Thursday, February 27, 2020

Six Flags Great Adventure to Introduce 5 New Species to Visitors in 2020

© Six Flags Great Adventure
Six Flags Great Adventure will be celebrating the "fast and the curious" in 2020 as it introduces five new special to visitors for the 2020 season.  New friends at the park include cheetahs, the great horned owl, the American kestrel, Patagonian cavy and mischievous ferrets.  Six Flags Great Adventure is home to over 75 species from six different continents and has focused on animal conservation since 1974.

The new inhabitants will be ready for guests on April 4th when the park opens for the season.  As a part of the theme park's massive Safari Off Road Adventure, visitors will be able to find the animals in the Wild Walkway section of Camp Aventura.

© Six Flags Great Adventure
The park has provided more details on the new animals, all with adorable names such as Amelia, Johnny, Luna and Bear, which include:

• Cheetahs “Bear” and “Bo” – These large cats are known for their signature yellowish tan or rufous coat uniformly covered with nearly 2,000 solid black spots. Native to Africa and parts of Iran, cheetahs rank as the fastest land animal. They can launch from 0 to 45 mph in 4.5 seconds, and run up to 75 mph during short, powerful sprints. Large members of the cat family, cheetahs are carnivores with a prowess for hunting. They are most closely related to the cougar and jaguarundi and are considered “vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List.

• Great Horned Owl “Luna” – These aggressive predators are sometimes known as the “tiger owl” and are native to the Americas. Signature feather tufts on their heads known as “plumicorns” resemble horns or even catlike ears. Great horned owls are powerful and protective parents. Females are larger than males and have much lower-pitched calls. These carnivores are largely nocturnal with an impressive wingspan of 3.3 to 4.8 feet.

• American Kestrel “Tyrion” – Despite being the littlest falcon in North America, the American kestrel is a fierce predator with a very distinctive hunting behavior. Kestrels hover before diving for their prey and are sometimes known as a “windhover.” They are ultraviolet sensitive, which helps them hunt mice in the dark by following their trails. They are one of the most colorful of all raptors.

• Patagonian Cavy “Amelia” – Also known as the Patagonian mara, the Patagonian cavy is a large, rabbit-like rodent in the guinea pig family. Cavies can run at speeds up to 45 mph and bounce on all fours, which is known as a “stot.” They are herbivores, eating only plants. Cavy pairs mate for life and raise their young communally. They are considered a “near threatened” species, greatly impacted by hunting and habitat loss in South America.

• Ferrets “Johnny” and “David” – The name “ferret” is derived from Latin and means “little thief,” which is a likely reference to their penchant for stealing small items. These very curious, active and playful mammals in the weasel family are a domesticated form of the European polecat. They have long, slender bodies – approximately 15 inches without the tail. Males are much larger than females. These carnivores sleep 14 to 18 hours a day and are crepuscular, meaning most active around dawn and dusk.

To help celebrate the arrival of the new animals, the park put together a fun video that introduces them.  Check it out below!

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Ice Breaker at SeaWorld Orlando is Now Complete!

© Premier Rides/Midway Mayhem/SeaWorld Orlando
Premier Rides has sent out news that their latest coaster in North America, Ice Breaker at SeaWorld Orlando, has had its final piece of track installed.  The ride's last piece, seen in the photo above, was installed on the ride's highly banked turnaround element.

The coaster is SeaWorld Orlando's first launched coaster, and features a total of 4 "air-time filled launches," both backwards and forwards.

© Premier Rides/Midway Mayhem/SeaWorld Orlando
The new coaster is themed after the icy Arctic summits and featured an educational component as with most SeaWorld park rides.  The queue will feature interactive educational exhibits that detail SeaWorld's partnership with the Alaska SeaLife Center.  The ride will help educate guests about the Arctic and its animal inhabitants, and also exemplify the rescue efforts of both SeaWorld and the Alaska SeaLife Center.

