Wednesday, March 25, 2020

From The Vault: Dorney Park's 1982 Brochure

© Dorney Park
1982 was a wonderful year, but I may be biased because that's the year I came into being.  But it was also the year that Dorney Park debuted a brand new log flume attraction named Thunder Creek Mountain.  Happily, the ride is still entertaining guests at the park today - not a small feat since many log flumes of that era have already been retired.

It's been ages since we had the time to feature park memorabilia like this brochure but suddenly there seems to be a lot more hours in the day!  Granted life will eventually go back to some sort of normal but for now while there is time let's dig in!

© Dorney Park
Dorney Park in the early '80s still was all about Alfundo, and you can see the park's famous mascot clown in the lower left of this image.  And yeah, he's pretty scary as far as clowns go, but we still love him.  Zoorama was still at the park, which is why you see a tiger's face (not something you would associate with modern day Dorney Park!) and there's even a photo of a Fish and Chips stand, something I didn't know was at the park but suddenly miss!

© Dorney Park
Several goodies can be found in this photo montage, and I don't mean those hunky country folk singers at the bottom!  Two of the park's long gone dark rides, the Bucket O' Blood and Journey to the Center of the Earth are prominently featured here - and rightfully so.  There's also newer (for the time) rides such as the Sea Dragon and the Flying Dutchman coaster.

© Dorney Park
Another batch of eye candy can be found here.  This panel shows that variety of offerings that Dorney Park had, not only rides but also live entertainment and goats!  Thunderhawk, just called The Coaster at the time, shows up here as well, along with the splash section of Journey to the Center of the Earth, the park's classic bumper cars and even the new log flume, which was record breaking when it opened.

© Dorney Park
I truly love older amusement park maps, and I'm so grateful that many of Dorney's old brochures feature these beauties.  From the rainbow colored umbrellas that dotted Totspot to the newish Roaring 20s Midway, there's a lot of interesting items on here for fans of the park.  Not all rides are labeled on the map, which almost makes it a bit more fun to try to find them and recall what they all were.

© Dorney Park
And of course since these interwebs didn't exist back in 1982 people had to rely on paper (yes paper!) to know when the park was going to be open and how much it would cost to get in.  The park opened in late April, earlier than they do now, but was closed for the season already by the middle of September.  While an all day ride pass would set you back $8.50 you could hit the park after 6 pm and only pay $6.00 for everything!

Monday, March 23, 2020

Local Government Offers $3 Million Incentive to Help Indiana Beach Reopen

© Indiana Beach
Fans of Indiana Beach have been looking for even a glimmer of hope since it was announced that Apex Parks had closed the park for good.  While current times are making all park openings and reopenings difficult, the say the least, there were two recent good items related to Indiana Beach that came out.

First, local government officials came together to create a $3 million incentive package to help make the sale of the park more attractive to potential buyers.  The money (which includes no taxpayer dollars) would only be given to a new owner after the sale is complete, and the county can add stipulations to the incentive as well.  The hope is to preserve the large economic impact that the park has on White County, not only through to the park itself but through associated businesses in the area as well.

Another recent headline states that it is possible that the park can reopen as soon as 2020.  Apex Parks has stated that they are in talks with potential buyers of the park, though no further details are being offered.  We will have to take their word for it, but hopefully the discussions are real and maybe a buyer can be found.

If so, a 2020 reopening may not be realistic depending on how the pandemic plays out in North America - but even a 2021 reopening for Indiana Beach would be better than never!

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Cedar Fair Pushes Park Openings and Reopenings to Mid-May

© Cedar Fair
The current COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the world for a loop, and not in the fun way that we ride-lovers enjoy.  At this moment almost every amusement facility in the country is closed, with only a few exceptions still operating.  And that's what is needed now as we all do our part to stop the spread of the virus.  We are all understandably looking forward to later in the year when we can all visit our favorite amusements parks, a bit of hope for park fans indeed.

