Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Dorney Park's 20 Years of Cedar Fair - Part 2

Join us as we take a look at the first 20 years of Dorney Park's expansion under the ownership of Cedar Fair.  If you missed part one, check that out here.

1997's addition of Steel Force threw Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom into a new class of parks, and in keeping up with the demand that the additional guests brought, more rides and attractions were added in 1998.

Hang Time spins and flips riders
For thrill seekers, the park added a Huss Top Spin and gave it an original name and paint scheme.  Called Hang Time at the park, the 59 foot tall ride was built behind the Arcade that was added to the Main Midway the year before.  Settled below the ride's carriage is a set of fountains that point up at the ride while it rotates.

Hang Time features a bright pink, yellow, and orange paint job, which made the ride really stand out among its surroundings.  The ride is capable of running several different programs, all of which feature a different amount of inversions.  The park quickly settled on a program that features a good deal of swinging, but if the weight distribution is right several flips in a row are possible.

Island Water Works and Thunder Creek Speedway
Wildwater Kingdom also received a new attraction that took the place of the park's miniature golf course.  Called Island Water Works, the interactive play station was joined by an additional seating area as well as a small toddler water play area on an island created by the Wildwater River attraction.

Provided by SCS Interactive, Island Water Works "has more than 70 'water gags' including misters, jet sprays, bubblers, dumping troughs, funny mirrors and more."  Standing three stories tall the giant boiler at the peak would slowly fill with pressure until it finally whistled loudly as water poured out and all over the entire structure.

The attraction gave the water park some much needed capacity, since many guests could enjoy the fun at once.

Steel Force had displaced the park's go-karts during construction, so in 1998 the Thunder Creek Speedway was built.  Stretching 1,200 feet underneath Steel Force's giant helix and along the lower lake, the NASCAR themed cars zoom along at 18 miles per hour.  The fully enclosed design of the cars was another highlight to the addition.

Aerial view of the Main Midway in '98
The park's Main Midway also saw another set of additions in the form of another new restaurant and a sweets shop.

Coasters Drive-In from the air
Technically connected as the same building, the additions were the next big step in developing the new walkway.  They also framed the entrance that was built several years earlier - at this point the master plan for the area was becoming more and more clear.

Coasters Drive-In was a restaurant themed to a diner from the American 1950s.  Featuring neon pink lights and glass block windows, "guest feel like they are back in the 50's when they sit in vinyl booths at chrome edged tables."

A before and after of the new midway building
Additionally each booth originally featured a jukebox, along with a large Wurlitzer in the area.  Serving diner classics such as pizza, burgers, fries, floats and shakes, Coasters Drive-In also has an outside seating area.

The other half of the structure was known as Sweet Temptations, and offered hand made taffy and fudge, candies, and coated apples for guests looking for a sweet treat.

Another interesting aspect of the Diner and Sweet Temptations building was the dead-end path that was created on the structure's left side.  Again it seemed like it should lead somewhere, though that'd have to wait a couple years.

It may not have been that exciting, but the rest of the park's main parking lot was also paved during 1998.  By no means a small undertaking, getting the parking lot up to standard was a very expensive project.  In late 1998 the park also built a tunnel under an adjacent road to connect the main and overflow parking lots.

1998 was rounded out with the start of a new Fall tradition:  HalloWeekends.  For the first time the park stayed open a tad later and was decked out for Halloween.

Some of the decorations for Halloweekends
At the time Halloween wasn't quite the mega-holiday that it has become in present time, but many parks were starting to pick up on the trend of holding a scare-themed event each year.

Cedar Fair's biggest park, Cedar Point, had held HalloWeekends for the first time a few years earlier and slowly other parks in the chain were picking it up.

Dorney Park's first Halloweekends wasn't the biggest event, but it was the start of one that has grown an enormous amount over the years.  The first year consisted mainly of light decorations around the park, including plenty of moss and faux spider webs.  Park employees used pretty much anything in order to create a spooky atmosphere, including old water slide pieces that turned into a massive sea monster next to Steel Force.

