Saturday, July 31, 2010

Weekly Rewind 7.31.10

Turns out that the Spongebob Splash Bash attraction at Blackpool's new Nickelodeon area isn't a Splash Battle at all - but one of Mack's new Twist 'n' Splash water filled flat rides. It's like tea cups only with a lot of interactive water features. Looks awesome!

Cedar Fair's Coasting For Kids event looks to have been a success across the nation. Coaster riding marathons were held at all the parks with the goal of riders collecting donations for Give Kids The World. Here's one report from the event at Dorney Park.

One other Cedar Fair tidbit - the company has announced that they have indeed completed the refinancing of their debt. It's a lot of financial jargon - but basically this gives them some breathing room over the next 5 or so years to keep expanding the parks and get some increased revenues. Bring on the new rides!

Sesame Place is celebrating it's 30th anniversary this season. What started as a small, 3 acres family fun area has grown into a large theme park that focuses on family fun. Read more about the park's celebration plans here.

Busch Gardens Tampa's 2010 Howl-O-Scream event will center around a band named "My X." In typical Haunt fashion they've launched several media sites to stay connected with the event including Twitter, Facebook, and their home page.

Another week has gone by, and there is now a lot less of the Scream Machine still standing at Six Flags Great Adventure. Pretty much the lift, drop, and vertical loops are what is left. Stay connected with the park's official photo updates.

Disney has announced a new parade for Disneyland, to debut in 2011. Parades are a very big deal when it come to Disney parks - no marching band wandering down the midway with these, the parades are full scale productions. This one will be called Mickey's Soundsational Parade, and obviously have a music theme to it. Read more from Disney Parks.

The rumor mill is pretty quiet on this one right now, but Westcoaster has pointed out that Knott's Berry Farm is currently covered in survey markings. Either they're going to repave the entire place or something big might be in the works. See the update here.

Still no word on what Hershey Park is starting to work on, but lots of survey markings are showing up there, too. RCPro has some shots of those. It sure seems like after taking a year or two off of big expansions all the parks are really gearing up for a wild 2011!

Friday, July 30, 2010

What A Birthday!

These gigantic birthday presents are popping up at Cedar Fair parks across the country - this one just surfaced at Dorney Park.

The parks are celebrating Snoopy's 60th birthday on August 8th - personally I'm anxious to see what is inside!

I never get presents that big on my birthday...

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Blast From The Past - Miracle Strip

All the talk of Legoland purchasing the closed Cypress Gardens Park in Winter Haven Florida and their plans not including the classic John Allen Skyliner has brought back fond memories of our first rides on the coaster, so this week’s Blast travels back to Memorial Day weekend of 2004 when we finally experienced Miracle Strip Amusement Park in Panama City Florida.

Opening in March 1963, Miracle Strip was located just across from the Gulf of Mexico & Panama City beach. The park resembled a traditional seaside boardwalk, similar to those on the east coast. The park featured several rides that were made uniquely spectacular by placing them within enclosed spaces and adding pounding music and lighting effects.

The Abominable Snowman was a typical Eli Scrambler, made atypical by the entrance, which passed under the big guy, into an air conditioned igloo. The ride featured strobe lighting and a pounding sound system.

To ride Dante's Inferno you had to walk through a grinning devil's mouth, where a you had the pleasure of riding a Chance Trabant.

Built by Bill Tracy in 1965, the Haunted Castle was a campy haunted house ride shaped like a castle with a dead tree outside, two passenger cars that bumped along dark corridors past day-glow horrors. The maze of track showed off several morbid attractions; the electrocution of a dummy inmate, dismemberment, spiders and lots of black light effects. The rides second floor also had a some unusual effects.

The Train was a small multi-passenger diesel-engine train ride that took riders from the station located near the center of the park, around a few attractions, such as the paratrooper, spider, dungeon and log flume, The train went through a tunnel that led into the wooded area where the park was never developed, then looped back to the station. The 02 drop tower, added in 2002, was the last addition to Miracle Strip

The real treasure at Miracle Strip was John Allen's Starliner, it was one of the first attractions built at the park and still thrilling riders on the parks closing day. It ran nearly the length of the park, the roar of wheels and the screams of happy riders could be heard all over the park.

The Starliner was the third major roller coaster Allen built PTC and his seventh overall. Frank Hoover supervised construction of the roller coaster. Stepping under the colorful sign the line leads to the beautiful curved station. On the way up the ramp there is a Philadelphia Toboggan Company plaque on the side of the station, The trains were three bench PTCs with no headrests, or seat dividers and a single seat belt a single-locking "buzz" bar.

