Sunday, November 17, 2019

Heard On... Cedar Fair's 3rd Quarter 2019 Earnings Call

© Cedar Fair
Cedar Fair's 3rd Quarter 2019 earnings announcement was filled with good financial news.  Often when chains purchase new parks they do not break out the "legacy" parks, however Cedar Fair has done that for us to make things easier to compare in the growth department.  Here are some highlights from the earnings call, along with some of the most interesting slides from their most recent investor presentation:

• For the 3rd quarter alone net revenues were up $51 million, attendance was up 818k, per capita spending was up $0.47 and out of park revenues were up $6 million.  That is for all parks, including the two Schlitterbahn parks.  Excluding them revenues ere up $43 million, attendance was up 732k, per caps were up less than 1% and out of park revenues were up $6 million.  EBITDA, which the investment community is after, was up $17 million including Schlitterbahn, and up the same with out them. (due to calendar shifts, not their performance)

• Year to date (through November 3rd) including the Schlitterbahn parks, net revenues were $1.37 billion with attendance of 25.8 million visitors.  Excluding the parks revenues were up $71 million with attendance up 1 million guests over 2018.

© Cedar Fair
• Season pass sales are off to their best start ever, causing deferred revenues to be up $40 million over the same time in 2018.  That also translates to an increase of 350,000 units sold (probably most at Cedar Point!).

• Grand Carnivale will come back to all existing parks and debut at two new parks in 2020, and Monster Jam Thunder Alley will switch to three new parks next year.

• Company continues to be committed to a "long range plan" that includes "more immersive entertainment offerings" - this was something mentioned several times.  These offerings led to a second season in a row of growing the number of unique visitors to the parks, which they want to use in their CRM database.

© Cedar Fair
 • When asked more about the shift in capital spending, the chain noted that they are seeing a similar boost to value perception from large events as they've seen from big coasters in the past.

• Knott's Berry Farm is continuing to produce huge numbers.  They had a very slow start to 2019 but have come back and are on the path again to make 2019 the best year ever for the park.  They are kicking off a new "targeted marketing" project at Knott's in the 4th quarter.  Also, this past Halloween Haunt was their best ever.

• The two Schlitterbahn parks contributed $23 million of EBITDA during the 3rd quarter after they were purchased.  Cedar Fair is spending heavily on them in the 4th quarter to make improvements, which will bring their EBITDA contribution down to $12 - $14 million in EBITDA.

© Cedar Fair
• More on Schlitterbahn, they see much room for improvement in the two parks' revenues and attendance.  Most system changes to link the parks to the chain will happen in 2020, meaning 2021 will be the first big season for them as a part of Cedar Fair.

• The 4th quarter events of Halloween and Winterfest and Knott's Merry Farm now account for 15% of the company's annual attendance, and that is growing.

• On the hotel front, Carowinds' new Springhill Suites is opening in a couple weeks.  The company has also started renovations projects at Castaway Bay, the Knott's Hotel and the Sawmill Creek Resort.  The Hyatt hotel by Canada's Wonderland is moving slowly, but they hope to open it in 18 to 24 months.  Over the next three years, including the Canadian hotel, they will spend $70 million on hotel renovations and additions.

© Cedar Fair

• The new indoor section of the Cedar Point Sports Center will open in early 2020 and bookings are running slightly ahead of Cedar Fair's budget.  They expect the facility to create incremental demand for room stays at Cedar Point's hotel properties.

• To better accommodate guests (due to increasing attendance) the chain will also focus on improving parking facilities, ingress/egress to the parks, more food and beverage capacity and expanded restrooms.

• The company declined to comment on the Six Flags purchase rumors, noting that they plan for the future of the company's success on its own.

© Cedar Fair
• Cedar Point's new Gold Pass has gone bonkers in sales, and is drawing a ton of new guests - at a ration of 7 new for each 1 renewal.

• Pass Perks will roll out chain-wide in 2020.  They tested at 4 parks this year and were working to see what offers would get guests to show up for an additional visit.  They found that the most motivating offer was anything food and beverage related.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Conneaut Lake Park to Expand Picnic Operations with Help from State Grant

© Conneaut Lake Park
The little park that could has had another recent success, being awarded a $112,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.  The grant will be used to redevelop picnic pavilions, allowing the Trustees of Conneaut Lake park, who operate the facility, to build six new pavilions.