© Premier Rides/Midway Mayhem/SeaWorld Orlando
Passengers on Ice Breaker will travel over 2,700 feet at a top speed of 50 miles per hour starting with the four launches.  The ride's unique design features a 10 story spike that is curved at an angle of 100 degrees, creating a beyond-vertical drop as the trains launch up it.

Brian Andrelczyk, SeaWorld's Vice President of Design and Engineering described Ice Breaker, stating “it can run not one, but two trains through the use of a unique, high-speed horizontal track switch.” Brian continued, “the fun is just getting started … the launch track itself is special because we have an airtime hill on either side, so you’re going to get airtime on every hit of that launch – that totals to 16 hits of airtime throughout the entire layout! It’s going to be a really exciting ride keeping you out of your seat almost as much as you’re in it.”

© Premier Rides/Midway Mayhem/SeaWorld Orlando
While an official date has not yet been announced, SeaWorld Orlando plans to open Ice Breaker this spring.  Premier Rides is equally excited about the creation of the ride and its impact on the theme park.  Regarding the completion of the ride's track, the company's President, Jim Seay, commented that “We are extremely proud to reach this important milestone.  The ride looks spectacular and the installation has been a great team effort. We are honored to be a part of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment’s formula for success by supplying this one-of-a-kind, record-breaking coaster that is sure to be a must-see attraction this spring!”

For more on Ice Breaker at SeaWorld Orlando, check out the park's official website.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

A New RMC Raptor Coaster Headed to South Dakota's Wild Water West?

© Wild Water West
If you haven't heard of Sioux Falls, South Dakota's Wild Water West Waterpark (to be fair I hadn't), it is a name that you may be hearing a lot more of soon.  The water park has gone to their local government to seek approval to build what is shown as one of Rocky Mountain Construction's Raptor roller coasters.  From the images used in the planning, the ride looks to have the same layout as the prototype rides, which are operating at Six Flags Fiesta Texas as Wonder Woman Golden Lasso and RailBlazer at California's Great America.

© Wild Water West
The addition of a super-thrilling RMC Raptor to a small water park in South Dakota is about as surprising as can be, but at the same time - how awesome!  In reviewing the planning documents submitted, which start on page 18, it is noted that the new ride will stand 113 feet tall, feature no additional noise issues due to the monorail style track, and only operate within the parks existing hours of 11 am to 8 pm.

The best part is that the staff recommended that the plan be approved, with some generally easy conditions for the park to follow.  This means that formal plans for the ride can be submitted for engineering review and then a building permit issued.  A letter from the park's general manager confirms the plan is to open the ride for the 2020 season.

There were photos from this year's IAAPA Expo from RMC's booth that showed that they were trying to sell one of their Raptor coasters for a nice discount, which makes one wonder if this is the result of that sale.  However that sign did indicate the ride would be for 2021, but maybe they found some extra room in their production schedule.

© Wild Water West
If the coaster plan does make it all the way through the planning station and opens, it will certainly have a large impact on Wild Water West.  The park's water park offerings can been seen above in the aerial from Google Maps, and the park already offers some dry attractions such as go-karts, mini-golf, batting cages and paintball.  This would be their first large mechanical ride, and it certainly would draw a lot of people to the park.  RCDB lists the state of South Dakota as currently having two roller coasters, one small kiddie ride and one mountain coaster, so this would really be quite a improvement in that regard!

Monday, February 24, 2020

Heard On... Six Flags Entertainment's 2019 Full Year Earnings Call

© Six Flags Entertainment
This past week also saw the announcement of Six Flags Entertainment's full year 2019 results... and they weren't nearly as rosy as Cedar Fair's news.  The chain's stock took another plummet downward after the news was announced, for various reasons.  The company had their earnings call just the same, here are some notes from that along with their results.

• Overall, revenues were up 2% or $24 million to just under $1.5 billion.  They had a 2% or 788k increase in attendance to 32.8 million, a "slight decline" in per capita spending, and a 3% decline in sponsorship, international agreement and accommodations revenues.  These figures include 2019 full year totals from 5 new parks purchased in June of 2018 and one new water park purchased in April of 2019.