The Starliner operated with manual skid brakes, an operated released the brake and the train rolled out of the station and began climbing the 70-foot lift hill. A 65-foot first drop which leads to a series of hills, the third hill is nearly as tall as the first and at the bottom riders enter a tunnel that is painted like an open mouthed dragon.

Halfway through the tunnel riders are caught off-guard as the train catches some air on a hidden bunny hop before the track rises into the turn-around where the train loops around and hugs the previously-traveled track. The section after the turn-around was a series of signature John Allen bunny hops each with plenty of airtime for the whole family to enjoy. As the train flew into the brake shed a light and bell went off in the front of the station, as the operators applied the brakes to slow the train to a stop.

Although the park had been losing money for several years, in 2003 Billy Lark who was the parks only owner, announced that the 2004 season would be Miracle Strip's last. Citing declining attendance and increasing expenses, Lark sold the land for use in development of condos. Crowds came in force full of spirit as the park celebrated their last days of operation. The park closed its gates Labor Day weekend of 2004

In Nov 2006 Kent Buescher, president of Adventure Parks Group LLC, announced they had purchased the Skyliner and were moving it to Winter Haven. It was rebuilt and brought up to the safety standards of that time, at an estimated cost of$5 million, with plans to open the next summer. The ride operated at Cypress Gardens until the park closed November of 2008.

Like the Skyliner, some rides were sold and relocated, the log flume is located at Wild Adventures in Valdosta GA, is was to reopen in 2006, but it never opened. The O2 was moved to Dixie Landin' in Baton Rouge LA and opened in 2006 as Hot Shot. Musik Express headed west to Cliff's in Albuquerque New Mexico and the Wave Swinger was at one time traveling with the North Florida Fair. The Carousel was moved to Pier Park in April 2009, and appropriately named "The Miracle Strip Carousel". The Sports Cars were moved to Lake Compounce in Bristol, Connecticut and reopened as Zoomer's Gas-N-Go

The September 7, 2009 Panama City News Herald, stated the remains of The Miracle Strip Amusement park would be either removed from the site to be sold, or demolished, beginning the next day, Lark was even considering using Ebay and Craigslist to sell some of the remains. Since then the park has pretty much been demolished, Florida's oldest roller coaster is SBNO and all that remains is the memories.

Yay For Park Announcements!

August generally starts the ' new for 20** announcement season' - the time of year that is second only to Christmas for amusement park fans. Looking at my handy calendar it seems that we're mere days away from that exciting August 1st date.

That in mind, both Dollywood and Valleyfair can be added to the list of parks making announcements sooner rather than later.

Valleyfair will announce a "big expansion" on August 6th. Nothing specific about what is being announced has leaked, but the article makes mention that it will help get families to visit the park. Sounds like Snoopy may be involved!

Next up: Dollywood. The park actually has two individuals who post on the Thrillnetwork boards, and they've confirmed an announcement is to take place on August 2nd. A lot of fun ideas have been kicked around as to what the new attraction is, but mums the word for now.

Add those to Worlds of Fun's August 8th announcement, and you have a pretty fun week!

"Have Some FUN Today" - Part 2

Editor's Note: This is the 2nd part of the story of NPN's recent visit to Rye Playland. See the first section here.

Moving along the tree lined midway at Playland you soon notice a tower sticking up among the trees - that's the park's Double Shot.

While you may think that a Double Shot has to do with your favorite Starbucks beverage, at Playland it means some serious thrills. The ride is around 90 ft. tall and the cars are not only blasted upward, but also back down when they reach the top. Just look at the faces of the riders in this photo - pure fun!

This next one - known as Catch A Wave - wasn't something that I actually rode while at the park. It may look like a friendly swing type ride, but when that baby gets moving it's really moving. This photo was taken when the seats were full of a girl's camp group - hilarious to watch their reactions!

Another classic ride at the park is The Whip - an original W.F. Mangels model. I know I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but this is another ride of which there are only a handful left. All the more reason to head out and give it a whirl, or should I say whip?

While space limits the amount I can show here, Playland's Kiddieland is packed full of unique attractions aimed at the younger set. Here we have the Kiddie Coaster, another original ride from Playland's opening year. It was designed by Frank Darling and still runs with trains by National Amusement Devices.

No adults allowed on this one, though, so I had to enjoy the ride through photos.

While I'm yammering on about the robust amount of classic rides at Playland we must stop by the Derby Racer. I never rode the one at Cedar Point, and knew far too little about these before I got on board. The Derby Racer means business as I soon found out.

