Friday, March 31, 2017

SeaWorld Entertainment Gains New Chinese Investment + Possibility of New Parks in Asia

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment announced last week that a Chinese diversified holding company, the Zhonghong Group, had purchased a 21% stake in the company.  The group purchased the public company's shares from Blackstone, the investment company that purchased the chain in 2009 and made it a public company in 2013.

The Zhonghong Group is focused on "strategic growth opportunities in the leisure, tourism, and culture industries" according to SeaWorld Entertainment's press release about the transaction.  The sale was priced at a 33% premium over SeaWorld's stock price, showing that the Chinese company was quite motivated to take on a share of SeaWorld.

And, not surprisingly, it's because they will now be able to use SeaWorld's theme park expertise to develop parks in Asia.  The release states that SeaWorld will now "advise Zhonghong Holding exclusively on the concept development and design of theme parks, water parks, and family entertainment centers to be developed and operated by Zhonghong Holding, including exclusive rights in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau."  As we continue to see theme parks in Asia being built frequently, this means that several of the countries listed above could have a licensed SeaWorld, Aquatica, Discovery Cove, etc themed park built.

SeaWorld has already stated that their commitment to ending orca breeding programs will stand regardless of what new parks come online in the future.

Zonghong Group is currently building Monkey Kingdom, a large theme park located outside Beijing in China.  The group will fill two new seats on SeaWorld's board, and they cannot dispose of their company shares for at least two years.

This news article also details that they will pay SeaWorld millions of dollars for the ability to license a SeaWorld park over the new few years, along with more payments for design and consulting fees.  As SeaWorld continues to work on their brand image and declining performance, this move is generally being seen as a big positive for their future.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk to Feature Two New Rides This Summer

© Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
Last fall we first heard of Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk's plan to spend $12 million to fully renovate, modernize and beautify their entrance area and improve several of their existing attractions.  The massive work has been underway since that time, but now it appears as though the expansion is going to be even bigger than before, with the addition of two new rides and an increased project budget of $14 million.

The two new rides will be a part of the renovated entrance setion, and can be seen in the beautiful concept art (above) that Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk has created.

© Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
The first new ride opening this summer is named Typhoon, and it will spin two giant arms in a full circle - upside down - at 60 feet above the boardwalk.  Manufactured by A.R.M., Typhoon will be similar to a ride the park used to have (also named Typhoon), but with modern upgrades.  The ride will be located just inside the new entrance, greeting visitors with a thrill as they start their day.

© Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
Also joining the park's lineup of thrills is Shockwave, a popular Mega Disk'O ride from Zamperla.  Riders will be seated facing outward on a giant disk that spins as it moves up and down a 65 foot tall curved track.  The seats are akin to those of a motorcycle, giving passengers a uniquely free feeling as they twirl up and down.  Shockwave will be located on the park's upper deck, next to the Undertow coaster, looking over the expanded entrance area.

The park's previous announcements also covered changes to both the Fright Walk haunted house and The Vault Lazer Maze Challenge, along with new food, games and amenities.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Mega Wedgie Arriving at Elitch Gardens This Summer

Even though they've already announced a new ride for 2017, Elitch Gardens was sitting on another surprise addition in the form of a water park expansion that will feature Mega Wedgie.  A silly name perhaps, but it is sure to get the attention of visitors!

Mega Wedgie will be a trio of new body slides, part of an overall $4 million capital plan for 2017 that also includes the Star Flyer - a 17 story tall swing ride already standing at the park and opening this spring.

© Elitch Gardens
Mega Wedgie will start sliders at the top of a six story tower, and they will reach speeds approaching 40 miles per hour on the way down.  Above is concept art of the new slides, showing that there are three different paths to the bottom on the ride.  One features a straight steep plunge, another has several bumps along the way down, and the last features tight turns throughout.

Elitch Gardens currently has a similar set of speed slides, and while the park did not clarify in the press release it appears as these will be updated/replacement versions that are being built.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Fun Spot America's Mine Blower is Going Up Fast

© The Gravity Group
Each day that goes by Mine Blower at Fun Spot America, located in Kissimmee, Florida, is growing bigger.  This past week the new wooden roller coaster's construction crews completed a very important part of the ride - and that is seen above.  The coaster's steep 65 degree first drop of almost 81 feet is seen above in a beautiful photo from the ride's designer, The Gravity Group.

