Sunday, May 19, 2019

Six Flags SkyScreamer Now Thrilling Riders at Six Flags Darien Lake

© Six Flags Darien Lake
Six Flags Darien Lake is celebrating their first season once-again branded as a Six Flags park and has just opened their brand new thrill ride, the Six Flags SkyScreamer.  Eager visitors to the park have had their first rides, which include a swirling view of the park below from 242 feet in the air.

Six Flags Darien Lake released this video that covers all the important details of the ride, including a look at what the view is like from the top of the ride.  The SkyScreamer rides are known for their relaxing trip and amazing views, at least if you're not terrified of heights - then it might not be so relaxing!

Guests on the Six Flags SkyScreamer swing around in a giant circle at 35 miles per hour in chairs extended from the carriage, giving an unparalleled sense of freedom.  The park is happy to point out that the ride's height of 242 feet makes it taller than both the Statue of Liberty and Niagara Falls.  And at night, as seen in the photo up top, the ride gives a wonderful light show that forever changes the park's skyline.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

A New Adventure Unfolds as Calico River Rapids Opens at Knott's Berry Farm

© Knott's Berry Farm
The highly anticipated renovation of Knott's Berry Farm's Bigfoot Rapids into the all-new Calico River Rapids has opened to the public!  The attraction has been changed head to toe to create an all new storyline that links the ride to the other themed sections of the park.

Bigfoot Rapids opened in 1987, so the existing attraction had been a staple of the park's roster and already had some fans, but I have a feeling the dramatic retheming of the ride will see it garner long lines once again this summer.

© Knott's Berry Farm
Calico River Rapids features all new scenes along the ride path, including 20 or so animatronic people an wildlife creatures.  Above is a bear that just caught its dinner with a raft passing right by it.  The Calico River is said to have been a location that many settlers explored and eventually made their home, of course making peace with all the animals in the area as well.

As a special treat, the park's designers included an actual Bigfoot animatronic hiding in the ride's finale cave scene, a fitting nod to the ride's former name.

© Knott's Berry Farm
Calico River Rapids has so many detailed scenes (the above photo is just one small part of a much larger scene) that it appears that you'll need several rides to take it all in.  The park did a wonderful job with the ride and from videos it doesn't appear to totally soak riders, which is a great thing to me because it will make it even more repeatable that way.

Here is one video of the ride experience from SoCal Attractions 360, showing all the different scenes:

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Sesame Street Birthday Party Parade to Entertain at SeaWorld San Antonio

© SeaWorld San Antonio
SeaWorld San Antonio is excited to bring the Sesame Street Birthday Parade to visitors starting May 18th, featuring the cast of Sesame Street in an interactive street production.

The "colorful, musical, show-stopping parade, which is part of Sesame Street’s year-long 50th anniversary celebration, will feature 10 larger-than-life themed floats including the iconic Mr. Hooper’s Store and Count’s Castle."

Characters including Elmo, Big Bird and plenty more will join 20 dancers who engage with guests along the route.  The 17 minute parade features "toe-tapping" good times and officially runs May 18th, May 25-26, June 1, June 8 and June 14 through August 11 - excluding Wednesdays.

© SeaWorld San Antonio
This new parade will feature colorful birthday themed decorations, sparkly cupcakes and a catchy new birthday song.  A part of the parade includes a "birthday stop" where everyone will be dancing and clapping along to the music.  Guests are invited to help their Sesame Street friends as they put on their birthday hats and blow out the candles on a giant cake.

The parade is a wonderful addition to SeaWorld San Antonio's Sesame Street Bay of Play themed area, which is celebrating it's 8th season at the theme park.

© SeaWorld San Antonio
“Sesame Street has had a long and popular presence in our park,” said Roland Garcia, SeaWorld San Antonio’s vice president of entertainment. “We’re delighted to expand our entertainment offerings for families and kids with this brand-new, engaging and endearing parade through the park. No doubt it will offer our guests some great opportunities for phenomenal photos.”

For those families with little ones, up to age 5, they can get them unlimited free admission to SeaWorld San Antonio all year long with a Preschool Card, only for Texas residents.  Parents can register their kids online before the end of this month on the park's website.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Heard On... Cedar Fair's 1st Quarter 2019 Earnings Call

© Cedar Fair
Last week was the earnings call for Cedar Fair Entertainment Company's first quarter 2019 results.  There wasn't a ton of super exciting news, but a lot of updates about the health of the company... which seems strong.  Here are some notes:

• During the 1st quarter revenues increased $12 million, based off of increases in per-capitas, attendance and out of park revenues.  However, there was an extra calendar week of park operations in 2019 versus 2018, so a lot of the increase probably comes from that.  The operating loss for the quarter increased to $85 million, up from a loss of $76 million last year, due to the extra operating days.  They also saw a bump in depreciation and amortization costs, to $14 million up from $8 million, due to a change in the "estimated useful life" of a long lived park asset.  Maybe that was Volcano at Kings Dominion?

