Friday, August 31, 2012

Worlds of Fun Has Big Plans for 2013 Season

The 2013 season will mark the 40th anniversary of Worlds of Fun's history of providing tons of summer fun for guests - and to celebrate the park has announced some big news today.

The biggest change that guests will find in 2013 is that Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun will no longer be separately gated parks.  Instead, both properties will be combined into one 235 acre park, with one general admission ticket required.  This formula has worked for many other properties in the Cedar Fair chain, and makes the parks a great value.

"Our 40th anniversary season will be Worlds of Fun’s biggest yet," states Frank Wilburn, Vice President and General Manager at Worlds of Fun. “We look forward to expanding and improving what is already a world-class amusement park and waterpark."

In celebration of the combining of the parks into one, Oceans of Fun will see a substantial upgrade next year with almost every aspect of the water park receiving some renovations.  Seen above, a brand new entrance will be built for guests entering the property via Oceans of Fun.  Additionally, "other new additions at Oceans of Fun include renovated slide complexes and pool areas, new retail locations, and guest amenities such as new cabanas and more lounge chairs," according to the park.

In addition to the renovation of Oceans of Fun, a massive water slide tower will be built, containing six individual slides provided by WhiteWater West Industries.  Standing 65 feet tall, the tower will be near the park's wave pool and contain:

• Three "flat line" loop slides where riders plunge down into a horizontal loop using a floor-dropping launch capsule before quickly sailing through the rest of the course
• A "constrictor" style slide where double tubes head through four extremely tight 360 degree turns
• Two additional enclosed tube slides featuring large drops and tight curves

Construction on Oceans of Fun will begin shortly and continue through the winter months.  When the parks reopen next spring as one they will also have a roster of special events celebrating 40 years of fun, with details to come.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Six Flags 2013 Recap and Additional Announcements

Final Six Flags announcement post of the day! Phew, this has been quite the marathon of news coverage - but with so much being announced I couldn't sit idly by!

Six Flags also had a conference call today for media to go over the announcements and take questions, but we'll get to that in just a bit.  There's some other smaller additions that were announced today that I wanted to keep together:

The Great Escape will add the Screamin' Eagles to their lineup in 2013, what looks to be a set of Larson Flying Scooters.  Riders get to control their vehicles using their car's front wing, allowing a ride that's anywhere from mild to wild.  The new ride will be located in the park's Fest Area, near the Alice in Wonderland attraction.

Adjacent to the park is the Great Escape Lodge, which will add "an exciting new addition that is sure to take kids on a trip they will never forget."  Not much detail there, but more information is promised in the future.

What once was Six Flags Over Texas' is now Six Flags St. Louis' - at least in terms of their new attraction, Boomerang, for 2013.  The coaster is being moved from Texas to the St. Louis park, where it will receive a bright orange and lime green color scheme.

The Boomerang stands 125 feet tall and the train takes the course both forward and backward, each trip heading through three inversions.  Boomerang will be located in the Illinois section of Six Flags St. Louis.

La Ronde, the chain's Canadian park, will add Aqua Twist to the park next season.  A unique flat ride created by Mack Rides, Aqua Twist will be one of the ride manufacturer's "Twist'n'Splash" attractions.

If you're unfamiliar with the Twist'n'Splash, check out this video from Mack to understand more.  The ride is perfect for families and also allows guests to cool down on a Summer day by blasting both riders and guests near the ride with water guns!

The chain also announced that this fall Six Flags Mexico will feature Festival del Terror, the park's first Fright Fest style event.

Early today Six Flags also had a media conference call with Jim Reid-Anderson, Chairman, President, and CEO of Six Flags, and Al Weber, Chief Operating Officer.  It was great to get to hear them speak of the attractions being added for 2013, you can tell the genuine excitement in their voices.

Coming off a successful 2012 season, with the parks gathering the highest guest satisfaction ratings ever, both Mr. Reid-Anderson and Mr. Weber stressed that next year's additions are part of a carefully thought out five year plan for each property.