To that end the chain of Cedar Fair parks, which originally closed operating parks and pushed off opening days for a couple weeks, has updated us once again.  The operator is now updating that parks will open or reopen for the 2020 season in Mid-May, or as soon as they can thereafter.  Both Valleyfair and Michigan's Adventure open for the year in that time period, so they have not been affected as of now.

There's still a lot of uncertainty about how this will all play out, so as the weeks go by there probably will be further updates - especially from other operators like Disney, Universal, SeaWorld and Six Flags.  We have seen some parks in China start to reopen in the past few days, which is another hopeful sign.  The time period of the parks being closed in China, assuming they all start to reopen soon, does generally match a mid-May or early June opening for parks in America.  However, that's a giant guesstimate and the health of the population is far more important at this time.  Hang in there!

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

More New Photos of Dorney Park's 2020 Addition Seaside Splashworks

© NewsPlusNotes
Finding myself with plenty of time on my hands, it seemed like a good day to go check out Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom's Seaside Splashworks construction.  Luckily the work site is easily visible from many businesses across the street, so it doesn't take too much effort to get photos like these!

Above is a photo of a big section of the structure for Seaside Splashworks, if one thing is for sure it is that the addition is adding a lot of color to this part of the park!

© NewsPlusNotes
Zooming in a bit further we can see a lot more detail.  The large 317 gallon tipping bucket is towering over the structure, ready to pour down over the blue roof below.  You can also spot a lot of tipping bukets and other interactive features.  There's also brown posts that will be capped with faux palm trees later on in the construction process.  Seaside Splashworks carries a general beach theme, which is becoming more and more evident as new signs and decorations are being installed.

© NewsPlusNotes
The further end of the structure features a nice entrance sign along with some smaller slides for kids.  You can kind of see an enclosed green slide in the lower left of this photo.  There will also be a two-lane yellow kids slide installed, that piece could still be seen laying in the parking lot awaiting its turn to go up.

© NewsPlusNotes
The opposite end is where the slightly larger water slides are found.  The body slides feature two open routes (orange and teal) and one enclosed slide (blue).  This photo also features the backside of the giant tipping bucket with a Seaside Splashworks sign at its top.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Gilroy Gardens Reviewing Plans for Future Growth

© Gilroy Gardens
A Note: Things might be a bit quite in the industry... and the entire world... right now due to the Coronavirus.  While nearly every park around the globe has shuttered for a couple weeks, we'll still look for stories to cover here.  We take the virus quite seriously, but we also know we all need a distraction here and there.

Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park, a non-profit park which is owned by the city of Gilroy, California, and operated by Cedar Fair, is currently looking at possible ways to expand and grow their attendance base over the next decade.

The plan was actually formed a few years ago, but the city of Gilroy is once again actively debating what the best move forward is for the park.  In recent years the family theme park, which was originally known an Bonfante Gardens, has added two family water play areas that have been a huge success for the park.

© Google Maps
Part of the original expansion plan was to build an adventure park on the undeveloped hillside adjacent to the park - seen above.  The park has also toyed with further expanding their water park attractions to further grow their attendance base.

Per this recent story, the park is still operating profitably, however with very thin margins.  The Board of Directors for the park want the city to give them a plan for the future, which includes new additions.  Since 2011 the park has only invested $8 million in new attractions.

The most recent additions made a big improvement for the park's numbers, with attendance of 457k in 2018, up 50k over 2017, and 410k in 2019.

A recent analysis of the park, published last November, said that if both the expanded water park and the adventure park were built the park could draw 400k more visitors, gaining some additional $25 million in revenues.

While no firm commitment on expanding has been reached, it would be nice to see this small, community based park thrive in the future.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Dorney Park Shares a Look at Seaside Splashworks Progress

© Dorney Park
For those of you who have been checking in on Dorney Park's live webcam, you've probably noticed that the park has made mega-progress on Seaside Splashworks in the past two weeks.  Wildwater Kingdom's new-for-2020 family water fun house play area is a colorful, modern and huge replacement for the water park's former Island Water Works.  Featuring multiple levels of play and tons of interactive features it will keep visitors busy for hours this summer.