The park's first haunted house
Guests who were looking for a bit more of a real scare could enter Dr. Frightner's Horror Theater, a true haunted house style attraction.  The Funzone Arcade was emptied of its games and the park purchased an already designed haunted house from a supplier to be installed.  The dark maze featured classic scary movie scenes with live actors that provided quite a scare.

Adjacent to the haunted house was the Cedar "Freak" Cannonball, a haunted version of the park's upper train ride.  The train crawled past darkly lit scenes as live actors entertained - and scared - riders.

In the Winter before Dorney Park's 1999 season the park's annual pilgrimage to the planning commission took place and this year they were looking for two tall attractions, one name RipCord and another described as a 200 foot tall free fall tower.

Dominator concept art
Before final approval was granted the RipCord ride was scrapped for the following season, but the tower ride was eventually approved and became Dominator.

As described during the planning meetings, Dominator would stand proud at 200 feet tall in the center of the lower part of Dorney Park.

In order to fit the massive tower into the park the Monster ride was removed, but the park promised that it would return in the future.

The tower itself was made up of three columns, set in a triangle arrangement.  Two of the columns featured rides, the third was left empty for possible future use.

Dominator under construction at Dorney Park
Dominator was developed and designed by S&S Sports Power out of Logan, Utah, a company that had already provided several Cedar Fair parks with tower attractions.

The two towers that featured rides were red with yellow accents, which blasted the carriage upward, and teal with yellow accents, which blasted riders toward the ground.

The park's billboard advertising the new ride
From the park's original release about Dominator, the two different sides are described:

Guests daring Dominator's upward thrusting tower are unexpectedly launched skyward to a staggering 160 feet in less than 3 seconds.  Riders reach speeds of nearly 45 m.p.h. almost instantly after takeoff, then experience negative gravity before they plummet back towards earth. 

On the opposite tower, riders are slowly lifted to a dizzying 175 feet where they are suspended for a brief moment.  Suddenly, they are blasted downward at 40 m.p.h., a speed much faster than free-fall.  Slowed by increasing air pressure, riders bounce halfway back up the tower then descend back down.

Two press images of Dominator at Dorney Park
Both sides of Dominator utilize a twelve passenger car, meaning 24 riders at the same time could experience the ride in outward facing seats with their legs dangling freely.

While Dominator was the big new ride of 1999, the park saw other changes as well.  The old Sky Ride was retired before the year started, and the Laser double-loop roller coaster received some heavy maintenance including a new green and purple color scheme.

Big changes were in store for the year 2000 at Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom, including a slew of new rides and attractions, the park announced in the Fall of 1999.

Plan for the Camp Snoopy expansion
The year 2000 featured one of the largest overall expansions that Dorney Park had ever seen, weighing in at an impressive $12.5 million that was spread around the entire park.

Snoopy was the beagle of the year, as he and his Peanuts friends received their own land at the park, aptly named Camp Snoopy.

The new children's area covered two acres and included a total retheme of the former Berenstain Bear Country, as well as the addition of a brand new section.

Containing a loose summer camp theme, the area featured nine different rides include another children's roller coaster, Woodstock's Express.  Suppliers of the new rides included Zamperla, S&S Sports Power and SBF.

Concept designs for several Camp Snoopy Rides
Camp Snoopy utilized the Berenstain Bear Country building and turned it into an Inventor's Workshop along with a large Camp Snoopy Outfitters store, which sold everything and anything Peanuts related.

Many of the rides in the area allowed adults to ride alongside their children, something that the park stressed as unique for families.  Naturally the Peanuts gang appeared daily for photos with visitors, and the area was advertised as the only place on the East Coast where you could meet the characters.

The Wild Mouse joined the park in 2000
Just next to Camp Snoopy, and angled along the Main Midway, the park's first "family coaster" was built, the Wild Mouse.  As the park's press release put it, "with an extraordinary ride layout and distinctive single car design, the all-new Wild Mouse is the perfect addition to Dorney Park's growing line up of family friendly rides and attractions."