The project would allow the property to attract large groups that want to have picnics, such as family reunions, company outings and more.  The grant will cover about 50% of the funds needed for the project, which also includes tearing down several older pavilions.  The park hopes to be able to have the pavilions done for the 2020 season, however they need to finish items related to the grant and get appropriate approvals for the work so it will be a tight schedule.

© Conneaut Lake Park
Each season Conneaut Lake Park, which dates back to 1892, has been growing and improving after a good deal of troubling financial years.  In 2019 a slew of improvements debuted at the park, including the Ferris wheel seen above.  The park also added a smaller Ferris wheel in the kids area, made cosmetic improvements, added new roofs around the park, new paint, additional lockers, restroom improvements and even work on the famous Blue Streak roller coaster.

For ride fans, the Blue Streak is the most important reason to see the park continue its streak of success.  The Ed Vettel designed ride opened in 1938 and is about as classic as a wooden coaster can be in current day.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Aquatica Orlando Announces New Riptide Race Dueling Slides for 2020

© Aquatica Orlando
Aquatica Orlando has announced the addition of Riptide Race for the park's 2020 season.  The new slide tower will stand 68 feet tall and be "Florida's first-ever dueling water slide," according to the park's press release.

Riders will grab a raft that seats two people and head to the top of the tower.  The attraction has two separate paths that allow for side-by-side racing at "top speeds."  The ride's path will feature low walls which will "ensure full view of the competition" as the sliders race through a combined total of nearly 650 feet of slide.  Riptide Race's path will feature both enclosed and open sections, tight turns and section of acceleration.

“Riptide Race will offer a ride experience you won’t be able to get anywhere else in Florida. Aquatica will be the first waterpark in the state to have a thrilling, and more importantly, dueling water slide,” said David Heaton, Aquatica Orlando vice president. “Riptide Race is the perfect addition to our attraction portfolio, complementing what is already one of the most family friendly waterslide lineups in Orlando.”

Riptide Race will have a height requirement of 42 inches to appeal to families with children, and the new slide will be conveniently located on the north side of the park next to Banana Beach Cook Out.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Cedar Fair Says No Thanks to Purchase of Schlitterbahn Kansas City

© Google Maps
Back when Cedar Fair purchased two of Schlitterbahn's iconic water parks they also had the right to potentially purchase the remains of Schlitterbahn Kansas City, which sat dormant for the 2019 season, for $6 million.  The company only had so long to decide to make the purchase or not, and that time has now passed with no sale completed.

The local news is reporting that while Cedar Fair has let their option to buy the water park expire, local officials are still hopeful that it can operate as a water park again some day in the future.  Who would be the owner and operator is unclear, however.

The Kansas City water park was set to be the start of a large vacation destination that Schlitterbahn was going to develop, though little more than the water park was ever built.  The park's prior troubles are believed to have led the private Schlitterbahn company to be forced to sell two of their parks in the first place.

Some argued that if Cedar Fair purchased and operated the park it could be a secondary attraction for Worlds of Fun, however they already have a fully developed water park there with Ocean of Fun.  In the end it appears as though Cedar Fair didn't see the value in having two water parks operating so close to one another. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Worlds of Fun Makes Changes to 2020 Addition to Beat a World Record

© Worlds of Fun
The previously announced 2020 addition to Worlds of Fun's water park, Oceans of Fun, has received a small design change that has allowed it to become a world record breaking attraction.

The park has announced that Riptide Raceway, a 4 lane racing mat slide, has had the length of each path increased by ten feet, from 476.9 to 486 feet, to make it the longest slide of its kind in the world.  It is amazing what ten more feet of slide can do!

© Worlds of Fun
The park has also sent out this schematic of Riptide Raceway, giving us a detailed look at the path each of the four lanes will follow.  Riders need only be 42 inches tall to race, and using mats they will head down the lanes head-first through tight turns and enclosed sections, with a final drop toward the finish line.  The attraction will feature bright colors that will fit with the vibe of Ocean of Fun.

The slide will be built into the landscape of the park and start at around five stories above the final splash run out.  The competitive racing nature of the slide is sure to make it a popular attraction when Oceans of Fun opens for the 2020 season.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Schlitterbahn Galveston Indoor Water Park Closing for Extended Refurbishments

© Schlitterbahn Galveston
Schlitterbahn Galveston, now a part of the Cedar Fair family, has announced that it will close its indoor operations early for the season on November 17th for extended refurbishments and improvements.