© Dorney Park
And speaking of the park's webcam, I noticed that workers are diligently adding more to the structure even on the weekend, with new sections going up each time I check in.  You can keep tabs on the work via this link.

© Dorney Park
Dorney Park shared two panoramic views of Seaside Splashworks' progress on social media.  The pictures speak for themselves, but you can get a good idea for how large the structure is.  As shown in the original concept art, Seaside Splashworks has one taller section with the dumping bucket and three slides coming off of it, but then extends outward for quite a distance to make full use of the island's layout.

© Dorney Park
This means that much more of the island will be utilized by the addition than the attraction it replaces.  You can also see in the webcam that the park has installed many poles to have large shade structures installed throughout the island, which will be a great plus for families.  The island has long been many visitor's favorite home base due to its relaxing nature... that might be just a bit busier come this summer!

Cedar Point to Hold Two New Pre-Season Special Events for Fans

© Cedar Point
The 2020 season at Cedar Point is sure to be one remembered for decades to come.  The park is planning a celebration like no other to honor their 150th anniversary, and on top of a mega-sized list of special events and new goodies, the park has now revealed even more.

Aimed at fans of the park while also giving a major nod to their history, the park will be holding a Just For Fun Weekend on May 2nd and 3rd.  A full week before the park opens guests will be able to visit from noon to 6 pm each day to get their first look at the park's 2020 season.  There will be no admission fee to enter the park, but a RSVP is required, and wrist bands to enjoy rides will only cost $20.20.

The park's Main and Lakeside midways will be open, and their big rides too - such as GateKeeper, Valravn, Blue Streak and Raptor.  Guests can also "try a delicious treat from the new French Quarter Confections, say hello to the PEANUTS™ gang, see a special film celebrating Cedar Point's history in the Jack Aldrich Theatre, pick up limited-edition 150th anniversary merchandise at Celebration Central and be among the first to collect and trade Anniversary buttons."

If interested just be sure to RSVP online and also you must purchase ride wrist bands online ahead of time as well.

© Cedar Point
2020 will also see the start of the Gold Pass in use at the park, but as a special treat to Platinum Pass holders the park is holding Anniversary Platinum Preview Nights from 4 to 8 pm on May 6th and 7th.

While the park will have selected rides and attractions open for the event, the big draw will be the first chance to experience the new Snake River Expedition.  Platinum Passholders can register for a boarding time to experience the new ride, and of course then they have bragging rights that they rode it first!

The park will also have free food offerings at several locations, and special merchandise celebrating the park's anniversary.  As with the Just For Fun Weekend event, interested parties must register online ahead of the event.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Kennywood to Renovate and Return the Old Mill to Former Glory in 2020

© Kennywood
Exciting news out of Kennywood this week for fans of classic dark ride attractions - the park has revealed that for the 2020 season they will refurbish their Old Mill attraction to its former glory, removing all traces of Garfield theming.

The ride, which dates back to 1901 and is known as the oldest operating Old Mill or Tunnel of Love style of ride, was most recently themed as Garfield's Nightmare in 2004.  The ride gained a reputation over time as a nightmare of its own, mostly from guests who knew the former versions of the ride and enjoyed them much more than the bright 3-D Garfield theming.

The idea to turn the ride back into an Old Mill style ride has been around a while, like a decade really.  Way back in 2009 when we visited the park a representative told us that they planned to redo the attraction within a couple seasons, bringing it back as the Old Mill.  Obviously that didn't happen then but good things come to those who wait, indeed!

Above is a great video that Kennywood created to announce the renovations to the Old Mill.  The ride will return to a "retro Western" style themed attraction, filled with mild spookiness that is sure to delight a new generation of riders.  The Western theming was featured in the ride (which has had many names and themes throughout its nearly 120 year history) prior to the Garfield renovation, and many modern day guests still remember those gags.  To that end the park will be able to bring back a definite sense of nostalgia for park fans.

