Saturday, December 5, 2009

Weekly Rewind 12.5.09

An interesting interview with Jim Atchison, president of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, was published by the Orlando Sentinel just one day before ownership of the company was officially transferred to the Blackstone Group. Atchison stressed that while the company will continue to evolve under its new owners, he does not foresee any significant changes to its mission or core business strategies. In other company news, the SeaWorld parks have officially graced Google Maps Street View with their presence--Check it out!

Speaking of the Blackstone Group and ownership changes, fans of the Universal theme parks cringed this week when it was announced that Comcast will acquire parent company NBC Universal from General Electric at a price tag of some $30 billion. Only time will tell whether Comcast will retain the parks in the long term (and presumably bring their customer service levels to an all-time low) or off-load them to the highest bidder. In the meantime, Universal Orlando continues to chug along with its much anticipated Harry Potter-themed land, and is preparing to kick its marketing efforts into full gear. Check out this article in Orlando Sentinel for a closer look at their strategy.

Are we still talking about ownership changes? My goodness are these uncertain times. Just ask Six Flags. As the company struggles to get out of bankruptcy and turn over a new leaf, yet another group has come forward with a restructuring proposal. This time it's a group of senior bondholders led by Stark Investments. While all creditors are certainly entitled to fight for their own best interests, let's hope that those fights don't prolong the court process to the point where everyone is negatively impacted.

In the meantime, former Six Flags executives Kieran Burke and Gary Story are attempting to turn over a new leaf of their own at Nashville Shores. Burke and Story are part of a group that purchased the Tennessee water park last month, and a multimillion dollar expansion project is already in the works. A 25,000-square-foot wave pool and a 1000-foot lazy river will make their debut in 2010. Both were designed by Aquatic Development Group, of Dollywood's Splash Country fame.

What goes up must come down--Unless you're at Cedar Point, where attractions are built up and torn down at the same time! The Sandusky Register has posted some great photos of the "rising rapids" and "dropping demon". But as we know, that demon will rise again. And its new locations's proximity to 50% of the NPN team pretty much guarantees that you'll be seeing much more of it in the future!

Something is also rising in Malaysia--a new Legoland theme park. The park is now set to open in April 2012, one year earlier than originally scheduled. Asia's first Legoland will be designed and operated by Merlin Entertainments, and its family oriented vibe is expected to differentiate it from the more thrill-laden Universal Studios theme park slated to open in neighboring Singapore.

Let's end this week's rewind on a Happypillar! This charming little guy, recently introduced by Naples, Florida-based Axes Inc., is marketed as the "world's finest trackless kiddie train". It is battery-operated and guided by lines of magnetic tape, making it ideal for smaller spaces such as malls and even private parties. If I'm lucky, perhaps we'll get one at eastern PA's largest mall in time for next year's Black Friday shopping extravaganza...