© Fun Spot America
Fun Spot America is also working hard to keep fans updated on Mine Blower's construction progress via social media.  They shared a set of photos a few days ago that also show the new coaster towering over the park.  In the above photo we can see that the focus lately has been the first drop, but the ride's lift hill (seen in the center of the pic) is also going up quickly.  At the top of the lift the trains will navigate a quick 180 degree turn before dropping down.

© Fun Spot America
Here is another aerial view of the coaster from the park.  It is amazing how much track will be contained is a rather small area - but the ride will still feature just under 2,300 feet of track when complete.  More of the low-level turns are also going in currently, showing off the extreme banking that will be featured on Mine Blower.

Still to come is the ride's full inversion, a corkscrew, that will be built after the first drop and over the coaster's station!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

A Sneak Peek At Invadr, Busch Gardens Williamsburg's 1st Wooden Roller Coaster

What a wonderful way to start out the first visit of the year to Busch Gardens Williamsburg. This park is known to be one of the most beautiful parks in the world and this entry billboard only adds to the eye candy!

Busch Gardens Williamsburg allowed fans of the park to choose such things as the name, the logo and the train design. Here's a couple of banners that show off the very cool looking lead cars that were revealed at IAAP last fall.

This concept drawing gives a lot of information as well a the layout of this GCI family coaster. It also shows how the new attraction interacts with both the log flume and the train.

Busch Gardens Williamsburg put a lot of effort into a back story for this ride. A great battle will ensue in the loggers' village of New France. Vikings will invade, forcing the loggers to defend their village and Magnus was trying to recruit Scott to support the Viking invasion.

While this ride entrance side is cool, it is extremely understated...

When compared to the eye candy that you walk under when entering the queue. The "War Wagon" was provided by Weber Group, Inc. This link takes you to their park portfolio which is a great walk down memory lane for park enthusiasts.

A special treat was in store for season pass holders on preview day, here is the video.

Here is a look at part of the queue, and you can see the auxiliary generator that will be used if the electrical grid goes dark.  Griffon is in the background, celebrating its 10th birthday this May.

And, a station view showing where the adventurous battle begins. That is the flume above the station.

Suzy, Director of Development and Engineering, fills us in on some of the details about Invadr. The park is thrilled to be sharing a wonderful new coaster with their guest this spring. That's right, spring, not sometime in the summer.


This view of Invadr was taken on the bridge between New France and Germany. Behind the log flume, you can see the sinuous curves of Invadr and a view of the covered first drop from the other side.

This tunnel goes below ground level and soon this entire area will be landscaped to Busch Gardens Williamsburg's exacting standards.

One of the nine airtime hills throughout the ride, with a little bit of train steam floating above and Griffon on the left with Alpengeist on the right. Kinda like heaven, with two Bolliger & Mabillard coasters next to a brand spanking new woodie. April 7, 2017 can't get here soon enough.

Rather than their traditional all wood structure, Great Coasters International used a galvanized steel support structure for Bush Gardens Williamsburg's newest attraction, a break from their normal practice. But you can see, they kept the fun from their past with turns like this.

You can see the beginning of the above ground tunnel for the first drop from the other side, and the train track run right through the coaster layout. You can also see the extensive steel structure. Our thanks to Ron and Suzy for their help on Season Passholder Preview Day.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

New Jersey's Casino Pier Now Testing New Hydrus Coaster

It has been a busy week for new roller coaster testing, that is for sure!  Another new for 2017 coaster that has been getting in plenty of test runs is Hydrus, located at Casino Pier in New Jersey.

The seaside amusement and water park shared the above video of Hydrus on their Facebook page, noting that the ride is now running continuous cycles with multiple trains.  The park sure has had some nice early-spring weather to break in the ride... just look at that clear blue sky!

Hydrus is a new Gerstlauer designed Euro-Fighter coaster, featuring a vertical lift hill that stands 72 feet tall.  The individual 8-seater cars plunge down a beyond vertical 97 degree drop and then quickly flow through three inversions in quick succession before the final brakes.  The experience will be quick, but intense for sure!

Casino Pier will open for limited ride operations on April 8th, no word yet on exactly when Hydrus will be open to the public - but with this much testing underway it can't be too long!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Lakemont Park Announces Major Renovations + Summer 2017 Closure

Lakemont Park and The Island Waterpark, located in Altoona, Pa, has announced that they will stay closed for the summer of 2017 in order to perform significant renovations to the park.

