Monday, May 31, 2010

Scott and Carol Present - Six Flags Great America's Little Dipper

Six Flags Great America has an instant classic with the opening of the Little Dipper. This junior woodie has thrilled generations of Chicagoland residents. When Kiddieland announced their upcoming closure, Hank Salemi, Park President for Six Flags Great America, obtained the necessary approvals from corporate to keep this ride local. They bid $33,000 dollars but that was just the start of the project.

The opening ceremony kicked off with park president Hank Salemi thanking everyone for coming, and welcomed the Kiddieland families. “We are glad to preserve this important piece of Chicago history for the following generations,” he said.

Ron Rynes, a fourth generation Kiddieland owner presented Hank with the ACE Classic Coaster designation plaque, and also Kiddieland commemorative coin number 50, in honor of the year the coaster opened.

The Kiddieland families took one last ride on “their coaster”, the inaugural ride at the new location. They were excited to ride it again, but sad that it had changed hands. “It feels a lot better to ride it and see it here today than it did that last day Kiddieland was open," said Thomas Norini, a driving force behind Kiddieland. "Maybe now it will be easier to look at the old pictures. It was too hard before.”

Norini has only good things to say about the renovation. “I love the look. People came and watched through the fence as the ride was being torn down. The response has been very positive since the news broke. They were careful as they took it apart, and they even cleaned up after themselves. You could tell how impressed he was with the historical murals throughout the queue."

Gary Pohlman, Director of Construction, said “We brought our people down to Kiddieland with an engineering firm to basically shoot everything in place and prepare an “As Built” record of the ride since we didn’t have any blueprints. Then we carefully took it apart and rebuilt it here in the park. We numbered and lettered every piece.”

Everything was updated to OSHA standards and then Six Flags Safety added some new additions. “We replaced the hand brake with computer controlled air brakes and installed a computerized control system”, said Pohlman. The seat belts are a Six Flags standard so they were added.

The original sign was used, but now has more earth friendly LEDs. The faux florescent lights in the station bring back nostalgia in an energy efficient way. They even are mounting the old speakers on the handrails like in the previous locations, although you won’t hear anything from them. Even the chasers are LEDs.

It took more than just resembling the ride. Margaret Royer, Amusement Ride Inspector for the State of Illinois said, “We treated this as a new ride. Everything whether it was a change or remained the same had to be checked out by engineers. I made multiple visits and made sure it was brought up to current standards."

So it’s a win for everyone. Six Flags Great America, who is now entrusted with the care of the ride, gains a new attraction. The Kiddieland families, who can come ride it without having to maintain it. And most of all, future generations of Chicago land families who can experience the ride one more time with their families. Bravo to Six Flags Great America and the Kiddieland families who helped make this happen.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Rock Band Live At Dorney Park & Demon Drop Update

The traveling version of Cedar Fair's Rock Band Live show premiered at Dorney Park this Memorial Day weekend. Naturally, I had to check it out. Here we see the 'tour bus' or shall I say 'tour truck' parked outside.

The gist of the show is that guests may compete by showing their mad Rock Band skills in order to get on stage during the performance. There's this set up near the Good Time Theatre where guests take turns playing the instruments to get the highest score. The winners are announced shortly before each performance begins.

Here we see three guests taking their turn at Rock Band. Several of the performers from the show are out during this time interacting with the crowd as well, it's rather high energy and fun.

Once the winners are selected they go off and soon after you can enter the theatre and the show starts. The production quality is very high, it's a well put together show. There's eight or so performers in it, and a wide variety of songs are covered - all of which I take it are available in Rock Band.

Eventually the winners of that show's contest are brought out and introduced, and given rock star names like Fritzy, and fitting rock star outfits. Then during the next act they roll out on this platform playing their instruments while the performers sing and dance. There's a story line of rival bands involved as well to keep things moving.

The contest winners come out about 3 or 4 separate times during the show, much more than I expected when I first read about the production. Hopefully the show is deemed a hit so it can continue, or other similar versions can be created. It's a neat idea and Cedar Point and Canada's Wonderland lucked out with permanent shows this summer.

I placed all the photos I took during the show on NPN's Facebook for you guys.