It's like a Carousel, only the horses are connected only to the floor. The entire platform rotates at some 25 m.p.h. - and if you're sitting on and outside horse (due to physics, etc) it feels about double that speed.

Round and round you go - you even have to lean in to the left to stay atop the horse properly. I've read that Playland's Derby Racer runs considerably faster than the other two still in operation - at Cedar Point and Blackpool Pleasure Beach - and I believe it!

For a summer day we actually got lucky with the overcast weather - helps keep it cooler while at the park. Then again, you could just fancy a spin on one of the park's two water attractions to achieve the same goal.

Above we have the Log Flume making a tremendous splash as a log reaches the final lagoon. The ride sits right along the boardwalk and Long Island Sound, providing a rather memorable view from the top of the lift hill.

Playland Plunge is where you head if you want a serious soaking. Maybe it's the angle of the above photo, but isn't the splash the boat is making as tall as the entire ride? Many squishy shoes could be heard as patrons walked away from this one. They were still smiling, though!

Playland's latest venture into the roller coaster scene is Super Flight - a Zamperla 'flying' style ride where you actually lay down during the experience. In order to make this lying position safe you are a bit enclosed in a cage-like contraption, but once things get moving you'll be happy you are.

Make no mistake - Super Flight is an intense ride that will probably be best enjoyed by the younger set. There is a lot of hustle and bustle while on this one, including two inversions, which makes for a bit of a bumpy ride.

We did have some fun while we were at Playland - it's a beautiful park that's worthy of its status as a National Historic Landmark. Over the years the park has been threatened with redevelopment many times; thankfully it has continued to operate as an amusement park!

I also have to give credit where it is due, I got much of the historical data for this from Jim Futrell's wonderful Amusement Parks of New York - available for a steal at the link below.

Watch out for the next park from our Road Trip - Six Flags New England - coming soon!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Sabrina's Brochure Spotlight: Paramount's Kings Island 2000

This week the spotlight is on Ohio. Unfortunately, this brochure's creative design doesn't lend itself very well to a screen presentation so you'll just have to imagine how sweet it would look if you were to unfold it in your hands!

These images of happy families and cartoon characters stand in stark contrast to the menacing glare of Paramount's Kings Island's newest instrument of terror. The year was 2000, and a "Son" had been born. Some might argue that this wooden behemoth more closely resembled the spawn of Satan than that of the park's legendary Beast roller coaster, but that's a whole 'notha debate.

Son of Beast opened as the tallest, fastest, and only looping wooden roller coaster in the world. As long as we're throwing around "est"s, it was also the second longest, outdistanced only by its daddy across the park. As if the application of such adjectives to a WOODEN coaster isn't frightening enough, check out the baby carriage! Creeeeeepy.

...and it's even creepier when the full image is revealed! Personally, I'll never forget my first impression of this ride. It looked every bit as massive as it appears in this graphic. There's just something spooky about a wooden structure of this magnitude. Little did I know that the ride experience itself was to be equally feared, or at least that's how my spine felt by the time it was all said and done. This SOB was painful! [Seriously, has any other coaster ever boasted such an appropriate acronym?]

Surely I don't need to recap all the madness and mayhem that have surrounded this ride over the past decade. It seems Sonny's lack of widespread popularity, combined with his short but unfortunate history of injuries and lawsuits, have doomed him. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if "SBNO" turned into just plain gone within the next couple years. Practicality aside, it really will be a shame to see such an engineering marvel meet its maker, regardless of how questionable that engineering may have been. It really was an awesome LOOK at.

I suppose the "whole family of fun" verbiage was intended to be a fitting follow-up to all that talk of sons, eh? Well let's embrace it and revisit those happy families and cartoon characters from the brochure cover. Obviously Son of Beast was the main attraction in 2000, but the park also had a special treat in store for the kids: The arrival of Eliza and Donnie of Wild Thornberrys fame. Eliza even treated them to a "Rainforest Insect Adventure", a walk-through attraction featuring robotic insects which ran for a little over a month that year.

Unbeknownst to me, apparently IAAPA also proclaimed 2000 to be the international year of the carousel. Consequently, Kings Island wanted to make darn sure that potential visitors were aware of their classic PTC carousel. But given the level of detail put into this brochure, I doubt that awareness of any of this park's rides or attractions was an issue for anybody who picked one up.

And now for the really fine print. When I got to the end of this brochure, it suddenly hit me that Kings Island's brand new signature (or so they thought) woodie had somehow managed to elude the corporate name game. Given the heavy saturation of Paramount theming which had overtaken the park by this time, that's pretty amazing. If nothing else, they get bonus points for originality!