Touting a "new and improved experience in 2020," the water park will see a number of changes that will make guests more comfortable starting when it reopens on February 29th, 2020.  When Cedar Fair closed on the purchase of the two Schlitterbahn water parks they said that they were planning some significant capital expenditures for them over the next two years, this seems to be the first of them to be announced.

© Schlitterbahn Galveston
So what exactly is happening?  The park has posted an information update about the changes and described some of them in detail.  They plan to focus on attraction maintenance, improve the food and beverage operations of the park, renovate all the restrooms, and give the park's main entrance a full makeover to make getting in the park faster, more streamlined and "prettier."

Granted none of these things are an exciting massive new water slide or attraction, but after Cedar Fair has some time to make cosmetic and operational changes this year I wouldn't be shocked to see a big new attraction in 2021.

Schlitterbahn Galveston also promises additional announcements, surprises, and updates to be posted to their blog as work progresses, so stay tuned for more details.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

SeaWorld Entertainment Names New CEO + Heard On Quarter 3 2019 Earnings Call

SeaWorld Entertainment has had to name yet another CEO, this time Sergio D. Rivera has been given the company's top spot.

According to a press release from the company, "Mr. Rivera previously served as the President and Chief Executive Officer of ILG, Inc.'s Vacation Ownership Segment, where he was responsible for development, sales, marketing and resort operations.  Prior to ILG, Mr. Rivera was the President of the Americas for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide and was responsible for the performance and growth of Starwood's brands and its owned, managed and franchised businesses in North America, the Caribbean, Central and South America, and Polynesia."

So while not a direct connection to the theme park industry, he has had a lot of experience with vacationing, leisure and specifically hotels.  

SeaWorld also announced the addition of Ms. Neha Jogani Narang to the board of directors.  She was most recently a Director at Facebook, with an extensive history in consumer marketing and an apparent deep love of SeaWorld.

SeaWorld Entertainment's earnings release for the 3rd quarter of 2019 took place this past week as well, and the results were a bit disappointing, though the company's stock moved upward regardless.  In the quarter attendance decreased 2.6%, revenue decreased $9.5 million and adjusted EBITDA decreased by $5.5 million.

However looking at the year to date figures, things are still up overall.  For the first nine months of the year attendance only creased 0.3%, revenue increased by $8 million and adjusted EBITDA increased by $36.3 million.  Here's some notes from the company's conference call:

•  The company says some of the less than stellar results of the 3rd quarter are due to more rainy days in Florida, Hurricane Dorian scaring everyone away over Labor Day weekend, and a calendar shift that replaced a busy weekend day in '18 with a slow September weekday in '19.  

•  They also called themselves out for over spending about $9.5 million on marketing during the quarter due to "less disciplined management of certain marketing related costs."  Ouch, I bet someone got in some big trouble for that!

© SeaWorld Entertainment
• When weather was good the park performed strongly.  They had three days in July of near all time record attendance, and six days in the quarter of top 20 attendance totals.  In September they had "all time record breaking attendance at two of our larger parks."

• Halloween was successful this year as of the date of the call, the company noted that through November 3rd attendance and revenue were up quarter to date over 2018.

• Total capital expenditures for the 2019 season are expected to be $115 million in "core capital expenditures" and $30 - $35 million in "non-core" expenditures.  Non-core expenditures are tied to "expansion in return on investment" projects including new properties such as Sesame Place San Diego.

• Deferred revenue at the end of September is up 6%, which is mostly from an increase in season pass sales.  The company has also seen more people move from a "fun card" pass to a premium season pass product.

• The leadership was asked about capital spend in the future, since next year is so heavy on thrill rides.  They did say that they plan to continue special events at the park in addition to new rides.  But they did not mention spending on animal attractions at all.

© SeaWorld Entertainment
• There is a lot of excitement around the opening of a second Sesame Place park in San Diego in 2021.  According to the company's filings, they expect to spend up to $55 million completing their agreement with Seasme Workshop, the bulk of which is the new park.

• Next year almost every park will get a new ride or slide, the first time the company has done this.  This includes 4 new roller coasters, and slides at almost every water park.

• They expect to land in the higher end of the goal of $475 to $500 million in EBITDA by the end of 2020.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Kings Island Tops Off New Orion Giga Coaster

© Kings Island
This past week Kings Island topped off their new giga roller coaster, Orion, by placing the top of the 287 foot tall lift hill.  The job required three separate cranes, seen in the photo above, since the ride's supports do not sit directly under the apex of the lift hill.

