Monday, December 31, 2012

NPN's Look Back at 2012

In last year's look back at 2011 I wrote how there was so much to look forward in 2012, so much in fact that it made it pretty easy to say goodbye to '11.  Now that that exciting year will come to an end at the stroke of midnight tonight, I thought we could take a look back at it. A full year for the theme park industry to say the least, we'll just be looking at some of the highlights from each month.  Time warp - let's go!

Technically Legoland Florida opened in 2011, but I'd be remiss if I did not make mention of its spectacular performance in 2012.  Between their first full year of operation, and the reopening of the water park, and the announcement of more new stuff - things appear to have gone quite well for the park.  Scott & Carol posted their coverage of the property in January, introducing our readers to the park in detail.  The month also marked the first day of work for Matt Ouimet as Cedar Fair's CEO - a seemingly small thing that will speak volumes over the next few years.

I'm sorry February, but you're a cold and ugly month.  Still, some things that happened during this month in 2012 had ride fans drooling on their keyboards.  Both Shambhala at PortAventura and Leviathan at Canada's Wonderland reached construction milestones, the former reached its high point and the latter completed its track.  A bright spot appeared on the future of Kentucky Kingdom when it was announced that the Koch family planned to reopen it as Bluegrass Boardwalk.  The plans fell through later in the year, but it was quite a development at the time.

It was still quite early in the year, but March brought the first round of new ride openings.  Scott and Carol were at Dollywood to cover the opening of Wild Eagle, the park's anticipated wing coaster from B&M.  Across the pond, two other large rides opened to passengers for the first time as well:  the stellar looking Wodan at Europa Park and The Swarm, another B&M wing coaster, at Thorpe Park.

Busy, busy, busy - lots of ride openings were the focus in April here on NPN, with a busy schedule of covering them all.  Everyone was waiting to see how Busch Gardens Williamsburg's Verbolten turned out, and Scott and Carol were there to tell us when the ride opened.  Later in the month they headed up North to take a spin on B&M's tallest coaster - ever - which also happens to be over 300 feet tall.  Leviathan at Canada's Wonderland is a monster both literally and figuratively, as the duo reported.  Later in the month I checked out Dorney Park's pair of new offerings, Stinger and Dinosaurs Alive!

Who doesn't love a good surprise?  May started out with one from Cedar Point, that Wildcat would be removed in favor of additional seating for Luminosity.  It's amazing looking back at just how many ride openings Scott & Carol hit this year, as May also saw X-Flight's premier at Six Flags Great America.  It is not often that we write about a whole new park opening in the U.S., but that's exactly what we were able to do when Galveston Pleasure Pier opened in May.  The seaside amusement park in Texas combines classic rides with modern thrills.

One coaster was really the talk of the town in 2012, and we finally got to check out Skyrush at Hersheypark in June.  For any fan of intense rides, Skyrush provides some of the most extreme ejector airtime I've felt.  The Summer also really picked up with new attractions opening on the West coast, and Kevin was there to share the developments with us.  Two big theme parks offered two big new attractions: the entire new Cars Land at Disney California Adventure, and Transformers at Universal Studios Hollywood.  The next big opening was Superman: Ultimate Flight at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, a unique launched coaster that sits on a small space but packs a big punch.

In between celebrating the country's birthday, NPN also was at the celebration of Six Flags Over Georgia's 45th anniversary in July.  The Summer also marked the 20th anniversary of Dorney Park's ownership by Cedar Fair, which I covered in some seriously lengthy detail for you all.  The (warm) winds of change started to blow as well, with the news that Fiesta Texas' Rattler, Disaster Transport and Space Spiral at Cedar Point, and Kings Island's Son of Beast would be turned to dust.  I set off on one of my coaster-seeking road trips, and documented my trip via several updates.

August was a rather big month for announcing things, both what is coming this year and also what won't be around any more.  Additional items that would be retired included Flashback and the Texas Chute Out at Six Flags Over Texas, and Perilous Plunge at Knott's Berry Farm.  Those may have been bummers, but they were quickly overshadowed by some mega-announcements.  Cedar Point unveiled GateKeeper, Silver Dollar City took the wraps off of Outlaw Run, California's Great America gave the details of Gold Striker, and Six Flags revealed more new stuff than you can shake a stick at for all their parks.

