Thursday, October 31, 2013

Ring˚Racer is Open: No Halloween Trick!

Happy Halloween everyone!  Hope you're having a candy filled, costume laden day of fun!

This year the coaster world got a treat, not a trick, on Halloween with the opening of ring˚racer at Germany's Nurburgring.  The S&S designed launched ride was originally built in 2009, but a series of setbacks with the launch system (some quite serious) delayed the opening for years.

The ride is set to launch cars to a maximum speed of 99 miles per hour utilizing a compressed air system, which S&S is famous for.  The launch takes place right alongside the race track at the Nurburgring, and the layout features a tall helix at the end to burn off some of the speed.  After that is a pretty sedate trip back to the station area.

The ride's speed doesn't even place it in the top three fastest coasters in the world, but the quick launch (less than 2 seconds) makes for an intense experience no doubt. 

The Nurburgring's website has more photos of the coaster, and video as well.  2013 has turned out to be quite a year for long-delayed rides to open when you add ring˚racer to Flying Turns!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Aerial Antics: Celebration City

No longer featuring much celebrating at all these days, today we look at Branson's Celebration City - a short lived "night time" theme park.  Meant to be somewhere to head after Silver Dollar City closed for the day, the operation only lasted from 2003 to 2008.

Here we see the entrance area to Celebration City, which was very nicely done - fitting since the park was created by Herschend Family Entertainment.  The park's theme was that of America in the 20th century, with areas themed to past times like a 1920s boardwalk and Route 66.

The park's shoot-the-chutes has a very short life at the park, operating only in 2008.  It was moved from Geauga Lake once that park closed, and is still sitting on the property in Missouri as far as I am aware.

The center of the park featured nice full landscaping, another trait of the park's operators.  Nowadays it has some pads where flat rides used to be located, but most of the buildings look like they've remained in tact.  At least two of these rides (a scrambler and flying scooters) headed further south when Celebration City closed and now reside at sister park Wild Adventures.

The park's go-karts appears as though they could be ready to go in a hurry if need be.  In the upper right is a large pad that I believe used to be the home of a steel coaster known as the Jack Rabbit, which has also been relocated to Wild Adventures.

The night time aspect of the park was emphasized by a large laser light show that was projected onto the massive rock walls seen here.  It helped entice guests to stay till the end of the evening and watch from the large grassy area seen above.  Also in the lower right corner you can see the S&S Double Shot tower, named Accelerator.

Here's a handful of rides that hadn't left the property when these aerials were taken.  The coaster was known as Thunderbolt, and has since been relocated to Colorado.  Also seen are a Ferris wheel and sea dragon... probably since removed as well.  Also take notice of the large Celebration City logo on the roof of the building!

Last, but certainly not least, here is the Ozark Wildcat.  Designed by Great Coasters International, it is currently the company's only coaster to not still be operating.  Like most of the company's rides it features a twisted mess of track, and had Millennium Flyer trains.

To check out Bing's aerials of the park, click here!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Bat Returns to Kings Island

Today marks the 33rd anniversary of the announcement of the original Bat roller coaster at Kings Island, and to celebrate the park has revealed that Flight Deck will undergo a transformation into the Bat for the park's 2014 season.

Flight Deck will be repainted with orange track and two shades of charcoal for the supports, and the ride's trains will be all black.

"There was a lot of passion and enthusiasm around this name change by our guests," Kings Island's vice-president and general manager Greg Scheid said. "They told us this is a name they wanted us to bring back. We listened and we're excited our guests will again be able to fly The Bat at Kings Island in 2014."

The coaster in recent years as Flight Deck
Originally opened as Top Gun, the suspended coaster ride was renamed Flight Deck when Cedar Fair purchased the park.  The new name better fits with the coaster's dynamics, as it flies riders over the landscape in trains that are meant to swing out during turns.  First opened in 1993, the coaster celebrated its 20th anniversary this year and has given over 20 million rides.

The original Bat at Kings Island operated only some of three seasons from 1981-1983 before being removed due to performance issues, giving 1.8 million rides during that time.

