Wednesday, December 31, 2014

NewsPlusNotes Presents a Look Back at 2014

It is strange to be writing this year's look back story for NPN, it feels like 2014 passed by faster than ever.  This year was filled with some great new ride openings, new announcements to look forward to, entire new parks, and plenty more for our thriving industry.  Let's take a walk back as we say farewell to 2014.
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Now that we're seeing a more sustainable (i.e. realistic) amount of "big" new rides each year, it makes each one a bit sweeter.  One of the first new-for-2014 rides to open was Dollywood's FireChaser Express, a thrilling family coaster with unique theming.

The year of Potter, part 2?  One might say, as Universal Studios Florida waited until the very end to reveal details of the new Diagon Alley addition - certainly one of the year's biggest additions anywhere when it opened in the Summer.  And we must not forget that an entire Wizarding World and Hosmeade Village opened at Universal Studios Japan - proving Potter's global fan base is strong.

Making a change for the better, Knott's Berry Farm gave Camp Snoopy a total refresh, and also spent millions returning the Calico Mine Ride to its former glory - enhancing the charm of the entire park.  The work paid off, as Knott's had one of its most profitable years in the park's history as a result.

S&S Sansei designed a new compact coaster, El Loco, which opened at the start of 2014 in Las Vegas' Adventuredome theme park.  The ride features some wild inversions and showed that the tight-on-space park could expand, after all.

The Thunderbolt made a triumphant return to Coney Island, only this time in the form of a unique steel coaster from Zamperla.  Representing one of the largest coasters the company has ever created, the ride made a huge impact on the ever-improving seaside destination.

Banshee at Kings Island made a big splash when it opened, proving that B&M can still design a great ride.  One of the first inverted coasters by the company to open in years, Banshee thrilled riders with its giant proportions and elevation changes.

Record breaking water slides?  2014 had that, too.  Verruckt at Schlitterbahn Kansas City smashed the record with its 168' 7" plunge.  That almost seems tiny when you look at the 400 foot tall swing ride that opened at Six Flags New England, but it is still huge!  But wait, we can get even higher!  Six Flags Great Adventure opened the world's tallest drop ride - Zumanjaro - creating one of the most breath taking free fall experiences on Earth.

Six Flags delivered another Rocky Mountain Construction wood coaster conversion, creating Medusa Steel Coaster at Six Flags Mexico.  Their biggest ride of the year was Goliath at Six Flags Great America, breaking a handful of record when it opened.

Some other interesting additions for 2014 included a huge water park renovation at Dorney Park, a new "placemaking" focused section at Valleyfair,  riders soaring high above Adventureland on Storm Chaser, a new family sized wooden coaster from the Gravity Group at Story Land, brain draining at Elitch Gardens, a new interactive water ride at Six Flags St. Louis, a rethemed land named Mardi Gras at Six Flags America, and Cedar Fair's step into the dark ride arena, Wonder Mountain's Guardian at Canada's Wonderland.  Better late than never, Busch Gardems Tampa opened Falcon's Fury, a face-first free fall that is the first of its kind.  Somewhere amid all this hustle and bustle, the classic Racer at Kings Island gave its 100 millionth ride!
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Park openings, reopenings, and purchases were also a theme of the year - not something you can say for each season.  We were all a bit surprised when the Koch family purchased Alabama's Splash Adventure in March, but a happy surprised - it appears there is a very bright future for the park.

The return of Kentucky Kingdom was also a high note of the year, especially after sitting and watching the park rot for so many years. 
The property was spruced up like brand new, and plenty of new rides - including the stand out Lightning Run coaster - were added as well.  The park ended up having a great year, exceeding expectations by operators.

What was old is new again:  Action Park returned to New Jersey, though I'm not sure it made the 'splash' (pun intended) that owners hoped.  
Moving an amusement park isn't an easy undertaking, but that's exactly what the owners of Miracle Strip at Pier Park did.  On a quest for much more expansion room, the park moved just down the road and opened as an eclectic pay-as-you-go property with a decidedly independent feel.  Their plans for the future include a large wooden coaster, so things will only go up from here!