© Six Flags
 • Taking out those six new parks the legacy parks, revenues only grew $1 million, costs grew $15 million and EBITDA was down $15 million.  The six "new" parks contributed 90% of the attendance growth in the year, while the legacy parks only saw a small, 65,000 visitors increase.

• The bottom line suffered from these figures and certain other adjustments, however.  Net income was down $97 million to $179 million and EBITDA was down 5% or $27 million to $527 million.  Other factors challenging the bottom line included a $10 million charge due to the China parks agreement, higher costs from the new parks and higher stock-based compensation.

•  Six Flags has formally terminated their agreement with Riverside, and believe it is "unlikely" that they will recognize any revenue in 2020 related to park development in China.

© Six Flags
• Six Flags has seen challenges from their legacy, or existing, parks in the U.S. during 2019.  Attendance, per capita spending and revenues were flat this year, but operating costs were up 2% reducing EBITDA by 3% from those parks.

• The company now says they see 2020 EBITDA coming in at $435 - $465 million, which is way down from 2019's total of $527 million.  To fight this they have decided to "make incremental investments in the base business to enhance the guest experience," though they're not saying what that is at this point.

• More on their 2020 outlook.  They estimated EBITDA based off of $30 million less in international development (loss of China parks), $20 million less due to wage increases, another $20 million for OpEx spending for park maintenance projects and operational improvements along with marketing spend for single day visitors, and finally restoring a $20 million bonus program for employee recruitment and retention.

© Six Flags
• Due to the depressed earnings, the company has slashed their stock dividend by 70% for the first quarter of 2020, down to $0.25 a share from $0.83 a share in the 4th quarter of 2019.

• In quite a reversal from prior management, the park's new CEO, Mike Spanos, says they saw a big decline in single-day tickets, and need to work to get those back.  Prior leadership was all about getting everyone to be a pass member, seemingly ignoring the single day visitors.

• The company was trying to fight operational cost increases by saving money elsewhere in the parks, and that has shown up in the form of lower guest satisfaction scores.  That's a scary thing for them I would imagine, as that could be the start of unhappy visitors that will turn on the parks.

© Six Flags
• At the end of 2019 the total number of active pass members actually decreased by 3%.  The number of active pass members increased by 18% to 2.6 million, but that was fully offset by soft regular season pass sales during the holiday season.  Overall, the active pass base contributed 63% of attendance last year.

• Six Flags spent a total of $140 million in capital expenditures in 2019.  That feels quite low for the 26 parks they have, in fact that averages to $5.4 million per park.  Considering one large coaster probably costs 3 times that, or more, that doesn't leave much for the small guys.

• The chain's new CEO is embarking on a new comprehensive plan that will play out over the next 3 to 5 years.  They intend to address revenue growth, margin improvement and capital deployment and have hired the Boston Consulting Group to give an external perspective to their plan.  The full plan will be revealed at the May 28th Investor Day for Six Flags.  The Investor Day sounds like a very big deal, specifically regarding capital expenditures going forward, so be sure to watch out for that.

© Six Flags
• Understanding that former management's goal of 750 million in EBITDA "Project 750" is "not realistically attainable" a new, shorter reward system for employees will be uses.  Focused on awarding restricted stock units, the hope is to closely align employee reward with stock growth.  To help out, the new CEO will not participate in the award plan in 2020.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Orion Begins Test Runs at Kings Island

© Kings Island
Ahh, the smell of freshly run new-for-2020 roller coasters is in the air in Southwest Ohio, specifically at Kings Island where Orion has just started testing!

The theme park posted a surprise blog post on Saturday evening announcing that the giga-coater had completed the first runs.  Trains have now fully completed Orion's 300 foot first drop, and made quick work of the ride's 5,321 feet of track.

The new coaster will open with the park on April 11th, but those participating in the first riders benefit fundraiser will get a go on Orion on April 9th.  That's just over six weeks from now, not long to wait at all!

