Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Dorney Park's 20 Years of Cedar Fair - Part 3

This is the third in a series of posts looking back at the first twenty years of Cedar Fair's ownership of Dorney Park.  If you've missed the earlier posts, start at the first one via this link.

By the time 2003 rolled along it was clear that Wildwater Kingdom needed some attention, as the large crowds the descended on it during the Summer months were pushing it to the max.

To help remedy that, the 2003 season's capital expansion, which totaled $6 million, was heavily focused on Wildwater Kingdom, creating a renovated park that was easier to navigate and filled with new attractions.

Layout for the large new slide tower
Just inside the entrance to the water park was a set of body slides that had opened with Wildwater Kingdom in 1985.  They were showing their age, to put it quite nicely - and by removing them and utilizing some additional space that was once a part of Thrills Unlimited, an area filled with extra-charge attractions, a large new slide tower went in.

Part of making room meant that the upper set of go-karts - which was the only remaining piece of Thrills Unlimited - had to be removed.

While they share one main stair tower, there are actually two attractions that went up where the body slides once stood.  Patriot's Plunge starts at the 51 foot level and features a red, white, and blue slide that riders head down in tubes, each of the slides vary in length from 275 feet to 405 feet.

Lower down at 40 feet in height is Wildwater Rapids.  These four brightly colored body slides range from 182 feet to 308 feet in length, two of which are open and two enclosed.

A drawing of Jumpin' Jack Splash
On the other side of Wildwater Kingdom, close to the original wave pool, another slide tower was added.

Named Jumpin' Jack Splash, the tower consists of three body slides that were purposely built to accommodate smaller riders.  The three slides range from 180 to 202 feet in length, and serve as a great transition between the kiddie play areas and the large, thrill slides.  All ten of the new slides were provided by Whitewater West Industries.

One of Widwater Kingdom's biggest draws when it first opened was the wave pool.  In 2003 the original received some major modifications that brought it up to speed with current times.
The wave pool's new building
Originally the wave pool was as deep as 10 feet in some areas, and the entire grade of the bottom was changed so that the maximum depth was 6 feet.  Additionally, the existing hydraulic wave making system was replaced with a newer pneumatic system for even more realistic waves.

7 of the 10 new slides for 2003
Between the ten new slides and a fully renovated wave pool, Wildwater Kingdom was bigger and better than ever in 2003.  Some of the park's more winding pathways were changed to make the guest flow better as well.

Just after Labor Day, 2003, the park announced that Hercules had closed permanently, and would be removed in anticipation of a brand new roller coaster for 2005.

Promotional image for Revolution
While the new roller coaster was under construction Summer 2004 arrived and with it came another $3.5 million expansion at Dorney Park.

The main attraction of the year was Revolution, a spinning thrill ride that was placed along the midway near Steel Force and Thunderhawk's outward turnaround.

Chance Morgan out of Wichita, Kansas, manufactured Revolution for the park, which seats 32 guests at a time in groups of four.

Revolution Operating at Dorney Park
Feet dangling (seems to be a common ride feature in recent years!), the riders are seated in a large circle which is attached to a center arm.  Independently of each other, the circle begins to rotate as the center arm swings up to 120 degrees in each direction.

The result is a rather disorienting feeling as the ride gondola hits a maximum of 65 feet in the air.

Elsewhere in the park the Center Stage outdoor theater received a permanent cover that made watching the shows much more enjoyable for guests.

The 2004 season also marked the end of John Albino's time as General Manager of the park.  Taking over was John Hildebrandt, who was the VP of Marketing at Cedar Point.

HalloWeekends received a significant expansion in 2004, breathing much new life into the event which had become quite stale over the years.

Several new attractions opened in 2004
The Funzone arcade said goodbye to Dr. Frightners Horror Theater, which was replaced with the Doctor of Doom haunted house.  The experience sent guests down the "corridors of a lunatic's laboratory."