Built by Maurer Sohne of Germany, the Wild Mouse stands 50 feet tall and features three tiers of track.  The cars reach speeds of 28 miles per hour as they zip along tight turns and drops.

Additions to the park's Main Midway
With so much activity going on in the upper section of the park, Dorney took the opportunity to basically complete the Main Midway that they had been developing for some years.

On the right stretch of the pathway a series of building went up, including a 1,700 square foot retail location named Carousel Emporium.

Next to that was a food stand that featured specialty drinks, coffees, and frozen custard.  Next in line was a large set of modern restrooms, followed by another food outlet called Funzone Foods.

Finally, curving back past and around the Funzone Arcade an enormous games facility was built, filled with different stalls of all the latest and greatest the industry had to offer.

All these additions rounded out the upper section of the park and realized the vision that Cedar Fair had for the enormous open space they purchased some eight years earlier.  Well, there was some open space left... but that was reserved for 2001.

The brand new lower midway circa 2000
The lower section of Dorney Park was massively changed and updated in 2000 as well.  The entire stretch from generally where Dominator went in the prior year all the way to the Laser roller coaster was rebuilt, in many parts from scratch.

New food stands around the park
Several older buildings near Dominator were razed, including the structure that held the Zephyr's station and games, a separate games area, and the old french fry stand.

To replace these, Zephyr received an all new station and the Center Stage Snacks was built.  The games did not need to be replaced since the upper midway was now the home to them.

Moving from the Whip downward, one major change was that the Cedar Creek's small tributary was enclosed underground, allowing more midway space.

An entire new midway was poured, totally changing the shape of the former path.  Along it was the return of the Monster flat ride, which had been displaced the year prior.

An additional two new food stands were built along the midway, Picasso's Speciality Pizza and a Rita's Italian Ice location.  Several kiddie rides and existing buildings were kept, but with the new midway surrounding them.

Skyscraper drawing
Dorney Park had presented plans for the RipCord ride again before the 2000 season started, but eventually pulled them and instead moved forward with building Skyscraper.

The park's Ferris Wheel, previously known as Skyscraper, was kind enough to lend both its moniker and sign to the new additional-charge thrill ride, which was placed along the new lower midway.

Guests boarded either end of a 150 foot tall boom that was attached to its own 80 foot tall tower.  Once safely strapped in the ride began to rotate, hitting a top speed of 60 miles per hour.  Skyscraper only lasted at Dorney Park for a handful of years, and currently operates at Cedar Point.

Finally, to celebrate the International Year of the Carousel the park totally refurbished their Antique Dentzel Carousel.  Each piece was stripped of 80 years of paint, carefully repaired and reconditioned, then repainted according to original photos and descriptions - both a lengthy and costly restoration.

While the 2000 season passed by Dorney Park officials were already talking about adding a large inverted roller coaster to the park for the following season.  With approvals for the ride granted with relative ease, construction started in the Fall on another large new ride.

But that ride wasn't the only improvement made for 2001.  It may not be exciting for guests, but a new employee cafeteria was built on property to replace Memories, a building that used to be a popular Lehigh Valley restaurant.

The inverted roller coaster that had been planned turn out to be named Talon: The Grip of Fear, and it would be located in the final open area in the upper part of Dorney Park, adjacent to the Main Midway.

The entrance to the Bolliger and Mabillard designed ride would be just beyond Hang Time at the end of the new games area.  The addition of the ride caused the Cedar Creek Cannonball's track to be shortened, and the Wildwater Kingdom station was removed.  The train trip became just a relaxing one instead of a means of transportation between the two parks.

Original concept art for Talon, yes that's Cedar Point's Raptor
The official ride layout and statistics
Once a layout was revealed for the ride as part of its official announcement, fans of the park got a good look at what was to come.

The queue would snake its way under the ride with the switchbacks located inside and under the tracks of the ride.