Check out the video of Orion testing below!

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Heard On... Cedar Fair's 2019 Full Year Earnings Call

© Cedar Fair
Cedar Fair has announced their 2019 full year results, and had very good news to share pretty much all around.  As always, they hosted a conference call to discuss their results and here are some tidbits from that event:

• Including their two new Schlitterbahn parks, overall revenues for the year increased $126 million or 9% to $1.47 billion.  That came from an increase in attendance of 8% or 2 million visits to a total of 27.9 million.  The company also saw a 1% increase in per-capita spending and an 11% or $16 million increase in out of park revenues for a record amount of $169 million.

• Excluding the Schlitterbahn parks the numbers were still good.  Revenues were up 6%, attendance was up 1.3 million or 5%, per capita spending was up 1% and out of park revenues were up 8% or $12 million.

© Cedar Point
• The company has seen an amazing 40% increase in season pass sales right now over last season.  In 2019 season pass visits totaled 53% of their attendance, up from 50% in 2018.  The increase has led to deferred revenues being up $40 million at year end.  We all know that Cedar Point is killing it with their season pass sales, but sales are up double digits this year at almost every park as well.

• In 2019 the number of unique visits, aka not season pass visits, were up almost 1 million.  The company knows the benefit of growing season pass sales but also sees unique visitor count as critical to sustained long term growth.  They credit the rise in unique tickets to events like Grand Carnivale and Monster Jam.  The company plans to continue these limited run events in the future, adding more like Grand Carnivale and Summer Nights.

© Cedar Fair
• The out of park revenue segment continues to shine, and they see that fact as an item that differentiates them from other regional companies.  Out of park revenues now represent 10% of overall yearly revenue totals, which is significant.  They're currently renovating both the Knott's Hotel and Castaway Bay and hope for significant returns like they saw with Hotel Breakers.

• Food and Beverage per capita spending was up 5% in 2019, which they credit to their culinary chefs and new efficient and immsersive dining establishments.  They also see their food program as something that differentiates them from competitors in the industry.

• 2019 saw both strong consumer spending trends as well as very nice weather through the summer and fall, both of which led to the record results.  You often hear parks talk of bad weather affecting their results, it is nice to hear about good weather for a change.

© Canada's Wonderland
• Canada's Wonderland just finished their first Winterfest event and it was a success.  They had two thirds of their visitors purchase single day tickets, meaning they were probably new visitors to the park.  That's different than the chain's other Winterfest events where 60-70% of guests are pass holders.

• The Pass Perks loyalty program is rolling out to all parks (except Schlitterbahn which they hope to add in 2021) this year.  The test parks last year helped gather data to improve the program.  They use Pass Perks not only to build loyalty but also to drive more visits through limited time offers and specials.

• Cedar Fair has set a new goal of reaching $600 million in EBITDA by 2024.  This year they hit $505 million, which was up $37 million.  Without the Schlitterbahn parks it was up $21 million, meaning those two parks contributed $16 million.

© Kings Island
• There was a lot of chatter about capital expenditures, which are ride-lovers best friend.  They're still planning to move toward more OpEx oriented and CapEx efficient additions, which are more like the limited events and such.  They will also continue to spread out the major thrill ride additions at individual parks by an additional one or two years.  So if it used to be 4 years between big rides at park X, now it will be 5 or 6 (as an example, they did not give specific data).  This allows them to have something new at each park, each year.

• More on capital spending - they want to get overall spending closer to 9% of revenues by the 2021 season.  In 2020 they're spending around $190 million, for comparison 9% of the 2019 revenues would be around $132 million.  By 2021 and 2022 their large spending on hotel renovations and bringing the Schlitterbahn parks up to speed should be over, allowing them to spend less overall.