The Old Mill will reopen at Kennywood as soon as the park has the work completed, which they hope will be close to the park's opening in early May.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Iron Gwazi Has Started Testing at Busch Gardens Tampa

© Busch Gardens Tampa
Praise the roller coaster gods!  Iron Gwazi, one of the most anticipated new for 2020 roller coasters, has started testing at Busch Gardens Tampa.

As expected, the trains on this Rocky Mountain Construction creation are absolutely flying through the course, powered by a 91 degree, 206 foot tall drop that pushes trains at 76 miles per hour.

© Busch Gardens Tampa
It was just a few days ago that the theme park shared news that the ride's final pieces of purple track were installed.  The last pieces appear to have been at the base of the towering first drop, which allowed construction vehicles to access the interior of the ride's layout.

The park has been working on the ride's station, transfer and brake programming for some time now, so they were ready to go when the course was complete.  Just yesterday the ride started running, and thankfully the park shared video below!

No opening date has been announced yet (outside of "spring"), but it shouldn't be long until we hear more on that topic.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

California's Great America to Celebrate Seasons of Fun Throughout 2020

© California's Great America
California's Great America has already announced a massive transformation of their water park into South Bay Shores for Summer 2020, but the park has now announced more special events and festivals to fill the whole year with fun.

As with several other Cedar Fair parks, these limited time special events are large scale productions that are meant to entice visitors to the park before they miss out.  California's Great America has packed their year with a ton of limited run events, giving something new to explore each visit.

Starting off this Spring, the park will hold Spring Fiesta, a brand new event that honors Hispanic culture.  From April 25-26, May 2-3 and May 9-10 the park's Hometown Square will transform into La Plaza, filled with authentic food and drink, dance and live entertainment.

Also in May the park's greatly transformed South Bay Shores water park will open to guests for the first time.

Monster Jam: Thunder Alley will also roar its way into California's Great America starting June 20th and running until July 12th.  The popular event was at three Cedar Fair parks last year, and will be traveling to three new parks in 2020.  Experiences at the event include riding in a real monster truck, interactive displays, play areas, retail offerings and more.

Also running on weekends from June 27th through July 12th is the return of Red, White and Brews.  The event features a "hometown celebration of Americana food and fun."  Located in Hometown Square, Red, White and Brews features delicious treats, plenty of everyone's favorite beers, family activities, entertainment and fireworks.

This year California's Great America has stepped up their game by making their existing New Orleans style event bigger than ever.  Now known as Carnivale at Orleans Place, the event will be home to the Spectacle of Color Parade, already a hit at many Cedar Fair parks.

The event will take place every day from July 28th through August 2nd.  There will be plenty of authentic New Orleans style food to try, live entertainment at every corner and even fireworks on select nights.

The Fall will user in the return of Halloween Haunt for adults and The Great Pumpkin Fest for kids, with Winterfest not far after celebrating the holidays.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

The Jersey Devil Coaster Has Gone Vertical at Six Flags Great Adventure

© Six Flags Great Adventure
Exciting times over at Six Flags Great Adventure!  The park's new for 2020 single rail Rocky Mountain Construction ride, the Jersey Devil Coaster, has gone vertical in the past week.  The park shared some photos of the first supports that have been put in place, and the park got quite a few of them installed quickly!

You can see in the photo above that both smaller supports for the station/brake/transfer area went in, but there's also some taller ones that look like they will support one of the Jersey Devil Coaster's many air-time hills.  Since RMC's single rail roller coasters do not use a lot of supports for the monorail-style track, that means that they go up pretty fast.  Lots of progress is sure to be just around the corner!

© Six Flags Great Adventure
The theme park also debuted their third construction update video this week, and along with great shots of the ride's trains and a wonderful explanation of the Jersey Devil folklore, the park also showed some aerial views of the worksite.  A still from the video can be seen above, and it should help everyone understand exactly how the new coaster will fit into the park's property.  Much of the ride will exist next to the park's children's area, but a big portion of it also extends out into the forested area behind the river rapids ride.

The park is doing an amazing job keeping us all updated as they work toward a Summer 2020 opening for the Jersey Devil Coaster.  Make sure to watch the latest update video below for much more information!