Don't tell the parks that Halloween actually takes place in October, not September.  While it was a little early, NPN was out covering several Halloween events in September, including the Haunt at Worlds of Fun and Fright Fest at Six Flags Great Adventure.  We also launched a new series on NPN, the Vault, showcasing some of the older stuff we have laying around.  New announcements continued during September as well, including news from Kings Dominion, Wild Adventures, and Darien Lake.

The screams of the recently departed continued into October, with plenty more in-park coverage of hauntings across the country.  Scott & Carol got into the swing of things with the Haunt at Kings Island, the Phantom Fright Nights at Kennywood, and Six Flags Great America's Fright Fest.  All those scares, I'm glad they survived! Dorney Park celebrated their fifth anniversary of Haunt with another year of screams.  Everyone got a bit of a wicked treat when they got to check out the deconstruction of Son of Beast, for it is not every day we get to see a ride of this size come down. 

The month of November is a big one for our industry, that's when the annual IAAPA trade show takes place.  A series of updates from Scott and Carol kept us in the loop on all the news.  Some of the special announcements included the unveiling of Outlaw Run's cars, and the addition of an inversion on Mt. Olympus' Hades.  Several other updates included plenty of hidden gems that all show off the latest and greatest the amusement industry has to offer.  And as if all that wasn't enough, a brand new water park, Aquatica San Diego, was announced!

Finally, the current month we are saying farewell to, December.  One of the largest news items so far has been the opening of New Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom in Disney World.  Filled with new rides, shows, and restaurants, the new area has created quite a buzz for its level of theming and attention to detail.  It is also fitting that as the year rolls to an end we take a look at what 2013 has in store with stories like an update of the well underway GateKeeper at Cedar Point and a brand new addition to Miniland at Legoland Florida.

So that's 2012 according to NewsPlusNotes, at least a condensed version of the 558 posts that were written this year.  Thanks to all our readers for stopping by, we certainly look forward to checking out all that 2013 has to offer with you guys!  Happy New Year!

Scott And Carol Present - A Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex Update

On Thursday, Dec. 27, Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex unveiled the first phase of improvements designed to dramatically enhance the guest experience. The brand new $16 million entry is part of the 10-year Master Plan developed by Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex concessioner, Delaware North Companies Parks and Resorts, in partnership with NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

The new entry includes a grand plaza and fountain; ticket stations and self-service kiosks; will call, guest services and information stations; a retail shop; and a restaurant. And those visiting during the holiday season will be among the very first to experience the brand new entry.

Photo courtesy of Kennedy Space Center

 Entering from the parking lot visitors encounter the grand plaza, featuring the first-ever 3D representation of NASA's insignia that spans 13 feet in diameter. To the right of the globe stands a majestic 75-foot long fountain that pays homage to the dreams of late President John F. Kennedy, for whom NASA’s Kennedy Space Center is named. Kennedy’s face, along with a quote from his famous 1962 “moon speech” at Rice University, are laser etched onto a skyward-reaching arch of blue granite that stands 30-feet at its highest point. 

The 5,000-gallon fountain is spectacularly lit in the evenings with LED lights and features 26 jets of water that can be programmed to create inspiring light shows for guests as they exit the complex or during evening special events or exhibitions.

 Photo courtesy of Kennedy Space Center

The changes to the entrance and ticket plaza, are just the initial elements in a start of the Center's comprehensive plan. Space shuttle Atlantis, still covered in 16,000 square feet of shrink wrap, is  in the middle of a construction zone. The new shuttle $100 million, 90,000-square foot exhibit showcasing the shuttle and celebrating the 30-year space shuttle program is slated to open in July of 2013.

