Sunday, August 29, 2021

Fright Fest Returns to Six Flags Great Adventure This Fall With New Scares


© Six Flags Great Adventure
Six Flags Great Adventure is excited to announce their line up of attractions and spooky fun for this year's Fright Fest, which kicks off on September 10th.  This year Fright Fest returns after taking a season off, bigger and better than before with new attractions, returning haunts, family fun during the day, live shows (like the fan-favorite Dead Man's Party) and more.  This year reservations will be required for all visitors to make sure they have the safest, most enjoyable day while at the park.


As in past years the park will offer plenty of daytime fun for the entire family during Fright Fest.  From Scarecrow Street, decorated in its Halloween finest, to a Spooktacular Dance Party, there's something for everyone.  And, of course, Trick-or-Treat Trail will return for kids 12 and under to get a sweet treat.


Dead Man's Party © Six Flags Great Adventure
New this year are Fright Fest Power Hours, taking place on Thursdays in September, Wednesdays and Thursdays in October plus October 25th through 28th.  This private event for thrill seekers will offer exclusive ride time on the park's thrilling coasters and select rides, plus access to indoor and outdoor haunted mazes at reduced prices.  Separate tickets and reservations are required.


Also, during the month of September there will be Frightworks, a dazzling display of fireworks set to spooktacular music.  The show will take place on weekends in September as part of the Member & Season Pass Appreciation Month.


© Six Flags Great Adventure
Once the evening sets in and the frights come out visitors will find new attractions at this year's Fright Fest.  These include a new scare zone named Venom Gulch, set in Frontier Adventures.  The area will be set as a Wild West town that was abandonded after a mine collapse.  Per the park, the town folk up and left, but the miners' spirits remained to poison the town.


© Six Flags Great Adventure
A brand new haunted maze will also debut this year, named The Lab.  Guests will venture into a secretive laboratory where "mysterious and unlicensed experiments are the order of the day."


© Six Flags Great Adventure
Additionally, the park's Xpedition Dino attraction will transform into Xpedition Dino: Survival, another new haunted maze.  While fun an educational during the day, the experience will change at night and feature blood-thirsty dinosaurs that are after the guests.


Elsewhere in the park guests will also find a new show named Witch's Brew, meant for younger guests, where a friendly neightborhood witch will tell stores.  Plus, the Lil' Devil Coaster will debut to guests this fall, located near the park's new star ride, the Jersey Devil Coaster.


© Six Flags Great Adventure
There are tons of returning shows and haunted attractions that will be offered at Six Flags Great Adventure's Fright Fest this year.  Shows include the Arrival Ghoul Parade, The Awakening, Dead Man's Party: Grave Stories, Unleashed, Blood Drums and Doc Swan's Sideshow of Oddities.

 

As far as haunted attractions go, there's a big list of favorites coming back as well.  Scare Zones include Scarecrow Street, District 6, Clown Town, and Lake of the Lake Cemetery.  Haunted Mazes, which require an additional fee, will see the return of Reflections of the Dead, Fears, The Manor, Big Top Terror: Forgotten Carnival 3-D, Blood Shed, Wicked Woods and Aftermath.


For more information on Fright Fest at Six Flags Great Adventure, be sure to visit the park's official website.


Thursday, August 26, 2021

SeaWorld Entertainment Announces 2022 Opening Dates for New Coasters


© Busch Gardens Tampa
Over the past week SeaWorld Entertainment has announced that they will open several large roller coasters at their parks in early 2022.  Each of the rides were originally intended to have opened by now, and were delayed due to the pandemic.  With the SeaWorld Entertainment parks doing quite well in 2021 even without these new mega-attractions, the company has opted to give the rides opening dates to make them each parks' 2022 star attractions.


Busch Gardens Tampa will open Iron Gwazi, billed as "North America’s tallest hybrid coaster and the fastest and steepest hybrid coaster in the world," in March of 2022.  The ride is a conversion of the former Gwazi wooden roller coasters, which closed for good in 2015.  The new ride stands an impressive 206 feet tall, and features 91 degree first drop that sends trains roaring across the 4,075 feet of track at a maximum speed of 76 miles per hour.  The coaster also features two inversions and 12 moments of air-time.