The park is well known for having one of the oldest wooden roller coasters still in operation, Leap the Dips, which dates back 1902.

The park plans to remove some of the older rides for attractions such as a "new miniature golf course, batting cages, playgrounds, basketball and sand volleyball courts, and expanded picnic areas," according to a post from the park on Facebook.   The park will keep and renovate many of the existing rides and attractions, including the roller coasters, water park, paddle boats, train, go-karts and antique cars.

Lakemont Park will reopen on November 17th, 2017 in time for their popular holiday themed Lights On The Lake event.  In coming years the park will have more of a community park feel, with attractions operating with individual fees and no gate admission.  The park hopes this leads to more guests being able to visit, due to the free general admission.  After the holiday season operations, the park is planning to reopen again in May of 2018.

In addition to Leap the Dips, the park also has Skyliner, a 1987 PTC designed wooden roller coaster.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Patriot Opens at California's Great America April 1st

© California's Great America
No fooling around, the brand new Patriot roller coaster at California's Great America will open to the public on April 1st, the theme park has announced.

Patriot will be the first floorless roller coaster at the park, and represents a conversion of the stand-up Vortex coaster.  All new floorless trains have been installed on the ride, along with a renovated station area and a cool new blue and white paint scheme.

So far Patriot looks to be running through its 1,920 feet of track at a good clip, as seen in this testing video that California's Great America released:

The conversion of the trains from stand-up to floorless is sure to give Patriot a much more comfortable riding experience that will appeal to a broader range of visitors.  The coaster features a 91 foot tall lift hill, speeds of 45 miles per hour and two inversions - a vertical loop and a corkscrew.

Patriot will start giving rides to the public on April 1st, but the park will open for the 2017 season this coming Saturday, March 25th.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Full Point of View Ride Video of InvadR Released

Set to open to visitors on April 7th, many fans of Busch Gardens Williamsburg are anxious to take their first spin on InvadR, a brand new wooden roller coaster.

To make the time go faster before the opening date, the theme park has released a new point of view video of the ride:

The video was filmed during recent test runs of InvadR, and shows off the zippy family-friendly ride.  The coaster uses the landscape of the park to its full advantage, something that can really be seen in this video.  Fans will also note the recently announced tunnel on part of the first drop, leading down to another covered tunnel at the bottom of the plunge.

InvadR features a 74 foot first drop that sends the trains at a speed of 48 miles per hour over the 2,218 feet of track.  The video shows that the coaster's trains, which came from sister park Busch Gardens Tampa where they were used on Gwazi, keep their speed throughout the ride and even into the final turn.

Looks like InvadR will be a great ride, perfect for families to ride together!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Busch Gardens Williamsburg Reveals New Attraction for Park's 2018 Season

© Busch Gardens Williamsburg
Although the park just opened for the season this weekend, Busch Gardens Williamsburg has already spilled the beans about what they have planned for 2018.  Not named quite yet, the park is going to be introducing the first ever motion simulation that will have riders wearing individual virtual reality headsets instead of viewing one large screen.

The attraction will be located within the Ireland themed section of the park, and use the existing motion simulator hardware that was most recently called Europe In The Air.

At the same time as the announcement the theme park released this preview video, explaining more about their plans.

The theme of the new attraction is based around the two worlds of Ireland, the one we're able to see and the one that contains mythical creatures - for instance you can see both a dragon and a fairy in the logo up top.  More on this interesting and first-of-a-kind ride as it develops. 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Knott's Berry Farm to Retire Boomerang Roller Coaster - For Major New Addition?

© Knott's Berry Farm
Knott's surprised everyone on social media yesterday by announcing that their Boomerang roller coaster will close forever on April 23, the end of this year's Boysenberry Festival.

Boomerang opened at the park in April of 1990, lasting 27 years and at least three different color schemes while at the park.  Boomerang is a standard model of the same name produced by Vekoma, featuring a vertical loop and boomerang element that are taken both forward and backward.

Boomerang is located within Knott's Boardwalk themed area, which experienced a major renovation a few years ago after Perilous Plunge was removed in favor of a new family coaster and two flat rides.

© Bing Maps
As for why Boomerang is being removed, Knott's is not saying yet.  If we look at an aerial of the park it appears as though a pretty large area might be being cleaned out, possibly for a 2018 attraction.

