Monday, June 17, 2019

The Park at OWA Opens New Mystic Mansion Dark Ride

© Gulf Coast News Today
The Park at OWA has completed another ride expansion, opening their brand new dark ride named Mystic Mansion.  Visitors to the Mystic Mansion ride in special Ghost Tracker Vehicles as they blast their way through the mansion, which is naturally filled to the brim with ghosts.  The family attraction was added to the park to further diversify its offerings, and also to give visitors a break from the sun inside an air-conditioned building.

© The Park at OWA
Before riding through the mansion visitors are greeted by Professor Phearstruck who explains "the history of Mystic Mansion, its curse and who haunts it now."  The main ghost of the attraction is Boocifer, and riders blast at ghosts throughout 15 different scenes as they chase him down.  As they blast the ghouls they accumulate points, allowing the riders to see who in the vehicle comes out with the most points.  That interactive aspect makes the Mystic Mansion a great attraction to ride over and over - to improve your score!

This article from the Gulf Coast Today News has additional details on Mystic Mansion.  The ride was created by Sally Corp., one of the industry's top dark ride creators.

If you'd like to take a trip inside the Mystic Mansion, check out the point of view video below, released by the park.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Kennywood Finishes Track Instillation for The Steel Curtain

© Kennywood
Good things come to those who wait, and while we've all been waiting for The Steel Curtain to open at Kennywood the park hit a big milestone on the ride's construction this past week.  The final piece of track was installed, seen in the photos from the park, completing the 4,000 feet of track.  The final piece was a part of the inversion that takes place right after the lift hill at 197 feet above the ground.  That inversion is now the tallest one in the world.

© Kennywood
Designed by S&S Worldwide, The Steel Curtain is sure to be a true thrill machine once it opens this summer - though no opening date has been announced as of now.  It is the centerpiece of a new themed area at Kennywood, known as Steelers Country and themed after the football franchise.   The area will feature the coaster along with other interactive games, activities and food and beverage areas.

© Kennywood
The Steel Curtain's completed layout is an imposing structure over Kennywood.  The ride stands 220 feet tall, making it the tallest roller coaster in Pennsylvania.  Riders will spend a decent amount of time upside down while on the ride, as The Steel Curtain will feature the most inversions on any coaster in the U.S. - a total of 9.

With track complete and testing right around the corner, we're looking forward to The Steel Curtain taking its first riders!

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Cedar Fair Enters Agreement to Purchase Two Texas Schlitterbahn Water Parks

Some exciting (and surprising!) news broke this morning as Cedar Fair announced that it has reached a definitive agreement to purchase two water parks, one with a full resort attached, from Schlitterbahn.

Cedar Fair will spend about $261 million to become the owner of Schlitterbahn Waterpark and Resort in New Braunfels, Texas and Schlitterbahn Waterpark in Galveston, Texas.  The deal also comes with the ability for Cedar Fair to purchase 40 acres of land in Kansas City, Kansas that Schlitterbahn was operating as a water park for an additional $6 million.

The company's press release notes that Cedar Fair believes they will be able to incorporate the parks into their system of parks easily over the course of two or so years.  They see the Texas market as a developing one and are already proud of the fact that Schlitterbahn New Braunfels has been voted the country's best water park for 21 years, and Schlitterbahn Galveston has been ranked the best indoor water park for a decade.

The deal is expected to close in the 2nd quarter of 2019, which means by the end of this month, and the company will take on new long term debt to pay for it.

The new map of Cedar Fair properties © Cedar Fair
Cedar Fair states that the two Schlitterbahn parks and the resort had attendance of 1.2 million and revenues of $68 million in 2018.  They hope to get the parks to their overall EBITDA margin of 35% within two years, an important factor for Cedar Fair's overall growth goals over the new few seasons.  At the close of the transaction, Schlitterbahn's 221 rooms will combine with Cedar Fair's existing resort operations to total more than 2,000 rooms, 600 RV sites and two marinas.

© Schlitterbahn New Braunfels
The fact that Cedar Fair is purchasing two of Schlitterbahn's water parks is a surprise, but the fact that they were for sale is not.  Schlitterbahn has had some troubles over the past few years, not the least of which was the accident at the Kansas City park, that I won't detail here.  The family-owned company was heavily leveraged on the Kansas development, and now that it has closed it sounds like there was not much of a choice but to sell the remaining parks to pay off that debt before they became bank owned.

Also of note, the Schlitterbahn park and resort in South Padre will remain family owned but will be rebranded to remove the Schlitterbahn name.  A 4th park, Schlitterbahn Corpus Christi, was sold off during a bankruptcy proceeding in 2018 so it ss already technically no longer a part of the chain.  It sounds like both may no longer use the Schlitterbahn name after the 2019 season concludes.

© Schlitterbahn Galveston
Schlitterbahn has a FAQ up already regarding the sale, available here, which has some interesting tidbits.  They state that "it’s important to know that Cedar Fair values Schlitterbahn’s character and brand promise.  They have committed to not only keeping Schlitterbahn awesome but helping us grow!"  While I have not personally been to a Schlitterbahn water park, it's well known that their attraction roster and operating policies are quite different than Cedar Fair's.   For instance, the FAQ notes that guests will still be able to bring their own food and drink into the parks... at least for the 2019 season.

