a reservation system's effectiveness is down time for rides because of mechanical or weather complications, which inevitably throws off the whole process. Some holders of reservations are no-shows that prevent other guests from reserving the times they would have preferred. Accelowait virtualqueuing adjusts to such dynamic effects with behavior that is easy for bothguests and park operators to understand. It eliminates these issues.

Another approach offered at some parks, often in conjunction with a reservation system, is t he chance to buy a premium pass at a substantially higher price. This gives some guests the privilege to “cut” into lines for the most popular attractions. But this approach is inherently limited to just a few guests because everyone can’t be at the front of the line. Worse yet, it engenders resentment among those who can only stand and watch as others jump ahead of them. Studies show it simply isn’t a formula for happy customers.

“All we had to do was listen to disgruntled people standing in lines to understand why premium passes weren’t the best answer,” says Alan Weide. “We also found research by design experts such as Don Norman that confirmed this. People naturally crave fairness in any solution that addresses the problem of waiting in lines. It makes sense that in our culture at least, everyone simply must have the same opportunities. Accelowait is designed to provide exactly that.”

He explained, “Park operators also understand that when people are trapped standing in line, they’re not spending money on food, beverages, souvenirs, and midway games, and this limits revenue for the park. Studies have found that people spend several dollars more per hour when they’re able to roam around.” As Dr. Weide puts it, “Free apps have become commonplace in today’s world of smart phones. Using this technology to make amusement park visits more enjoyable seemed to be a no-brainer. One big technical challenge was to
develop virtual queuing algorithms that could avoid subtle but annoying feature interactions with other important elements such as support for groups of family members and friends. And I’m thrilled to say we’ve met that challenge.”

The chance to offer extra Robo-Buddies for a fee means some guests can pay to wait in virtual queues for two attractions at the same time, adding a potential new revenue stream for the park operator. “What’s really important about this is that nobody knows who has purchased an upgrade, so the resentment of premium pass buyers is non-existent,” explains Alan Weide.

Once in a while, something comes along that changes things fundamentally and for the better. It seems Accelowait has all the makings of a technology with this kind of impact for the amusement park industry.

The concept of everyone having a virtual queue included in the price of admission means fewer guest satisfaction issues. But how to make this economical for the entertainment operators? By utilizing the ubiquitous smart phones that everyone seems to have these days, the park does not have nearly the hardware investment that other systems have required to date. The low investment is mainly in the software. They gave us a demonstration in this video:

What a creative way to solve several problems at the same time, while also giving an improved guest experience because everyone participates and no guests feel slighted. Well done Accelowait, we are looking forward to seeing this in operation at a park, hopefully in the near future.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Kalahari Pocono Mountains Expanding to be Largest Indoor Water Park in the U.S.

© Kalahari
The Kalahari Pocono Mountains indoor water park and resort, which just had its grand opening in July of 2015, already has expansion on its mind.  And not just a small one, in fact when the expanded facility opens in 2017 it will have what owners say is the largest indoor water park in the United States at 220,000 square feet.

The expansion will bring the resort to nearly 1,000 hotel rooms (about half are brand new), along with adding more convention space and additional amenities.

© Kalahari
This map of the additional 120,000 square feet of indoor water park shows some of the attractions being added.  There are several large water slides going in, including a Tornado style slide, mat racer and family raft experience.  There will also be a pair of high-intensity trap-door body slides that are perfect for thrill seekers.  The addition will also feature a new wave pool, expanded lazy river, and indoor/outdoor spa area and several large interactive play areas.

Keeping with the overall theme of the Kalahari resort, the new attractions will have African-inspired names such as Cheetah Race, Victoria Falls and Screaming Hyena.  Many of the new slide attractions are being provided by Proslide.

Two new restaurants will also come on board when the expansion work is complete, including the Double Cut Charcoal Grill, a popular concept borrowed from Kalahari's Wisconsin resort.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Six Flags Great Adventure Welcomes Back Holiday in the Park for a Second Year

Holiday in the Park has returned to Six Flags Great Adventure for its second year, with several improvements, expanded areas, new live entertainment and more.  The giant holiday celebration turns the theme park into a brilliant winter wonderland, filled with more than one million lights.

“Guests are awestruck by the beauty of Holiday in the Park,” said Six Flags Great Adventure President Neal Thurman. “This festival combines holiday traditions with thrills that are uniquely Six Flags, landing it on every family’s must-do list this winter.”

© Six Flags Great Adventure
The event was a big success for the park last year, where tons of visitors flocked to check out all the special offerings along with many of their favorite rides.  Who doesn't want to ride a roller coaster in December?!

Six Flags Great Adventure offers 12 different themed areas during Holiday in the Park, filled with the rides and lights already mentioned, but also special holiday shopping, food, shows and more.  Visitors enter the park to find a 52 foot tall tree where the main water fountain is during the summer, which gives a dazzling light show every 30 minutes - complete with themed music and gently falling snow.

© Six Flags Great Adventure
All the themed areas at Holiday in the Park offer different opportunities to celebrate the holidays.  In the North Pole visitors can - not surprisingly - meet Santa for photos, and perhaps even have a run-in with a talking reindeer.  Poinsettia Peak is decked out in all red lights and watched over by the Poinsettia Princess, who greets guests nightly.  There are plenty of photo spots to cater to today's camera-ready society, including an "antique sleigh, twinkling mistletoe, larger-than-life characters, Santa's elaborate home, giant greeting card and a new kiddie train."

© Six Flags Great Adventure
Several new experiences will be waiting for visitors in 2016 - above is a photo from a new live show, Trouble in Toyland.  Located in the Showcase Theater, the show features Santa's North Pole workshop where Mrs. Clause sprinkles holiday magic complete with acrobatics, comedy and other surprises.  Another new show is the Holiday Harmonies with Hotsy Totsy, a New Jersey based 1950's style vocal trio that covers everyone's favorite holiday hits.

© Six Flags Great Adventure
There are two brand new themed areas for this year as well, above is a photo of the Merry Market Place.  Here you can find shops, food treats and warm fire pits - a great place to pick up a holiday gift or two.  Holly Jolly Christmas is the second new area, which features the new Joker 4D roller coaster, Harley Quinn Crazy Train and the Villains Cafe.  This year the Sky Way is also open, giving riders a beautiful view of the lights below.  In total there are nearly 30 rides open during Holiday in the Park.

Coming on December 10th Six Flags will attempt to break the world record for the most couples kissing under the mistletoe - that should be interesting to see!  For more on Six Flags Great Adventure's Holiday in the Park, click here.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Universal Shares New Hints of Nintendo Plans for Theme Parks

Back in May of 2015 Universal Parks announced that they would be partnering with Nintendo for several theme park developments, but things have been quiet on the plans since.  Now that a year and a half has passed, Universal has some additional details and updates on what we will be seeing in the parks.

Through Universal's official blog and the video embedded above, a fair amount of details were released.  However, if you're looking for specifics of what will be added and when, well, you'll have to wait a bit longer.

Universal is saying that Nintendo themed lands will be built at Universal Studios Hollywood, Japan, and at the Universal Orlando Resort (assumed to be in Universal Studios Florida).  The lands are described as "expansive, immersive and interactive," highly themed and containing "multiple attractions, shops and restaurants."  So from that we can be sure that we won't just be seeing a new ride at each park, this is for sure totally new themed sections based on the world of Nintendo.

The additions will be aimed at all sections of the public, not just kids or adults, and be attractive regardless of gaming experience.  The expansions at each park will open independently of each other, and the blog post mentions that the announcement of the full details of the first will come sooner than later.  I can't wait!