The green box contains Boomerang, which opens up a big space on its own.  Below it on this outdated map is Perilous Plunge, but that area has been heavily renovated so I don't see it being touched now.  The orange area is Rip Tide, which has also been removed and replaced with grass.

The park has had some issues with Sky Tower, in the red box along with a few games, and while only rumored could we also see that ride removed this year?  Also of note is that the former stage, in yellow, has been opened up, and replaced to where the blue X is.

Just to the north of Sky Tower is where the Boardwalk Barbecue is being rebuilt from the ground up, so that's a space that won't change.

Even if they use just the land from Boomerang and Rip Tide they have a nice space, add in Sky Tower and it's eve bigger - and if you say travel over the wide midway to where the old stage was, well we could see something really big coming.  Stay tuned!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Ferrari Land Names Europe's Tallest Coaster Ahead of Park Grand Opening

With less than a month until its grand opening, PortAventura Resort's new Ferrari Land theme park has revealed the name of their massive new roller coaster, Red Force.

The ride will be one of the highlight attractions at the resort's third theme park, standing an impressive 367 feet tall.  Designed by Intamin, Red Force will rocket riders from zero to 112 miles per hour in only 5 seconds.  The trains will climb the vertical tower, slow as they pass over the crest, then drop back down toward the ground.

To celebrate the ride, the park has released this new promo video of the coaster:

Riders will be able to take on Red Force, along with the park's other offerings, starting April 7th.  Other park attractions include a free-fall and space shot attraction, several racing simulators, a family-friendly whip ride, play areas and of course a very elaborate set of Ferrari-inspired race cars that travel over a winding 1,870 foot long track.

Coaster fans, however, will want to get in some repeat rides on Red Force, no doubt.  The coaster - which is similar in design to both Cedar Point's Top Thrill Dragster and Six Flags Great Adventure's Kingda Ka - will be the 5th tallest on the planet and the tallest in Europe when it opens.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Dorney Park New For 2017 March Project Update - Part 2

Welcome back to the second part of our off-season tour of what's new at Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom for the 2017 season.

If you missed the first part a couple days ago, make sure to check it out.

This time we will look at another new ride going into the amusement park, additions in Wildwater Kingdom, and some other changes throughout the park!

© NewsPlusNotes
Let's start in Wildwater Kingdom.  If you haven't heard yet, the previously announced Sunset Beach Bar will not be opening in 2017, but the park does hope to be able to add it in the future.  The planned location of the new offering is on the far right side of the Wildwater Cove wave pool.

Above, also adjacent to Wildwater Cove, are 17 brand new cabanas that guests will be able to rent while at the park.  The addition brings the total cabanas that the park will offer to 29.  The park also has plans to be able to offer the cabanas a wider selection of foods this year.

© NewsPlusNotes
Also in Wildwater Kingdom will be Papa Luigi's, offering fresh dough pizzas and cheesesteaks on the menu.  The location was formerly called Typhoon Treats, and as you can see in the photo above the location is getting a full renovation for 2017.

© NewsPlusNotes
This stand was actually originally built as a Skee Ball location, and later repurposed as a food location to meet the demand of the popular water park.  The renovation that will now change it into Papa Luigi's will allow the park to offer fresh pizza that I have no doubt visitors will love.

© NewsPlusNotes
I've never been in Dorney Park's Family Care Center, located inside Planet Snoopy, but got a nice tour while at the park.  It already offers rest, play, changing and feeding areas for families with children or guests with special needs and has been a big success for the park.

© NewsPlusNotes
This year Dorney Park is adding a calming room to the Family Care Center that will cater to visitors who have special needs related to the autism spectrum.  The photo above is of the new space, but it's by no means complete at this point.  Families will be able to utilize the room to give their kids the time they need to process their sensory needs - whether through observing a giant bubbler or using noise-cancelling headphones.

The park's second new ride is a set of classic bumper cars named Dodgem.  Yay for bumper cars!

© NewsPlusNotes
Located on the former site of Hang Time, Dodgem has made a ton of process since we first saw the steel beams going up a few weeks ago.  This is the view of Dodgem that visitors will have as they approach the plaza by Talon's entrance.  The park has already completed the concrete pour for the area, showing how the final space will look.