This also means that the ride's 300 foot first drop, which classifies the ride as a giga coaster, is also now complete.  Orion's track will stretch 5,321 feet long and feature a top speed of 91 miles per hour.

Here's some video that the park released of the ride being topped out:

The park has been busy slowly building Orion's lift hill over the past couple weeks, and work has also focused on the ride's station.  That has had all its metal framing put up, and soon it will be enclosed so that workers can really dig into the ride's electrical systems and other components.  Stay tuned for more as the park is sure to make quick work of the rest of Orion's layout!

Friday, November 8, 2019

Scott And Carol Present - The IAPPA 2019 Legends Panel Discusses Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge

The upcoming Legends panel at the IAAPA Expo has announced that it will bring feature several individuals who were essential in the creation of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge in two Disney theme parks. "The objective of the annual panel is to preserve and share the otherwise-lost wisdom and methods of the industry's great achievers, in a way that helps tomorrow's leaders shape the future."

"Four amazing super-star Legends share insights, strategies and lessons learned by leaving the known path and inventing new worlds," Bob Rogers wrote of the panel. "They share lessons that you can soon be applying to your own work."

This year's participants are:

Scott Trowbridge - Portfolio Creative Executive for Walt Disney Imagineering and the head of the Galaxy's Edge creative team.

Anisha Deshmane - Assistant Producer, guiding the development of interactive experiences.

Margaret Kerrison - Managing Story Editor who served as the story lead for Galaxy's Edge.

Chris Beatty - Executive Creative Director for Galaxy's Edge.

The Legends panels is moderated by Bob Rogers, Founder, BRC Imagination Arts, who has already been inducted into the IAAPA Hall of Fame and received a Thea Lifetime Achievement award. He started his career in the industry as a magician in the Magic Shop at Disneyland.

Legends 2019: Report from the Galaxy’s Edge is set for Wednesday, November 20 at 3:30pm during the IAAPA Attractions Expo. The panel is always very popular so it is suggested that anyone interested get in line early to make sure they get a seat!

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Knott's Berry Farm to Debut Knott's Bear-y Tales: Return to the Fair 4-D Ride for Park's 100th Anniversary

© Knott's Berry Farm
The other day I speculated that perhaps Knott's Berry Farm would be swapping out their current 4-D dark ride, Voyage to the Iron Reef, for one themed to their classic Bear-y Tales dark ride... and it turned out to be true!  I wish I could predict a lot of attractions just by wishing them into existence!

The park will close Voyage to the Iron Reef for good on January 5th, and get to work on opening the new Bear-y Tales ride by summertime.  The ride will be a central part of the park's "A Knott's Family Reunion" celebration that will run from May 15th through August 30th.

© Knott's Berry Farm
If you click this concept art you can see a much larger version of some of the antics that will be found in the brand new attraction.  The original was commissioned by the Knott family and created by Rolly Crump in 1975.

The park gives this description of the new ride in their press materials:

Knott's Bear-y Tales will be an "exciting journey through reimagined show scenes that are reminiscent of the original dark ride, including the Boysenberry Pie Factory, Frog Forest, Fortune Teller Camp, Thunder Cave, and Weird Woods,  culminating in a celebration at the County Fair.  The story takes place 34 years after the original adventure and will follow Boysen Bear and Girlsen Bear as they travel to the Country Fair to earn the blue ribbon prize for their famous boysenberry pies, but Crafty Coyote is back along with his mischievous pups intent on stealing all the pies for themselves.  Guests will climb aboard ride vehicles equipped with jelly blasters to try and recover the stolen boysenberry pies as they travel through whimsical and beautiful environments while competing for the highest score."

It is fantastic to see Knott's Berry Farm making such an exciting effort to celebrate their past with this new ride!  I can't wait to see the finished product.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Hersheypark Tops Off New Candymonium Roller Coaster

© Hersheypark
We just covered the latest photos of Candymonium at Hersheypark the other day, but since then the park has topped off the ride!  That's some pretty big news, so we can't pass up sharing a bit more about the ride from the footage the park released to mark the occasion.

After the top of the lift hill was carefully put into place Candymonium was proudly standing 210 feet over Hersheypark.  The video that the park sent out had some neat drone footage that gives us amazing views of not only Candymonium but also the progress that has been made on Chocolatetown.  You can see the new buildings for the area spread out in the construction zone, and of course Candymonium is looking pretty good too!