© SeaWorld Orlando
SeaWorld Orlando will open Ice Breaker, a Premier Rides LSM launch coaster, in February of 2022.  Ice Breaker features four launches in total, both forwards and backwards, to send trains up over an 80 foot tall top hat element.  While getting up to its 52 mile per hour maximum speed the trains will soar up a 93 foot tall, 100 degree Jr. Scorpion Tail spike element.  The rest of the ride's 1,900 foot long layout includes several twisting elements and hills designed to provide air time for passengers.


© SeaWorld San Diego
Last, but not least, SeaWorld San Diego will debut Emperor, a B&M dive roller coaster, in March of 2022.  The dive coaster is the "tallest, fastest and longest" dive coaster in California according to the park.  Emperor takes trains up to 153 feet then hangs them over the edge of the 143 foot, 90 degree drop for a moment before they free fall down at a top speed of 60 miles per hour.  Emperor's layout includes 3 inversions, an Immelmann, corkscrew and a barrel roll.  When complete, riders will have travelled 2,411 feet of twisting track while riding Emperor.


No official word yet on Pantheon at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, but I would assume a 2022 opening for that ride as well.


Tuesday, August 24, 2021

SeaWorld San Antonio Announces Tidal Surge For Park's 2022 Season


© SeaWorld San Antonio
SeaWorld San Antonio has announced the addition of Tidal Surge, the world's tallest and fastest Screaming Swing ride, for the park's 2022 season.  The record breaker will take guests swinging out and over the park's waterski lake, giving them wide angle views of the park below them.  The new attraction is scheduled to open in the Spring of 2022.


© SeaWorld San Antonio
Tidal Surge is meant to give riders a sensation of flying as they swing back and forth on carriages each seating 20 riders, their legs dangling freely below them.  The ride is one of S&S Sensai's Screamin' Swings, though this one will be the largest that has been built to date.  Each of the ride's two arms will swing higher and higher as the ride progresses, eventually lifting riders to a height of 135 feet.  A lot of momentum is needed to raise the arms to that height, and Tidal Surge will maximize that by hitting speeds of up to 68 miles per hour.


© SeaWorld San Antonio
At the top of each swing arc (riders are seated back to back and as such both swing both forwards and backwards) riders will experience a moment of airtime before changing direction.  In total each arm will travel a total of 230 degrees and the main structure itself will stand 105 feet tall.  The ride's supports will be fittingly themed to the ocean, with a purple structure covered in decorative underwater plants.


SeaWorld San Antonio notes that this is a major addition to their thrill ride portfolio, which already includes four roller coasters, "two animal rescue adventure experiences and a fun-fulled family coaster."  For more information, check out SeaWorld San Antonio's Tidal Surge webpage.


Monday, August 23, 2021

Taking a Look at Alabama Adventure's New Rocket Racer Slide


© Alabama Adventure
Granted there's only a little bit left in Alabama Adventure and Splash Adventure's season, but I would be remiss if I never followed up on the park's large new water slide, Rocket Racer.  The six lane, rainbow colored mat racing water slide is one of the largest investments the owners have made in Splash Adventure in some time.  Standing over 50 feet tall and with each lane stretching more than 400 feet in length, the new slide has quickly become a favorite of park guests.


Rocket Racer opened in the middle of July, just in time for the hottest part of the Alabama summer.  Riders have been racing each other toward the finish line ever since.


© Alabama Adventure
This neat aerial view of the Rocket Racer shows it's placement within the park.  The park cleared out the space that an old log flume occupied and the new waterslide takes up a portion of it.  The new slide is pretty far off from the main water park area, but it also comes with some nice new lounge areas you can see built into existing structures adjacent to the slide.


This local news story from back when the slide opened noted that the slide has been positioned in an area that is an "opportunity for growth in the future."  There's a lot of open space in that part of the park that can be redeveloped over time, and since the water park is extra popular with guests that only makes sense to me.  As always, it's neat to see this little park continue to grow, perhaps we'll see another addition in 2022.


