Thursday, January 31, 2013

Cedar Point Builds GateKeeper's First Keyhole

Earlier this week Cedar Point was able to complete the first of two towers that will make up the highly anticipated keyhole elements on GateKeeper, the park's massive new wing coaster.  The keyholes will stand directly over the park's new main entrance, with the coaster flying through them as guests enter the park.

The massive structure was built in two pieces, the first of which can be seen standing in the photo above.  Cedar Point has also been touting the economic impact that building the new coaster has had on Ohio, and rightfully so.  The $30 million project represents many jobs and business being brought to the area during the cold winter months.

Many local contractors are working on the ride - which will give passengers the above view just before they slip sideways and slide through that small opening - including A.A. Boos & Sons, who has had almost two dozen workers on site involved "in everthing from leveling the site to digging the footers and filling them with cement.  The crew has poured nearly 200 concrete footers of varying sizes to hold supports for GateKeeper."

The finished product, seen above, was built - along with all the other track and supports - at Clermont Steel Fabricators in southern Ohio.  Tony Ravagnani Architects, which is based in Cincinnati, designed and engineered the actual keyhole structures before fabrication.

In order for GateKeeper to take anyone flying through the keyholes, it'll need some power.  That's where Firelands Electric, based in Sandusky, comes in.  They provide control wiring so the coaster can operate - and have pretty lights once the sun goes down.

Since 2007 Cedar Fair has invested more than $130 million in its Ohio properties, the park reports.  GateKeeper will break seven world records when it opens, including longest drop, longest track, and most inversions on a winged coaster.

All photos © Cedar Point

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Aerial Antics: Kings Island

Thanks to Google's new 45 degree images, we have some great recent aerial photos of Kings Island to check out.  The park is quite large, so let's get moving, shall we?

After entering the park, visitors can wander down International Street, with the famous fountains in the center of the area.  Looming beyond the end of the street is the Eiffel Tower, undoubtedly one of the park's main icons.

Added to Kings Island in 1999, this blue coaster was originally name Face/Off.  Now it goes by Invertigo, and just this past season it received its dual blue color scheme.  Previously it was a bright yellow and red combination.  Above it is the back of one of the park's largest live entertainment theaters.

This coaster is one of a dying breed - an Arrow Suspended ride named Flight Deck.  Under Paramount ownership it opened in 1993 as Top Gun, with full theming to the movie of the same name.

This is the recently departed Son of Beast.  From the air the ride's massive wooden structure is even more impressive, if only the ride had been as well.  After sitting idle for several years, the record breaking wooden coaster was just torn down a couple months ago.

Longtime readers know about me and my love of Arrow mine trains, so looking at Adventure Express from above is pretty neat.  Most of the ride is down in a valley with the station up top, meaning most of it is hidden when you are inside the park.  With plenty of covered sections and additional theming (though a lot of it no longer works) this is a classic attraction.

The misfortune of Geauga Lake was the gain of Kings Island, that is how they received this coaster, Firehawk.  One of Vekoma's flying coasters, the ride was placed in the back of the park just beyond the indoor launch coaster, Flight of Fear.

The Racer, the set of wooden coasters seen here, do not fit well into one shot, so I chose to just feature their turn around sections, with the park's 4-D theater in the middle.  I also liked this view because you can see the addition of Windseeker, one of the park's latest tall rides.

Being able to fit the Beast into one aerial shot required zooming out quite a bit!  Still the longest wooden roller coaster on the planet, the Beast stretches 7,359 feet through the wooded hills and valleys behind the park.  After the second lift hill the coaster screams through a gigantic double helix as a solid finale. 

Kings Island's children's area, currently known as Planet Snoopy, wins as the best one in the country year after year.  This show shows a bit of why, there's just a really huge selection of rides and attractions aimed at kids!  The area got a colorful makeover when it became Planet Snoopy a few seasons back.

Diamondback is another tricky coaster to fit into one shot due to its layout.  Much like the Beast, the B&M hyper coaster starts inside the park but then extends back out into the woods behind the park, taking full advantage of the hilly terrain as well.