© Hersheypark
This aerial shot is the first good look we've had at work on the rest of Candymonium's layout, and you can see tons of footers for the out and back portion of the ride already in place.  The ride will cut directly through nearly the entire length of the area that Hersheypark gained in recent years.  I can only imagine how this area will be filled with additional park expansions in the future!

Here is the full video that Hersheypark released of their brand new B&M hyper coaster being topped off!

Monday, November 4, 2019

What Do Triotech and Knott's Berry Farm Have Planned for the Park's 2020 Season?

Just recently the IAAPA Expo schedule of announcement events came out, and if you haven't had a gander yet take a look here.

There's always a lot of fun announcements at the Expo, and this year looks to be no different.  There will be new coaster front cars revealed from Maurer, Rocky Mountain Construction and Great Coasters International, new rides announced by Zamperla, additions to Coney Island's Luna Park and plenty more.

But one announcement caught the eye of many, and that's one from Knott's Berry Farm and Triotech.  The tagline for the announcement is short, and definitely leaves us wanting more: "Together with Knott’s Berry Farm, Triotech will announce a new attraction celebrating the park’s 100th anniversary."

A new attraction!?  Now we do not know the scale of this attraction, but Triotech already has a pretty big one at Knott's in the form of Voyage to the Iron Reef.

© Knott's Berry Farm
The 4-D dark ride was installed at the park in 2015 as part of Cedar Fair's "Amusement Dark" series... which fizzled out rather quickly after this instillation.  Regardless of that though guests are still enjoying their trip under the sea on the interactive dark ride, which due to its very nature could possibly be rethemed with ease.

We all know that the building that Voyage to the Iron Reef is in was previously home to both Knott's Bear-y Tales and Kingdom of the Dinosaurs.  Bear-y Tales is held in high regard by park fans, but kinda not so much for the dinos.  Perhaps a retheme to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the park is in order for Voyage in order to bring back the bears in a much more modern way?

That could just be dreaming... it also could be a much smaller instillation, like one of the company's XD Dark theaters.  Who knows!  At least we don't have to wait long, as the announcement will be November 19th.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

New Views of Hersheypark's Candymonium Coaster from the Construction Zone

© Hersheypark
Candymonium, Hersheypark's new B&M hyper coaster, is growing quickly under the pretty blue fall sky, as seen in a batch of new photos posted to the park's Construction Zone website.  The page has been added to the robust offerings of the Chocolatetown website, which is dedicated to the massive expansion that the park will open in the spring of 2020.

We previously saw that the park had started to build the coaster's lift hill, and these updated photos show that they've also been installing a lot of other track.  B&M hypers often go up in order, from lift hill to final brakes, so it's interesting to see the ride going up in different segments.  Above is Candymonium's upward helix that drops into an outwardly banked fall, before zooming up and around a new iconic fountain that will be built.

© Hersheypark
Another photo from the group was taken a bit before most of that track went up, but shows off the great elevation changes that can be found in the area of the ride.  While these were visible in the original plans for the expansion they're even more noticeable in these recent photos.

Candymonium will tower over Hersheypark with a lift hill standing 210 feet tall.  The ride's first drop will send the trains over the 4,636 foot long course at speeds of 76 miles per hour.  Riders will be treated to many air-time hills along the way, a staple feature of these kind of coasters.

Chocolatetown will not only include a totally new entrance to Hersheypark, but also several food and retail locations.  Recently announced dining additions include The Sweeterie Confectionery Kitchen, Milton's Ice Cream Kitchen, and the large Chocolatier Restaurant Bar & Patio.  Those looking for anything Hershey related will also enjoy the Hersheypark Supply Co. store.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Australia's Dreamworld to Retire Tower of Terror II Intamin Reverse Freefall

© Dreamworld
Originally opened as one of the tallest thrill rides in the world, Dreamworld's Tower of Terror II will be permanently retired on November 3rd.  The park has made the announcement of the coaster's removal as they look ahead to a $70 million expansion that includes a thrilling new launched roller coaster, a huge water slide tower, improvements to their kids area and more.

© Dreamworld
The Tower of Terror II opened in 1997 and stands 377 feet tall.  Created by Intamin, the coaster features an LSM launch at 100 miles per hour to push the individual car up the tower.  Subsequent to the ride's opening a drop tower ride was placed on the back of the main tower, and at one point the ride turned the train around backward and added the "II" to the name.

The park has set up some frequently asked questions about the ride's removal on their website, and really no reason other than its time for it to retire were given.  They do confirm that the tower and attached free fall will remain once the coaster's tracks are removed.