This was weird. Last week this had a growing facade being built on it, was totally enclosed, and was being connected to a nearby grove for a new Haunt. This week it appears as if it was never touched. Color me confused.

Demon Drop. Mostly small stuff left to do, though opening still looks a ways off. They've installed the cover for the queue entrance, and queue railings. More landscaping is going in as well. Didn't see any cars on or near the ride, though.

The station got some work, but not all that much - from my eyes anyway. I'm sure a million little things were done that I didn't notice, though. It seems a lot of electrical went in this week, too.

Here's another view of the entrance cover that went in this week. Much more work on the exit ramp has been done as well, seen in the background. I'm no park construction expert but this looks like it has a couple weeks at least until it's finished at this point.

Weekly Rewind 5.29.10

Happy Memorial Day Weekend! This is a big weekend for park visiting - hope you guys got out there to have some fun!

Liseberg has already announced a new attraction for 2011: AtmosFear. The park will transform their existing observation tower into a new generation free fall tower, where riders will drop from almost 300 ft. Read more from the park.

Same park, new name! At least a little, Disney California Adventure has lost an 's and also received a new logo, presenting a much different feel for the park. In addition to this news, the Disney Parks Blog also posted a look at the new World of Color commercial, which is pretty neat.

No new coaster for Six Flags Magic Mountain this year, after all. The park announced that Mr. Six's Dance Coaster has been delayed until 2011. Citing very vague "construction delays" for the cancellation, the park has said no more. Space was cleared for the ride, but no footers or steel ever went up.

Soft openings and special events are finally starting at Island's Of Adventure's new Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Reports of the area have been showing up just recently, such as this one by Orlando Attractions Magazine. I'm sure we'll have photos and videos of the rides soon enough.

As of today the new Luna Park at Coney Island is open! The park has launched a full website that's great for a preview of the park. I'm sure we'll be seeing more from the park soon!

Seems that Kentucky Kingdom's former Chang coaster is indeed headed to Six Flags Great America. The park went for zoning approval for a new ride that is being described as Chang. It will sit at the front of the park, using land where the simulator once was, and some parking lot. More details here.

Ferrari World previously had a video on YouTube showing off the attractions that were planned for the new park, but now they've released a new one that's even better. They did some great simulations of the rides and attractions they will offer, and the quality is much better. See it here.

Knott's Berry Farm is debuting Snoopy's Starlight Spectacular this weekend. The new night time light show takes over Camp Snoopy each night. Kings Island's version of the show will begin this weekend as well!

Six Flags Over Texas is celebrating this long weekend with several special events. First, a local man will attempt to give the most hugs in one day - he'll have to do over 5,050 hugs in the 12 hours he'll be at the main gate. The Bamboozle Roadshow also makes it's stop at the park this weekend featuring 12 acts on two separate stages at the park.

The world's tallest and largest "looping water slide" opens this weekend at Noah's Ark in the Wisconsin Dells. Known as the Scorpion's Tail, the slide drops rides through a trap door, sending the falling down and then around the loop. See video of the new attraction here!

Another big attraction to open this weekend is SplashTown at Darien Lake. The park posted a great HD video of the greatly expanded water park on their Facebook. Looks like a great place to spend a summer day.

Universal Studios Hollywood is finally ready to fully reopen the back lot sets they've rebuilt after a fire cleared almost all of them out two years ago. The park's famous tram tour will now be able to move around the sets when real filming is not taking place on them. Up next for the park later this summer is King Kong 360 3-D.

Theme Park Review took a trip to Universal Studios Hollywood and got a special look at the Revenge of the Mummy coaster with the lights on. Seeing a dark ride with the lights on is like Christmas morning for coaster geeks! Check out the update here.

Friday, May 28, 2010

WhiteWater West Announces The Anaconda

After having recently announced their new MEGAtube waterslides, WhiteWater West has already expanded the series with the Anaconda. Seen above, the slide is the largest family raft ride ever designed.

After riders drop down a steep incline they enter the 30 ft. diameter, fully enclosed MEGAtube flume where the rafts spin and oscillate side to side, climbing as high as 15 ft. up the inner walls. The versatile slide can easily be combined with other WhiteWater products, such as the Family Boomerango - and better yet they can design several attractions to interact with each other using flume-in-flume capabilities.