The name change and upgrades to this ride are yet another example of the 'new' Cedar Fair - taking pride in their history and celebrating it.  I'm quite pleased to see the change, and for an Arrow suspended ride to receive such care - there are only a handful left in the world.  Kudos to Kings Island for this news!

Busch Gardens Williamsburg Teasing New Water Attraction

Is it a slide?  Or a ride?  I'm not sure, but Busch Gardens Williamsburg is teasing it either way!

The above video was just released, and while it is not clear either way it would appear as though a new slide is on its way to Water Country USA in 2014.

If you pause the video and take a look at the K'nex/Erector Set model they created it almost resembles the Verruckt slide that Schlitterbahn Kansas City is working on, or even Giraffica at Holiday World.  However - the video makes it crystal clear that this attraction will be the first of its kind in North America, so both of those options are out.

Also, I can't believe they really dumped that bucket of water in that nice office!  Pretty funny stuff.  We'll stay tuned to see what the park has planned!

Falcon's Fury Arrives at Busch Gardens Tampa

Busch Gardens Tampa has received delivery of the pieces that will be assembled to become Falcon's Fury, which will be "North America's tallest freestanding drop tower" when it opens in spring 2014.

The Florida theme park has been working on the base of the ride for some time now, and reports that with the delivery of the tower pieces their "engineering team is almost ready to start putting them together."  This week the ride's massive teal and yellow tower sections arrived at the park, making quite a spectacle as they did.

"While smaller components of the 335-foot drop tower have been arriving from several countries in Europe, including Slovakia, Switzerland and Germany, the cylinder sections arrived last week. The vertical tower is comprised of nine sections, each up to 20 feet in diameter and weighing up to 95 tons, or 190,000 pounds."

Together this week's delivery of the tower section represents more than one million pounds of steel.  The delivery came on a journey of over 4,700 nautical miles from the port of Tarragona, Spain and were on the Atlantic ocean for over a month en route.  Once they arrived at the Port of Tampa, the pieces were trucked to Busch Gardens Tampa.

Once Falcon's Fury opens to guests next spring, it will drop them face-first toward the ground at sixty miles per hour.  This will be the first drop tower, which has been created by Intamin, to drop riders facing downward.  You can keep up to date with the ride's progress on the official Falcon's Fury website.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Scott And Carol Present - A Kings Island Banshee Update

It was the last day Kings Island would be open for the  2013 season, and the sky was perfect for photography. Here is how much the they have done from the Eiffel Tower. 
The entire lift hill is made of a larger track spine that reduces in size as the track plunges towards the ground. You can see orange and white clearance flag at the top of the crane just under the track.  

This is the lower section of the field of footers. Banshee will have a drop of 218 feet to the lowest part of the track from the top of the lift hill due taking advantage of the terrain. Without a mid-course brake, the faster speed will occur down in the lower level. 

The columns are adjusted into place, and then the hole will be filled with concrete as part of the capping process. Some caps used to protect the track during transport are laying on top of the footer. A whole box of them was already full from the pieces already in place.

The track is less that 8 feet above the ground at the lowest point.  According to Don Helbig, who led the tour, no additional grading of the ground beneath the coaster will be required.

The yellow strap  helps to stabilize the supports until the rest of the loop is in place. 

Here one footer supports columns going in four different directions. It's details like this that help rein in costs by reducing materials and the assembly required.  

Park guests went to many extremes to get a glimpse of the progress to date on Banshee. 

Both ends of the loop following the first drop are in place but the rest of it is still to be done. It was reported by Don that the track color will be called Mystic Red, and it appears to change depending on the angle of illumination. 

 A nice artsy shot of the work completed to date.

 This view is looking up at at the first drop. It goes any which way but straight as goes right down almost to the ground.

The uncompleted first loop from the side with part of the crane in the back ground. The crane was not attached to the track or supports. 