© Dreamworld
While sad to see the removal of an iconic roller coaster, Dreamworld does have an exciting replacement up its sleeve.  The park is planning to open a near copy of Blue Fire at the end of 2020, which is a highly regarded launched Mack coaster.  It will change things up and use a reverse spike to feature multiple launches, and the last car on the train is said to spin freely.  The addition surely makes the loss of Tower of Terror II a bit easier for fans of the park.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Six Flags Entertainment Names New President and CEO

Six Flags Entertainment Corporation has announced an end to their search for the company's next CEO with the announcement that Michael Spanos has been given the job.  He will officially become the company's President and Chief Executive Officer on November 18th, and has already been named a member of Six Flags' board of directors.

The same day that Mr. Spanos will assume the CEO job the current leader, James Reid-Anderson, will step down from his role.  Mr. Reid-Anderson is looking forward to his retirement and notes that “as a major investor in Six Flags, I have the utmost confidence in Mike’s ability to further supercharge our growth initiatives, continue to drive innovation, and deliver significant short, medium and long-term value for our stakeholders.”

According to the Six Flags press release, Mr. Spanos, 55, most recently served as Chief Executive Officer of PepsiCo, Asia, Middle East and North Africa - a sector of that company with six billion in revenue coming from 43 countries.

“I am thrilled to join the dedicated and talented employees of Six Flags,” said Mr. Spanos. “Jim has built an amazing legacy, and I look forward to the next horizon of growth.  It is a privilege to be able to lead such a superb organization.”

While the chain's new CEO does not appear to have specific amusement industry employment history, he does have an extensive background in global operations.  With Six Flags pursuing licensing deals for parks across the globe as a new source of revenue those experiences could bode well for them.  Here's hoping that he is as amusing as Mr. Reid-Anderson has been in the yearly new ride announcement videos - those are big shoes to fill!

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Dollywood to Premier New Flower & Food Festival for 35th Anniversary Celebration

Dollywood is celebrating its 35th anniversary in 2020 and has announced that an all new festival will debut next season to mark the occasion.  Known as Dollywood's Flower & Food Festival, it will feature "brilliant splashes of spring color with numerous vibrant displays of expertly-manicured flowers and plants created by tremendously-talented horticulturists."  The festival will run May 8th through June 14th, perfect timing for blooming flowers a plenty!

© Dollywood
The park will work in partnership with the internationally acclaimed Mosiacultures flower sculpting team to create "larger-than-life sculptures including a butterfly umbrella, a depiction of Dolly’s mother quilting the Coat of Many Colors, various animal scenes and beautiful environmental imaginations."  Each of the floral creations will stand between ten and fifteen feet tall, and the one of Dolly's mother can be seen in concept art form above.  Looks stunning!

The park has even more surprises in store to beautifully decorate the park for the new festival, an example of that will be on Showstreet where hundreds of colorful umbrellas will be suspended above the pathway to create what the park is calling an "Umbrella Sky."  The park mascots from Wildwood Grove, Flit and Flutter, will also be on had for special meet and greet photo opportunities.

The other half of the festival focuses on food, and the park is creating a vast selection of culinary creations that "take inspiration from spring in the Smokies" with "featured items such as spring beef over crispy potatoes, heirloom tomato and feta cheese galette, savory lime chicken legs over rice pilaf, and caprese skewers with a balsamic reduction.  Refreshing specialty drink options will include pink watermelon lemonade slushy, rose lemon spritzer and fresh violet slushy."

Busch Gardens Williamsburg Building Pantheon at Super Speedy Pace

© Busch Gardens Williamsburg
Busch Gardens Williamsburg is assembling Pantheon, the park's new for 2020 Intamin launched coaster, faster than any major steel coaster in recent memory.  The park seems to be taking full advantage of the beautiful fall weather to get a lot of track and supports up before winter sets in.  The photos in this post were released by the park on social media, and give us a wonderful look at Pantheon's progress from about a week ago.

Up top is the ride's first inversion, which dives down the hill below grade before swooping back up to the main launch area for the coaster.  An initial launch will take place after some curvy track out of the station which will get the trains through the twisting corkscrew inversion.

© Busch Gardens Williamsburg
With the corkscrew seen in the background of this photo, the foreground is showing off the start of the spike tower that will be used in the launches.  The train will navigate the vertical tower as each launch gives it more momentum.  Only some of the supports were up in this view, and I suspected a much more robust tower to be installed next.