As if all those rides weren't enough to keep guests busy, Kings Island also offers Soak City, a full water park that was just renovated last year.  The projects included additional relaxing space, a sprucing up and painting of many slides, and the addition of Tidal Wave Bay, the park's second large wave pool.

If you'd like to check out Google's 45 degree images, click here.

Vote In The Best Steel Coaster Poll

Sister to the Best Wooden Coaster Poll, the Best Steel Coaster Poll has returned after taking a two year hiatus.

The poll is as well respected as is the wood coaster version, and is more accurate with every ballot cast.  Thus, it is important that everyone submit their votes, whether you've been on 15 or 500 coasters.

The reason that I have a photo of Six Flags New England's Bizarro up top is because the ride was the #1 steel coaster for six years running as of the last time the poll was conducted, in 2010.  I'm quite excited to see how things turn out this year, especially after the break, with several high profile new steel coasters coming online in the past few seasons.

So make sure you head over and vote!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Cedar Point Starts Easy Pay Program for Hotel Stays

If you've been thinking about planning a trip to Cedar Point to check out GateKeeper once it opens this Summer, the park has given us all a nice incentive to book early.  The resort has announced that they will use their easy pay feature, already online for season pass purchases, to allow guests to pay for their vacation in installments.

"We are always looking for new ways to make the Cedar Point experience easier and more convenient for our guests," said Jack Highsmith, corporate vice president of resort operations. "Our new Easy Pay plan now makes it even more affordable for families and friends while staying overnight at the world's best amusement park."

For those who book their stays before March 1st, the easy pay option will be available.   The total cost of the trip will be split into 4 payments, making the expense a bit more manageable for many folks.  Staying in one of the resort's 1,000 rooms has its benefits, including getting to enter the Point an hour before the general public and the ability to purchase discounted admission tickets.

The easy pay feature is available on the park's official website, located here.  The program comes at a time when many will flock to the park to check out their first new coaster in about six years, GateKeeper.

New Details and Layout for Splish Splash's Water Coaster

We covered the addition of Bootlegger's Run to Splish Splash water park last week, and at that time there was no layout for the ride available.  Seen above, that has changed.  The ride, which features a patriotic red, white, and blue color scheme, will feature several steep plunges and hills after the initial lift.

The layout appeared in the Suffolk Times, and the article gives a few new details about the hydromagnetic water coaster.  It will be built by Proslide, and is described as the seventh of its kind on American soil.  The ride's path will stretch 1,000 feet and riders will board and ground level, erasing the need for a climb up any stairs to a launch platform. 

A ride on Bootlegger's Run will last almost two minutes, which is significantly longer than a typical 20 second experience on a water slide, the park reports.  It is great to see another one of these rides being built, they seem to be extremely popular at existing locations.  Here's to seeing even more of them in the future!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Building the Frozen Landscape of Antarctica

While SeaWorld Orlando has been sharing several videos that are slowly revealing more about the ride experience that will greet visitors in Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin, the park has been quite busy actually building the experience.

The new land within the park will feature a decidedly chilly appearance, with all buildings covered in a layer of fake rock, snow, and an overall glacier-like appearance.  While the actual buildings went up some time ago, the park's workers are now busy turning them into frozen versions of themselves, and things look really nice so far.  Orlando Theme Park News recently featured an update showing off the progress.

For folks who are excited for the new expansion to open, SeaWorld has launched a new mobile App to help keep them up to date.  The app contains behind-the-scenes teaser videos, penguin fun facts and trivia, and even the ability to enter a contest to win a trip to the park.  The app is already available for iPhone/iPad, and will be ready soon for Android devices.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

PortAventura Launches $10 Million Water Park Expansion

PortAventura theme park and resort, located in Tarragona, Spain, has had a rather busy couple of years.  They've added an entire new Sesame Street themed children's section to the park, and this past season debuted Europe's tallest coaster, the massive Shambhala B&M hyper coaster.

The park, which is part of a larger resort consisting of other activities, hotels, and amenities, is in the middle of a $75 million expansion plan that will last several years.

This year the resort will see a major, $10 million expansion to the water park on property, known as Costa Caribe Aquatic Park.  Featuring a Caribbean theme, the water park already features many slides and attractions, as well as an indoor section.

