Saturday, July 21, 2012

Dorney Park's 20 Years of Cedar Fair - Part 4

We finally complete our look back at the first twenty years of Cedar Fair's ownership of Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom today, on the actual 20th anniversary of the purchase of the park.  If you've missed the first three parts in the series, start here with Part 1.

The first sign of Voodoo
Much of the 2007 season was clouded with strong speculation and rumors that Dorney Park would be adding a new thrill ride in 2008.  In the end the rumors were true, and the park announced that Voodoo, a new roller coaster, would be built in the lower section of the park.

Voodoo was the first in what would become a series of transplanted rides being added to Dorney Park.  Voodoo had a former life at another Cedar Fair park, the now shuttered Geauga Lake, where it was known Superman Ultimate Escape.

When the decision was being made to close that park several of its major rides were moved out, one of which was Superman.  Before long parts of the coaster started to arrive at Dorney Park, where they could be seen in the back of the park, beyond Steel Force's station.

Voodoo track, old and the new
When it came time for the park to formally announced the new addition, more details of the coaster became clear.

Voodoo's Website
"New to Dorney Park in 2008, the power of Voodoo will compel riders with new levels of excitement.  Dorney's tenth coaster is manufactured by thrill-artists Intamin, AG of Switzerland. The 704 feet of twisted steel will put all who challenge Voodoo under its spell to ride, and ride, and ride. The dueling towers of this U-shaped, suspended impulse coaster will possess riders when the Linear Induction Motors (LIMs) send them rocketing from one tower to another taking them to new heights of velocity."

Voodoo took up home in the large empty area that was left after the Skyscraper thrill ride was removed several years before.  It was to stretch along a good portion of the midway, ending near the Laser roller coaster.

Refurbishing Voodoo's track pieces
Before construction even started on Voodoo the park sent the ride pieces off for additional work.  From an interview we did with Charles Hutchison year ago, the park contracted a company who "sand blasted each piece and sent it off to a secondary facility for non-destructive weld testing. That is an interesting process to watch. They essentially turn the piece into an electromagnet by running current through it, and then blow this magnetic dust over the welds looking for lines to form that would indicate a weakened or stressed weld.  After each piece passes its inspection it headed back to a huge paint chamber to receive primer, color, and top coat layers."

One of Dorney Park's official construction photos
Once the track and support pieces were ready to be installed, construction began on Voodoo and moved quickly through the winter months.

Voodoo going up!
Since the coaster does not really have a lot to it, construction went smoothly.

While we've detailed the story of Voodoo at the park, we haven't really covered the ride itself.

Voodoo is one of Intamin AG's Twisted Impulse Coasters, standing 184 feet in height.  Riders board the train and fill one of 28 seats, after which the linear induction motors kick in and launch them out of the station.

The train continues to be launched through the station, both forward and backwards, hitting a top speed of 70 miles per hour.  One spike features a twisted helix, while the other has a holding brake that briefly stops the train in the air.

Press photo of Voodoo in operation
Initial press reports from the park stated that Voodoo was a $8.5 million dollar investment for the park, but I am unsure if that amount was just for the ride or the entire capital expenditure amount for 2008.

If you happen to visit the park currently, you may notice that there is no ride named Voodoo there.

A slight modification to the sign and Voodoo becomes Possessed
Due to a trademark issue with a ride at a Six Flags park, Dorney Park had to change the name of Voodoo after its initial season.  Fittingly, the ride was then known as Possessed, and is still thrilling riders are the park today.

The Fall season saw the debut of a brand new level of scary at the park, with the first official year of Halloween Haunt at Dorney Park.

The Haunt logo
Halloweekends was no more, instead the park offered up Halloween Haunt, a much more intense and scary event.  Visitors were greeted with seven different indoor and outdoor haunt attractions, six of which were brand new.

A brand new building went up to hold Club Blood in a backstage area near White Water Landing, and other attractions took up home in many places around the park.

