Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Dorney Park Starts 2016 Season with Park Changes + Upgrades to a Classic Ride

A few weeks ago Dorney Park opened its gates for its 133rd season, marking the start of a new year of fun for its guests.  While the weather wasn't the best for photos, we still were on hand to check out what's new and different in 2016.  There's actually a bit more than we expected that's been changed, so let's dig in and take a look!

Before even entering the park I noticed these change donation boxes that are next to the ticket windows at the main gates.  Perhaps these were here before, but I never took notice of them.  They mention that donations go to children's causes, though I'm not sure which and there's no web presence I can locate for Cedar Fair Charities.  No doubt that it goes to a good cause, though!

Moving on to the park's main midway, there's some immediately noticeable changes to the area.  First, the center water fountain has become a planter, a shame, but it never really had much "gusto" even from the start.  At least the plants are pretty! Oh, and if you're wondering about the empty space in the background, yes, the Screamin' Swing has been removed.

All that remains of the pay-extra S&S designed Screamin' Swing is some grass and mulch where the ride foundation once was.  The air compressor building is still standing at the back of the site, for now at least.  This is some prime real estate and I can't image the area will stay undeveloped for too long.

Also removed from the park's ride line up is the Chance Carousel, which was located in the center of the above photo.  The ride had been at the park for many years, and stayed around even after the Antique Carousel was added by the park's entrance gates.  With the park's Ferris wheel now the only ride along this dead-end midway I have to wonder if we will see changes to the area in the coming years.

This is the former site of Hang Time, the park's top spin ride that was removed a couple years ago.  It looks like the park has planted grass on the area this season, instead of mulch.  Not sure if there's much meaning behind some of the markers that are now in the area - I know at least one of them was present all last year.  Maybe something is in the works, only time will tell!

Here is a look at some of the live entertainment being offered in 2016 at Dorney Park.  All Wheel Sports is back again this year, even though it had seemed that last year would be the end of its run.  There's two live shows at Center Stage this year, another at Coasters Bandstand plus the popular Boogie Down Band which roams the park.

Some Haunt attractions seem like they will be returning this year as they're still standing from last Fall.  The new and improved CornStalkers is still up by the park's lower lake, Trick Or Treat is still by Steel Force, and Mansion House is over by the Food Fest groves.  I've heard that the sets for Desolation are down, but I didn't remember to confirm.  Either way we can count on at least one new haunt this year, judging from clues left by the park on social media.

Dorney Park's 133 season run is pretty amazing when you think about it, and the park has always been great about showing off that history.  I noticed this new historical sign out by Cedar Creek, showing the Dorney Park Show Boat that used to cruise around the lower lake.  I love that the park spends time and money to celebrate its past, even if just through decorative signs like this.

One final change that is hard not to notice is the makeover that the photo stand for Steel Force received.  All new paint and a snazzy new sign have it looking better than when it was new!  Hard to believe that the booth, and the ride of course, are almost 20 - technically this is the ride's 20th season of operations.

The main focus of this year's changes center around Thunderhawk, Dorney Park's classic wooden roller coaster.  This is something we've watched progress over the winter months, and now the ride is open and looking terrific.

There are decorative signs in Thunderhawk's queue that show the different eras that the 92 year old ride has gone though.  This is the first one, detailing when the ride first opened as an out-and-back design.  There's a great photo of the ride in that configuration, along with plans from Philadelphia Toboggan Company - both are real gems!

It was in 1930 that the park's owners decided to give the Coaster some new thrills by re-configuring the track to include several fast paced turns.  This is also when the ride received the elaborate station building that stood for decades.

Another real gem, one I've never seen before, here are plans for the changes to the track layout that were drawn up and dated in February of 1930.  Also from Philadelphia Toboggan Company, this is a pretty rare look at the ride!

You can't cover the history of Thunderhawk without bringing up Alfundo, the giant clown that was added to the side of the station.  The 1950s is marked as when the coaster was painted a bright yellow color, much bolder than the banana cream we're used to today.

Finally, here is the last sign which looks at the ride in modern times.  Most already know, but the ride wasn't named Thunderhawk until Hercules was added and the park needed a way to tell their two wooden coasters apart.  Also notice in the text that it says that it will be fun to see what's in store for the future of Thunderhawk, might more renovations be planned?

If they are, I've got one!  Add a tunnel here!  Also note that the park's General Manager can be seen doing an interview at the top of the photo; no I was not stalking him.  I just wanted to get this photo of one of Thunderhawk's biggest additions, a pair of brand new PTC trains.  You can see the neat open air front plate of the trains here as well.

The trains are running great on the coaster's track, and the ride experience is noticeably smoother with them.  The trains featuring alternating color schemes to set them apart.  The entire course has also been lined with new white lights, which make the ride stand out once the sun sets.

All of Thunderhawk's supports were repainted, which is quite visible in this photo.  The ride was starting to look less yellow and more natural after many years in between full paint jobs, so it has been quite some time since it looked this great.

Here is one final photo of one of Thunderhawk's new trains cresting one of the air-time hills - I think those riders are enjoying themselves!

Stay tuned for more park updates as the season progresses, there's several new special events planned for the Summer and beyond!