This year, however, the park will be expanded a great deal - the art above shows off the full new collection of attractions.  Breaking records again, the star attraction of the expanded park will be the highest freefall water slide in Europe which stands 31 meters (102 feet) tall at its peak.  Riders will plummet down at a 55 degree angle as they race toward the finish.  Attached to the same launch tower will be another slide, staring from about 60 feet in the air and featuring several hills on the way down.

Another new addition, and quite popular in the industry these days, will be a six lane mat racing slide.  Families will be able to race each other down a series of hills and slopes until one is declared the winner at the finish line.

As if those new slides weren't enough there is a large pool area that can be seen in the concept art.  This will feature a children's area with a enormous pirate ship, seen above, themed to the Sesame Street characters.  There will be several small slides coming from the ship's deck, which is also filled with play elements.  A small splash pad will also be build adjacent to the ship.

Finally, located a small level up from the children's area will be a more secluded adult pool.  Meant as a place for grown ups to both take a swim or relax in the water, it will feature "water beds" and plenty of waterfalls.  The entire expansion area will be heavily themed to match the existing Caribbean theme, which includes more than 50 species of plants and palm trees.

When the expansion is complete the Costa Caribe Aquatic park will feature sixteen attractions and slides.  I can't wait to see what's next for the resort!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Gold Striker Hits the Home Stretch

© California's Great America
New photos show that there's only a little bit of structure left to complete on Gold Striker at California's Great America.  This shot shows that only the crown of the lift hill and the main portion of the first drop need to be built before the ride's 3,197 foot long circuit is closed.  It also gives us a good idea of how much height that first turn after the initial plunge has, before plunging down to ground level.  And unique start to the ride, indeed!

© California's Great America
Uh oh - looks like I misspoke above.  Technically the circuit will not be closed when the first drop is done because this photo shows that not much work has started on the ride's station yet.  The footers and cement pad is poured, but the structure has not started to go up.  Still, when the first drop is done that will certainly be a milestone.

The latest photos from the park also show that a lot of the ride's features that went up earlier in the winter are now tracked... just waiting for trains to come rumbling along.

Poll Reminder - New for 2013 Coasters

There's just a handful of days left to vote for which new for 2013 American roller coaster you're most anticipating... with many great choices which one has your eye?

Make sure you vote over on the left!

New Rides Going Up at Fun Spot America

© Fun Spot America
The huge expansion that will turn Fun Spot Action Park into Fun Spot America is well underway, with heavy digging underway and rides starting to reach for the sky.

The above aerial photo, taken from the park's stream of the latest construction shots, really shows off how far along the development is.  On the left side the new parking lot is moving closer to being paved, and if you look close you can see almost all the footers for the White Lightning wooden coaster are in place.

The large holes that are being dug on the lower left are for the Freedom Flyer Vekoma inverted family coaster.  You can also spy the pond that the Skycoaster will swing riders over, and the new entrance building just off the parking lot.

© Fun Spot America
The park also just received its first delivery of the supports for Freedom Flyer, which are a bright blue color.  If the artwork stays true, the track will be a bright yellow. 

I'm sure we will be seeing much more from Fun Spot America soon - vertical construction of GCI's White Lightning should start any day and the metal support structure means its gonna go up fast!

Friday, January 25, 2013

New Mat Racing Slide Headed to Waterville USA

A brand new water attraction will be ready for the Summer season, according to Waterville USA, located in Gulf Shores, Alabama. 

The new attraction does not have a name yet, but will be a six lane mat racing water slide.  Starting from a high point of 55 feet above the ground, riders will first pass through a "harrowing tunnel circling 360 degrees high in the air before exploding out onto a high speed straightaway for a race toward the checkered finish."

Similar version of the new slide, at Cedar Point's Soak City
The park fully expects guests to have fun racing one another down the slide, in order to see who can reach the finish line first.  The six lane operations of the new slide tower will dramatically increase the capacity of the water park.  In order to fit the new attraction, some of the older, and lower capacity, slides will be removed.