The Vehicle Assembly Building, or VAB in NASA terminology, is now open to the public for tours for the first time since it became operational. For those of you who remember the original trips to the moon, during that time it was called the Vertical Assembly Building, since they various parts of the rockets were stacked bottom to top as they were assembled for launch. There was no public access while rockets with dangerous chemicals were on site.

This look up the transfer aisle shows the tallest  vertical enclosed space in the world. This building is so large, the 4th largest building in the world by volume, that under proper conditions it can even create its own rainstorm inside. Massive cranes with the ability to move heavy loads in the tiniest fractions of an inch picked up the parts here and moved them into the proper assembly bay.

Everything that come in this building has to be lifted over 160 feet up to the open bays and then lowered down to the transporter on top of the crawler, which is 50 feet high by itself. You to can take a peek inside one of the iconic structures of the Kennedy Space Center by signing up for the Up Close Tour. 
Our thanks to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex for the update, July cannot get here quick enough!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

From The Vault: New for 1996 at Worlds of Fun

In last week's Vault I shared the 1996 park map from Worlds of Fun.  This week we will continue to look at some of the park's press materials from that year, when several new attractions were featured.

Part of the information that the park shared was a general release about what was new and happening at the theme park.  The additions included the Detonator tower ride, RipCord, and the addition of the Berenstain Bear family (not the land, though, just meet and greet opportunities).  The park also featured a heavily discounted gate ticket for the evening, and kids got in for only $4.95!

RipCord was an extra admission thrill attraction that simulates "sky-diving, hand-gliding, and bungee jumping," according to this press release.  A Skycoaster, this style of attraction was already popular at many amusement parks across the globe.  RipCord was positioned so that fliers swing out over the Beat Street Lake, adding to the thrill.

Here is a diagram of the attraction that was sent out, to provide a visual of 180 foot tall ride.  The Worlds of Fun version of the ride featured room for one set of fliers at a time, where some others could accommodate two at a time.

The biggest news of the year was Detonator, a brand new S&S Sports Power double-tower space shot ride.

Here's the fact sheet for the ride.  Each tower seats 12 riders and blasts them up the 200 foot tower at 45 miles per hour.  The sheet also points out that Detonator was the "first two-tower design" and also the "first at a theme park in the United States."  As we are well aware many, many more tower installations quickly were built around the world - including almost every Cedar Fair park.

And how about some concept art for the ride?  Unfortunately the image that I received was not in color, but it's still pretty neat to check out. 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Building Harry's New Home in Universal Studios Japan

Universal Studios Hollywood may not have started much work on their new Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but Universal Studios Japan sure hasn't been waiting around!

Over on the Theme Park Construction Board (which you should check out if you haven't, lots of great stuff gets posted there) some new photos of the gigantic show building for - I assume - Hogwart's castle has been built already.

Sure, it helps that Japan's Wizarding World will take up residence in a former parking lot meaning almost no ground work other than concrete removal was needed before foundations could go in.  Hollywood, however, has some massive land projects needed before Harry can move in.

Check out the photos of the new show building going up at this link.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Knott's Busy Creating a New Boardwalk

via Knott's Network
With an entire newly re-themed Boardwalk area to be created, Knott's Berry Farm has been wasting no time in starting the heavy construction work.

The biggest part of the expansion - the extended wild mouse coaster named Coast Rider - has seen the most work done so far.  Footers for the ride are well underway, showing off how the ride will sit in its given area.  It will utilize most of the space that Perilous Plunge used for the lift, turn around, and drop - it's actually amazing how nicely the coaster will fit in that exact area.

The former water ride's large lagoon will be used for the expansion's other two new attractions, the Surfside Glider Flying Scooters and the Pacific Scrambler.  Those two rides aren't quite as far along, but with the new year around the corner I have a feeling work will pick up.

More photos of the construction of Coast Rider can be seen in this recent update from Westcoaster.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Want to Own a Part of SeaWorld?

If you're in the market for a new investment, you could soon be able to be a part owner of SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, though technically it will be known as SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. if the offering goes though.

Paperwork has been filed that would start the process of a initial public offering of stock in the company, which would be spun off of the Blackstone Group, who purchased the chain of theme, water, and animal parks in 2009 from Anheuser-Busch InBev.  Blackstone would still own a majority of the shares, keeping it as the largest owner of the new public company.