The queue will be just to left of the lift in this photo. Don didn't share any details concerning it but he did say some of the tombstones presently by the fence will be spread throughout the ride and highlighted at night. Thanks to both Don Helbig and Kings island for this fun way to top off a Sunday afternoon. Coming in April 2014, it's Banshee at Kings Island.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

From The Vault: Kennywood's Roller Coasters

I'm not exactly sure when I received this booklet from Kennywood, but I'd wager a guess that it was in the mid-1990s.  Kennywood had this created to celebrate the long history the park has of building exciting roller coasters, documenting not only the ones still operating, but also lost rides.

As made clear on the cover of the booklet, the tradition of the roller coaster at Kennywood has a long history.  The first ride, dating back to 1902, is shown along with the then latest coaster to be built at the park - Steel Phantom.

It has been quite a while since I've seen the park market itself as the "Coaster Capital of the World," but that was a tagline used for many years.  Nowadays many parks have significantly more coasters than Kennywood does, but an argument could still be made for the quality of rides the park offers, versus the quantity - no doubts there!

The park's first ride was the Figure Eight, a side friction coaster that was marketed as a big thrill, but by today's standards would have been a kiddie ride at best.  The Scenic Railway came next, a popular style of coaster that was found at many trolley parks.

As roller coasters got bigger and better the ones at Kennywood kept up with the trend.  The original Racer and Speed-O-Plane were two more side friction rides, meaning not too thrilling, but in 1921 that was changed.  The Jack Rabbit was opened and featured upstops that allowed a significantly wilder ride.  The ride's famous double-down drop proves that perfectly.

The Pippin came along in 1924 and was another thrilling coaster - also featuring a double down drop into a ravine.

The new Racer went up in 1927 and thankfully is still riding today.  A favorite of many, it features two trains that race each other throughout the course.  The Thunderbolt was a massive redesign of the Pippin, making it more thrilling... considerably so as anyone who's been on the ride knows well.  Only some parts of the Pippin were kept, and a new lift and drop section was added mid-ride.

When this was published, these were the park's most recent additions.  The Laser Loop, a Schwarzkopf shuttle ride was at the park for a decade, lasting until 1990 when it was sold and moved to Mexico.

The Steel Phantom, a record breaking ride at the time, opened in 1991.  As we know it was eventually transformed into an excellent coaster called the Phantom's Revenge.

Since that the park has added Exterminator (1999) and Sky Rocket (2010) to its collection of coasters.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Garfield Gets New Theme Park Representation

ITPS's Dennis Speigel and Garfield
PAWS Inc, the company behind the popular Garfield cartoon series, has announced that the brand will now be represented by International Theme Park Services (ITPS).  The partnership is intended to "introduce the iconic Garfield the Cat character to the domestic and international theme park industry."

"ITPS has been retained to introduce Garfield as a highly popular and highly marketable character in the theme park industry. Garfield's presence will add to the fun and the fantasy experience theme park patrons enjoy by enabling visitors to encounter and interact with this much-loved character. The inclusion of Garfield and his doggy pal Odie will also allow the theme park to have a competitive edge in marketing efforts by offering brand identity."

The famous Garfield comic strip debuted in 1978 and holds the record for being the most widely syndicated cartoon strip.  The brand has resulted in countless books, TV shows and specials, and million of fans around the globe.

Garfield can already be found at a select few theme parks, such as Silverwood in Idaho.  The partnership will be trumpeted at the upcoming IAAPA trade show for the amusement industry, and Dennis Speigel of ITPS has indicated interest from several parks already.

So fair warning to parks everywhere, hide all your food!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Cedar Fair Has a Centurion in Mind + Leadership News

Cedar Fair recently trademarked the name Centurion for a new amusement park ride.  The mark is good for both the name of an amusement ride as well all the usual merchandise and other goods that come along with similar past filings.

So where could Centurion be headed?  I could take a guess, based mostly on recent news that has popped up... but nothing is for certain.  A Centurion was in charge of a century in the Roman army, so the title has a bit of strength, leadership and authority to it.  Makes for a good coaster name, if you ask me. 