© NewsPlusNotes
Like many fans of the park, I'm quite happy that bumper cars are finally returning to Dorney.  This photo was taken inside the structure, showing the running area for the 20 new cars.  The ride operator booth can been seen in the background.

© NewsPlusNotes
The queue for Dodgem will be over on this side, close to the operator booth seen above.  Guests will enter the attraction from this side, then exit back on to the midway outside Talon's entrance.

© NewsPlusNotes
Here is one more shot, just to give a bit more perspective on how Dodgem is set up.  That's the backside of the Talon entrance sign on the far right, for reference.

© NewsPlusNotes
Elsewhere on park property the 20 bumper cars for Dodgem are being safely kept away from the winter weather.  The cars come in a variety of bright colors such as blue, orange, purple, silver and yellow.  The cars will have LED lights under them that will make the experience even more dazzling when the sun goes down.

© NewsPlusNotes
Dodgem is being manufactured by Bertazzon, who has provided bumper cars to many major theme parks.  Each car has a unique numbered license plate, and even has LED lights in the decorative tail pipes!

© NewsPlusNotes
On to other improvements to be found are the park.  This section of Chickie's & Pete's inside Dorney Park has been enclosed with the wall seen above to accommodate new self-ordering kiosks.  The initiative will improve service speed and accuracy, and is something we're seeing all over these days, from Wendy's to the ball park.  Self-ordering kiosks will also be implemented at a handful of other outlets in the park this year, including Coasters, the Burger Barn and the new Papa Luigi's in Wildwater Kingdom.

© NewsPlusNotes
Not often seen by the general public, but this is the park's associate cafeteria and it has been renovated during the off season in response to employee feedback.  The area has been toned down to provide a relaxing environment for associates during their break time.

© NewsPlusNotes
The new look of the associate cafeteria isn't unlike that of a coffee shop, and includes new artwork, bar-style seating with phone charging stations, and a new color scheme.

© NewsPlusNotes
Dorney Park's main entrance is also being improved to get guests inside the park faster with permanent structures now in place to do bag checks and metal detection.  This will greatly help the park manage guests as they arrive at the park and I'm sure in turn will also improve customer satisfaction.

© NewsPlusNotes
One other food and beverage change for 2017 is the renaming of the Monster Grille (located near Possessed) to the Chef's Grille.  Dorney Park's Executive Chef, Malo Jones, is going to be making some special treats at the new Chef's Grille, and I for one am looking forward to giving them a try!

© NewsPlusNotes
One last fun photo to share, while touring the park we had some visitors who were quite interested in what we were up to.  I snapped this photo just before they took off and ran down the Zephyr tracks along the creek toward the back of the park.

Many thanks to Dorney Park, especially Mike Fehnel, for having me to take these photos!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Detailed Catalogue of Knott's Berry Farm Auction Now Available

© Heritage Auctions
The auction that Knott's Berry Farm is holding of various historic memorabilia will take place on March 31st at the theme park.  As anticipated, the company holding the auction, Heritage Auctions, has put up a detailed catalogue of all the lots (227 to be exact), and they're all available on their website.  Also as anticipated, there is some really awesome stuff listed, things that fans of the park will drool over, and even items that a casual observer would find neat.  For instance, there are several ride attractions posters (like the Calico Mine Ride one, above) that would look great in any home or office!

© Heritage Auctions
Knott's Berry Farm has plenty of history, and that does of course include rides.  There are several lots dedicated to the famous Bear-y Tales dark ride, like these original binders with notes and photos on the ride.  There are also a few figures from the actual ride, original drawings, car vehicle plates and more.

© Heritage Auctions
The park even has some blueprints up for auction.  There is one lot that contains detailed plans for both Rip Tide (a top spin flat ride) and Pacific Spin (a Tornado water slide) that have both been retired.  The lot also comes with a print of the water park's original concept art, and who doesn't love concept art!

© Heritage Auctions
While you may think this creepy image is something from Halloween Haunt, it is actually a lot of figure heads from the recently renovated Timber Mountain Log Ride.  Right now the bid for these 9 handsome men is only $200!

© Heritage Auctions
Speaking of Halloween Haunt, or Knott's Scary Farm, the auction has not left it out to dry.  There are plenty of props, signs, and other items up for bid.  Above is the pretty famous gargoyle figure that was used in a couple of famous mazes, now looking for a new home.

If you want to see more, check your bank balance first (because online bidding is allowed) and then head over and browse the full catalogue.