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Disney's Hollywood Studios Debuts Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway Family Dark Ride

© Disney
Mickey Mouse finally has his own dark ride dedicated to him in a Disney Park with the grand opening today of Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida.  The unique dark ride features a zany experience in the world of modern Mickey cartoon shorts as passengers head on a trip to the park in a train led by Goofy with Mickey and Minnie nearby in their roadster.

As one might expect, the simple trip to the park goes awry pretty quickly, and that's where the 'zany' aspect of the ride begins.  The train that you ride in breaks apart and the trackless ride vehicles head through scenes such as a stampede, a fun fair, over a waterfall and underwater, through busy city streets and more.  Eventually Mickey & Minnie get riders back on track, pun intended, but not without quite the adventure having taken place.

No 3-D glasses are required for the experience, which features practical sets along with animatronics and a serious ton of projection mapping that can change scenes completely in the blink of an eye.

The trackless vehicles, when we've longed for in U.S. Disney Parks for some time are put to great use here.  They move about so that the train cars are in different orders throughout the ride, giving riders a unique perspective of each towering scene.  It also means that by sitting in a different car each ride the experience is different; the attraction is highly repeatable. 

Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway is also set to debut at Disneyland in California in 2022.

For now if you want a spoiler filled point of view trip on the attraction, check out the video below from Attractions Magazine.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Checking In On Luna Park's New First-Of-Its-Kind Big WaveZ Ride

© Luna Park
Luna Park had previously announced a large expansion for its 10th anniversary in 2020, including a new flume ride, family roller coaster, elaborate ropes course, new park and gathering spaces, and the first instillation of a Big WaveZ, a new water ride from Zamperla.

The park had well documented all the expansion along the way, and all the new rides look like they will be a great addition to the growing park.  The Big WaveZ, the first of its kind in the world, seemed very interesting but a bit of a mystery as well.

© Luna Park
Initially the park said that the new water ride was interactive and will bring "King Neptune to life as riders interact with motion sensors and watch an interactive video screen.  Their actual behavior and motions will change the experience of the ride.  Each ride will be different, however it will always be wet.  There will be a viewing platform so non-riders can enjoy the thrills as well."

Sounds interesting but at the same time... confusing.  I totally missed the concept art for Big WaveZ that the park released, which can be seen here, complete with its aquatic theming around Neptune.  At first glance it looks like some kind of water ride free fall... unique indeed but still curious.

© Worldsteel Association
Luckily there is more information on the ride out there, including video of the prototype in action.  Worldsteel Association did an interview with Zamperla about their rides... which are made of steel of course, and buried in the article and video is some great Big WaveZ footage.

Granted these are of the prototype so it's not finished, but the ride appears to have a passenger car in the center that will seat riders facing outward in two rows.  As the center car moves upward huge amounts of water pour out from under it, making quite a spectacle.  At the top the riders take part in the interactive component of the ride, which according to Zamperla determines the ride patterns.  There will be a large video screen on the back of the oval sign that can be seen in the concept art up top.

© Worldsteel Association
At some point the passenger car does exactly what I hoped, either a true free fall or a controlled one I can't be sure, but it looks to drop rapidly then slow as the base of the car extends down into a pool of water to slow the fall.  The image above is after the car goes all the way down and the water starts to erupt out around it.

© Worldsteel Association
A second later there is a gigantic explosion of water from under the ride vehicle, which looks to cover an impressive area.  Obviously this is better seen in the video, but it certainly looks like Zamperla's promise of everyone being soaked will come true!

Some details still remain on the Big WaveZ, but it looks like a visually impressive ride that takes up very little space.  Most water rides require a large plot of land to do their magic, so the Big WaveZ seems to offer an innovative alternative to those.

Here's the whole video from Worldsteel Association, the Big WaveZ footage starts at 1:42.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Pantheon at Busch Gardens Williamsburg Inching Closer to Opening

© Busch Gardens Williamsburg
Pantheon, Busch Garden Williamsburg's latest multi-launch roller coaster is getting closer to opening with two recent major milestones.