A Stay At The Mansion House Hotel

I took a quick spin around Dorney today and saw this interesting sign located in front of the Food Fest groves, where a new Haunt is expected to manifest this fall.

It appears as though it's an advertisement for the Mansion House Hotel, which sounds like a splendid place to spend an evening.

Here's a closer view of the top of the sign, so it is easier to read. The Hotel is a "popular stay for those who appreciate the charm of the unusual." I bet things get pretty unusual inside the Hotel, especially when darkness falls.

I love the throwback to the Plarr family! Very smart. The website listed on the sign isn't quite working for me yet - perhaps that will be live soon.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"Have Some FUN Today!" - Part 1

Ahh yes, the good old fashioned road trip. Some are unplanned journeys into new territory, and some - like mine - are scheduled from start to finish. My obsessive tendencies aside, this road trip was meant to experience three new amusement parks in beautiful New England.

First up on our trip was Rye Playland, a park that hearkens back to the early years of modern amusement parks.

Some quick history to start things off. Playland officially opened in May, 1928 as the first fully planned amusement park in the country. The Westchester County Park Commission developed the property with the help of industry veterans such as Frank Darling of the L.A. Thompson Scenic Railway Company.

The park's layout, with it's many art deco style buildings, was laid out to feature a 1,200 ft. long mall that ran from the Long Island Sound beach all the way to a man-made lake. Both sides of the tree lined mall featured a variety of amusements, some of which are still in operation today.

In the above photo you can see the park's Music Tower standing 110 ft. tall in the background, one of many such structures at the park that are originals from its opening days.

One of the rides that dates back to around opening, 1929 to be exact, is Ye Old Mill. It's located right at the side entrance to the park, and was one of the first rides we experienced at Playland.

Old Mill style rides are hard to come by these days, although they were quite popular at parks ages ago. Many have been destroyed by time, fires, or lack of upkeep - however Playland has not only maintained theirs but upgraded it.

The ride now features a Mining theme, and it's filled with cool looking animatronic Gnomes and Trolls. There's plenty of special effects and animated creatures along the path - it's really a wonderful experience. Sally Corporation is credited with the re-theme of the attraction, and they did a wonderful job.

It's quite encouraging to see a park spend time and money on a classic attraction like Ye Old Mill. Hopefully it will be around for another generation or two to experience.

Ye Old Mill actually travels under one of Playland's biggest rides - the Dragon Coaster. In fact, the two rides were built at the same time. Dragon Coaster also dates back to 1929, and came to the park as a more family friendly alternative to the long removed Airplane Coaster - known for being quite intense.

The Dragon Coaster isn't one of the biggest or fastest coasters around, but it is a great attraction that the whole family can enjoy. There were lots of camp groups at the park the day we were there, and the younger campers were overjoyed while waiting for the Dragon Coaster. They seemed just as excited after having ridden the coaster, too!

The coaster was designed by Frederick Church and is now one of only a handful of his rides still operating. It's also well known for it's Dragon themed tunnel, seen above, which even has special effects at the entrance!

I took at lot of shots like this one while at the park. Having been to quite a few amusement parks I can say that it's not common to find green space in them like Playland has. We visited on a cloudy day but I'm not sure it'd have made a difference if it was sunny - the park is filled with mature trees providing plenty of shade. The cooler temperatures mixed with salty sea air makes for a wonderful environment. It really has that classic amusement park feel to it, you know?

Being a lover of dark rides, I felt quite at home while at Playland. Technically they have three traditional dark rides, counting Ye Old Mill. Above is the Flying Witch - probably one of the most unique names for a ride I've come by. It's a mash up of scary scene after scary scene - plenty of loud noises and creepy lightning to be found in there.

The Zombie Castle is similar in ride experience to the Flying Witch. The rides have no set story line to follow - it's just one scare after another. This one actually dates back to the 1930s when it was named Laff In The Dark.

Tucked back in the corner of the park is the Crazy Mouse. If tight twists and turns are your style, then you will love this ride. Technically speaking, the ride is a Zamperla Zig Zag, and is somewhat smaller than other mice, but still packs a punch.

I must say that I rather enjoy it's paint scheme as well. Playland has a one price admission wrist band that you scan at the entrance to each ride to gain admittance. Sometimes this helps gets riders through quickly, but other times it slows things down quite a bit if the bands won't scan. The reason I mention that here is because it seemed to happen an awful lot at the Crazy Mouse.

We'll finish our tour of Rye Playland in Part 2 - coming very soon!