© Carowinds
• A couple final tidbits.  Two more parks will be adding a parade during Winterfest in 2020, similar to the parade that Carowinds added this year.  They confirmed no new park will add Winterfest in 2020, which we knew already.  Lastly, they did remark on how they removed two roller coasters from Kings Island in order to make operating costs balance for the addition of Orion - so they're not afraid to remove old rides to add new ones in the future... at least that's what I gather.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Apex Parks Group to Permanently Close Both Indiana Beach and Fantasy Island Amusement Parks

Sad news for the amusement park industry - Apex Parks Group has announced the permanent closure of both Indiana Beach (Monticello, Indiana) and Fantasy Island (Grand Island, New York).

News had just started to break that the amusement operator, which owns many family entertainment centers under the brands of Boomers and SpeedZone, no longer had the resources to invest in and operate the two longstanding amusement parks and now they've confirmed that the parks are indeed closed for good.

Apex did released a statement regarding the closures for both parks, using almost the same wording for both:  "Despite significant effort and a great deal of investment in infrastructure and rides, we have not seen an improvement in operating results. As such, we made the difficult decision to cease operations. This was not a decision entered into lightly. Team members are being assisted by their supervisors and the company is working to minimize impact to those affected."

It is said in several new stories that Apex tried to find a buyer for both of the parks, with no success.

Indiana Beach © Google Maps
At the same time that the parks were announced as closing, Apex is also shopping the rides from the parks to other operators.  They plan to keep some of them, but many are up for sale or being retired.  According to this post from ACE, all of the steel roller coasters at the parks are for sale, but the only wooden coaster listed is the Silver Comet from Fantasy Island.  That leaves the three wooden rides at Indiana Beach seemingly destined for destruction.

Interestingly, all four of the wooden roller coasters between the two parks were built by Custom Coasters International.

Fantasy Island © Google Maps
Indiana Beach first opened in 1926 and was a longtime family-owned favorite vacation spot for people as it sat nearly in the middle of Lake Shafer.  Scott & Carol have shared a great deal of wonderful stores about the park through the years, you can scroll through them at this link to learn much more about the park.

Fantasy Island, which was for a long time known as Martin's Fantasy Island, opened in 1961 and was also family owned park that was run privately under a handful of owners for many years.  It was just purchased by Apex near the start of the 2016 season.

The news of the parks closing has hit many fans, both inside and outside the amusement industry, as a punch in the gut.  Sadly it seems the time for possibly saving these parks is over, especially since Apex already tried to find new owners.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Six Flags Over Texas Quickly Installing New Aquaman: Power Wave Water Coaster

© Six Flags Over Texas
Six Flags Over Texas will debut Aquaman: Power Wave in 2020, North America's first Mack Power Splash attraction.  The ride combines a splash boat ride with the launch elements found on modern roller coasters, making for a unique and thrilling experience.

Six Flags Over Texas has been sharing photos of the ride's construction, which just kicked into high gear recently as the parts of the ride were moved to the work site to be installed.  That can be seen up top, and also in this video from the park.

© Six Flags Over Texas
Just this week the park has started to show off how much of Aquaman: Power Wave is already installed in a fun interactive image on social media.  You can scroll around and take a look at the work site, part of which can be seen above.  That end of the track isn't yet complete, but over on the other end...

© Six Flags Over Texas
Things are much bigger!  The backside of the ride is starting to tower over the park - this will be the totally vertical side of the U shaped track that the boats launch up.  Each of the towers will stand 148 feet tall, though the other will feature a bit of a level-off near the top.  The ride launches the boats both forward and backward several times - hitting a top speed of 63 miles per hour which is super fast for a water ride.  After the final launch up one of the towers the boats come down to the splash lagoon and naturally a huge wave covers all.

© Six Flags Over Texas
Just as a reminder, here is how Aquaman: Power Wave will look when it is complete.  Right now the park is working on the tower on the left of this image, with much of the middle section of track also installed. 

Monday, February 17, 2020

Hersheypark Places Final Track Piece for New Candymonium Hyper Coaster

© Hersheypark
Another of North America's new for 2020 roller coasters is now complete as Hersheypark just recently placed the final track piece for Candymonium.  The park's new hyper coaster, fabricated by B&M, now has a completed 4,636 foot long course.  The final track piece, seen above, was located just before the brake run at the end of the ride.