A story from the Wall Street Journal points out that this is very tough time for public offerings in general, and depending on many economic factors the offering could be delayed, or cancelled all together.  If the plan moves forward the company will be traded under the symbol SEAS.  All parks that are currently a part of SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, including the Busch Gardens properties, would be included in the new company.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Kung Fu Panda's New Land of Awesomeness

© Dreamworld
Australia's Dreamworld has opened their new themed area in time for their Summer season (how I miss Summer already), themed around Dreamwork's Kung Fu Panda.  In fact, the area is officially called Kung Fu Panda: Land of Awesomeness.  It is part of the park's Dreamworks Experience, which consists of several mini-lands with other themes such as Shrek and Madagascar.

The new area features a couple rides, one of which is a renovated bumper car attraction titled Skadoosh. 

© Dreamworld
The other new ride is much bigger and gives quite a thrill: a Zamperla Air Race named Pandamonium.  The ride has some neat theming, including cars that look like rickshaws from the side, and the front seats have nothing in front of them at all giving a wide open feeling of freedom.  According to this report from Parkz, the park is currently operating the ride in two modes, one where the cars invert and one where they do not.  The queue is divided, letting riders pick their intensity and the ride runs alternating cycles.  Not surprisingly, it sounds like the fully inverting cycle is far more popular!

Iron Rattler and GateKeeper Progress

© Six Flags Fiesta Texas
The gifts just keep on coming!  Though the main event of the season is now over, there's still plenty of new-coaster updates to keep us hanging on, right?

Above is one of several panoramic photos that Six Flags Fiesta Texas shared just before the holiday.  It is of the section of track that runs on the top of the cliff midway through the ride's course.  You can see some of the extreme banking that is used as the train turns on its side, then rights itself, only to do it again!  And that little bunny hill at the end looks like it could be pretty wicked.

The park has the ride's new track on the top of the lift hill and start of the drop, but the area after that is still underway.  This one just gets better and better with each update!

© Cedar Point
Even with plenty of snow and the holiday, things haven't totally slowed on the progress of Cedar Point's GateKeeper, either.  Pointbuzz is featuring some new shots of the ride's recently added air-time hill, which is half completed.  The element will be directly after the inversion seen above, and many are hoping that it might give a more than usual amount of air on a B&M.

The new photos also show the massive footers going in for the keyhole elements that will stand directly over the park's entrance.  That's going to be one impressive front gate when all is said and done.

Monday, December 24, 2012

'Tis The Season

Happy Holidays from all of us here at NewsPlusNotes!  We hope you have a joyous and safe holiday season, filled with happy times and great memories.  If you're really lucky, maybe you'll even get in a coaster ride or two!

We will be back on Wednesday once the wrapping paper has stopped flying, the cookies are all consumed, and Santa is safely resting on a well deserved vacation in Hawaii. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

From The Vault: Worlds of Fun 1996 Park Map

In 1996 Worlds of Fun had this cute little park map that folded up rather tiny, though not as tiny as La Ronde for those of you who've been there, but still small enough to fit in a normal pocket.  The map was most definitely pre-Cedar Fair - even though the park owned it at this point - in both size and style.  

The backside of the map, above, contains some light reading while in the park, such as Health Tips (don't run), Eateries (feed up at the Vittle Griddle), and Live Entertainment (Stax of Wax is a perennial favorite).  Another hint at the non-Cedar Fair style?  The q-tips that represent the park tips section.  Kinda gross?  I had to flip around most of the panels to make it readable without being able to rotate your head... well I guess rotating the image is easier.

But all that is just a prelude to the good stuff, the actual map on the backside.  A lot has changed in the past sixteen or so seasons, and I won't pick out every change - you guys can hunt for those on your own.  The Zambezi Zinger is still standing proud, however, but not for long.  And if we all knew that the removal of The Plunge could eventually lead to a stellar GCI wooden coaster, who wouldn't have gone and helped tear it down themselves!