Thursday, August 19, 2021

Dorney Park Shares Haunt 2021 Attractions + New Scares


© Dorney Park
Dorney Park has updated their Haunt website to show their offering of haunted attractions for this year's Halloween Haunt, which kicks off on September 18th and runs select nights through October 30th.  Along with the reveal of attractions, the park is also now selling tickets for the event, along with Fright and Fast Lane offerings.  Plus, they have a sweet bring a friend deal for season pass holders as well.

 

© Dorney Park
This year's event will feature new attractions in addition to returning favorites, all sure to give visitors a fright.  New this year in the maze category is Enigma, where "mayhem and madness have taken over and pandemonium reigns supreme."  This maze will confuse "your senses with impressive illusions, blinding lights and overwhelming mindbenders."  With each room more twisted than the last, the cherry on top is that hidden monsters will feel free to pounce while visitors are distracted.  This new haunted house will set up shop where Urgent Scare formerly was, as that attraction has been retired.


Returning haunted mazes this year also include Blackout, Blood on the Bayou, Cornstalkers, Necropolis, Tourist Trap and Trick Or Treat.  


© Dorney Park
There will also be a brand new scare zone this year, named The Hollow.  The Hollow is described as a new area that "captures the spirit of Halloween with dazzling d├ęcor and eye-catching pumpkin displays of all shapes and sizes."  Sounds friendly, sure, at least in the daytime.  But at night when dark sets in and mist fills The Hollow things will be different.  Visitors will pass though "winding vines" and come "face-to-face with ghoulish, flickering pumpkin carvings."  It will become hard to tell which are decorations and which have come to life.  This new scare zone will be set up in the general area that the Pumpkin Spectacular was located on in previous years, on the park's lower midway.


Returning additional scare zones include CarnEvil, Steamworx and The Lair.


© Dorney Park
With regard to live entertainment the park currently lists that Skeleton Crew will be back on the Possessed Midway, which is awesome since this show is a fan favorite.  Located just by the show will be the Port of Call, a specialty bar featuring custom brews and other spirits.  Also of note, Blood Drums will not return this year with additional entertainment options still to be announced.  And don't forget, the park's rides will be open and that means night rides, too!


Despite the tough conditions of the year the park is putting on a full Haunt event, and even noted that they have plussed many returning attractions with new theming, changes and other improvements.  Helps keep the visitors clueless for the monsters!


Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Heard On... Six Flags Entertainment's Q2 2021 Earnings Call


© Six Flags
Rounding out our look at the most recent theme park earnings is Six Flags Entertainment, which also generally had good news to share about their season thus far in 2021.  The company's press release is available at this link, but between that release and their earnings call there are some more items to share.  Let's take a look.


• Like the other operators, comparing this year to 2020 makes no sense, so comparisons to 2019 were offered.  For the quarter attendance was 8.5 million visitors, a decrease of 2 million from 2019.  Revenues were $460 million, a decrease of $17 million to 2019, and net income was $71 million, a decrease of only $9 million from 2019.  EBITDA was $170 million, also only a decrease of $9 million from 2019.


• Looking at the first six months of the year attendance was 9.9 million visitors, a decrease of 2.8 million visitors compared to 2019.  Total revenues were $542 million, down $64 million from 2019, net income was a loss of $25 million, down $36 million to 2019 and EBITDA was $125 million, down $23 million to 2019.


• The company has shifted some of their reporting periods starting in 2021 which did make the quarter have four extra days, including most of the July 4th weekend.  So that definitely padded their results a bit, to the tune of 614k in visitors and $32 million in revenue.

 

© Six Flags
• Right now none of the chain's parks in the U.S. have any capacity limitations.  They do have restrictions at parks in Canada and in Mexico.  They note that they held vaccination sites at several parks and gave away 140,000 tickets as incentive for people in their markets to get vaccinated.