During the day the park still offered family friendly attractions during Boo! Blast, such as Trick or Treat Street and a Hay Bale Maze.

Live entertainment was also created especially for Halloween Haunt, including Dead Awakening and General Jack's Side Show Bizarro.

2008 also marked the start of Jason McClure as the park's General Manager after Jim Yeager retired.  As of this writing, Mr. McClure is still the park's leader.

The start of Dorney Park's 2009 season was marked by the removal of one of the park's roller coasters, the Laser.

Laser's removal from the park was quick
The Laser was first added to Dorney Park in 1986, and was a big hit due to its two vertical loops.

The aging ride required a significant amount of maintenance and was put on the market in 2008.  It was made to be portable, after all.

While it was sad for fans to see the ride go, it did not mean the end for Laser, which now operates in Germany as Teststrecke.

Congratulation, Dorney!

The 2009 season was also a big milestone for the park, marking its 125th anniversary.  That's quite an accomplishment for any amusement park, and Dorney is proud to have one of the longest histories around.

To celebrate the park's big year a total of $6 million was invested in the park's live entertainment offerings with the addition of the Good Time Theatre.

In order for the theater to fit into the existing park, the large blue and white stripe tent that was an outside picnic area was removed.

Under heavy construction
That created a large area just inside the park's entrance gates, and behind the park's large gift shop, for construction of the Good Time Theatre to take place in.

Once final approval were granted, which took a bit longer than planned, the theater went up in just twelve weeks, as it was constructed of large prefabricated concrete pieces.

When completed, the Good Time Theatre was 18,000 square feet in size, and is capable of seating 603 guests per show.

The completed Good Time Theatre
The theatre and its air-conditioned setting also provided guests a nice break from the heat.  As for the selection of the theatre as the park's new investment, Mr. McClure said "Dorney really wanted to upgrade its image to full-park experience.  We have great rides and a great water park.  This is the last missing piece of the puzzle."

Snoopy Rocks! On Ice
The first show to open in the theatre, which featured a 60 foot wide by 35 foot deep ice stage during the Summer, was Snoopy Rocks! On Ice.  It marked the seventh Peanuts themed ice show at a Cedar Fair park, and each show lasted 30 minutes.

The show featured a cast of over a dozen skaters and many scenes from everyone's favorite Snoopy moments such as his fight with the Red Baron and Charlie Brown's kite-flying troubles.

With Laser now removed from the park, the junior coaster that was called Little Laser for decades needed a new name.  A contest was held for a new name, and Steel First won.

Although the Halloween Haunt has just premiered the previous season, it had such a tremendous response from guests that it was expanded again in 2009.

Lots of new haunted attractions
With Halloween becoming an ever larger holiday as each year went by, Dorney responded by adding another six new Haunts in 2009, along with other new activities and live shows.  Taking advantage of their large new theater, the park added Fangs in the "Ghoul Time Theatre" as it was then called.

Dorney Park's 2010 season featured the addition of a new thrill ride, but one that was only new to Dorney Park.

During the winter before the park opened it was announced that Demon Drop, an original Intamin free fall ride, would be removed from sister park Cedar Point.

Building Demon Drop at Dorney Park
Soon after it looked like the ride was going to be shipped to California and given a home at Knott's Berry Farm.  Then suddenly - yes again - the ride parts started to show up at Dorney Park.

Regardless of how the decisions for where the ride would go were made, the rest is history and Demon Drop was Dorney Park's new for 2010 ride.

According to the park's press release, "the ride simulates a free-fall drop from a 10-story building, and will be the first true free-fall ride experience at Dorney park."

An official Dorney Park image
Demon Drop was built in the park's lower midway near the entrance to Thunder Creek Mountain, and adjacent to the park's go-karts.

In order to make room for the footprint of Demon Drop, which is very thin but rather long, the park's Krazy Kars had to be removed.  The Krazy Kars were gasoline powered bumper cars that had been at the park for some time.