First, seen above, the park announced that the last track piece for Pantheon was put into place, meaning the ride is now full circuit.  Pantheon features 3,328 feet of track with two launch sections, featuring a top speed of 73 miles per hour.

© Busch Gardens Williamsburg
The coaster's trains also have arrived and already have been installed on the track, and don't they look pretty!  Pantheon will utilize two trains, each with 5 cars of 4 passengers each.  The trains feature a colorful front piece that fits with the ride's theme within the Fiesta Italia section of the park.

© Busch Gardens Williamsburg
The trains feature over the head restraints that do not block the riders' views at all, instead fitting snugly over their lap.  Pantheon features some extreme elements such as a large top hat, a heavily outward banked turn, a dive stall and a wave turn.

Pantheon is slated to open this Spring at Busch Gardens Williamsburg.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Six Flags Great Adventure to Introduce 5 New Species to Visitors in 2020

© Six Flags Great Adventure
Six Flags Great Adventure will be celebrating the "fast and the curious" in 2020 as it introduces five new special to visitors for the 2020 season.  New friends at the park include cheetahs, the great horned owl, the American kestrel, Patagonian cavy and mischievous ferrets.  Six Flags Great Adventure is home to over 75 species from six different continents and has focused on animal conservation since 1974.

The new inhabitants will be ready for guests on April 4th when the park opens for the season.  As a part of the theme park's massive Safari Off Road Adventure, visitors will be able to find the animals in the Wild Walkway section of Camp Aventura.

© Six Flags Great Adventure
The park has provided more details on the new animals, all with adorable names such as Amelia, Johnny, Luna and Bear, which include:

• Cheetahs “Bear” and “Bo” – These large cats are known for their signature yellowish tan or rufous coat uniformly covered with nearly 2,000 solid black spots. Native to Africa and parts of Iran, cheetahs rank as the fastest land animal. They can launch from 0 to 45 mph in 4.5 seconds, and run up to 75 mph during short, powerful sprints. Large members of the cat family, cheetahs are carnivores with a prowess for hunting. They are most closely related to the cougar and jaguarundi and are considered “vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List.

• Great Horned Owl “Luna” – These aggressive predators are sometimes known as the “tiger owl” and are native to the Americas. Signature feather tufts on their heads known as “plumicorns” resemble horns or even catlike ears. Great horned owls are powerful and protective parents. Females are larger than males and have much lower-pitched calls. These carnivores are largely nocturnal with an impressive wingspan of 3.3 to 4.8 feet.

• American Kestrel “Tyrion” – Despite being the littlest falcon in North America, the American kestrel is a fierce predator with a very distinctive hunting behavior. Kestrels hover before diving for their prey and are sometimes known as a “windhover.” They are ultraviolet sensitive, which helps them hunt mice in the dark by following their trails. They are one of the most colorful of all raptors.

• Patagonian Cavy “Amelia” – Also known as the Patagonian mara, the Patagonian cavy is a large, rabbit-like rodent in the guinea pig family. Cavies can run at speeds up to 45 mph and bounce on all fours, which is known as a “stot.” They are herbivores, eating only plants. Cavy pairs mate for life and raise their young communally. They are considered a “near threatened” species, greatly impacted by hunting and habitat loss in South America.

• Ferrets “Johnny” and “David” – The name “ferret” is derived from Latin and means “little thief,” which is a likely reference to their penchant for stealing small items. These very curious, active and playful mammals in the weasel family are a domesticated form of the European polecat. They have long, slender bodies – approximately 15 inches without the tail. Males are much larger than females. These carnivores sleep 14 to 18 hours a day and are crepuscular, meaning most active around dawn and dusk.

To help celebrate the arrival of the new animals, the park put together a fun video that introduces them.  Check it out below!

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Ice Breaker at SeaWorld Orlando is Now Complete!

© Premier Rides/Midway Mayhem/SeaWorld Orlando
Premier Rides has sent out news that their latest coaster in North America, Ice Breaker at SeaWorld Orlando, has had its final piece of track installed.  The ride's last piece, seen in the photo above, was installed on the ride's highly banked turnaround element.