Candymonium is the biggest ride in the park's new Chocolatetown entrance area, which is all new for 2020 as well.

© Hersheypark
Less recently than the instillation of the final track piece, Hersheypark also shared photos of the coaster's three shiny new B&M trains.  There will be three color schemes for the trains, the blue one above represents the famous Hershey's Kisses.  There will be a red train as well, representing Twizzlers.

© Hersheypark
The third train is orange, signifying Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, which can be seen above.  The trains have both milk and dark chocolate color schemes as well, seen on the beautiful B&M clam shell design above.  Candymonium starts with a 210 foot tall lift hill and the three trains will hit a top speed of 76 miles per hour as they race out into the newly developed land the park is utilizing.

© Hersheypark
The entire Chocolatetown area is a massive renovation of the entire entrance area to Hersheypark, and this recent photo shows that much progress has been made on the area.  You can see Candymonium in the background, along with all the new buildings that fill up this part of the land.  There's even a Hershey's Kiss shaped planter that can be seen here, a fitting way to welcome guests to the land of chocolate!

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Updates on Six Flags + SeaWorld's Past and Present Investor Legal Troubles

© SeaWorld Entertainment
SeaWorld Entertainment has finally seen a resolution to the investor lawsuit that alleged the company covered up the real effects of the Blackfish documentary for much longer than they should have, which caused investors to lose money as the company's stock price plummeted.

The company issued notice that they have agreed to pay $65 million to settle the dispute, which is still subject to final approvals.  The lawsuit had been going on for so long that a jury trial was finally set to start in a week's time, so instead of that route it looks like all parties decided the $65 million figure was sufficient.

The agreement means that SeaWorld has to admit no wrongdoing, and also luckily for them they had insurance for this type of situation, as most companies do, which will cover $45.5 million of the settlement.

Considering the company is run by totally different individuals at this point that had nothing to do with the Blackfish era, it's nice to see the books closed on that debacle.

© Six Flags Entertainment
Six Flags however is just at the start of a new investor lawsuit which claims they did not tell the whole truth about the shaky footing that Riverside Investment Group, which was to build up to 11 Six Flags branded park in China, was actually on.

Riverside Investment Group has since forced Six Flags to send out notice that the Chinese parks are in grave jeopardy with a good chance of never opening.

The lawsuit claims that Six Flags made false or inflated statements about the abilities of Riverside to get through tough economic times in China, which cause inflated stock prices.  However they do note that Six Flags did release some information on the partnership with Riverside, and each time they did the stock price dropped at least 10% - but their sticking point seems to be the sunny-side representation of the future of the Chinese parks while Riverside was falling apart.

I'm not a lawyer so the fact that Six Flags did give updates makes me think they were being up front, but I guess not upfront enough to accurately reflect how bad the situation was?

Either way it's more not so good news for Six Flags, who's stock price is about half of what it was not long ago.  It certainly seems their grand international licensing expansion idea has ended before it ever really began.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Six Flags Great Adventure Shares Devilish Photos of Jersey Devil Cars + Construction

© Six Flags Great Adventure
Six Flags Great Adventure has shared some amazing new photos of the Jersey Devil Coaster's lead cars, which as shown in the preview animation feature the character himself.  They say the devil is in the details, and that's quite literally true of these lead cars, which have an amazing amount of detail baked into them!

© Six Flags Great Adventure
The Jersey Devil Coaster will feature several trains with these fantastic lead cars, which appear to be swallowing the track as they move through the course.  The ride will be one of Rocky Mountain Construction's new Raptor designs, the largest that they've done to date.  It will use a single rail for the trains to ride on, giving passengers a low center of gravity and a thrilling experience.  The ride will stand 130 feet tall, feature 3,000 feet of track and top speeds of 58 miles per hour via an 87 degree first drop.  The devil will no doubt make sure that there's plenty of air time on that drop!