Las Vegas saw the opening of Cowabunga Bay Water Park, an independently owned and operated project that was delayed a season.  The park did brisk business during the year, and is already adding more slides for 2015.
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The crystal ball cleared on some further off projects as well - sure plenty was announced for 2015 but we've covered that in depth throughout the year.  Ferrari Land will be going up next door to Spain's PortAventura theme park - with rumors of a record breaking Intamin ride along with it when it opens in 2016.

While announced a while ago, Avatar Land at Disney's Animal Kingdom finally broke ground, and has made serious progress in the months since.  Who knows exactly when Shanghai Disneyland will open to visitors, but we've seen construction proof that the park is underway!  Finally on the Disney front, Tokyo Disneyland announced a crazy-huge expansion plan that will stretch nearly a decade.

Universal Orlando will expand with a new resort - Sapphire Falls - in 2016,  and across the sea the company announced a seriously impressive looking new park, Universal Studios Beijing.
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This, of course, isn't a complete look at the entire year - condensing all 506 posts we wrote in 2014 would be a bit too big a task!  We will look fondly back at 2014, but with so many great new rides and attractions already announced for 2015, there's plenty to keep us busy again next year!  Thanks to all of our NewsPlusNotes readers for staying along for the ride.  We wish you all a happy and healthy 2015!

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Sea World Australia Announces Summer Season Additions

© Sea World Australia
It's cold and often dreary in my neck of the woods right now, but Australia is celebrating their Summer season, and Sea World has several new additions to show off.  Granted this year the park is not debuting anything quite as catchy as last year's Storm Coaster (a Mack water coaster), but for an 'off year' it is nice to see any additions, really.

The first item is a new dolphin show that "celebrates the remarkable relationship between dolphins and humans, taking guests on an unforgettable journey in an encounter with one of the world’s most intriguing animals."

© Sea World Australia
Regarding the new dolphin show, park Manager of Entertainment, Michael Croaker points out that “Sea World is well known for its world class entertainment as well as its focus on conservation and education. The new dolphin show will highlight the powerful bond shared between the magical marine mammals and humans all while educating guests on how they can make a difference to actively care for marine life."

© Sea World Australia
The second addition to the park is a first for all of Australia, a meet and greet location with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  This is the first time the crew has appeared in any theme park in the country, and the group - along with their Shellraiser - will be appearing daily.

Sea World Australia already features many other Nickelodeon characters such as SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer.  For more information on Sea World Australia, click here.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Rebuild of Historic Coaster Hampered by Collapsed Structure

Scenic Railway before the fire.
What a shame!  The Scenic Railway at England's Dreamland, which is in the middle of a rebuild from head to toe, was partially destroyed in a wind storm over the weekend.

Crews have been working since this past Fall to rebuild the historic roller coaster, which dates back to 1920.  The coaster continued to operate after Dreamland closed, but arson burned a part of the structure and threw it into standing-but-not-operating status in 2008.  The 1920 original opening date makes the ride one of the top ten oldest still standing coasters on the planet.

Recent view of part of the ride standing post-fire.
A long time campaign to restore Dreamland and the Scenic Railway has been underway, finally poised to reopen the coaster and a "reimagined" Dreamland around it in 2015.  Obviously the partial collapse of the ride, which appeared to be the turnaround section on the North end of the ride is a setback.

However, this news story points out that while the collapse isn't good news, it's fixable and crews will get right back to work.  Take that, wind storm!  Anyone who is interested in following the reconstruction of the coaster, along with learning more about the new Dreamland, can stay up to date on the park's website.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Adventureland Names New for 2015 Mack Spinning Coaster

It was way back in June that Adventureland, located on Long Island in New York, announced a new roller coaster for the 2015 season.  At that time the park started a naming contest, with some suggested names along with "write in" entries accepted as well.

Fast forward to the present, and Adventureland has announced that the new coaster will be named Turbulence.

The coaster will be a spinning ride by Mack rides, only a handful of which exist around the world.

