Sunday, May 27, 2018

Sesame Place Opens New Gravity Group Family Wooden Coaster

Adding to the list of new rides and attractions that are opening this Memorial Day weekend, we have Oscar's Wacky Taxi at Sesame Place, located near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The family-sized coaster was built by The Gravity Group, who have already created several similarly sized rides around the globe.  Sesame Place is meant for families, so a ride of Oscar's Wacky Taxi's size - standing around 40 feet tall - is perfect for the park's demographic.

Sesame Place shared this video a few days before the coaster opened, the first off-ride footage I had seen of it in action.  As expected, the coaster looks like it moves at a zippy pace, with the Timberliner train (with Oscar on the taxi themed lead car) making quick work of the 1,200 foot long layout.  The ride even features a tunnel section mid-way through the ride, along with a series of gentle-looking bunny hills.  Again, with smaller riders in mind when this was designed, I wouldn't expect too many extreme forces.

Ready to take a virtual ride along with Oscar?  If so, check out the video below!

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Take a Ride on Icon at Blackpool Pleasure Beach - New Mack Launched Coaster

© Blackpool Pleasure Beach
Blackpool Pleasure beach has opened Icon to visitors, the park's new Mack Rides launched roller coaster.  The ride has been a long time coming and fans of the classic amusement park have carefully watched as the park build the ride under, over and in between many of their existing attractions.  It is also one of the largest projects in the history of the park, costing more than £16 million to complete.

© Blackpool Pleasure Beach
The custom design features two separate LSM launches and hits a maximum speed of 53 miles per hour, stretching 3,750 feet long.  The first element after the initial launch is a giant air-time hill, and the twisted layout also features a heartline roll mid-ride.  The second launch sends trains up into an 88 foot tall Immelmann, the second inversion featured on Icon.  Mixed between all these elements are a seemingly endless mixture of highly banked turns, with the majority of the ride staying quite close to the ground.

For those who can't experience Icon in person, here is a nice point of view experience of the ride from Coaster Touring:

Friday, May 25, 2018

Twisted Cyclone Opens This Weekend at Six Flags Over Georgia + New POV

© Six Flags Over Georgia
As we start a busy Memorial Day Weekend at theme parks across the country, Six Flags Over Georgia is ready to open their brand new roller coaster, Twisted Cyclone.

After some early previews for invited guests, the theme park will roll out rides to passholders and then the public this weekend.  The coaster is a total renovation of a former wooden coaster, now featuring all steel running rails and a twisted layout that includes three inversions.

Twisted Cyclone is one of the smaller Rocky Mountain Construction coaster conversions we have seen so far, but that doesn't mean that it won't be as fun as the bigger ones.  Early ride reviews mention the phrase "air-time" over and over, so even though the ride is smaller it appears to pack a punch.

Hopefully many of you will be able to check out Twisted Cyclone this weekend, but if not the park has also released a new point of view video of the experience.  Check it out below, if you like!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Dorney Park Planning New Dorm for Employee Housing

Dorney Park has applied for zoning permission to build a brand new employee dormitory, to be located on the park's property.

According to this news story, the new dorm would feature 100 units in an "L" shape, standing three stories tall.  The article mentions that the dorm would be located on the "Northwest corner" of the property, which to me puts it in the area of the park's current boneyard.  The story does mention the site is currently used for "material and trash storage."

© Google maps
The area in the red square is the Northwest corner of the property that is the boneyard for the park, which is also nicely adjacent to employee parking and other facilities.  It is just up the hill beyond Steel Force's station, an area that would never be developed into amusement park anyway, at least in my opinion, due to lower height limits and proximity to neighbors.

There aren't a ton of details on the facility itself since this isn't an official announcement from the park, but the "L" shape and the comparison to other Cedar Fair dorms mean it will probably be similar to ones built a few years ago at Cedar Point.  This Facebook post from Pointbuzz features some photos of that facility.