Expected to be similar to the slide tower pictured above, Waterville USA's version will feature a different color scheme for each lane, but still feature a checkered finish area.  The park reports that their new attraction will be the first of its kind in the Gulf Coast.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Kentucky Kingdom's New Lease on Life

The Kentucky State Fair Board has voted to approve a 50 year lease with Kentucky Kingdom LLLP, which plans to reopen the amusement and water park for the 2014 season.

The park operators have agreed to invest an initial $45 million into the park, $25 million of which is in private funding and $20 million of which is equity funding.  The lease is contingent on the operators securing that $25 million in private funding within 90 days.

The park will have to spend at least $13 million to get the park reopened in 2014, and another $3 must be kept on had as a reserve.  Between the years 2015 and 2016, another $7 million must be spent.  After that at least $1 million a year must be spent on improving Kentucky Kingdom.

The main developer behind the new operators, Ed Hart, has already pointed out that they will probably go well above those figures to add new rides and attractions.  Key details of the new lease are outlined in this story.

The developers still intend to build two new thrill rides at Kentucky Kingdom, and double the size of the current water park.  The Greezed Lightnin' shuttle loop coaster will be removed, and Twisted Twins will not be ready for the first couple of seasons due to the drastic amount of work the pair of wooden coasters require.  A recap of the plan that Mr. Hart had submitted earlier is available here.  Of note was his plan to build a large new B&M coaster for the park's 2015 season.

This is very good news for the park, hopefully things proceed as planned from this point and the park does reopen.  We know the story so far has been full of twists and turns though, so I think we will still watch with bated breath.

Splish Splash Building New Water Coaster

Splish Splash water park, located on Long Island in New York, has announced the addition of a large new attraction, set to open for visitors this Summer.  Known as Bootlegger's Run, the new slide will be a hydromagnetic water coaster, the first of its kind in New York.

“Imagine a cross between a whitewater raft ride and a roller coaster,” general manager Mike Bengtson explained. “Bootlegger’s Run is like a roller coaster that races on water instead of rails.”

Spread out on almost two acres of land, Bootlegger's Run will utilize rafts that can carry up to four guests at a time.  The water coaster will reach a maximum height of almost five stories, and race to speeds of almost 30 miles per hour.  A layout for the new ride is not yet available.

Bootlegger's Run will be the largest single capital expenditure in the history of the water park.  While not listed in the press sheet, it would probably be safe to say that the ride will be created by Proslide, known for their hydromagnetic water coasters.

Splish Splash water park is owned by Palace Entertainment, which is in turn owned by Parques Reunidos.

Quassy Renames Waterpark as Expansion Continues

No longer known as Saturation Station, Quassy Amusement Park has decided that along with its massive water park expansion the facility should have a new name:  Splash Away Bay.

The name Splash Away Bay was actually considered for the new sprayground area that is being built, "but the more we thought about it, the better Splash Away Bay sounded as an overall water park title," said Quassy President Eric Anderson.

© Quassy Amusement Park
The new sprayground area will now be knows as the Fish Pond, reflective of the area's catering to smaller guests to Splash Away Bay.  It will join a new slide tower that will have several attractions stemming from it.

The BulletBowl slide will feature two person rafts that drop more than 30 feet in a gigantic bowl, allowing them to spin around the outside until gravity takes over and gently helps the rafts exit into a landing trough.

© Quassy Amusement Park
Also on the same tower will be a pair of FreeFall slides, a type of extreme bodyslide where riders slide down at a rate of more than 20 feet per second.  Together the two flumes will be able to accommodate more than 300 riders per hour.

The water park expansion is part of a $5 million plan that started in 2009 and first saw the addition of the Free Fall 'N' drop tower in 2010 and the Wooden Warrior roller coaster in 2011.  As seen in the above recent photos from the park, the construction of the new attractions in Splash Away Bay are well under way.

B&Ms Going Backwards?

A new trend, each seeming to have a limited time run, that has suddenly turned up for the upcoming season is a series of parks announcing that their B&M coasters will be running... backwards.

This is not something that most folks ever thought we'd see, however, it's definitely happening on at least three rides this year.  From some details that have leaked out, it sounds like B&M are quite involved in the process, so perhaps this was a plan they had worked on to breath new life into some of their coasters.