Unlike in past Six Flags management regimes, the current leaders allow the park to heavily influence what is added, instead of being told what would be built.  Each year Six Flags spends roughly 9 percent of their revenues on the parks, with 60-65 percent of that amount being for new rides and attractions.

Most of what was discussed was similar to that in the above video, but some additional details were revealed:

• Six Flags Discovery Kingdom will renovate Shouka's stadium and it will feature a new show, but for now those plans remain a secret.  The new Cirque Dreams production will go in the 2,500 seat Dolphin Harbor theater.

• Six Flags Great Adventure's Safari addition will be an immense project.  Providing a more intimate experience was one of the park's goals.  Some fencing in the area will be dropped so things look more natural, and the ride's path will use the existing course along with new off-road paths.  The attraction's 17 vehicles will seat 40 guests at a time, and they hope to dispatch one every two minutes from an all new area located beyond the Conestoga Wagon.

• The addition of Festival del Terror at Six Flags Mexico is already highly anticipated by park guests, and more details on the event will surface as early as next week.  There sounds to be more in store for the park, but again those plans are still a secret.

• Six Flags New England's request to build a 385 foot tall Star Flyer may have been a part of that park's five year plan, Mr. Reid-Anderson would only say there was more exciting news down the road for that park.

• They were asked if there was a reason that a ride similar to X-Flight wasn't added to any park in 2013, and again things turned back to the five year plan each park has.  It sounds like due to the big success of the ride at Great America this year we could see another one in the future, though.

• Six Flags Fiesta Texas' Iron Rattler just may be the highlight of the announcements today, and is being designed to "blow folks away" once they take a ride.  The trains will be similar to those on the New Texas Giant, though they will have unique theming.  Two trains will be used on the ride.

• I inquired as to if there was a story behind the fact that none of the additions feature any licensed characters, like Batman or Superman - but it seems that was just the way the cards fell this year.  The chain "likes their relationship" with both Warner Brothers and DC Comics, so it seems this is just an off year.

•  I also had to ask about how important theming is to the current management team when adding new rides, to which they responded that is is indeed important to them, though the rides are developed first, then "texture and context" are added to the rides and the areas around them.  Basically, the theming supports the ride, not the other way around.

• Some callers asked if specific styles of rides were being considered, from log flumes (yes please) to dark rides, and it sounds like nothing is off the list of a "maybe" for future instillation.  Well, I think $20 million plus coasters are a thing of the Six Flags past, though.

Okay, that wraps up today's mega-Six Flags coverage.  Gotta say it's pretty fun having so much announced at once, almost like Christmas for theme park nerds!

Taking it Full Throttle: Six Flags Magic Mountain 2013

2013 will see Six Flags Magic Mountain debut its 18th roller coaster, Full Throttle.  The custom designed Premier Rides creation will feature three separate launches, one of which is taken backwards, and two of which are in a tunnel, and a top speed of 70 miles per hour.

But the statistics do not stop there, as the park is advertising Full Throttle as the roller coaster with the world's largest vertical loop at 160 feet in height. 

The vertical loop will also be home to another interesting feature, it will also serve as a Top Hat element that the train will pass over later in the ride, a first for any coaster I know of.  After completing the vertical loop the two 18 passenger trains will head through a series of high speed, low to the ground curves before encountering another inversion.

As the train reach their turnaround point they suddenly head into a Dive Loop which sends them plummeting down into a special effects tunnel located under ground.  The trains slow, only to launch backward, halfway up the dive loop they just passed through.  Immediately upon reentering the tunnel they launch forward, up and over the Top Hat element.

Full Throttle will be "located near the front of the park in a newly themed five-acre section where guests will experience high-energy thrills through fast-paced imagery, sound and lights."

Screamin' Into 2013 at Six Flags Over Texas and Six Flags Over Georgia

Once again proving that everything is bigger in Texas, Six Flags Over Texas has announced the addition of the Texas Sky Screamer for the park's 2013 season.  The world record breaking swing ride will stand a seemingly impossible 400 feet tall.