• Through July 25th the attendance levels were at 82% of 2019 levels, with a big part of that being missing group visits.  Excluding group visits they estimate attendance levels to be at 89% of 2019 levels.  While not backed by a statistic, it sounds like trends increased even more in July.


• Six Flags received a payment of $11.3 million in the quarter related to the terminated park contracts in China, which as we know are no longer happening.


© Six Flags
• Total guest per capita spending in the second quarter of 2021 was up 23% compared to 2019.  This was driven by a strong increase in admissions per capita, but in park spending also increased by 22% - a trend we've seen from the other operators as well.  The admissions per capita was boosted by later than normal season pass sales this year, causing revenue to be recognized over a shorter period of time.  In park revenues were helped by mobile dining, going cashless in some areas, creating a QR code based Flash Pass system and more single-day ticket visitors.


• With regard to the active pass base, the total amount increased 65% at the end of the 2nd quarter 2021 when compared to the same quarter in 2020, and increased 2% when compared to 2019.  At the end of the second quarter in 2021 they had 6.3 million in the base, 2.1 million members and 4.2 million traditional season pass holders.


• With regard to liquidity, the company had $253 million in cash on hand as of July 4th, 2021, and $461 million available to borrow.  The net cash flow for the second quarter was $190 million.


© Six Flags
• Six Flags Entertainment is still focused on their "transformation" plan, which will cost $70 million to stimulate long term growth through "modernizing the guest experience through technology, continuously improving operational efficiency and driving financial excellence."  $60 million of that will be spend as cash and $10 million will be asset write offs through retired rides.  To date all the ride write offs have been recorded, which would imply the numerous ride removals might be done... for the moment at least.


• For capital expenditures the company has spent $42 million year to date.  They previously felt they would spend $98 million in 2021 but have now upped that to between $130 and $140 million.  To me that means they have increased the amount of spending to start projects for the 2022 season, but they also will spend on "high-priority and high-return park infrastructure and technology projects".  In the long term they plan to still spend between 9% and 10% of revenue on capital expenditures.  Once things are normalized with their debt levels they will again "consider strategic acquisition opportunities."


Monday, August 16, 2021

Heard On... SeaWorld Entertainment's Q2 2021 Earnings Call


© SeaWorld Entertainment
SeaWorld Entertainment also recently has their 2nd quarter 2021 earnings report, and in short it seems they've had a very strong year so far.  The company's full report is available at this link, filled with tons of financial details.  As with the other operators there are really no good comparisons to 2020, so instead the company did do some comparing to 2019 - pre-pandemic days.  The conference call also had some details which we will take a look at here.


• In the 2nd quarter attendance was 5.8 million, down 10.1% from 2019's level.  Revenues were a record $439.8 million, up 8.3% from 2019.  That translated to a record net income of $127.8 million, up 142.7% from 2019 and EBITDA was a record $218.8 million, up 46.2% over 2019.  Revenue per capita was $75.71 in 2020, up 20.5% from 2019's levels. 


• Looking at the first six months of the year attendance was 8 million, down 18.1% from 2019.  Revenues were $611.7 million, down 2.4% from 2019, net income was $82.9 million, up from $67.2 million in 2019 and EBITDA was $244 million, up from $77.9 million in 2019.  Those are some very substantial increases in net revenue and EBITDA.  


© SeaWorld Entertainment
• In terms of liquidity, the company had $615.8 million in cash and $312 million in available borrowings for a total of $927.8 million.   Free cash flow for the quarter was $200 million and $203.1 million for the first six months of the year.


•  With regard to the strong performance the company notes that they credit their "pricing and product strategies," strong consumer demand and higher realized pricing in the parks.  They feel there is still room to further grow revenues and EBITDA in the future especially as both international and group business returns.


•  The rest of the year looks promising as well, outside of any further pandemic issues.  The park's Halloween and Christmas events are still planned for this Fall and Winter.  Both SeaWorld Orlando and SeaWorld Dan Diego will put on Howl-O-Scream for the first time this year as well.  They also plan to include additional operating days in the 2nd half of 2021 versus 2019.


© SeaWorld Entertainment
•  Right now all the company's parks are open and without attendance restrictions in place.  

