Sunday, April 27, 2008

Exclusive Dorney Park Interview

Today we have a special treat – an interview with Chuck Hutchison, the Public Relations Manager for Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom. Mr. Hutchison was kind enough to sit down and share with NewsPlusNotes plenty of information about the amusement park’s 2008 season. That said, let’s begin.

NewsPlusNotes: Let’s start with Voodoo. Did construction go as planned?

Chuck Hutchison: Construction went well, we worked with local companies as much as possible, and seemed to fly through the first phases.

When the first parts started arriving in September, our teams immediately started the shuffle of keeping the "paint shop" in good supply of work. As I talked about in the blog, they sand blasted each piece and sent it off to a secondary facility for non-destructive weld testing. That is an interesting process to watch. They essentially turn the piece into an electromagnet by running current through it, and then blow this magnetic dust over the welds looking for lines to form that would indicate a weakened or stressed weld.

After each piece passes its inspection it headed back to a huge paint chamber to receive primer, color, and top coat layers. The winter season was pretty nice to us, having caused only a week or so worth of cumulative delays. Steel went up in a matter of about two work weeks, and now I think we are all a bit amazed at how great the ride looks and what it does for Dorney's skyline.

© 2008 Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom, used with permission

NPN: Any details of what kind of refurbishment the ride went though after being moved from Geauga Lake?

CH: Other refurbishments include new foam padding on all the restraints, new seats, and a random assortment of other new hardware and small parts that were just better replaced than refurbished.

NPN: Is there any background on where the name Voodoo came from? Were any alternate names considered?

CH: Shhh.... It's a secret, well not really but this does seem to be the big mystery. The artwork and name were simply a joint effort of some of our veteran employees who were able to bring together the essence and magic of the ride. They quickly won the support of senior management and corporate Planning and Development who know a good thing when they see it.

Dorney Park's 2008 Billboard Ad
© 2008 Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom, used with permission

NPN: Are the holding-brakes still planned on being used on the straight tower?

CH: Just called and confirmed to be sure. Holding brakes are a go!

NPN: Great! Will there be an on-ride photo or video available?

CH: No on-ride photo or video for Voodoo. From my understanding, it is pretty difficult / near impossible to install those types of systems on this type of coaster. Now that I said that I'm sure you'll shoot me tons of examples of where it's been done or something, but regardless, we are focusing on the ride, the frills could come later.

NPN: Actually, no rides like this with on-ride photos come to mind! Has the ride started testing yet/are we looking good for a May 3rd opening?

CH: The best laid plans are always subject to change, but yes, Voodoo's ETA is still May 3rd, opening day! There is a lot to do between now and then, but the park is buzzing with activity to try to hit the date.

NPN: How about the park’s rides in general. Are any rides or attractions not returning to the park for 2008?

CH: Nope, all rides are a go. Laser will most likely have a late start due to ongoing maintenance, but we expect it will be online around Memorial Day weekend.

NPN: Have any rides seen upgrades of any sort? (like The Whip’s new floor)

CH: You stole my thunder. The first thing I would say is the Whip's new floor. I hear word that Ferris Wheel got a new computer, control system, and software.

NPN: Wildwater Kingdom has seen expansion the past two seasons, has the water park expanded to meet attendance demands?

CH: We focused on Wildwater Kingdom for the past two years for a few reasons, attendance demands being just one. Our waterpark guests needed another high capacity, general admission attraction. They asked, and we answered with Wildwater Cove. We also recognized the need to manage the balance of attendance between Dorney Park proper and Wildwater Kingdom. Adding AquaRacer served to achieve a better balance of guest flow between parks, just the same way that Voodoo will counterbalance and increase traffic to that area of the park this season. It's a constant juggle.

© 2008 Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom, used with permission

NPN: How was AquaRacer received by guests this past summer?

CH: I don't have any hard ridership figures on my desk, but from my recollection, and experiences in the park with guests, I think they loved it. The line was always long indicating great interest, and six riders at a clip made it move much faster than traditional water slide installations. Our guests seem to love the competitive nature of racing their friends to the finish too. Overall, I think it was a hit.