Seated in pairs of two, 24 riders per cycle will be slowly lifted into the sky in their chair swing.  As the ride begins to spin the chairs will eventually be swinging in a 124 foot circle in the sky at 35 miles per hour.  Thrilling?  Definitely.

“We take great pride in offering the best, the biggest and the most innovative attractions for our guests,” said Steve Martindale, Six Flags Over Texas and Hurricane Harbor park president. “This ride experience will be unlike any other tower swing ride ever built. If you want to Go Big, then ride the Texas SkyScreamer next spring.”

At night the Texas Sky Screamer will really make an impression on visitors as it is brightly lit up, standing as a beacon for the entire Arlington area.

Six Flags Over Texas' local water park property, Hurricane Harbor will celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2013 with the addition of Black Hole of Doom: 4D.

Transforming the existing Black Hole water slide complex into a new experience, the new attraction will feature "holographic projects and sound effects."

The virtual imagery and other special effects will be experienced as riders head down one of the tower's two 500 foot long tubes.

Six Flags Over Georgia is preparing to build their tallest ride ever next year - the 242 foot tall Sky Screamer.  Similar to the similar attractions that have opened at other Six Flags parks in the past few seasons, Sky Screamer will swing a total of 32 riders at a time in a 98 foot circle at a top speed of 40 miles per hour.

To keep Sky Screamer looking its best at night, it will utilize 1,158 individual LED lights - shine on!

Six Flags White Water Atlanta will also made a large addition next year with Typhoon Twister.

Created by the folks at Proslide, the five story tall slide seats 4 riders in one raft as the plummet down at 32 feet per second.  At the bottom of the drop is an enormous bowl - 67 feet in diameter - that the rafts will spin around in until gravity takes over.

Typhoon Twister is scheduled for a late Spring, 2013 opening at White Water.

The Iron Rattler Strikes Six Flags Fiesta Texas in 2013

It is probably safe to say that we've all be anxiously awaiting the follow up to 2011's amazing transformation of the Texas Giant, and today Six Flags Fiesta Texas has announced just that:  The Iron Rattler.

Called a hybrid roller coaster by the park, the Iron Rattler will combine a classic wooden coaster support structure with modern steel track and rails.  The steel rails will allow for over-banked turns and inversions not possible with traditional wood coaster track.

Iron Rattle will utilize some parts of the Rattler's structure, while others look to be all new.  The Rattler's first drop will be restored to its former glory, now stretching 171 feet downward at an amazing 81 degrees.  That drop will get the trains moving at 70 miles per hour as they zoom past the 100 foot tall quarry walls.

While not all of the specifics of the ride have been released yet, we do know that the Iron Rattler will feature four over-banked turns during its layout, more than any hybrid coaster today.  The ride will also feature a full inverted barrel roll, seen above in concept.  The trains will tackle the barrel roll as they climb back up onto the top of the quarry, placing the inversion quite high up in the air.

“Six Flags has innovation as part of our DNA and the Iron Rattler will take extreme innovation to a new level with a taller drop, faster speed and steeper banks. This cutting-edge coaster truly marries the best of both classic and modern coaster designs to deliver heart-pounding thrills,” said park president Martin Bozer. 

As with the Texas Giant's renovation, Rocky Mountain Construction Group will be responsible for Iron Rattler's transformation, using their Iron Horse Track.  Construction of the ride is already underway, and should take eight months to complete.  The Rattler wooden roller coaster opened at Fiesta Texas in 1992, and took its last riders in its original form on August 5th of this year.

New Entertainment Coming to Six Flags Great America and Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in 2013

Guests will have a big reason to stick around Six Flags Great America until dark next year, when they open igNight - Grand Finale, the "most technologically advanced show in the park's 37-year history."  With a combination of singing, dancing, pyrotechnics, video and laser elements, igNight will entertain visitors as a finale to their day at the park.