 

•  In July SeaWorld Entertainment saw attendance down just 7% over 2019 and revenues up 13% over 2019.  If they ignore the lack of international guests and groups they might be 2 or 3 percent up over 2019 in July.

 

•  In development news, they still plan to open Sesame Place San Diego in 2022 and their partnership to create SeaWorld Abu Dhabi is on track to complete construction by the end of 2022.  They are also "closely" studying opportunities to add hotels nearby or on the land of some of their parks.  They also have their eyes open to potential additional international developments.

 

•  They have also debuted a new app for many of the parks which lets guests "navigate the park, order food, make purchases, and check schedules and wait times."  These apps will allow for better marketing in the future as more people use them.  They have also selected their new CRM system provider, and are migrating data to it.

 

© SeaWorld Entertainment
•  They have focused heavily (like Cedar Fair) on raising in park per caps through new venues, they give examples such as a new ice cream parlor, coffee shop and several new bars in the parks that are moving that needle.  

 

•  With regard to capital expenditures the company spent $29.7 million in the quarter and for all of 2021 they plan to spend between $120 million and $150 million.  This is down from prior pre-pandemic years.  With so much cash on hand right now they are working with the company's board to release some funds for capital spend on items like "venue refreshments" and other upgrades to the parks.  They also have their eyes open to any potential acquisitions that might come along, and also hotel developments.  Sadly, no update was given on plans to open all the new rides they built that are still sitting there, such as Iron Gwazi or Pantheon - but with record results in many areas it is no surprise they are sitting on these new rides for now.


Sunday, August 15, 2021

Monster Jam Thunder Alley Coming to Carowinds and Worlds of Fun This Fall


© Cedar Fair
It looks like Cedar Fair is continuing to try to squeeze as much out of 2021 as possible while the crowds are still demanding unique outdoor entertainment.  They've now announced Monster Jam Thunder Alley for both Carowinds and Worlds of Fun, both will run during the fall or in Worlds of Fun's case, the very late fall.

 

Monster Jam Thunder Alley is a great event that was first held at many Cedar Fair parks during the 2019 season (a look at my take on Dorney Park's at this link).  The attraction provides interactive displays, play areas, special retail items, parked Monster Trucks you can go in and best of all the ability to take a spin in a real Monster Truck.  It was quite fun and was a big hit at some of the parks it traveled to during 2019.


© Cedar Fair
Carowinds will be bringing the event to the theme park on Saturdays and Sundays starting September 11th through October 10th.  The event will serve as a nice transition from the end of the summer season into the Haunt season, giving visitors another reason to make a trip to the park.  


Worlds of Fun will be taking an even more unique approach by holding the event on Saturdays and Sundays starting October 23rd, smack dab in the middle of Haunt season.  Monster Jam Thunder Alley will run each weekend through November 21st, which appears to be the end of the season for the park as they do not appear to be holding Winterfest in 2021 (or going forward).  It is nice that the park is able to extend their season regardless, giving fans a chance to ride their favorite attractions till almost the end of November.


Saturday, August 14, 2021

Cedar Fair Details Plans for 2022 Season at Several Parks


© Cedar Fair
On the heels of Kings Dominion's exciting announcement of a new themed area and roller coaster for next year, Cedar Fair put out a press release that details some other changes they have planned for the 2022 season.  The full released can be found at this link, we will take a look at some of the plans in more detail in this post.

 

“We’re in the business of making people happy, and we are actively investing in our parks to help us deliver the type of fun, immersive experiences that our guests crave and our associates love to provide,” said Cedar Fair President and CEO Richard A. Zimmerman. “Based on positive recent trends and our renewed confidence in the recovery of the business, we now plan to invest between $175-$200 million for the 2022 season to improve the guest experience at our parks.”  

 

© Kings Island
Kings Island will be celebrating the park's 50th anniversary in 2022.  It sounds like it will be a big celebration, perhaps on the scale of Cedar Point's 150th, but we'll have to wait a while longer for more details.  For now the company says that the celebration will feature "limited time events, enhanced food offerings and all-new live entertainment – each telling the stories of Kings Island’s first 50 years and sure to delight all ages and create lasting memories."  In order to get ready, the park is closing the Eiffel Tower after this weekend to start a total repaint of the 314 foot tall structure.  It'll be like new in '22!