Dorney Park released ride drawings of the Talon plans
The lift headed up to the apex of 135 feet toward the parking lot, actually extending out over the pathway that led to Wildwater Kingdom.  A 120 foot, 50-degree curving first drop sped the trains up to a maximum speed of 58 miles per hour, with riders waiting in the queue just below.

From there the park described that "riders race into an outside loop, then coil through a zero gravity roll.  The thrills mount as riders soar into an Immelmann (a simultaneous loop and roll), then twist parallel to the ground as they wrap around an inclined spiral.  Finally, swinging back and forth through an s-curve, riders roll through a corkscrew spin and curl around a flat spiral before returning to the station."

Construction images from Dorney Park
Construction on Talon's 3,110 feet of track went as smoothly as other Bolliger and Mabillard coaster usually go, with the 186 steel supports and track going up during the Winter months.

Talon's track features a combination yellow and orange track set atop blue supports.  To create the custom ride for Dorney Park, Bolliger and Mabillard used 713 different drawings and more than 4,600 pages of calculations.

A view of the park's construction Webcam
When all was said and done Talon was ready for its first riders when the park opened for the 2001 season on May 5th, marking the park's 117th. 

The ride represented an investment of $13 million (a total of $16 million was spent in 2001), which paid off nicely for the park.

The 2001 operating season ended up as the park's best ever, with a record attendance estimated at over 1.6 million visitors.  This was much more than even Steel Force was able to bring back when it opened in 1997.

Press image of Talon in operation at Dorney Park
In an unofficial sense much of Cedar Fair's big plans for Dorney Park were concluded with the addition of Talon, though that by no means meant that the expansion would stop.  The upper section of the park had been largely redone or created from scratch from the company's plans, but there was still plenty more growth ahead.

Center Stage performance
Dorney Park's 2002 season saw an investment of $3 million being spread throughout the property.  Granted this was not has big as some previous years, but a large roller coaster had just been built, after all.

The park's Center Stage had been the home to live performances for a long time, but the facility was quite aged.  For 2002 the entire stage was rebuilt, with the direction of the seating reversed to take advantage of a natural incline.  The stage was joined to the back of Center Stage Snacks, creating one complete structure.

The Tilt-a-Whirl
Nearby, Dorney Park's Tilt-a-Whirl was also showing its age, and instead of removing the attraction from the park's ride line-up, an entirely new ride was purchased.

Not something that could be marketed to the public since the new ride replaced one that was the exact same, many guests thought the older version was just spruced up.  Provided by Sellner Manufacturing, the new version sported a blue and purple color scheme.

Having successfully run for five seasons at the park, the Laser Light Spectacular did not return in 2002.  The park had seen audiences shrinking for the show, and instead decided to replace it with a thrill ride, helping to fill in the Hercules plaza.

Meteor in operation at Dorney Park
The thrill ride was placed right where the large screen for the Laser Light show once stood, and was a park model Zamperla Hawk.  Featuring two arms that each sit 24 riders, the ride was given a custom paint and lighting scheme and named Meteor.

Meteor provides a thrilling experience that starts after guests are seated at the base of the ride's two arms, their legs dangling freely.  As the ride starts the arms move in opposite directions, fully inverting riders at a maximum height of 68 feet in the air.  Meteor was the park's first entry into the modern selection of thrill rides that manufacturers had lined up, with much of their current flat ride collection being filled with still popular, but classic rides.

In the Fall the park's HalloWeekends event also received an expansion in form of a new children's non-scary fun house.

Named the Magical House on Boo Hill, the attraction was set up in one of the picnic pavilions just below the Ferris Wheel.

The Magical House on Boo Hill
The Magical House on Boo Hill featured several rooms that had optical illusions, or traditional Fun House elements.  The finale featured the "dot room" where guests couldn't tell which dots were painted on the wall, or on the costume of one of the room's staff.  Not open during the scarier evening festivities, Boo Hill was strictly family friendly.

Click here for the third installment of this series!