"By utilizing pyrotechnics, video technology, laser lighting, immersive sensory effects and guest interaction, spectators will feel as if they have stepped into a multimedia universe with a spectacular finish that reaches new heights."

The show will take place in Six Flags Great America's Hometown Square section, which will be renovated to better accommodate the crowds for the show experience.  

“Our guests have been enjoying immersive nighttime experiences for years. igNIGHT — Grand Finale is going to blow away their expectations,” said Great America park president Hank Salemi.

The new show is set to debut for the Summer season, with a specific schedule coming in the future.

An entirely new experience will take over Six Flags Discovery Kingdom's Dolphin Harbor Theater next year when the park opens Cirque Dreams: Splashtastic.

The production, tagged as the Most Amazing Show Above H2O, will combine a dolphin show with a Cirque style performance.  Featuring "the park’s popular marine mammals along with the internationally renowned company of acrobats, aerialists and astounding Cirque Dreams acts that will amaze in the air, over water and throughout the Dolphin Harbor Theater."

The combination of the dolphin's "graceful leaps and bows" along with the acrobats "amazing feats of strength" will start to entertain visitors to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in late Spring, 2013.

Cirque Dreams has created several shows in the past for other Six Flags properties, and is well known for their entertaining shows around the country.

Six Flags America and Six Flags New England to Open Bonzai Pipelines in 2013

Both Maryland's Six Flags America and Massachusetts' Six Flags New England will premier a brand new slide tower named Bonzai Pipelines in 2013.

The design will be a first of its kind, featuring six different colored body slides, all of which start with a "Drenaline Drop", where riders enter a capsule only to have the floor drop out from beneath them, sending them soaring down the slide.

The six different slides that make up Bonzai Pipelines have different paths, and range in length from 253 to 257 feet.  The start of the slides will feature clear tubes, but the rest of the journey - which includes a horizontal loop - will take place in pitch black darkness.

The modern water slides will add a definite thrill element to their respective parks.  The challenge of facing a pure freefall to start the slide will makes the Pipelines one of the most exciting water park attractions around.  The increased capacity that will come from having six separate slides will also make the line move much faster than other slides, improving the guests' experience.

Concept art of Six Flags America's Bonzai Pipelines
With the addition of the 65 foot tall Bonzai Pipelines, both park's Hurricane Harbor water parks will expand their already impressive line up of water park attractions.  Six Flags America already features the largest seasonal wave pool in the nation, and Six Flags New England's water area features 27 slides, pools, and attractions.

Six Flags Great Adventure Announces Amazing Transformation in 2013

Six Flags Great Adventure has announced that starting in 2013 they will be able to tout a new record and it is a big one, the biggest in fact.  By combining the theme park with the current safari property, Six Flags Great Adventure will be the world's largest theme park in 2013.

With the addition of the former drive-through safari to the theme park, guests will now be able to visit their favorite animals on the Safari Off Rod Adventure, a brand new attraction at the park.

"Boasting 1,200 animals from six continents, Safari Off Road Adventure will take explorers on the most intense, up-close animal experience of their lives.  Guests will enter the amazing, fictional world of the Wilds Family, who have traveled the globe to bring the most interesting and exotic creatures to their home in Jackson, New Jersey.  Once through the rustic loading station filled with artifacts from the Wilds’ global journeys, guests will load a rugged, open-air, Safari vehicle to begin their unique adventure."

The drivers of the vehicles will be knowledgeable about the animals they encounter, adding an additional layer of fun.  When the safari closes this Fall it will undergo "a massive renovation that includes a redesign of various simulated natural habitats and the creation of Camp Aventura."

Camp Aventura will be a stop along the excursion, where guests can see animals up close, or even hand-feed or pet them.  Also located at the Camp will be an additional charge zip-line attraction that will allow guests to fly directly over some of the Safari.

Safari Off Road Adventure has a planned opening of Memorial Day weekend 2013 and will be included in park admission.  The station for the attraction will be in the Frontier Adventures section of the park near the Conestoga Wagon.