But then BGW Fans surprised us with this post, which shows the vertical track stretching into the sky unsupported for quite a distance.  It looks almost scary, though we've seen plenty of Intamin rides have track stretch upward with little support... but also some of them got reinforcements later.

BGW Fans also shared this money shot of the Pantheon construction from above, giving us the best look yet at the ride's progress!  It's going to be a rather pretty ride, especially considering the support and track colors.  Eventually there will be much more track filling up this field, at least two segments will be high above the ground.  You can just see the start of one of those parts, the ride's top hat, going up over on the left. 

Monday, October 28, 2019

Cedar Fair to Close Newly Purchased Resort for Six Month Renovation

© Sawmill Creek Resort
Cedar Fair has made good on their promise to heavily renovate the Sawmill Creek Resort, located just miles down the road from Cedar Point, which they purchased back in July.

The company has announced that Sawmill Creek will close down November 4th, and not reopen until late spring or early summer in 2020.  The news isn't really surprising since Cedar Fair said they wanted to do some big renovations when they purchased the resort, and I'm glad that they're moving forward with them.  Originally they said they wanted to do the work over two years, but perhaps they have sped up the process by deciding to shut it down for many months.

I've never been to the resort, but from the photos on their website it does look like it is in need of being modernized.

© Sawmill Creek Resort
This photo is from Sawmill's website, and gives an idea of the 1990s decor that can be found in the rooms.  This isn't a hotel blog though, so we don't need to go into detail there.  But it does feel a bit like some of the rooms that were in Hotel Breakers before its massive, multi-year renovation.

Cedar Fair is expected to utilize Sawmill Creek heavily for the year-round operations at the Sports Force park, also just a little down the road from the property.  Once brought up to the current standards of Cedar Fair's resorts, I'd also expect it to become a popular package destination for those visiting Cedar Point.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

SeaWorld San Antonio Texas Stingray Update + Aquatica San Antonio New for 2020?

© SeaWorld San Antonio
One of few new traditional wooden roller coasters being built for the 2020 season, it's been exciting to follow along with the progress of the Texas Stingray at SeaWorld San Antonio.  The park started major vertical construction of the ride this past summer, so it's arguably the further along than any new for 2020 coaster out there.

The park has shared another recent update for the ride, and a ton more progress has been made.  It looks like the first half of the ride is now in place, with tracking still needing to be added.  The park just completed the Texas Stingray's 100 foot first drop, which can be seen above.  Not many Great Coasters International rides have a straight drop like that, and it looks awesome!

Here is the full update from SeaWorld San Antonio.  Another recent construction video, from YouTube, gives an idea of the presence the ride has from inside the park.

Also quite interestingly it appears as though Aquatica San Antonio, which is adjacent to the theme park, will add a new slide next year as well.  Maybe that was announced earlier and I missed it!  This video says that Tonga Twister will open next year, a body slide that "features translucent technology" and appears to be added to one of the existing slide towers.  The park promises more on that addition in the future.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Help Fun Spot Kissimmie Name Their New Roller Coaster

© Fun Spot Kissimmie
Who doesn't love helping a park name their latest and greatest roller coaster?  Fun Spot America Kissimmie is working on a brand new steel roller coaster for 2020 and is seeking help from the general public in naming the thrill ride.  The winner of the contest who submits the final name choice will win two season passes to the park for 2020 and a first ride on it, so it can't hurt to submit a name, right?

The new coaster will stand five stories tall and feature 1,300 feet of track.  The concept art above makes it look kind of like one of E&F Miler Industries' Hi-Miler coasters, the trains and track style give that away to some degree.  The park says it will have a "triple out and back layout" and a height requirement of only 42 inches.

You have until the end of October 31st to submit your name for the ride.  The park is looking for family friendly names that are exciting and celebrate "classic American fun, Florida life, legends, traditions and culture."

Monday, October 21, 2019

Sesame Place San Diego Announced For Spring 2021 Opening

SeaWorld Entertainment has finally named the second location for a Sesame Place theme park, and much to the surprise of many it will be located in San Diego, California.

The 17 acre Sesame Place San Diego will be a theme and water park opening in 2021, and will be a new park built off the bones of the current Aquatica San Diego, also one of SeaWorld Entertainment's parks.  The location is in Chula Vista, California, and currently serves as a secondary park to SeaWorld San Diego.

© Sesame Place San Diego
Work on the new park will commence this off season, and Aquatica San Diego is scheduled to operate for one final season in 2020.  More work will continue after it closes in the fall of 2020, and then Sesame Place San Diego will open in 2021.