First, and pictured above, the Swarm at England's Thorpe Park, which just opened last year, will turn the last two rows of each train backwards.  This will create quite a different ride experience, especially considering it is a wing coaster.  The park is also touting a new "near miss" element, with no further details announced yet.

You'll have to dust off your reading in Japanese skills for the next ride, but Universal Studios Japan will be turning around the trains on their Hollywood Dream: The Ride B&M almost-hyper coaster starting the middle of March.  Actually, I'm not clear on whether it will just be one train or all, because my Japanese reading skills are poor at best.  Still, the hyper coaster style layout of the ride will be most excellent backwards, I'm sure.

And finally, the biggest head turner, at least in this writer's opinion, is backwards Batman at Six Flags Great America.  The park has only pseudo announced it officially, so watch for more news from the park soon.  It seems both trains will be turned around, and on what is already one of the most intense designs out there I think that riding Batman backwards will be, well, yzarc! (get it, that's crazy backwards!)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Latest GateKeeper Photos - First Section of Keyhole Arrives!

Cedar Point received a very special delivery today, the first of four gigantic pieces of steel support structure that will become GateKeeper's keyhole elements when assembled.  The piece that arrived today is 75 feet long and traveled to Cedar Point from Clermont Steel Fabricators (which Scott & Carol took us on a tour of in 2008!) which is also located in Ohio.

Here the truck, which the park reports required a special permit due to its size, arrives at the Cedar Point property. 

The giant piece was dropped off in front of the park, where it will eventually be assembled and stand 100 feet over the new entrance to the Point.  As we well know, GateKeeper's trains will soar right through the opening in the towers, creating a dramatic start to many guests' days at the park.

No small beast, each piece weighs about 65,000 pounds so I can understand the extreme caution the park needed to take when unloading this from the truck.

The remaining three pieces of keyhole structure will arrive at the park later this week, and be assembled early next week.  Cedar Point report's that with 50% of GateKeeper's track in place the ride is on schedule to be ready for opening day, May 11th 2013.

All photos © Cedar Point

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Silverwood Adding Two New Rides in 2013

After much teasing and toying with fans of the property, Silverwood Theme Park has finally announced their two new ride additions for the 2013 season.  In total, the park will spend $2.2 million to bring the new rides on board.

The first of the two rides will cater to families, and be known as the Barnstormer.  The ride gently rotates two carriages filled with riders in a vertical circle, keeping them upright at all times. The ride was manufactured by Zamperla, and originally opened at another park in the year 2000.

The second new ride will be the big thriller, a gigantic swinging disk ride, standing 104 feet tall.  The ride seats 24 passengers at a time, and is manufactured by VISA International.  Positioned in outward facing seats, riders will experience up to three and a half Gs while the ride is in operation.

The park does not have a name for the attraction yet because they will holding a contest to do so, with details coming soon on the park's website.

Both new rides are expected to be ready when Silverwood Theme Park opens for the season in May.

Carowinds Announces Catering Improvements for 2013

In additional the previously announced addition of Dinosaurs Alive! for the park's 2013 season, Carowinds has also announced the addiction of the Grove, a new catering and special events area capable of hosting up to 15,000 people per day.

The Carowinds Grove will greatly expand the capacity for private events at the park, and will be located at the park's North Gate, near the Intimidator coaster.
According to the park, the Grove will be "beautifully landscaped, with six venues will be named for the trees that grace the park and thrive throughout the Carolinas; the Cedar, Oak, Maple, Magnolia, Palmetto and Dogwood areas will offer visitors a private space to gather, enjoy a meal, and spend time with friends and co-workers.  In addition, The Grove will include a new VIP room to host upscale events; the enclosed, air-conditioned Rose room will offer Audio/Video capabilities to meet any need from business meetings to award ceremonies."

The expansion will also include beefed up kitchen facilities, capable of creating up to 3,000 meals per hour.  The expanded menus will include everything from "barbeque sandwiches to prime rib to customized cakes for dessert."

The addition marks the second Cedar Fair park to greatly expand their private event facilities this year, with Valleyfair also building a brand new facility.