The park has released some footage created of the new attractions, which gives an exciting preview of the fun to come in 2013:

Coming off the addition of the brand new King Cobra water slide, the adjacent Six Flags Hurricane Harbor water park will build Big Wave Racer in 2013.

Standing proud as the 8th slide complex at the park, Big Wave Racer will pit riders against one another as they race down over 1,800 feet of slide on individual mats toward the finish line.  Mat racing slides are already immensely popular at water parks around the country, and no doubt that Big Wave Racer will follow suit. 

With these additions Six Flags Great Adventure is sure to be one of the best values in the country next year, with 13 roller coasters, three children's areas, and a wide array of rides, games, and entertainment.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

California's Great America 2013: Gold Striker

California's Great America has made an exciting announcement today; the park will be building a custom designed Great Coasters International wooden roller coaster named Gold Striker for the park's 2013 season!

After quite a few years of waiting for this ride to become a reality, the park will now be home to a coaster filled with twists, turns, high banking, and a ton of cross-overs.  Gold Striker's 3,197 feet of track will utilize two trains, each seating 24 riders.

The coaster will feature a 108 foot tall lift hill, with a 103 foot first drop.  The ride's first drop (which surrounds the park's Sky Tower) is interesting, as it drops then hugs a tight curve then actually performs a double-down, dipping again even closer to the ground.  The top speed of nearly 54 miles per hour will be felt during this element, for sure!

After the drop trains will blast past the station, further exciting riders waiting for their turn, then rocket though a series of curves, one of which features 80 degree banking.  Of especially good news is that the ride appears to have been cranked up a bit since the design that was released years ago, with much more intense banking and turns.

"Gold Striker reflects our commitment to providing our guests with the best thrills and entertainment value in the region," California's Great America Vice-President and General Manager Raul Rehnborg said.  "This ride was uniquely designed by melding together the highest performing and most exciting features of the very best wooden roller coasters in the world.  Everyone who enjoys the thrills of riding a roller coaster will want to experience Gold Striker."

The name Gold Striker was chosen to "recognize the pioneering and adventurous spirit of the California gold-seekers who rushed the area in 1849."  Gold Striker will be California's Great America's eighth roller coaster when it opens next Spring.

For more information on the ride, check out the official Gold Striker website.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Scott and Carol Present: Outlaw Run at Silver Dollar City

It all started with a media pass all covered up and strict instructions not to unwrap it until 10:30 AM. They didn't want to release the name of the ride before that time.

Lisa Rau, Director of Publicity/Public Relations for all Silver Dollar City properties in Branson, started off the announcement by warming up the crowd and encouraging everyone to squeeze inside what will be the loading station for the new attraction. She casually mentioned "We like theming at Silver Dollar City," as everyone who was in attendance could readily see before she introduced Brad Thomas,

who as General Manager, accompanied by the theme from the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, started uncovering the storyboards and and explaining how they spent a lot of effort into market research to determine what their guests wanted for the next major attraction. "We pushed to take the classic wood coaster to a place it's never been before and the result is a wood coaster with never-done before thrill elements." Once they had a general guideline, they turned to Rocky Mountain Construction Company from Hayden, Idaho to realize the dream.

While approximately 60%-70% of the structural work is completed, piles of lumber scattered through the work site show that considerable work is still required. Eighty-nine thousand bolts hold together nearly half a million board feet of treated lumber supporting the Outlaw Run track.

This was the scene that greeted as you got off your mule, the motorized kind. Anthony Esparanza related how every building in Silver Dollar City is its own space. "They all have a story to tell, and this stagecoach depot is to take our guest back in time. They will sense that danger is coming, and they should get out of town." He also mentioned that they found this stagecoach on the Internet. Is it just us or does it seem strange to you to find wild west theming supplies on the new age Internet?

Here is a view of the 107 foot tall lift showing the view oncoming riders will have while waiting their turn in the station before they climb into the custom designed "stagecoach" trains which will restrain the passengers with nothing more than a lap bar.

In this shot you can see the "ride steel" already bolted into place. It is allowed to rust naturally, to enhance the rustic nature of the attraction.