If you remember Banshee was trademarked by the company in April of 2013, and we now know that was for Kings Island's 2014 coaster.  With nothing named Centurion coming in 2014 to any parks we can assume this is a 2015 project, which means they are way ahead of the ball on this one.  Must be some sort of rather large project!

In other Cedar Fair news, the company has extended CEO Matt Ouimet's contract by two years, keeping him on board through at least the end of 2016.  They also adjusted some details related to his salary, but all I personally care about is the fact that he's sticking around.  I think the additions this year, and to an even larger extend next year, really show off his influence - and it's one that many of us really like for the parks.

Here's to at least a couple more years of the revitalized growth at the company, I'm looking forward to it!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Hogwarts Express Arrives at Universal Orlando

© Universal Orlando
The much anticipated Hogwarts Express train has been placed on its tracks at Universal Orlando!  The train will carry park guests between Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida starting next year.

Already home to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure, next year its sister park at the resort will open its own Wizarding World, this time tagged Diagon Alley.

© Universal Orlando
With stations for the Hogwarts Express in both Potter areas of the parks, visitors will be able to take the magical journey between them, connecting the two without breaking theme.  There are many rumors as to what will transpire while aboard the Hogwarts Express, but the parks have not totally confirmed what can be expected.  With the trains running in the backstage area between the parks, we can surely count on not being able to see outside while on board.

For recent photos of Diagon Alley's construction, at least what can be seen from inside the park, check out this update.

White Water Branson Opening KaPau Plummet in 2014

Branson's White Water park has announced their new slide for 2014 KaPau Plummet.  Designed to be "the biggest thrill in White Water history, the concept began with the idea of a heart-pounding, drop-floor plunge."

KaPau Plummet will cost an estimated $1.7 million to build, opening in Spring of 2014.  The tower will consist of two 240-foot slides, each launching riders from a drop-floor into a 70-degree plunge followed by a spiraling loop.

Concept art for KaPau Plummet
"Those brave enough to dare the drop will experience a heart-pumping, breathtaking thrill that begins at the top of a 40-foot tower. Two encapsulated slides are the starting points for loading brave riders into a launch capsule. Once inside, the countdown begins: 3…2…1 KAPAU! The bottom of each slide drops out, creating a rider free fall at 70 degrees, speeding at 26 feet per second into a looping 240-foot translucent waterslide before final splashdown. Spectators will be able to watch the riders' rocket-like plunge and see them spiral through the loops."

"The AquaLaunch trap door builds anticipation for an incredible drop below," said Cory Roebuck, White Water Director of Operations, who explains 'kapau' is a slang U.S. surfer term to mean the next big wave or the next big thing, pronounced KA-POW. "Never before has White Water had such a thrilling ride. KaPau Plummet will literally take your breath away in an awesome plunge."

Dare-to-Drop Facts for KaPau Plummet: 
  • Tower height – 40 feet
  • Speed – 26 feet per second
  • Two translucent slides, 3' in diameter 
  • Length of flume slides: 243.8' & 246.2'
  • AquaLaunch capsules with drop-floor plunge 
  • Capacity – 360 riders per hour with 2 slides
  • Waterflow – 1,000 gallons per minute
  • Manufacturer – WhiteWater West, Ltd., British Columbia, Canada
  • Budget: $1.7 million
  • Opening expected mid-May 2014

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Dollywood Launches the Hero Tour + FireChaser Track Installed

© Dollywood
Today marked the start of the FireChaser Express Heroes Tour, which will travel around to fire stations in Eastern Tennessee to celebrate the bravery and dedication of all firefighters.  The tour started at the Knoxville Fire Department Station #1, where Dollywood also debuted their classic fire truck, seen above.

The truck, formally named the Wilderness Pass V.F.W. Engine No. 3, will travel around to the different stations, and is a vintage 1941 Ford model.  Both the park's public relations staff and the Knoxville Fire Chief were on hand to stress the importance of fire safety and honor the firefighters.

A vintage water hose will be signed by firefighters as a part of the tour, and eventually the hose and the 1941 Ford truck will be a permanent part of FireChaser Express' theming.