Adventureland's webpage for Turbulence has some updated renderings that show off the ride's curves.  I still don't see any hard statistics for the coaster yet, though we can tell from the rendering that this is a smaller, family oriented ride.  It's a neat choice for the park, since this exact type of ride can't be found anywhere on the East coast.  Turbulence will replace Adventureland's Hurricane coaster, which has been at the park since 1991.

If the name Turbulence sounds familiar for a coaster, well, that's because it was used before - almost.  Hersheypark announced a coaster named Turbulence for the 2005 season, only to later cancel the ride due to a price dispute with the manufacturer.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Relocated Alabama Adventure Ride Opening at Schlitterbahn Corpus Christi

© Schlitterbahn
It has been quite a while since we've heard anything about Schlitterbahn Corpus Christi, the latest park to open in the Schlitterbahn family.  The park was initially delayed until 2014, but only partially opened this past year.  That's probably why it's been fairly low on the radar so far.

From what I can tell the new park, which is being built on the grounds of a former country club, is still operating some country club features like a nine hole golf course, restaurant and club house.  Last year it opened a redesigned club pool featuring a swim up bar, cabanas and an adjacent kids play area.
© Schlitterbahn
Here's a look at the swim up pool area, which is listed as being open daily for club members.  While the entire water park - which will feature several interconnected rivers, pools, and slides - didn't quite make it open last year, some parts of it appear to have come online late summer.  The entire project will be impressive when completed, here is a look at the original plans:

© Schlitterbahn
This layout is from when the park was first announced, back in 2012, so things have changed slightly since then.  It still gives a nice overall idea of what's planned.  The park will have lodging eventually built in, and an even larger residential area is planned for open space to the left of this development.  One change from these original plans is the addition of a theme park ride, a Shoot the Chutes located on the island around the torrent river in the plans above.

© Schlitterbahn
The Shoot the Chutes ride is the first of its kind in a Schlitterbahn park, seen above after being constructed last year.  It appears as though the ride is the former Buzzsaw Falls from Alabama Adventure, which sold off all its amusement park attractions before its current rebirth.  Schlitterbahn picked up a lot of other rides at the Geauga Lake sale many years ago, with plans for many of them to come online in the Kansas City park.  We haven't seen that happen just yet, but we still may one day.  It's neat to see more rides being incorporated into these water parks, though.

I can't see any official announcement about the opening of the full water park in Corpus Christi, but it appears as though that will happen this Spring or Summer.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Busch Gardens Williamsburg's New 'Ride' Nearly Complete

A similar ride © Premier Rides
It looks like the possibility of Busch Gardens Williamsburg's new 'ride' being completed just after the start of the new year is becoming stronger.

BGW Fans posted an update from just before the holiday showing how much progress has been made on both of the ride's towers.  With the support towers nearly complete, there is really only the top of the first tower to go, and then the largely unsupported middle sections of the ride.  Probably quick work for construction crews, which have been installing the coaster for several weeks now.

One thing I noticed in the new batch of photos is that the supports for the second tower, the one that interacts with the faux loop, are different than on other similar rides.  There are additional supports on the side of the tower that hold onto the top of the non-inverting loop and also extend upward to the not-yet-installed heartline roll.  Interesting to see more supports added to this newer design, since part of the awe of the original was just how unsupported most of the ride looked.

Hopefully the park announces this attraction soon, so we can stop calling it a mystery ride!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Scott And Carol Present - An Old Time Christmas At Silver Dollar City

An Old Time Christmas celebration at Silver Dollar City has received national acclaim as one of the best places to celebrate the holiday with your family. The citizens go over the top to change centuries with over five million lights.

So lets get the obligatory "Frozen" reference out of the way, but in this show Frosty upstages Olaf.

Here is a few of the highlights, and watch how adeptly the cast switches gears when the plan goes awry.

Silver Dollar City's adaptation of "A Christmas Carol" is so popular that guests line up for hours before the doors open. Winning many awards, we would visit every year for this show if we didn't have to travel so far.

The lavish sets and special effects set this show apart from normal theme park offerings.

The  fourteen members of the cast are fantastic and to think they can put this together with less than a month of rehearsals shows the depths of their talent. They are truly phenomenal.