• They also released results through the end of April, which puts this and last year more comparable due to Easter timing shift.  At that point revenues were up 2% or $2 million, primarily due to strong in park spending and out of park revenues.  Attendance was down around 20,000 visits over last year.

• Also through the end of April deferred revenues were up 12% or $20 million, which represent sales of season passes, dining plans, fast lane, etc.  Sales of passes and of all season food plans are both up over last year.

© Knott's Berry Farm
• Generally speaking it sounds like Knott's Berry Farm is continuing to do extremely well, having their strongest-ever start to the 2019 season with their Peanuts Celebration and Boysenberry events.  They are continually booking year over year revenue increases, and the same with their season pass program.  They said again that the park surpassed 6 million visitors last year (not clear if that's the park AND water park or just the theme park).

• The rewards program for season pass holders is still going to be in a test phase for 2019, through I'm not sure at which parks.  After testing and tweaking the program with what they learn this year, it will roll out to a larger audience in 2020.  The loyalty program aims to make lifelong relationships with customers, giving them benefits for visiting often and also to keep passes being renewed.

© Cedar Point
• No change to the company's long term goal of hitting $575 million in EBITDA by 2023.  They still plan to get there by "enhancing guest experience, expanding the season pass program, increasing market penetration through targeted marketing and pursuing developing land adjacent to the parks."

• The company has several additional revenue generators scheduled to debut later this year, including a new hotel at Carowinds, the opening of the giant indoor sports center adjacent to Cedar Point, and the first Winterfest at Canada's Wonderland.

© Cedar Fair
• The 2019 capital has a heavy mix of entertainment and experience in it, but also big roller coasters at Carowinds and Canada's Wonderland.  The Grand Carnivale and Monster Jam Thunder Alley events feel like they were created from a push right from the CEO's office. (they again say that the partnership with Monster Jam is the "first installment of a strategic collaboration between the companies)  They're also excited to generate the excitement felt at Knott's Ghost Town Alive at Cedar Point's Forbidden Frontier this year.

• The purchase of the land under California's Great America was a "once in a generation" opportunity so the company jumped on it.  They said the rezoning two years ago was the first step in a "more aggressive development program" and they are "actively deploying that strategy" and will announce more later in the year.  The big plans for the park had seemed to have stalled completely, but are they back on now?  It sounds like it is, now that they fully own it.  I still have to wonder if they played hard ball on the big expansions in order to get the ability to purchase the land.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Firebird Almost Ready to Soar at Six Flags America

© Six Flags America
Six Flags America's newly transformed roller coaster, Firebird, will be ready for all guests to soar on next weekend, starting May 17th.  The ride is actually open this weekend as a special preview for certain levels of Six Flags pass holders, but the general public can get their first flight in on the 17th.

© Six Flags America
Firebird is now a floorless roller coaster, after undergoing an extensive renovation during the winter months that removed the ride's stand-up trains and station set up.  The coaster was B&M's first back in 1990, a stand up roller coaster located at Six Flags Great America named Iron Wolf.  The coaster operated at that park until it was moved to Six Flags America for the 2012 season and named Apocalypse.

Now with brand new floorless trains, the coaster has been renamed Firebird and given a fancy new paint job.  The ride stands 100 feet tall, has a first drop of 90 feet, two inversions and a top speed of 55 miles per hour.

In anticipation of the grand Firebird opening, Six Flags America has released a point of view video of the ride experience - check it out below!

Saturday, May 11, 2019

New Splash Water Parade to Entertain at Six Flags Over Texas in July

© Six Flags Over Texas
Six Flags Over Texas has announced an innovative special engagement experience to debut at the park this July - the Six Flags Splash Water Parade.

Billed as the first of its kind, the parade will be the "coolest even in all of North Texas," featuring larger than life parade floats, creatively themed decor, music and festive street entertainment.

The Six Flags Splash Water Parade will run at the park twice each day from July 13th through August 11th.  Performances will be at 3:00 pm and 7:00 pm.

“As the world leader in thrills, Six Flags continues to raise the bar to deliver the most unique and innovative experiences in the industry,” said Six Flags Over Texas Park President Steve Martindale. “The introduction of a water parade is another example of our ongoing commitment to deliver world-class entertainment year after year. Our Members and Season Pass Holders will want to visit again and again to enjoy this cool, new event with family and friends.”

During the parade guests will see elaborately themed 13 foot tall floats, each carrying a themed related to the "dog days of summer."  Some of the memorable aspects of the event include:

• A traveling water tower that will make for a fun portable spray ground for younger guests to delight in
• Thousands of dazzling, colorful beads tossed from each float to the waving crowds
• Water trikes and street performers
• A rocking summer soundtrack that will inspire guests to move to the beat as the floats make their way through the park.

The new Six Flags Splash Water Parade, included with general park admission, sounds like a great way to cool down in the Texas summer sun, and is a fun take on a theme park daily parade.  I'm interested to see more of the event once it opens!