© Six Flags Great Adventure
Six Flags Great Adventure has been making great progress on the ride during this winter, keeping us wonderfully updated as they go.  Above are some of the supports for the ride that have already arrived at the park - several truckloads worth are already on site.  No track has appeared just yet, but I'm sure that's not far off!

© Six Flags Great Adventure
The park's update also notes that they have now poured the ride's final 12 pier caps, which means that the process of creating the ride's foundations is nearly complete.  We all know that means that vertical construction isn't too far off, which is quite an exciting time for the park.

If you haven't seen Great Adventure's most recent Jersey Devil Coaster video update, make sure to check it out below!

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Sesame Place Philadelphia Celebrating 40th Birthday With New Ride, Play Area + Restaurant

© Sesame Place Philadelphia
The 2020 season will mark the 40th Birthday of Sesame Place Philadelphia, and the theme park for kids is serving up several additions to mark the occasion.  A new ride, a new kids play area and a restaurant are just part of the fun that will take place all season long.

The birthday theme will be evident all over the park, which will be decorated with "bright balloons and garland, an enormous, inflatable birthday cake, new birthday photo ops and oversized candles."  The park's popular parade will be named the Neighborhood Birthday Party Parade this season and will feature a new song and floats decorated with giant cupcakes and more.

© Sesame Place Philadelphia
The park will also build a new ride to celebrate their 40th, named Big Bird's Tour Bus.  The over-sized, red double-decker bus will feature Big Bird and his friends set in front of a cityscape backdrop.  The bus will zoom around and up into the air in a giant circle, giving gentle thrills that the whole family will enjoy.

© Sesame Place Philadelphia
Also new in 2020 will be Slimey's Square, a "brightly-colored, shaded, soft play area" located adjacent to Oscar's Wacky Taxi Coaster.  Intended for kids aged 5 and under, Slimey's Square will feature areas for kids to climb, crawl and have fun while their parents are nearby on a built in seated wall.  The addition will gives smaller kids a fun place to hang out while their older siblings take on the thrill of the coaster next door.

Finally, Sesame Place Philadelphia will also open ABC Eats, a new restaurant concept.  Featuring a variety of dishes for the family, there will also be plenty of healthy wraps, fresh salads and more to enjoy.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Six Flags Great Adventure + All Six Flags Parks to Become Certified Autism Centers

Six Flags Great Adventure is proud to announce that it will earn the Certified Autism Center designation from the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Educations Standards (IBCCES).  Even better, the same is true of all 26 Six Flags Entertainment Corporation parks, which will be the first time ever that an entire park chain has received the distinction.

 “We are proud to partner with IBCCES to ensure that guests on the autism spectrum have the best possible experience when visiting our parks,” said Six Flags Vice President of Safety Jason Freeman. “The certification process will equip our team members with the tools and training needed to better serve guests with special needs. We want them to know Six Flags stands ready to welcome them with open arms.”

 In order for the parks to receive the Certified Autism Center designation the IBCCES requires at least 80% of guest-facing staff at each park to complete a training and certification program.  The organization will also complete audits at the parks to ensure standards are met and help with ongoing training.  The staff training centers around ensuring understanding of the autism spectrum and "strategies for communication, guest experience and safety."

© Six Flags Great Adventure
According to press materials, as a Certified Autism Center the Six Flags parks will provide:

• Trained, courteous, front-line team members with the ability to identify visual cues to better accommodate guests with cognitive disorders and help them enjoy their time in the parks;
• A sensory guide for each ride and attraction so guests can make informed decisions about the ride experience and their level of comfort;
• Special in-park sensory spaces, where guests with sensory needs can relax in a less stimulating environment;
• Expanded culinary options to meet guests’ dietary needs (such as gluten-free items); and
• An updated Accessibility Guide available at, Guest Relations and Ride Information Centers at each park.