The signature element of the ride, the corkscrew, was hidden behind this banner to prevent photos from being leaked prior to the announcement, because the train tracks run right next to Outlaw Run. As the attendees shouted for the banner to be dropped, the crane fired up and delivered the last corkscrew track piece to the top of the structure.

Left to right, Sherry & Jack Herschend, Brad Thomas, Fred Grubb, Peter Herschend, and Suanne Deadmon are all gathered in front of the first wooden coaster barrel roll.

Fred and Suanne, founders of Rocky Mountain Construction, talk about how excited they are to be a part of this breakthrough ride. Fred consistently gives most of the credit to Alan Schilke, not in attendance, for his engineering skills utilized is designing Outlaw Run. A direct quote from Fred, "I feel very lucky to be working with Alan on this project. I consider him brilliant."

Dennis, from Silver Dollar City, is in charge of their end of the project. "The saving of trees has been the biggest challenge. We redesigned several areas just to save some specific trees." He also said "We have been pleasantly surprised that we didn't have any foundation issues with rock formations close to the surface where we are putting in footers. That has really sped the project along." Hopefully the fast pace remains on track, because it will seem like a long winter for roller coaster lovers who can't wait for this ride to open in Spring 2013.

This is the last section of track for the corkscrew, which was bolted into place during the media event. It was rumored to have cost $28,000 alone, which explains the $10 million price tag for the new attraction. The track pieces have already been assembled and are currently being stored in Idaho due to limited space on site in Branson.

The piece of track snagged a little on a protruding tree branch, which caused everyone to gasp, adding a little drama to a rather mundane assembly operation. Interestingly enough, while everybody below was startled, the man on the structure never flinched. It obviously must have happened before.

This is a view of the 153 degree inversion, where the train rotates counter clockwise until it is inverted and then rolls back clockwise before dropping back close to the ground.

The track sections are bolted to these movable brackets and will pivot to absorb the stress as the trains traverse the track. The solid steel ledger will keep the track gauge constant to reduce the shuffling of the cars.

With this view you can see how the steeply the track is banked, while remaining close to the ground. The articulation of the cars needed to be enhanced beyond current standards for the train to smoothly negotiate the layout without scrubbing off too much energy.

It was a beautiful day for taking pictures, the nearly cloudless sky allowed everyone to feel the full force of the sun in the 97 degree heat.

These pieces of "ride steel" have all been pre-cut to reduce the stresses caused by on site track bending. They will be replaced as required by wear caused by train wheels during the lifetime of the attraction. This type of ride technology and the manufacturing precision involved enables a three year warranty for the new ride.

Here you can see how the topper track is bolted to the top of the wood stack and the bottom metal brackets are bolted to movable pieces on the ledgers. The piece on the left is upside down. All the pieces are manufactured in Idaho to precise tolerances beyond what could be done if the wood track was cut on site. Once the track is in place, the cover steel will be bolted on top of the metal box which will then be filled with a non-shrinking concrete. The riding steel pieces can then be easily replaced as needed without disturbing the rest of the trackbed.

The concrete footers are precast, inserted in place, and then back filled. The verticals are then drilled for the attachment bolts.

The sensation of speed will be greatly magnified due to the close proximity of the ground and the bank angle should enhance the out of control feeling of a runaway stagecoach.

This is a side view of the 81 degree first drop. By utilizing the existing terrain, the ten story tall lift hill has a sixteen story drop into the woods. The trains will be traveling at sixty-eight MPH when they reach the bottom of the first drop.

Outlaw Run is carefully tucked in around the trees, because it is the policy of all Herschend Properties to plant two trees for every one removed. The actual layout of the ride was tweaked because there were some trees the park did not want to remove.

Steep banking will give riders a feeling of being out of control, while being safely ensconced in the new trains. We will bring you in-depth coverage of trains' unveiling at IAAPA this November.

Here is a link to the Rocky Mountain Construction website with more details on this revolutionary technology.