Schlitterbahn's corporate statement on the transaction, which is really saving them from a heap of trouble, paints the future equally bright for the remaining two branded parks:

Cedar Fair is a dynamic, brand-oriented company.  Under Cedar Fair’s leadership, the Schlitterbahn brand will have an opportunity to grow and expand like the early days when the sky was the limit. While it’s a difficult decision, after several challenging years, we believe that our team, communities, guests, and fans are going to enjoy what lies ahead.  We believe Cedar Fair, with their approach to embracing parks that have a unique footprint, will be a phenomenal owner, and with the talented people that are the Schlitterbahn Family, will take Schlitterbahn Waterparks and Resorts to the next level of world-class family entertainment.

To be clear, I'm not saying that the future of these two water parks is not bright, but I definitely think it will be a lot different than it is now.  And maybe that is a good thing, depends on perspective.  It's interesting that Cedar Fair appears to be set on keeping the Schlitterbahn name in use... and these quotes even hint at possibly growing the name in time.  We will see.

As for the Kansas City property, I fully expect Cedar Fair to purchase it, sit on the land for a number of years, remove the water park attractions, then resell it for other development.  The property is only a 26 mile drive from Worlds of Fun, a well established Cedar Fair park.  I simply cannot see them competing with themselves on that front by continuing to develop the former Schlitterbahn park.

Exciting news though, as it's been a long time since Cedar Fair added parks to the chain!  Will be interesting to watch down the road.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Six Flags New England's Latest Thrill Ride - Cyborg Hyper Drive - Now Open to Visitors

© Six Flags New England
© Six Flags New England
The all-new Cyborg Hyper Drive thrill ride has opened at Six Flags New England, an indoor experience that combines thrilling movements with futuristic lighting and special effects.  Located within the park's DC Super Hero Adventures themed area, Cyborg Hyper Drive is the park's first indoor dark ride since 1999.

The ride has taken residence within an existing building that has hosted other rides throughout the years, but has receive a total makeover for Cyborg.  The attraction is one of Chance Rides' Freestyle flat rides, which has outward facing seats.  Riders rotate in two ways in a giant circle while the ride lifts upward, creating a thrilling experience.

© Six Flags New England
The story line of Cyborg Hyper Drive "invites guests to S.T.A.R. Labs to help Cyborg test a new technological device.  As the story unfolds, the evil, sentient cybernetic system called GRID hacks into the mainframe and takes control of the entire lab.  Riders find themselves caught up in the battle, spinning and whirling mercilessly through the air, while Cyborg wrestles to regain control of the enormous machine."

For more information on Cyborg Hyper Drive check out Six Flags New England's website.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Batman: The Ride Coaster Opens at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

© Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
Batman has swooped into Six Flags Discovery Kingdom with the opening of the all-new Batman: The Ride roller coaster.  Billed as the "west coast's first 4D Roller Coaster," the new attraction features cars that suspend riders on either side of the bright yellow track as they flip and soar through the sky.

Batman: The Ride is one of S&S Worldwide's 4D Free Spin coasters, which features a vertically stacked layout that begins with a 120 foot vertical lift hill.  At the top the cars are released to move through several hills, dips, and dramatic raven turn plunges.

© Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
On board magnetic technology guarantees that riders will be flipped at least six times during the experience, according to the park's press materials.  The combination of gravity along with the magnets makes each ride a bit different than the one before, though all are thrilling.

The coaster is a part of the park's new DC Universe themed area, featuring other attractions themed to characters like Wonder Woman, Superman, the Joker, Harley Quinn and more.

To read more about Batman: The Ride check out the park's official website.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Walibi Holland's New RMC Opens July 1 + New POV Released

© Walibi Holland
We're getting close to another opening of one Rocky Mountain Construction's steel makeover coasters, this time Untamed at Walibi Holland.  The ride was previously known as Robin Hood, a traditional wood coaster that was created by Vekoma and opened in 2000.

The original ride stood 105 feet tall and hit 50 miles per hour, and now as Untamed, stands 120 feet tall and has a top speed of 57 miles per hour.  The ride's track length has actually increased to 3,559 feet from 3,395 feet, which is uncommon with a RMC conversion.

© Walibi Holland
While the ride's layout, featuring wild elements that are typical of RMC conversions, is top notch, the ride's trains are also worth mentioning.  The design, seen in concept above, features a front car that's kind of bug themed, and looks pretty slick.

When the ride opens on July 1st riders will be treated to a host of exciting elements, including a 116 foot, 80 degree first drop.  The ride then heads up into a 270 degree double-inverting stall element, essentially stretching out a stall and adding a bit more twist to create two inversions instead of one.  The ride has a couple more inversions as well, including the finale barrel roll that is reminiscent of Outlaw Run.

Ready to see all that Untamed has to offer?  Check out the park's official POV film below.