Here a few of the highlights. One of the special things about the show is that the music is all performed by a live band, a specialty of many Hershend Family Entertainment Company productions. It adds a lot of energy to the performance.

Silver Dollar City also has an adaptation of "It's A Wonderful Life, another Broadway style show.

Although the original movie was not a musical, this production contains many elaborate musical numbers.

Clarence finally gets his wings. The original movie was voted the #1 "Inspirational Film of All Time by the American Film Institute.

These are the highlights

Rudolph's  Holly Jolly Christmas Parade kick's off with everyone's favorite Bumble!

Many of the characters from Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer appear throughout the park, as well as the parade.

Of course, no Christmas Parade is complete without Santa Claus.

This float is similar to some billboards we saw on the way.

Here are all of the million lights in Rudolph's Holly Jolly Christmas Light Parade.

The rule is, if it doesn't move, put lots of lights on it. If it moves, figure out how to put lots of lights on it. They start stringing the lights in August.

Families can become gingerbread men,

or just enjoy the many light vistas available through the park. Many of the lights are visible from the rollercoasters, the Giant Swing, and the train.

The fifty-foot tall Christmas Tree in Main Street has over 250,000 lights, and performs at least three different shows. Here is one of them. Some of the surrounding trees also are synchronized with the music.

Silver Dollar City helps everyone to remember the reason for the season,

and gives a not so subtle hint for what families can do throughout the holidays. Many thanks to all the citizens of Silver Dollar City for their assistance in bringing this to you. We spent a day and a half at the park, but couldn't do it all, there is so much to see. May all the News Plus Notes readers have a blessed Christmas and Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Raging Waters San Dimas Building Water Coaster for 2015

A brand new hydromagnetic LIM water coaster will open in 2015 at Raging Waters San Dimas, marking the first instillation of its kind in all of California.  The new water coaster will stretch around 1,000 feet in length and be provided by Proslide Technology Inc.

Aqua Rocket will give riders a rush by combining the sensations of a classic roller coaster with the thrills of a water ride.  Utilizing hydromagnetic technology and linear induction motors, Aqua Rocket with be able to send four person rafts uphill, over a series of four peaks and three drops at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour.

“We are excited for the newest addition and looking forward to Aqua Rocket becoming one of the most popular attractions in California.” said the park's General Manager Mark Whitfield. “Ranked by Travel Chanel and USA Today, Raging Waters is one of the Top 10 Water Parks in the U.S…. and it just got better!”

One of Raging Waters' sister parks under the Palace Entertainment brand is Splish Splash, which also added a water coaster two seasons ago.  That ride was a huge success and I wouldn't be surprised to see Aqua Rocket be similar in size when it is completed.  The more water coasters, the better, I say!

New Tidbits on Knott's Voyage to the Iron Reef

This clip is from a Canadian news program, specifically one from Montreal which means it's in French.  It's all about Triotech and the rides they've created, but mixed in are some cool tidbits about Knott's Berry Farm's new attraction, Voyage to the Iron Reef.

The video is not in high definition, so unfortunately these screen grabs are rather blurry.  Above is a shot of one of Triotech's employee's computer, which appears to be working on the animation for the under sea portion of the ride.  Not too exciting, but worth pointing out is the giant Roaring 20's sign that can be seen in the animation.  That sign as recently removed from the top of the building that Voyage to the Iron Reef will be located in - a pretty cool thing to include!

Another shot shows off the attraction's layout, which uses most of the upstairs portion of the building, except for the part that houses Johnny Rockets.  The layout at first glance might not seem too impressive, but you have to remember that the point of this is to have long, somewhat continuous screens on either side of the ride path.  Plus, when you look at the layout of Wonder Mountain's Guardian:

You an suddenly see that it is not very impressive looking, either.  And Voyage to the Iron Reef will have a longer gaming ride time than Guardian does, so it will make good use of that condensed ride space.

