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!