The entrance to The Fright Zone
An entirely new haunted house was built in the unused picnic pavilions behind Laser, which was named Scream Works.  With a distinct industrial feel, Scream Works let visitors peek in on an "assembly line of madness."

The Fright Zone was also added to the lower section of Dorney Park, stretching from near the entrance of Thunderhawk all the way to Steel Force plaza.  Filled with fog, the creepy path had plenty of monsters to go around.

As the season came to a close much of the park's new roller coaster was already constructed, giving visitors who missed Hercules something to look forward to the following year.

Red Garter becomes Game Day Grille
The park's 2005 season opened with the park having just removed two rides, the Joker and Skyscraper, the latter of which was sent to sister park Valleyfair.

That was just the tip of the iceberg as far as changes for 2005 went, the season was a very big one for Dorney Park.

For starters the Red Garter Saloon was changed into Game Day Grille, featuring a sports theme.  The restaurant hadn't had live entertainment in a long time, and the refreshing of the property was well received.

The Screamin' Swing
In the tiny space that was still undeveloped along the Main Midway a new pay-extra attraction was built, named the Screamin' Swing.

Created by S&S Sports Power, the 60 foot tall ride seats 8 passengers at a time.  Using compressed air, the ride's arms blast the four person cars up into the air at a fast speed, somewhat inverting them above the midway below.

The removal of Hercules from the park upset a lot of fans, but once Hydra: The Revenge was announced quite a few felt a little better about the replacement ride.  Created by Bolliger and Mabillard, Hydra was to be one of the company's new floorless coasters, where nothing but the track was beneath riders feet.

The original press concept art
Hydra used the land that Hercules sat on for the most part, though it did not extend down to the park's lower lake.  The coaster, which features a combination of greens on its track, and a teal support structure, was meant for inversions, seven of them to be exact.

From concept to reality
The theme of Hydra played into the fact that it took over Hercules' place in the park.  In Greek mythology one of Hercules' twelve labors was to destroy Hydra, though one of its nine heads was immortal and even after being buried under a huge stone by a lake it was waiting for its revenge.

"Thoughout the years, and undetected by Hercules, the immortal head of Hydra was slowly rejuvenating beneath the large stone at the edge of Dorney Park Lake.  

One dark autumn night it happened.  While Hercules slept, the creature Hydra emerged from beneath the great stone to seek its revenge.  Using its nine powerful heads and whip-like tail, it attacked the unsuspecting Hercules with a ferocity never before witnessed and destroyed the once proud hero.

Hydra under construction at Dorney Park
Mighty Hercules is gone and a new master rules the kingdom by the lake called Dorney Park, forever to be called Hydra... The Revenge!"

Yes, the story is a tad dramatic, but it is rather fitting how the ride was named to create a backstory, something no other ride really had at the park.

Hydra construction webcam
Hydra's 3,198 feet of track had a station placed nearly right where Hercules' was, however it started off with a rather unique element named a JoJo roll.  The element was named after the park's VP of Construction, Joe Greene, who came up with the idea for a slow, twisting inversion right out of the station before the lift hill takes place.

Topping out at 95 feet, the ride uses the hillside terrain to its advantage, creating a 105 foot, 68 degree first drop into a rocky ravine.  
Color palette of Hydra

Hitting a maximum speed of 53 miles per hour Hydra flips its riders through almost exaggerated versions of common Bolliger and Mabillard elements.  A large cobra roll, which inverts the train twice in quick succession, towers over the lower section of Dorney, right where the Joker stood the prior year.

Since Hydra uses two trains no mid-course brakes were needed so the trains hops toward the backside of the hill and performs another inversion then a helix that clings to the side of the hill before the ride returns to the station.

Hydra represented a $13 million investment in 2005, not counting the park's other additions and renovations.

The 2005 season also saw another change in leadership.  After being at the park for a year, John Hildebrandt moved back to Cedar Point to be that park's General Manager.  Replacing him by the time the park opened for the year was Greg Scheid, who was already with Cedar Fair working in merchandise and games.

Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom had just done a major expansion in the water park a few years prior, but with the crowds as strong as ever, even more capacity was needed.

One of Wildwater Kingdom's (and most water parks for that matter) most popular attractions was the Wave Pool, but even with its large size it still filled up with guests quickly when the park opened.  Not only did the pool get crowded, but the lounge areas surrounding it filled up just as quickly.

Before and after for the 2nd wave pool
To remedy this the park decided to move forward with adding a second wave pool, a large $4.5 million expenditure for the park but one much needed.  The new pool would be roughly two thirds the size of the current one.

The addition allowed operators to boast of all the water park's attractions:  "On May 27, 2006, Wildwater Kingdom will open for the season offering the latest in heat relief with the addition of another wave pool and private cabanas.

The finished Wildwater Cove
Adding to its already impressive collection of attractions which includes 18 water slides, three aquatic playlands for children, a water funhouse, two tubing rivers, and other water activities, Wildwater Kingdom will be home to two wave pools in 2006."

Eventually named by the park as Wildwater Cove, the expansion took up a portion of what was once the season pass holder's parking lot at the upper end of the park.  More common now, it made the park one of only a handful that featured two separate, full sized wave pools.

Talon soars behind Wildwater Cove
It was designed by Neuman Pools, Inc and features pneumatically generated waves, a major update in technology from older methods.  Wildwater Cove covers 21,000 square feet of space and holds 500,000 gallons of water.  The entry point for the pool features many geysers bursting up, allowing for extra fun.

In addition to the pool a very large lounge space was created, also to help with the crowds.  Private cabanas also were added along one side of Wildwater Cove, complete with food and beverage service.

While Wildwater Kingdom did receive most of the attention in 2006, Dorney Park did see one significant change in the lower section of the park.

A new Subway replaced the Mansion House Hotel
The Mansion House Hotel & Restaurant, as it was original known, was torn down and replaced with a new Subway sandwich shop.  The building had housed an arcade and several food locations in its latter years, but was credited with being the start of Dorney Park since its restaurant and hotel was one of the first draws to the area.  Sadly the building had become aged to the point where it needed to be removed.

Keeping up with the previous years management changes, 2006 also saw the sudden departure of Greg Scheid, who was sent to Kings Island to be their General Manager.  Replacing him was Jim Yeager, who had been at Dorney Park many years in various roles, including Vice President of Revenue.

AquaRacer being built
Building on the success that Wildwater Kingdom saw with the addition of Wildwater Cove was easy, so easy that the park went ahead and added another new attraction to the water park in 2007.

Certainly not the largest addition the park has ever seen, the slide they chose did offer one thing: higher than usual capacity.

"The new AquaRacer slide attraction will feature six lanes with each lane measuring 300 feet long. Six riders will take their places at their respective lanes with their mats in-hand and then it’s a race to the finish line.

AquaRacer will be located near the Speed Slides and the Lily Pads. The addition of AquaRacer will bring the total number of water slides in Wildwater Kingdom to a record 22."

Riders heading down AquaRacer
The ride took up home in a vacant space adjacent to the park's original wave pool that was empty aside from a couple small trees.  Nearby the Torpedo Tubes slide complex was removed before the start of the 2007 season.

As soon as the ride opened it became a hit at the park.  The competitive nature of the slide was a big draw for families and other groups of visitors.  AquaRacer's blue and teal colors also helped to brighten up one of the older sections of the water park.

Even when the slide has a significant line it moves fairly quickly, due to the fact that six riders head down at a time.  The added capacity the attraction brought was great for the water park even though it had seen considerable expansions in previous years.

Dorney Park press image of AquaRacer
2007 was also the first season that smoking was restricted to certain areas of the park, a move that was meant to provide greater comfort to visitors.

Stay tuned for the 4th and final piece of this series, coming on the real 20th anniversary, this Saturday the 21st!