The video actually has some really great footage of Wonder Mountain's Guardian, including great angles of the "surprise" ending that I'm not sure is much of a surprise anymore.  You can see the screen's footage and lights change, special effects go off and the final plunge take place.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

More Looping Wooden Coasters on the Way From Gravity Group

Martin & Vleminckx Rides and the Gravity Group announced a continued partnership to create a handful (up to six now I think) of a new coasters a couple years ago, the only bad part of the announcement was that all the rides were for new parks in China.

Around the time of the announcement was the news that the Gravity Group would be installing an inversion on Hades at Mt. Olympus, opening the possibility of inversions being added to the new rides.

It turns out that's exactly what is planned, with at least two of the new rides that will open in China in 2015.  Both will feature a large barrel roll in the middle of the course, marking the first wooden coaster inversion in China.

© Funworld Magazine
This is news to me, however it was published back in August in IAAPA's Funworld Magazine.  Above is a snippet of the story which features some renderings of one of the inverting wooden coasters.

Just like the inversion on Hades 360, the trains will enter a low to the ground, highly banked curve and then rise up into the barrel roll.  The rest of the layout looks to be somewhat low to the ground as well, with what appears like a double-down and plenty of other air-time spots.

While both M&V Rides and Gravity Group are building up a storm in China, one has to wonder when they'll get a contract for a large ride again in the U.S.  Not that I'm ignoring Switchback, though, that ride looks plenty of fun!

Checking In On Hersheypark's 2015 Roller Coaster Work

© Hersheypark
Hersheypark is giggling its way to 2015 with work on the park's new roller coaster, Laff Trakk kicking into high gear.  The park started work on the new indoor coaster shortly after it was announced, and has now shared the photo above of the progress thus far.

This photo was taken from inside the park, showing the huge building that has been created to house the coaster.  Laff Trakk will honor the fun houses of Hersheypark's past with a brightly colored, immersive run through the course.  The ride will include many classic fun house elements and have a decidedly dark ride flair to it.

Some additional photos of the building can be seen in this update from Keystone Thrills.  The building is obviously quite tall, so I'm anxious to see what sort of outside treatment or facade the park creates for it.  Its size will certainly give the Midway American section of the park a new look!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Pair of New Slides Underway at Cowabunga Bay Las Vegas

© Cowabunga Bay Las Vegas
The slide tower that was delayed from the 2014 grand opening season of Cowabunga Bay Las Vegas is currently being built at the water park, and what a complex it is!  Above is the framing for the bottom portion of the Wild Surf slide, a unique creation from Polin.

The rafts will depart the slide tower in the background, meander down a relatively calm path and then drop into the giant half-pipe from the left.  The rafts will seat several riders per trip, and that weight will help them to soar high up the opposite wall, across what the park describes as "the world's largest man-made wave."

© Cowabunga Bay Las Vegas
The angle of the entry drop will allow the rafts to cover the length of the half-pipe, crisscrossing over the wave as they go.  Each trip will take them back up one of the giant wave walls, until finally heading into an exit tunnel.

The yellow and teal slide that you can also see in the above photo is the Beach Blanket Banzai, a more traditional family raft slide.  It will be intertwined with Wild Surf, and both slides utilize the same start tower and exit area.

The new slides join the list of attractions at Cowabunga Bay Las Vegas, which include several other slide towers, a giant wave pool, lazy river and more.  The park's 2015 season is scheduled to start at the end of March.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

New Fireman's Landing Updates from Silver Dollar City

Silver Dollar City is still hard at work creating an all new themed area for 2015, Fireman's Landing.  The park has started to update the project's official website with photos of the work as it is moving along.  Considering it isn't even the new year yet, the area is looking rather good!

© Silver Dollar City
This photo looks like a bit of an older one, but it shows off the Firefall really well.  The 80 foot free fall ride will be partially enclosed at the lower portion - which only the framework for can be seen in this image.  The park's website also shares a short video of the tower being lifted into place a while back.

© Silver Dollar City
Since the new area is replacing an aging family play house, a brand new one is going up in its place called Station No. 3 Firehouse Play Place.  This more recent photos shows that the structure is now mostly enclosed with works starting on the facade.  The photos the park has uploaded also give a view of the inside of this expansion structure.

Check out more on the project here!