© Dollywood
The coaster itself made a big stride this week with the instillation of the first piece of track and supports!  Looking good so far - now it's only uphill... then downhill... and then uphill again (you get the drift!) from here!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Dorney Park's Haunt VI Celebrates Six Years of Fears

Amazing how time flies when you're scared, isn't it?  This year marks the sixth year of Halloween Haunt at Dorney Park.  While there were no brand new attractions this year, two of the existing scare zones were heavily improved and new live entertainment debuted as well.

The park always does a unique set up at the main entrance, swapping it out each year for a new display.  2013 was the year of the ogre, seen above in less than desirable lighting - my apologies.  The massive creature sits sleeping quietly, only awakening from time to time.  When he does he stands up and shows off his truly impressive size while giving a speech.  He's a pretty neat animatronic, and I do believe he came to Dorney via Ohio.

With no brand new Haunts this year there were some new props and smaller additions to existing attractions.  One that really stood out this year was CornStalkers, even though it is one of the oldest at the park.  The extremely long and winding path was really well done this year, with the actors in what looked like improved costumes that blended into the corn seamlessly.

With tons of original farming props along the way and purposely blinding lights, CornStalkers was full of scares.  Other mazes returning this season include Blood Shed, Desolation: Operation Latchdoor, Grave Walkers, Mansion House Hotel and Psycho Circus.  The scare zones include Age of Darkness, Cut Throat Island and Head Hunters.

A new live show opened on the park's Center Stage this Fall, named Witches' Brew.  Set at the witches' castle, the show features popular music sung by a full cast of performers.  This year the park's large indoor theater was not utilized for any show, the first I can remember since it opened a few seasons ago.

Witches' Brew appears to be quite popular with the crowds, and it probably doesn't hurt that the cast is rather easy on the eyes!

As for the attractions that were bulked up in 2013, the first of them is Head Hunters - The Sacrifice.  Last year this outdoor scare area was lacking a lot of props and relied mostly on some tribal characters chasing guests and giving good scares.  This year the area was totally renovated and changed into a very different experience.

The pathways for Head Hunters are now defined more clearly, so that guests may choose to bypass it or head through via two entrances along the Possessed midway.  The park built several full sized tiki huts along with a lot of dead trees and macabre scenes.  There are a lot of life-sized mannequins that make it hard to tell which are live actors and which aren't, adding to the fun.

The props also give a lot of great places for monsters to hide, as if the thick fog wasn't enough of a cloak.  The attraction has really hit its stride now that it has been changed so dramatically, and really stands on par with the park's other haunts.

Since Witches' Brew took over Center Stage that means that Blood Drums had to move.  It found a great new home along the main midway, next to the Coasters diner.  The smaller stage allows guests to sit closer to the performance, and also made the show more interactive.  I think more people come across the show by accident as well, being drawn in by the pulsating drums since the midway is a busy place at night.

The second attraction to have a major addition is Age of Darkness.  I believe this is actually the second time that this walk through scare zone has been plussed since it first opened.  This year marked the retirement of Death Trap, a maze that was located adjacent to Thunderhawk and next to Age of Darkness.  The park took advantage of the space and added a new Torture Chamber section of Age of Darkness.

The entrance and exit to the new section is marked by high castle walls, and inside fog covers the area completely.  The Torture Chamber name is fitting, as the area is filled with elaborate props and animatronics that fit that theme.  From hangings to decapitations, there's plenty packed in here.  There's also tons of live actors as well, all in fitting costumes and personas.

I know this photo is particularly bad, but I wanted to snatch one of the finished dragon that I saw being worked on back before Haunt started.  As the park had planned the dragon - which started its life as a dinosaur - was moving, blowing smoke, and had glowing eyes.  It looks awesome!

With so many haunted attractions to check out, it is almost easy to forget that all of the park's rides and coasters are open, too!  Here we see Dominator decked out in its finest Halloween orange.

There's still time to visit Dorney Park's Haunt VI before the park closes for the year, check out their website for hours and more information.