Sunday, September 22, 2019

Universal Studios Beijing To Open in 2021 + Latest Construction Photos and Hotel News

We haven't checked in on one of Universal's largest projects in quite some time, that being the Universal Studios Beijing Resort.  First announced back in 2014, the theme park and resort was originally scheduled to open around now, but we know how that often goes with massive construction projects.

Last week the project announced that it will officially open in 2021, though no exact date was given just yet.  Still, that's progress and it's nice to have a final timeline to look at.

© Universal Studios Beijing
The park, said to be Universal's largest, was announced without an official ride roster published.  There are a lot of attractions that were originally identified on the concept art (above) that was released.  These include rides based in a Wizarding World of Harry Potter area, Minions, Jurassic Park, Water World, Kung Fu Panda, Transformers and more.  Granted that concept art is around 5 years old, so that is all subject to change.  One item I'm quite curious about is a new Jurassic Park roller coaster they appear to be working on.

We can be sure on a few rides, though.  Recent construction photos posted to ThemeparkX show a Hulk clone now completed, the Wizarding World castle going up and a family roller coaster in place next to it.

© Universal Studios Beijing
The park also recently made the announcement that the resort will open with two hotels - above is The Universal Studios Grand Hotel, which sits right at the theme park's entrance.  It will be the first Universal themed hotel and offer a "contemporary interpretation of the Hollywood golden age."  Filled with theming set to film and movies, its 800 rooms will also have direct access to the park.

© Universal Studios Beijing
The second hotel is the NUO Resort Hotel, the first hotel created by NUO, one of China's "first homegrown luxury hotel brands."  Contained in a setting reflecting "the beauty of China's ancient royal garden," the property will celebrate traditional Chinese culture and artistic achievements with a modern yet simplistic design.  It will sit alongside the park's waterway as a private retreat, with around 400 rooms.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

The American Dream to Open in "Chapters" - Nickelodeon Universe to Open October 25th

© The American Dream
Finally - after waiting what seemed like a decade, we finally have an opening date for the Nickelodeon Universe theme park at the American Dream, located just across the river from Manhattan in New Jersey.  Oh, and the date is October 25th!

The project has announced that it will open in "chapters," with the first chapter being the opening of the 8.5 acre theme park, complete with 35 rides and attractions, and the ice rink.  That's just over a month from right now, which is exciting since we've been waiting for the new park to open for years now.

© Gerstlauer
Nickelodeon will open with five new roller coasters, many of which are quite thrilling for an indoor theme park.  The largest are TMNT Shellraiser, a Gerstlauer Euro-Fighter that is a near clone of Takabisha, featuring both a beyond vertical drop and a launched section.  Intertwined with it is Shredder, a Gerstlauer spinning coaster that's quite large for its ride style.  There will also be a twisted Intamin creation named Sandy's Blasting Bronco, a speculated Intamin half-pipe ride, and the Nickelodeon Slime Streak, a family coaster from Chance Rides.

This video is from earlier in the Summer, but it shows off several of the rides operating and gives an idea of the feel of the park.

© Proslide
The property's second chapter opening will be November 27th when the largest indoor water park in America opens, the DreamWorks Waterpark.  The massive indoor waterpark will feature a ton of rides and slides from Proslide, including a huge water coaster that heads around the outside of the whole complex.  There will be record breaking water slides, play structures and a huge wave pool as well.

Chapter three will open on December 5th when Big SNOW, an indoor ski facility opens.  Finally, in March of 2020 the shopping and dining sections will open, along with more attractions such as a giant observation wheel, Legoland Discovery Center, Sea Life Aquarium, KidZania and more.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Latest SeaWorld Entertainment CEO Exits Role After Brief Stay

© SeaWorld Entertainment
SeaWorld Entertainment's CEO Gustavo Antorch has resigned from his position after only being with the company for around 7 months, it has been announced.  Mr. Antorch seems to have had some disagreements with the company's board of directors which directly led to him resigning.  Marc Swanson, the current CFO, will step in as interim CEO.

Mr. Antorch just joined SeaWorld Entertainment back in February, and at the time his background in the cruise and leisure industry was cited as a potential good sign for the company.  Things have been very quiet since then though, with the head of the company not having much of a public presence since.

Potentially even worse is that over the course of the year we've seen several SeaWorld Entertainment park general managers quit suddenly, which could be a sign of a much larger issue.

The Orlando Sentinel dug up some more information on the story, and it seems the board of directors, led by Scott Ross (who's Hill Path Capital is now a majority owner of the company's shares) is very hands on... too much for other executives it seems.