NPN: I tried out AquaRacer many times, it’s a ton of fun! What live entertainment will we see at the park this year?

CH: Fancy Pants Entertainment is back with two all new musical reviews: HEAT, and Dancing Under the Stars. The amazing magic of Michael Mage will be integrated into the Dancing Under the Stars evening shows for a special "Spellbound" magical musical review. Of course planning for HAUNT is underway and we will have some special spooky shows for you then too.

NPN: Any new food offerings at the park for this season?

CH: Mix-it-up slushees should be fun, and messy. It's like sand art for slushees!

NPN: Sounds fun – I’ll have to try one! How about merchandise and games, any new or changed locations to look forward to?

Possessions Gift Shop logo
© 2008 Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom, used with permission

CH: Voodoo's supporting store, formerly known as DropShop has received a face lift inside and out as well as new displays. It will be opening on May 3rd as Possessions, and will carry some pretty cool new Voodoo themed merchandise. Laser shot was of course moved about 30 feet to the right to accommodate Voodoo, and in the process got a nice face lift as well.

NPN: Are there any other general changes or upgrades to look for this year?

CH: New equipment in the Season Pass / Guest services building creates photo ID's that are now all black and white for faster line processing!

NPN: How about for the employee side of the park?

CH: I noticed a new seating area for employees on the ramp up to the employee cafe.

© 2008 Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom, used with permission

NPN: Let’s move on to the Haunt at Dorney Park. What new attractions will The Haunt Feature?

CH: First let me say that HAUNT is awesome. I also must stress that although Dorney is a family park all year, HAUNT nights after 6pm are strongly not recommended for kids. We are using the age of 13 as a recommended age cut off, but really, parental discretion is advised.

Club Blood indoor maze is a nightclub of the vampire underground that will be a new building near White Water Landing to be constructed this summer. CornStalkers outdoor maze will be the longest walkthrough scare area where guests will experience a flashback to when the property was farmland, the scarecrows and farmhands are back to reclaim their fields! Terror Square will consume the Hydra / Game Day Grille plaza with monsters.

© 2008 Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom, used with permission

HAUNT means Dorney will have approximately 300 more employees for the season, most of those being costumed positions. Auditions will be late August or Early September so stay tuned, we want all of you. HAUNT website is scheduled for August 1st, and don't forget to look for the hearse to come by your neighborhood!

NPN: Sounds fantastic. Is Cedar Freak Cannonball coming back?

CH: The Cannonball will run during the days until about 6pm. It will be less haunted than in the past, more for families and kids, and will be laid to rest in piece each night before CornStalkers opens up for the evening.

NPN: Where exactly is Cornstalkers going to be located in the park?

© 2008 Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom, used with permission

CH: CornStalkers will occupy nearly the entire length of the access road between Dorney and Wildwater Kingdom. The walk starts at the gate just past the Wildwater Kingdom locker area, goes all the way down the access road to the Cannonball crossing that leads to Wildwater Kingdom, makes a left down that path, through Thunder Canyon exit plaza, and finally ends right near the entrance to Thunder Canyon.

NPN: That's a long walk, now I'm even more excited for CornStalkers. Is there a more specific theme available for Terror Square?

CH: Terror Square needs no specifics, it's a huge free flowing area of monsters and mayhem. But, I don't know if you can handle it so you better stay away!

© 2008 Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom, used with permission

NPN: I personally can’t wait for The Haunt this fall! To wrap things up, I’ll ask the obligatory amusement park question: What’s on the horizon for Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom?

CH: Well, I hope everyone is ready and willing to help us celebrate an amazing 125th anniversary next year! No official plans as of yet, but stay tuned as planning gets underway late this season.

NPN: I'd like to thank Mr. Hutchison again for the interview - and remember, opening day for Dorney Park is this coming weekend on Saturday, May 3rd. See you all there!


dwitos079 said...

Great interview.