The new MEGAtube series is already proving to be a success, with three slides already having been sold for projects in Thailand, India, and China. Read more about the MEGAtube series in our previous article.

Ed Hart's Return To Kentucky Kingdom

The Kentucky State Fair Board has voted to approve the start of formal lease negotiations with an investment group named KK Redevelopment Company - which is led by former Kentucky Kingdom owner Ed Hart.

The negotiations will last for 60 days at which time a proposed lease agreement will be presented to the Fair Board. Mr. Hart has said he'll use $3 million of his own funds, and raise some $17 more to be able to reopen Kentucky Kingdom in 2011.

It "broke his heart" to hear that Six Flags was closing the park, since Ed Hart and his partners were the ones who purchased Kentucky Kingdom in 1990 and turned it into a major theme park before selling to Premier Parks. Another group who put in a bid for the lease was a company led by former Six Flags CEO Kieran Burke.

More details on the story can be found in this news article, including the other executives Hart has retained to help reopen the park.

A Blast From The Past - Race World's Thunder Eagle The Finale'

As promise this week’s Blast is the series finale on Race World’s Thunder Eagle, unlike those many, many Lost fans, we hope you won’t be suffering from antisappointment after reading this. If so, just ponder this - we didn’t leave you hanging for 6 years!

We had heard Race World was struggling and 2002 the park and Thunder Eagle would cease operations in Pigeon Forge forever Labor Day weekend. We still had not managed to nab a ride this thing and figured it was now or never!

Instead of driving the long trek to Pigeon Forge and the chance the rides would still be operating, we decided to call the park and “double check.” We called on Tuesday August 27th, and the lady who answered the phone assured us the park would be open all weekend and closing the gates for the very last time on Monday Sept 3rd.

So, we altered our coaster trek plans to include a pilgrimage to Race World. And, we even convinced our friends from Georgia to meet up with us, it was only fitting, they had been with us through every disappointing visit so far.

Georgia is a bit closer geologically to Tennessee than Indiana, so our friends arrived at Race World before we did. As, we pulled into the parking lot, we could already tell something was wrong. Maybe it was the lack of a crowd, or no activity anywhere near Thunder Eagle. Or, the look on their friend’s faces.

I’ll skip the gory details, since this is a family site, but it seems that the Pigeon Forge area had suffered an earthquake on Wednesday August 28th. And, in order for the rides to reopen they would need to be inspected. The park was already doomed and those involved saw no need to spend any money for 5 days of operation. The most riders it ever had in one day, he said, was around 350. He did take us on a tour and here are our friends from Georgia sitting in the train.

So, here we were 4 coaster enthusiasts without a coaster to ride. The gift shop was open and Thunder Eagle t-shirts were selling dirt cheap, so we made a few purchases, took a couple of photos, cursed the Coaster Gods and decided to get a bite to eat, before heading home.

December 2003, we visited Race World for the last time, to take some deconstruction photos. There was a glimmer of hope, Thunder Eagle had been sold, and next stop was a water park north of Montreal, Quebec. The “T” that started Thunder Eagle proudly adorns the wall of our coaster room, a unique souvenir of a coaster we so desperately wanted to ride.

It sat up there until sometime in 2008. Planning permission was never given so not even a single footer was poured. It was then moved to Juarez, Mexico. By this time the structure of the ride had more miles that the train, a very unusual circumstance

The years passed and it was never reported to be opened. So we asked the Martin and & Vleminckx rep at IAAPA in Las Vegas, what had happened to that coaster He laughed and said, “The news is rather sketchy, but the last I heard some of the structure pieces were being used to build decks. The treated wood will last forever for that purpose.”

So, what was “wrong” with Thunder Eagle? It looks like it has at least some potential. According to George Laib, “We were trying to recreate an old classic design and already had the blueprints,” says Laib, “But after we started construction, the Planning Commission came in and told us that it couldn’t be over 70 feet tall, because that would block the view of the Great Smoky Mountains.”