With the ride shifting homes during the winter months, and then receiving a complete refurbishment before construction started, the ride opened well into the park's 2010 season.

The ride stands a total of 131 feet tall and is the only ride of its kind operating in the United States, and only one of five still open in the world.

Ready, set, drop!
Riders board a four passenger car and are quickly lifted up vertically to the top of the tower in only six seconds.  The car moves forward into the drop shaft, and then without any notice it plunges downward, covering 60 feet in less than two seconds.

The park had a sense of humor about the ride
A long curving run-out leaves the passengers laying on their backs, until they are carefully moved downward and brought upright once again.

Demon Drop originally opened at Cedar Point in 1983.

Utilizing the park's big addition the previous year, the Good Time Theatre, the park also featured the Rock Band, Live summer tour.

An effort between Cedar Fair and MTV Games, the Rock Band, Live! tour visited almost all the parks in the chain, starting with Dorney Park over Memorial Day weekend.

Rock Band, Live at the Good Time Theatre
The show "combined the high-energy game play action of the popular Rock Band video games with talented live singers from all over the country."  As a bonus park guests could compete by playing the video game before each performance, the high score winners got to be a part of the show.

The spooky Mansion House Hotel
Dorney Park's Halloween Haunt returned for its Junior year with a brand new attraction, the Mansion House Hotel.  A haunted hotel at its finest, the 10,000 square foot attraction was said to be the largest in the chain.  Themed to the original building at the park of the same name, the creepy haunted house was themed with more details and props than any house before, including elaborate sets and special effects.

2011 was another season that was dedicated to the world's most famous beagle, Snoopy.

Concept art for Planet Snoopy
The park really did it up for the announcement of 2011's addition, creating a giant present that Snoopy opened, and when he did Planet Snoopy was revealed.  The $8 million addition to the park was touted as a theme park within a theme park, complete with plenty of new rides and attractions.

Demolition of Camp Snoopy
"The new Planet Snoopy will encompass nearly three and one-half acres of land centrally located in Dorney Park and is set to feature the largest collections of kids' amusement rides on the East Coast," the park stated during the unveiling.

The original Berenstain Bear Country part of Camp Snoopy saw the most heavy renovations during the transformation.  All remnants of the original Bear themed area were removed, and in their place went in a selection of new rides that kids and parents could enjoy together.

A new Planet Snoopy ride under construction

The Bear's Tree was torn down, and all of the play activities were removed.  The only attractions that stayed on that half of the land was the children's roller coaster and the old Camp Snoopy Outfitters building, along with the decorative rock waterfall.

Paths through the area were changed to have less entrances and exits to Planet Snoopy in order to make it a bit more self contained.  Brick pavers were used throughout the area along with bright colors and plenty of Peanuts themed signage.

The 'newer' part of Camp Snoopy was retained, but all the rides received new paint, theming, and names, or some combination of the three. All of the "camp" theming, such as the rustic ride entrances, were removed as well.

The crowds quickly embraced Planet Snoopy
In the end seven new rides joined the existing Camp Snoopy attractions giving Planet Snoopy a total of 16. Other additions to the area include a new Snoopy Boutique merchandise shop, the Peanuts Showplace amphitheater, and the Joe Cool Soda Pop Shop.

One of the seven new rides added in Planet Snoopy
To provide additional comfort to guests a new Family Care Center was also added in Planet Snoopy, featuring amenities for infants and toddlers.

To keep with the Snoopy theme that 2011 had, the park's Good Time Theatre also premiered a new ice show, titled Snoopy's Big Bow-Wow.

Other changes around the park included the addition of Chickie's and Pete's, a food location near the Sea Dragon.  The lower Possessed midway saw the removal of all the kiddie rides, including Steel First and the Dragon Coaster, and the park was closed to guests beyond Laser's old entrance.

Halloween Haunt reached its 4th season and celebrated by adding three new attractions to its line up.