The article also mentions what many others have said for a long time, that SeaWorld Entertainment is potentially being groomed to be sold.  Efforts to relentlessly cut costs and raise revenues lead many to think the goal isn't to cherish the parks, but to make them more profitable to get a bigger buck when a sale takes place.  All the executives leaving certainly make that plan more plausible.

For now, it seems like ride fans may win out of all of this drama in the short term, as SeaWorld's board is currently a big fan of building coasters and rides at each park instead of focusing on any sort of larger themed expansions or projects.  Long term... well we will have to wait and see.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Coney Island Amusement Park Ohio to Remove All Rides to Focus on Water Park

© Coney Island
Ohio's Coney Island Amusement Park has announced that it has made the tough decision to remove all amusement rides and attractions at the end of the 2019 season in order to focus more on their water park operations.

According to several news stories on the decision the park has found that trying to sustain both the amusement park and water park has become a strain, with limited money and resources available to go into both parks.  The public is more interested in the water park, Coney Island has found, so they plan on doubling down on that operation and expanding it in the future.

Over the next five or so years the park will work on a massive renovation that will culminate in a 100th anniversary celebration in 2025.  Their hope is to make the park the region's "premier swim and play destination."

© Coney Island
Fans of the park are understandably sad about the news.  Coney Island Amusement Park has an interesting collection of fairly classic rides, including a Zyklon coaster named Python, a Rock-O-Plane, Tempest, Scrambler, Tilt-a-Whirl, Carousel, Ferris wheel and a selection of children's rides.  Newer additions include the Top Spin, an inverting pendulum ride seen above.  Needless to say we hope these rides can find new homes at other parks in coming seasons.

The park's history is well known for the Shooting Star, a classic Herbert Schmeck wooden roller coaster that operated until 1946.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

New Launched Coaster - Ice Breaker - Opening at SeaWorld Orlando in 2020

© SeaWorld Orlando
2020 continues to be shaping up to be a stellar year for new roller coasters in North America, another recently announced ride is Ice Breaker, to be located at SeaWorld Orlando.

Ice Breaker will be located near the Wild Arctic attraction within SeaWorld Orlando, and is the park's first launched roller coaster.  The ride is named after the "icy Arctic summits" and according to RCDB will be provided by Premier Rides.  As with most SeaWorld rides, the park will be partnering with the Alaska SeaLife Center to help visitors learn about conservation efforts in the Arctic region.

© SeaWorld Orlando
Here is the full layout of Ice Breaker, which will actually feature a total of four launches.  After leaving the station the trains will hit a transfer track that moves them into the launch area.  The ride will then launch forward and backward 4 times to get the trains to the top speed of 52 miles per hour.  The backward spike will stand 93 feet tall and actually curve up at 100 degrees, more than vertical.

The maximum speed will take the train up a 80 foot tall top hat element, and then trains will race through the rest of the 2,750 feet of track and encounter a swooping turnaround hill, wave turn and plenty of air-time hills.

While no full point of view video has been released yet, SeaWorld Orlando did release this teaser video of Ice Breaker that gives some animated footage of the ride.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

SeaWorld San Antonio Building the Texas Singray Wooden Coaster for 2020

Coming to SeaWorld San Antonio in 2020 is the Texas Stingray, the park's first traditional wooden roller coaster, and the tallest, fastest and longest wooden roller coaster in Texas.  The addition is set to open in the Spring of 2020, and as we've seen through recent updates, the park has already made great progress on the construction of the coaster.

© SeaWorld San Antonio
Here is an overhead view of the Texas Stingray.  It will be located next to the new Turtle Reef exhibit and stretch between the Orca Stadium and the Rio Loco river rapids ride.  The Texas Stingray will be built by Great Coasters International, their first new coaster in North America since Mystic Timbers and InvadR opened in 2017.

© SeaWorld San Antonio
Texas Stingray starts with a 96 foot lift hill followed by a 90 degree right turn, immediately down into a 100 foot drop at 57 degrees.  Elevation changes in the land allow for the longer drop, which will send trains along at 55 miles per hour.  The ride's layout includes many GCI signature large swooping turns, some of which are banked at a maximum of 76 degrees.

In total the ride will offer 16 different airtime hills, last more than two minutes and near the end of the ride will be a 100 foot long tunnel.  Texas Stingray's total track length is 3,379 feet.

First Drop Construction © SeaWorld San Antonio
“Texas Stingray marks a new wave of excitement for SeaWorld,” said SeaWorld San Antonio’s Vice President of General Services Scott Bacon. “We continue to provide new reasons to visit SeaWorld and offer exciting new adventures for our guests with a blend of thrilling rides, family attractions and incredible animal and educational experiences.”

Ready to take a virtual spin on the Texas Stingray?  Check out the video that SeaWorld San Antonio released below!