You have to love the amount of detail that is layered into the map, even if that means that all the park guests have awkward bug-eyes.  It fees squished, but for the handy size of the publication I suppose that was the cost.  This map is part of a much larger press kit from the park's 1996 season, perhaps we should check that out here in the Vault in the future?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Scott And Carol Present - Stars Wars At Legoland Florida

Having been open for just over one year, Legoland Florida has breathed new life into Winterhaven. There is also a waterpark, open during the summer season. 

Here is a fisheye view of the massive Miniland, from the eating deck outside the restaurant. 

It's not hard to find the new Star Wars displays, you just have to follow the pennants. 

This video, courtesy of Orlando Attractions Magazine, demonstrates the exciting opening. Too bad it was just 2 days before we arrived at Orlando for IAAPA 2012. 

Episode I: Naboo is one of the most geographically varied planets in the Star Wars movies. This scene depicts the Battle of Naboo and the capital Theed – both the Royal Palace and the hangar can be seen. The space ship moves while the battle rages on in the hanger...

In this battle scene, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn encounter and fight the Sith apprentice, Darth Maul.

Episode II: Geonosis: In this scene, visitors have a fantastic view of the Geonosis arena, in which Padmé Amidala, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker battle ferocious creatures...

Witness the clash between Count Dooku’s droid army and the Grand Army of the Republic.

Episode III: Kashyyyk and Mustafar: In this scene, two planets are revealed: Kashyyyk and Mustafar. On one side, you'll be placed right into the Battle of Kashyyyk – the home of Chewbacca and the Wookiees. Here you'll discover fantastic vehicles modeled from LEGO bricks, such as the massive Clone Turbo Tank...

On the other side, catch a glimpse of the fateful duel on Mustafar between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker. Mechanically animated, you can hear the sounds of the lightsabers.

Episode IV: Tatooine: Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, C-3PO and R2-D2 can be spotted in this desert planet, Tatooine. Here you'll discover Uncle Owen’s moisture farm, where Luke Skywalker lived as a child; peek inside the Cantina where the animated Cantina Band plays...

and stand above the spaceport where the largest LEGO model of Han Solo's famous starship, the Millennium Falcon, blasts off. For some of the displays you push a button to start is, while others have passive sensors to detect passersby.

Episode V: Hoth: The Rebels take refuge on this icy planet, Hoth, but the Empire tracks them down and the Rebels are forced to flee. This scene features LEGO models of the Imperial AT-ATs, Rebel snowspeeders...

and Luke Skywalker’s X-wing starfighter. Look closely and you'll see Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia.

Episode VI: Endor - Next we travel to a forest moon and home of the Ewoks, who fight against the Imperial Forces alongside the Rebels. The Endor system plays a key role in Return of the Jedi as the site of the Battle of Endor, fought to prevent construction of the second Death Star. This scene presents the final victory of the Rebel Alliance over the Empire.

Here you can view a large-scale model of an Imperial shuttle on its landing platform, delivering a fearsome passenger - the Dark Lord of the Sith himself, Darth Vader. 

The Clone Wars: Christophsis - The seventh area brings us to a scene from the animated series The Clone Wars on the planet Christophsis. Chronologically, the series takes place between Episode II and Episode III and focuses on the adventures of Jedi Knights Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi. The LEGO scene depicts part of the planet’s surface...

with the largest of all LEGO Star Wars models: an approximately 8-foot tall building from the Crystal City. You will also see a scene showing a battle between Separatist battle droids and Republic clone troopers, complete with smoke from the explosions.

While previously at Legoland Florida all by himself, Darth Vader now occupies part of the plaza on the edge of Miniland. He never said how he felt about the move...

Everyone's favorite robot, R2 D2 is artificial life sized and standing close to Darth Vader. Luckily he is not mobile, else he would scurry far away and nobody could take a picture with him. So our thanks to Samantha, who made this Legoland Florida update possible. And a really big thanks to the modelers of Legoland, who made all these cool displays. It just has to be the best job around. May the Force be with you!