Cut Throat Island featured pirates that were most definitely crazy and had one of the largest props I've ever seen created for an outdoor haunt.

Age of Darkness took over the Gauntlet and featured all new theming and a total makeover of characters and scares.

Grave Walkers utilized the empty field behind Revolution to create a cemetery that guests could freely wander around, but with a narrow crypt as the only way out.

As in prior years new live entertainment was featured during Halloween Haunt as well, including a new show at the Ghoul Time Theatre called Eternal Jamnation.

Dorney Park celebrated their 2012 season by adding two different attractions to the property.  During most of the previous year rumors swirled that the park would be receiving a new roller coaster, to be removed from sister park California's Great America.

Parts for the 2012 coaster in Allentown, PA
Before long parts for the coaster, which was named Invertigo at the former location, began to arrive in Pennsylvania.  The parts were reconditioned locally, and the ride was given a new color scheme of royal blue supports and a teal track.

When it came time for the big reveal, Dorney Park announced that Stinger would be the park's new for 2012 ride, part of an overall $10 million expansion.  The coaster had already been removed from California's Great America, and was being shipped across the country.

Stinger under construction
The addition of the Vekoma designed inverted boomerang style ride meant that Laser's former home would finally be occupied once more, breathing new life into the lower end of the park.

Construction began while the park was still open in the Fall of 2011, with much of the ride completed before the park closed for the year.

Lightly themed as a scorpion's tail ready to strike, Stinger stands 138 feet at its tallest point.

The train seats passengers so that they face the next row of riders, putting them face to face during the experience.  After the train is hauled up the first lift it is released to head down through 1,014 feet of track at 55 miles per hour.

Stinger open for operation at Dorney Park
After the train slows and is pulled up a second lift, the entire course is then taken in reverse before slowing and returning to the station area.  Because of the seats that face alternating directions, riders take the journey on Stinger both forwards and backwards. A ride on Stinger is brief, but quite intense. 

Well after the announcement of Stinger news also broke that Dorney Park would join several other Cedar Fair parks in building a Dinosaurs Alive! attractions in 2012.

The attraction features a 2,100 foot long walking trail that is lined with over 30 animatronic dinosaurs.

The dinosaurs have invaded Dorney Park
The location of Dinosaurs Alive! is spread out over 3.3 acres of wooded land behind Steel Force's station, which was previously used in the Fall as the location for one of the park's outdoor haunts.

After paying an additional fee of $5, guests are able to wander around the path at their own pace, and discover several different scenes along the way.  There's plenty of educational components as well, and the visit ends with a trip through the Dino Store, where tons of themed merchandise is available.

Plenty of other smaller changes took place in 2012 around the park, especially with various food offerings.  The Philadelphia Pretzel Factory moved in, Starbucks coffee is now offered, and the Turkey Hill Ice Cream Factory took over Sweet Temptations.

Haunt's 5th anniversary logo
While technically still to come in the future, the 2012 Haunt will be the park's 5th.  To celebrate the park has announced that a total of 14 haunted attractions will be offered, a new record.  Included in the mix is a new indoor and outdoor haunt that'll be the parks largest ever, coming in at 13,000 square feet - breaking the Mansion House Hotel's previous record of 10,000 square feet.

Phew, we made it to the end!  That was quite a twenty year journey for the park.  With all that investment in the park things have changed quite a bit over time, but the progress that has been made is pretty radical all things considered.

Here's to the next twenty years!


Surya said...

Thanks for the series, enjoyed reading it!

Randydorney said...

I agree with Surya! This made me smile as I recalled the memories over the years from when I was introduced to Dorney Park when I moved to the Lehigh Valley in 96'.

Thank you SO MUCH! This made me proud to be part of the great history the Dorney Park has become and still thrilling new generations to come!

Justin said...

This will be your Godfather Part 2 of Newsplusnotes. This is you guys at your finest hour. Congratulations.