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.


Saturday, May 19, 2018

Hang Time Now Open at Knott's Berry Farm


© Knott's Berry Farm
Billed as the West Coast's first Dive Coaster, Hang Time at Knott's Berry Farm is now open to the public.  Created by Gerstlauer Amusement Rides, Hang Time is a custom designed "Infinity Coaster" that utilizes the space that Boomerang, and Corkscrew before that, once called home.

Riders sit four across in four rows and head up a vertical lift hill to 150 feet above Knott's Berry Farm's Boardwalk themed section.  Seen at the top, the cars then briefly come to a stop angled toward the ground, then are released to fall down a beyond-vertical 96 degree drop.

Now that Hang Time is open, Knott's Berry Farm has released this really nice promo video for the ride.  Many of the coaster's elements are designed to give a feeling of, well, hang time during them, such as the negative-g stall and the 4 additional inversions.  Hang Time stretches 2,198 feet long and has a maximum speed of 57 miles per hour.

As expected, Hang Time looks phenomenal at night, with a custom light design crafted by KCL Engineering.  The coaster looks to have a near endless amount of color possibilities, but as promised the lights are chasing the coaster as it heads through the track - see the above video from Theme Park Insider.

Here is a video, created by KCL Engineering, showing off some of what the system is capable of:

Only a few rides have had lights like this installed on them so far, but I sure hope that the trend continues on future - or existing - installations!

After several years of hard work, it appears as though Knott's Berry Farm has really finished their revitalization of The Boardwalk area with the opening of Hang Time.  Congratulations to the park on their success!


Thursday, May 17, 2018

2017 TEA/AECOM Global Attractions Attendance Report Now Available


© TEA / AECOM
The 2017 Global Attractions Attendance Report, created each year by the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) and the Economics Practice at AECOM, is now available for download here.  The publication takes a look at the attendance trends at theme parks, water parks and museums around the globe.  While many companies do not release official attendance figures, the report provides an educated estimate at many results and reflects the overall temperature of the growth of the industry.

In 2017 the report finds that global attractions attendance surged 8.6%, a healthy gain led by Asian parks, which saw gains of 20%.  North America saw growth of 2.3% and total attendance of more than 150 million for the first time at the top 20 parks.

The busiest theme park on the plant continues to be the Magic Kingdom in Florida, which saw an estimated 20.45 million visitors last year.  The top water park on the planet was Chimelong water park in China, with 2.69 million visitors.

There are plentiful details to comb through in the report, and I urge you to check it out on your own.  However some other highlights:

• The biggest gain of the year in the U.S. was Disney's Animal Kingdom, up 15.3% to 12.5 million based on the success of Pandora.
• The biggest loss of the year in the U.S. was SeaWorld San Diego, which dropped 13.9% to 3.1 million visitors.
• Universal Studios Hollywood saw a 12% jump to 9.06 million, pushing higher on a full year of having the Wizarding World of Harry Potter open.
• Universal's Volcano Bay water park had an estimated 1.5 million guests in its first year, making it the third busiest in North America.  Disney and SeaWorld's water parks were all down between 5% and 10% as a result.
• Shanghai Disneyland had its first full year in 2017, and saw an estimated 11 million in attendance.


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Harley Quinn Spinsanity Starts Ride Previews This Weekend


© Six Flags New England
Six Flags New England's immense new flat ride, known as Harley Quinn Spinsanity, will start ride previews for Six Flags pass members this weekend, the park has announced.

This coming weekend, May 19th and 20th, all levels of pass holders will be able to queue up and take a spin on the monster ride, which is a part of the park's recently renamed Gotham City area - home to characters such as The Joker, Batman and more.

© Six Flags New England
Harley Quinn Spinsanity is a giant pendulum ride that swings up to a staggering 147 feet above the park at 70 miles per hour.  The end the pendulum is a giant ring of seats that rotate while the arm swings, creating a disorienting feeling for passengers.  This style of ride has been added to a few other Six Flags parks, and due to its tremendous size and thrilling experience, remains one of their most popular flat rides.

SFNE Online has shared this great video of Harley Quinn Spinsanity completing a full test.  Make sure to check it out to get an idea of just how high in the air this contraption swings! 


Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Twisted Cyclone Testing at Six Flags Over Georgia Ahead of Grand Opening


We're getting close to the opening of Twisted Cyclone at Six Flags Over Georgia, one of five new Rocky Mountain Construction roller coasters to open in North America in 2018.  The theme park recently began testing of the coaster, seen above in a tweet from the park, and like most of the other RMC rides it's moving quick.

Twisted Cyclone is a conversion of the park's Georgia Cyclone wooden roller coaster, featuring all new steel track and a series of wild twists and inversions.  The new version of the coaster stands 100 feet tall and features three inversions along 2,400 feet of track.

Ohio Valley Coasters was at the park this past weekend and got some great footage of Twisted Cyclone testing.  Right from the top of the lift hill, where the trains plunge down at a very steep 75 degrees, the coaster's pacing does not let up.  If you watch the video you can see the trains hitting the final brakes with plenty of momentum left over, a good sign of how fast the coaster is running.

We will not have to wait much longer for Twisted Cyclone to open, as Six Flags Over Georgia has announced that it will premier on Memorial Day weekend, just a couple weeks from now!