The coaster is SeaWorld Orlando's first launched coaster, and features a total of 4 "air-time filled launches," both backwards and forwards.

© Premier Rides/Midway Mayhem/SeaWorld Orlando
The new coaster is themed after the icy Arctic summits and featured an educational component as with most SeaWorld park rides.  The queue will feature interactive educational exhibits that detail SeaWorld's partnership with the Alaska SeaLife Center.  The ride will help educate guests about the Arctic and its animal inhabitants, and also exemplify the rescue efforts of both SeaWorld and the Alaska SeaLife Center.

© Premier Rides/Midway Mayhem/SeaWorld Orlando
Passengers on Ice Breaker will travel over 2,700 feet at a top speed of 50 miles per hour starting with the four launches.  The ride's unique design features a 10 story spike that is curved at an angle of 100 degrees, creating a beyond-vertical drop as the trains launch up it.

Brian Andrelczyk, SeaWorld's Vice President of Design and Engineering described Ice Breaker, stating “it can run not one, but two trains through the use of a unique, high-speed horizontal track switch.” Brian continued, “the fun is just getting started … the launch track itself is special because we have an airtime hill on either side, so you’re going to get airtime on every hit of that launch – that totals to 16 hits of airtime throughout the entire layout! It’s going to be a really exciting ride keeping you out of your seat almost as much as you’re in it.”

© Premier Rides/Midway Mayhem/SeaWorld Orlando
While an official date has not yet been announced, SeaWorld Orlando plans to open Ice Breaker this spring.  Premier Rides is equally excited about the creation of the ride and its impact on the theme park.  Regarding the completion of the ride's track, the company's President, Jim Seay, commented that “We are extremely proud to reach this important milestone.  The ride looks spectacular and the installation has been a great team effort. We are honored to be a part of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment’s formula for success by supplying this one-of-a-kind, record-breaking coaster that is sure to be a must-see attraction this spring!”

For more on Ice Breaker at SeaWorld Orlando, check out the park's official website.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

A New RMC Raptor Coaster Headed to South Dakota's Wild Water West?

© Wild Water West
If you haven't heard of Sioux Falls, South Dakota's Wild Water West Waterpark (to be fair I hadn't), it is a name that you may be hearing a lot more of soon.  The water park has gone to their local government to seek approval to build what is shown as one of Rocky Mountain Construction's Raptor roller coasters.  From the images used in the planning, the ride looks to have the same layout as the prototype rides, which are operating at Six Flags Fiesta Texas as Wonder Woman Golden Lasso and RailBlazer at California's Great America.

© Wild Water West
The addition of a super-thrilling RMC Raptor to a small water park in South Dakota is about as surprising as can be, but at the same time - how awesome!  In reviewing the planning documents submitted, which start on page 18, it is noted that the new ride will stand 113 feet tall, feature no additional noise issues due to the monorail style track, and only operate within the parks existing hours of 11 am to 8 pm.

The best part is that the staff recommended that the plan be approved, with some generally easy conditions for the park to follow.  This means that formal plans for the ride can be submitted for engineering review and then a building permit issued.  A letter from the park's general manager confirms the plan is to open the ride for the 2020 season.

There were photos from this year's IAAPA Expo from RMC's booth that showed that they were trying to sell one of their Raptor coasters for a nice discount, which makes one wonder if this is the result of that sale.  However that sign did indicate the ride would be for 2021, but maybe they found some extra room in their production schedule.

© Wild Water West
If the coaster plan does make it all the way through the planning station and opens, it will certainly have a large impact on Wild Water West.  The park's water park offerings can been seen above in the aerial from Google Maps, and the park already offers some dry attractions such as go-karts, mini-golf, batting cages and paintball.  This would be their first large mechanical ride, and it certainly would draw a lot of people to the park.  RCDB lists the state of South Dakota as currently having two roller coasters, one small kiddie ride and one mountain coaster, so this would really be quite a improvement in that regard!