When complete visitors will find a property that offers both mechanical and water rides, starting from the entrance area that is seen in the above concept art.  The design is somewhat similar to the Sesame Place park that has operated outside Philadelphia, but will use many of the existing parks facilities.

© Sesame Place San Diego
Visitors will also find a full replica of Sesame Street once inside the park, and it's said to have interactive features like those added at SeaWorld Orlando and Sesame Place Philadelphia this past season.  There will also be live shows featuring the Sesame Street gang, and a daily parade which has proven a huge hit at the existing Sesame Place park for decades.

Sesame Place San Diego will also open its doors as a Certified Autism Center, providing "staff-wide autism sensitivity and awareness training that will be completed prior to the park’s debut, and robust pre-visit planning resources, including a park-specific sensory guide will be featured on its website, making it easier for parents to plan activities that satisfy their child’s specific needs and accommodations.  Designated quiet spaces with adjustable lighting and comfortable seating will be incorporated into the park’s design."

© Sesame Place San Diego
While Aquatica San Diego was purely a water park experience, there will be seven mechanical rides added to the park when it reopens as Sesame Place San Diego.  Located throughout the park, it appears from the concept art that there will be a family swing ride, swirling submarine ride, balloon tower, carousel, an Elmo themed spinner, kid-powered climb tower and a family roller coaster, which looks like it will be themed to Super Grover.

© Sesame Place San Diego
If you click this image you can see more details of this great aerial concept art of Sesame Place San Diego.  The park's press materials state that it will have 11 water slides and attraction, and judging off of the current Aquatica map it looks like only one slide tower will be removed.  That is the tower with the tall high speed body slides, which indeed do not fit in a Sesame Place, and the concept art shows a new amphitheater in its place.  You can get an idea how the rides will be spread out around the property, and the Sesame Street neighborhood will go up in the corner of the park bordering the entrance area with the parking lot to its back.

The Sesame Place San Diego website is already live, offering more details on what will be offered when it opens in spring 2021.  Check it out at this link.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Universal Studios Beijing Names Seven Themed Lands In New Property Update

© Universal Beijing
Universal Studios Beijing, set to open sometime in 2021, has provided a new update that reveals the seven themed lands that will make up the park.  Some of the themes have been successfully used at other Universal theme parks, and some of them will be new.

Up top is new concept art for Universal Studios Beijing that shows the entire park and all its lands.  It also gives an idea of how much space has been left open for future development - a significant amount.

© Universal Beijing
A new themed land will be entirely indoors, themed around the Kung Fu Panda films and aptly named Kung Fu Panda Land of Awesomeness.  Set in "legendary China," the area will feature numerous Chinese-themed locations from the films such as the Jade Palace, Panda Village and the Peach Tree of Heavenly Wisdom.  While no specific rides were revealed for the area, it looks like it is going to be a uniquely themed area filled with family attractions.

© Universal Beijing
Minion Land will be sort of a new themed area for a Universal park, as Universal Studios Japan has an existing one that has grown into its own land over time.  However this one has been designed from the start, featuring all the characters of the Despicable Me franchise... and plenty of minions.  The concept art looks a bit like Super Silly Fun Land, which is expected to be filled with attractions aimed at the whole family.

© Universal Beijing
Jurassic Park certainly isn't a new theme for a Universal Park, however using the Jurassic World movies as a base for a new land is unique.  Isla Nublar is the setting for visitors to take in the majesty of dinosaurs, and the land is set to feature "attractions and adventures never seen before."  The aerial concept art once again confirms the suspended coaster that appears to head through a giant aviary, and a massive show building that is suspected to contain some sort of new Jurassic dark ride.  A lot of promise in this land, for sure.

© Universal Beijing
The Transformers films are also receiving their own dedicated themed land at Universal Studios Beijing in Transformers: Metrobase.  This area has a close but not exact clone of the Incredible Hulk coaster at Islands of Adventure, and should also open with a copy of the existing Transformer rides.  You can also make out the structure for a tea cup themed ride that will be in the area.

Universal Studios Beijing is also set to open with a Wizarding World of Harry Potter area, which looks similar to the Hogsmeade land already at several of the parks.  The entrance area will be known as Hollywood Boulevard and feature classic Hollywood architecture, and include a cover over the park's main street area.  The last of the seven lands is WaterWorld, the first time the famous stunt show has received its own land.  The park states the land will have "dining and other entertainment offerings" in addition to the main show.