For more information, check out Six Flags Great Adventure's website regarding attraction accessibility.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Seabreeze Amusement Park's Classic Jack Rabbit Coaster Celebrates 100 Years

© Seabreeze Amusement Park
The Jack Rabbit wooden roller coaster at New York's Seabreeze Amusement Park is celebrating an amazing 100 years during the 2020 season.

Having opened in 1920, it is now one of only a handful of coasters that have hit the exclusive 100 year mark, and the park is obviously quite proud of that fact.  They are finalizing details on their plans, but the park will celebrate the milestone throughout the season with special events.  The park is also proud to note that the coaster is the oldest continually operating one in America.

© Seabreeze Amusement Park
The Jack Rabbit was designed by John A. Miller and constructed by Harry Baker.  According to Seabreeze, the ride was the first to utilize under friction wheels, which John A. Miller had received the patent for just one year prior to the Jack Rabbit opening.  The design improvement allowed the coaster to feature more dramatic hills, drops and turns.

The ride's top speed of 42 miles per hour may not seem like much today, however the ride was the fastest in the world when it first opened!

© Seabreeze Amusement Park
The Jack Rabbit starts with a 60 foot plunge and features an out and back layout with a bit of a surprise at the end, a drop inside a tunnel that first time riders do not expect.  Granted the ride isn't the tallest and longest, but to make it to 100 years is quote an achievement!  Make sure to drop by Seabreeze this summer and take a spin on the Jack Rabbit - or if you can't enjoy the point of view video from the park below!

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Texas Stingray to Open at SeaWorld San Antonio February 29th!

© SeaWorld San Antonio
Looks like everyone won't have to wait too long to experience the Texas Stingray at SeaWorld San Antonio, as the park has announced that the new wooden roller coaster will have its grand opening on February 29th!

However, the park is offering a special weekend of exclusive ride time for pass holders, starting on February 22nd where Platinum pass holders can take their very first rides on the Texas Stingray from 10 am through noon.  After that time both Silver and Gold pass holders can join along in the fun and ride until 8 pm.  On February 23rd the fun continues as all levels of pass holders can exclusively ride the coaster from 10 am through 5 pm.

The 23rd will also be Pass Member Appreciation Day where holders can get a free Texas Stingray beanie hat, free sweet treats, special discounts, animal experiences and more.

The Texas Stingray is a custom designed Great Coasters International wooden coaster that utilizes steel supports with a lift hill of 96 feet and a 100 foot first drop.  The 3,379 foot long coaster will hit a top speed of 55 miles per hour and give plenty of air-time, twists and turns.

If you missed it earlier, here is the point of view ride on the coaster to hold you over until later this month when it opens!

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

SeaWorld San Diego's Emperor Dive Coaster Track is Complete

© SeaWorld San Diego
Exciting news from SeaWorld San Diego, which just recently completed all track and support instillation for Emperor, the park's new B&M dive roller coaster.  Seen above in its completed status, Emperor is now another impressive addition to the theme park's skyline.

Emperor towers 153 feet over SeaWorld San Diego, and features a vertical, 143 foot first drop.  With a top speed of 60 miles per hour, the trains will encounter three inversions along the 2,411 feet of track.

© SeaWorld San Diego
As is common in the industry, members of the construction team got a chance to sign the final piece of track before it was lifted into place.  It's a nice way to let the crew who built the ride forever be a part of the attraction!

© SeaWorld San Diego
The final piece was located in what appears to be the ride's 3rd inversion, a corkscrew near the end of the ride.  You could easily argue that Emperor has four inversions, as the ride's second element is a very highly banked turn that is indeed counted as an inversion on other rides.  No matter the final number, all the elements will be a blast so who cares!

© SeaWorld San Diego
And just like that the final piece was bolted in place and the Emperor track was complete.  The coaster is the only B&M dive coaster in California and one of only a handful in North America.

© SeaWorld San Diego
Not long after the track was completed the park reached another milestone - they placed the first Emperor floorless coaster train on the track!  With how quickly the park is making progress on Emperor I wouldn't be at all surprised to see testing start soon.  Stay tuned!