This project will allow employees to stay closer to the park, as they currently live in hotels and local colleges during the summer.  It may also give the park even more solid staffing in the early and late season, which potentially could lead to a longer season down the road.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Six Flags Entertainment Corp. Adds 5 New Parks to North American Portfolio

Six Flags Entertainment Corporation has announced that they have agreed to purchase the lease agreements to operate five amusement and water parks from Premier Parks, LLC.  This is not an outright purchase of the parks, instead the owner of the properties will remain as EPR Properties, a giant real estate investment trust that is publicly traded.

Six Flags is looking to expand in North America, and adding these give properties into their network will allow them to do so.  The fact that they will be lease holders, not full owners, will probably not be apparent to visitors, as the parks will be under full control of Six Flags' decisions.  The securities filings for the transaction shows that Six Flags is paying about $23 million for the right to operate the parks, which combined have an estimated annual attendance of about 2 million.

© Darien Lake
So what are the parks that are joining the Six Flags family?  First up is Darien Lake, which was once known as Six Flags Darien Lake.  Indeed, the park was owned by Premier Parks before it swallowed up Six Flags and then renamed itself as Six Flags and as such was branded Six Flags Darien Lake in 1999.  It remained that way until the failing company sold it, along with a handful of other parks, in early 2007.

Darien Lake has changed both owners and lease holders several times since then, being operated by companies such as Herschend Entertainment and PARC Management.  It has seen modest expansion through the years, including a brand new roller coaster, Tantrum, for 2018.  It wouldn't be too much of a stretch for this park to be a branded Six Flags park again, but the jury is still out on that.

© Frontier City
Next up is Frontier City, which is actually the theme park that started Premier Parks way back when, setting off the chain of events that saw Six Flags eventually grow to a truly unsustainable size, then abandon the park at the same time it sold off Darien Lake.

This park, however, was never branded as a "Six Flags" park in the name, it always retained its Frontier City brand.  In recent years it has continued to add smaller rides that fit the size of the park while taking steps to develop a water park as part of the property.

© Wet n' Wild SplashTown
The final three parks are all water parks:  Wet n' Wild SplashTown in Texas, White Water Bay, which is located near Frontier City theme park, and Wet n' Wild Phoenix, in Arizona.

Both White Water Bay and Wet n' Wild SplashTown, like Darien Lake and Frontier City, were a part of the original Premier Parks group.  So these four are all homecomings in a sense, even though the Six Flags Entertainment Corporation of today is nothing at all like the Six Flags of the early 2000s.

The one truly 'new' park as part of the agreement is Wet n' Wild Phoenix, which opened in 2009 and was built by Village Roadshow Entertainment.  I'm not sure if Six Flags was after the geographical location, or perhaps the park is very successful, but the company now has another presence in the Southwest U.S.

It will be interesting to see if Six Flags will keep the brand that each water park currently has, or if they will all quickly become Hurricane Harbor properties.  I'm going to guess the latter.

As for what the future holds, one thing to note is that often obtaining a lease may be a step toward fully owning a park - so perhaps down the road Six Flags will purchase the assets outright.  Or perhaps not, it all depends on EPR Properties' plans.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Timber Wolf Roars Back to Life at Worlds of Fun

© Worlds of Fun
After receiving some major refurbishments during the off season, including an entirely new element, the classic Timber Wolf wooden roller coaster has reopened at Worlds of Fun.

The work is the latest in a project that has spanned three years with each season seeing a significant section of the coaster being reworked.  The project has now seen the ride totally renovated through what was formerly a large upward helix mid-ride, now replaced by a steep, 70 degree banked turn (seen above).

The addition of the turn shortens the overall track length, however it does keep the train's speed up for the rest of the course, which makes for a more thrilling ride overall.  Plus, I can't imagine really misses that upward helix!

Timber Wolf first opened in 1989 and was designed by Curtis D. Summers.  To celebrate the opening of the coaster with its new 70 degree banked turn, Worlds of Fun has released a new point of view video of the coaster, embedded below.