The plans were modified and the result was a coaster with turns banked for higher speed than the available drop would generate. The original plans called for a 90 tall ride which operated at a reduced speed. It was describe as a “modern day scenic railway where you watched the mountains instead of painted scenes. Given the average age of visitors to pigeon Forge, maybe not a bad idea.

So, we traveled over 3,000 miles trying to ride Thunder Eagle, but never got it done. But not for lack if trying! Are we bitter? Nope… life is too short and there are lots of coasters to ride.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Taking A Spin In The Ultimate Storm

Six Flags Hurricane Harbor water park, located next to Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, NJ, is celebrating it's 10th anniversary season this year. A 10th wedding anniversary is traditionally celebrated by giving your spouse something made of tin - well - Hurricane Harbor came up with something just slightly better than that for us, the Tornado.

Talk about a relaxing setting...

I've never visited Hurricane Harbor before, though naturally I've peeked at photos of the water park here and there. Of course what I saw made it look like a beautiful park, but being there in person today really wowed me. The park is themed wonderfully, has a great roster of slides and attractions, and is full of shade - something somewhat rare at a water park.

Shark! This is not Universal Studios, please don't stick your head in its mouth!

Hurricane Harbor officially opens for the 2010 season this Saturday, but held a special preview of the Tornado slide today for invited guests. Naturally the media was there, but the park also invited individuals from the Children's Miracle Network to be the first riders of the slide. Each year Six Flags Friends and Cure Kid's Cancer team up to hold the A Walk In The Park program, an event aimed at raising funds to benefit both Cure Kid's Cancer and Children's Miracle Network Hospitals.

If you haven't heard much about A Walk In The Park yet, I highly suggest checking out their site and participating in a walk at your local Six Flags park.

Nothing like fire dancers to heat things up!

The morning started on a warm note, literally. The park had these wonderful fire dancers perform to help set the mood of the tropical paradise that Hurricane Harbor represents.

Mark Kane, Park President

Shortly thereafter Mr. Mark Kane, President of Six Flags Great Adventure, the Wild Safari, and Hurricane Harbor made a few remarks about the new slide. This past winter was quite a beast, so he made sure to thank the construction crews and park employees for their hard work in having the ride ready on time.

Bill Tawpash

The Executive Director of the Children's Miracle Network, Bill Tawpash, also thanked the park for their contribution to their efforts and noted that to date Six Flags has raised over $750,000 for children's hospitals across the country. Not only that, but Six Flags employees and characters regularly visit hospitals to help make the day a little brighter for patients. Commendable work, indeed.

Mark Kane, Lilly Daneman, and Glenn "Hurricane" Schwartz

When it was time to cut the ribbon, or in this case scissor-proof tropical floral, Mr. Kane was joined by Lilly Daneman and Glenn "Hurricane" Schwartz of NBC Philadelphia fame. Lilly is the ambassador for Great Adventure's Walk In The Park this year. With the ribbon cut it was time to slide!

Slide inside the funnel!

The Tornado was created by Proslide and stands 75 ft. at its peak. Riders sit in family friendly four person clover shaped rafts and begin by venturing through a 132 ft. long tunnel after leaving the boarding area.

The rafts make quick work of flying up the side of the wall

Its at the end of that tunnel that the thrill meter kicks up a notch. Riders plummet down at 35 feet per second into the 60 ft. funnel, where they quickly sail up on the side of the structure, back down, and up again on the opposite side.

Nothing beats an aerial view

The funnel is visually impressive, I have bumped into slides of this type elsewhere and I'm always taken aback by just how huge it is, and how tiny the people and rafts look on it! I think the photo above makes that point pretty well.

Only one way outta the funnel!

After sliding up the walls a few more times the rafts lose energy and settle into the home stretch, where they flow out through a water curtain and into the catch pool.

If the slide didn't get you wet the finale will

The experience is both thrilling and fun, that's for sure. If the screams of the riders didn't give that away, the smiles they had when their turn was over sure did. I threw together this short video of the Tornado in action:

The Tornado, which joins an enormous wave pool, relaxing lazy river, family water playground, and 20 other thrilling slides, will open with the park on Saturday, May 29th - just two days from now.

Many thanks to the park staff for the invitation and the great time! For information on the park and tickets, see the official website.