Monday, February 24, 2020

Heard On... Six Flags Entertainment's 2019 Full Year Earnings Call

© Six Flags Entertainment
This past week also saw the announcement of Six Flags Entertainment's full year 2019 results... and they weren't nearly as rosy as Cedar Fair's news.  The chain's stock took another plummet downward after the news was announced, for various reasons.  The company had their earnings call just the same, here are some notes from that along with their results.

• Overall, revenues were up 2% or $24 million to just under $1.5 billion.  They had a 2% or 788k increase in attendance to 32.8 million, a "slight decline" in per capita spending, and a 3% decline in sponsorship, international agreement and accommodations revenues.  These figures include 2019 full year totals from 5 new parks purchased in June of 2018 and one new water park purchased in April of 2019.

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 • Taking out those six new parks the legacy parks, revenues only grew $1 million, costs grew $15 million and EBITDA was down $15 million.  The six "new" parks contributed 90% of the attendance growth in the year, while the legacy parks only saw a small, 65,000 visitors increase.

• The bottom line suffered from these figures and certain other adjustments, however.  Net income was down $97 million to $179 million and EBITDA was down 5% or $27 million to $527 million.  Other factors challenging the bottom line included a $10 million charge due to the China parks agreement, higher costs from the new parks and higher stock-based compensation.

•  Six Flags has formally terminated their agreement with Riverside, and believe it is "unlikely" that they will recognize any revenue in 2020 related to park development in China.

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• Six Flags has seen challenges from their legacy, or existing, parks in the U.S. during 2019.  Attendance, per capita spending and revenues were flat this year, but operating costs were up 2% reducing EBITDA by 3% from those parks.

• The company now says they see 2020 EBITDA coming in at $435 - $465 million, which is way down from 2019's total of $527 million.  To fight this they have decided to "make incremental investments in the base business to enhance the guest experience," though they're not saying what that is at this point.

• More on their 2020 outlook.  They estimated EBITDA based off of $30 million less in international development (loss of China parks), $20 million less due to wage increases, another $20 million for OpEx spending for park maintenance projects and operational improvements along with marketing spend for single day visitors, and finally restoring a $20 million bonus program for employee recruitment and retention.

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• Due to the depressed earnings, the company has slashed their stock dividend by 70% for the first quarter of 2020, down to $0.25 a share from $0.83 a share in the 4th quarter of 2019.

• In quite a reversal from prior management, the park's new CEO, Mike Spanos, says they saw a big decline in single-day tickets, and need to work to get those back.  Prior leadership was all about getting everyone to be a pass member, seemingly ignoring the single day visitors.

• The company was trying to fight operational cost increases by saving money elsewhere in the parks, and that has shown up in the form of lower guest satisfaction scores.  That's a scary thing for them I would imagine, as that could be the start of unhappy visitors that will turn on the parks.

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• At the end of 2019 the total number of active pass members actually decreased by 3%.  The number of active pass members increased by 18% to 2.6 million, but that was fully offset by soft regular season pass sales during the holiday season.  Overall, the active pass base contributed 63% of attendance last year.

• Six Flags spent a total of $140 million in capital expenditures in 2019.  That feels quite low for the 26 parks they have, in fact that averages to $5.4 million per park.  Considering one large coaster probably costs 3 times that, or more, that doesn't leave much for the small guys.

• The chain's new CEO is embarking on a new comprehensive plan that will play out over the next 3 to 5 years.  They intend to address revenue growth, margin improvement and capital deployment and have hired the Boston Consulting Group to give an external perspective to their plan.  The full plan will be revealed at the May 28th Investor Day for Six Flags.  The Investor Day sounds like a very big deal, specifically regarding capital expenditures going forward, so be sure to watch out for that.

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• Understanding that former management's goal of 750 million in EBITDA "Project 750" is "not realistically attainable" a new, shorter reward system for employees will be uses.  Focused on awarding restricted stock units, the hope is to closely align employee reward with stock growth.  To help out, the new CEO will not participate in the award plan in 2020.