 

© Knott's Berry Farm
Knott's Berry Farm will be coming off the park's 100th anniversary celebration and will spend 2022 filling the year with a series or "seasons" of events, giving visitors a ready to visit many times per year.  They will start with the Peanut’s Celebration, move into an extended Boysenberry Festival that takes place in the spring, followed by Ghost Town Alive! for the summer months, and the year will close out with both Halloween and Holiday events.  Also of note on the capital front, the company will perform a major renovation of the Knott's Berry Farm Hotel, which features more than 300 rooms.

 

© Canada's Wonderland
Canada's Wonderland will follow a similar format of featuring different seasons of fun throughout 2022, one of which will include an all-new International Food Festival with "a diverse menu of culinary tastes, treats and drinks from around the world."  There will also be a series of special fireworks displays over long weekends, Celebration Canada, KidZfest and both Halloween and Holiday events.  The park will also add a massive new "multi-level, rustic lodge-restaurant that will be the park’s largest dining facility to-date.  Inspired by the striking beauty of the Canadian wilderness, it will feature a sprawling patio overlooking Yukon Striker and the Frontier Canada vista, room for 500+ seating, and indoor and outdoor fireplaces."

 

© Cedar Point
Cedar Point will be bring back the Celebrate Parade next year, so if you didn't get a chance to check it out this year it sounds like you're set for the future.  The Springtime Frontier Festival will also return, along with Cedar Point Nights and Halloweekends.  As detailed in the earning call, both Castaway Bay and Sawmill Creek will see the completion of massive renovations.  Inside the park there will be a new "chef-inspired signature restaurant" located in Frontier Town, but no details yet on if it's a renovation of an existing space or an addition.


Cedar Fair also notes that they will continue to invest "millions" into both Schlitterbahn parks, with next year focusing on infrastructure and aesthetics throughout the parks.  Grand Carnivale will return again to six parks, including Dorney Park, Worlds of Fun, Valleyfair and Carowinds.  Next fall six parks will feature Tricks & Treats events with two others hosting other not-described-by-name family Halloween events.  Winterfest will return to 5 parks, Carowinds, Kings Island, Kings Dominion, Canada's Wonderland and California's Great America - but not Worlds of Fun it seems. (it also doesn't seem to be happening this year either at Worlds of Fun).


For those wondering, this release does not mean that it includes all changes, as there will probably be many smaller ones that will be announced later by individual parks.  It does strike me as a listing of the biggest things planned for next year, though.


Thursday, August 12, 2021

Entire New Themed Area + New S&S 4-D Free Spin Coaster Headed to Kings Dominion in 2022


© Kings Dominion
Kings Dominion has announced the addition of a new roller coaster, restaurant, immersive retail location and a totally new themed area for the park's 2022 operating season.  The major capital expansion will see the addition of the Jungle X-Pedition themed section, which will replace the park's existing Safari Village area.  Kings Dominion has put a lot of effort into creating a cohesive theme for the new area, complete with a full backstory:


"After a decade of searching in the Amazon jungle for a place he called “X”, in 1935 Professor Gerald Winston Whey found his prize – ancient ruins of temples built by humans to worship animal spirits. But not just worship: legend had it that animals possessed all who entered the temples. Whey claimed to experience that phenomenon firsthand after being possessed by a monkey, or Tumbili, as the Swahili call it.

Fellow archaeologists lauded Whey's astounding discovery but scoffed at his claims of spiritually connecting with animal spirits. Whey's great-granddaughter Alexandria believed, though, and today operates the ancient site as Jungle X-pedition. She needs additional explorers to help excavate the area and find proof in Professor Whey's claims. Are you game? Come to Jungle X-pedition for the adventure of a lifetime!"

 

© Kings Dominion
Among the new themed land will also be the Basecamp, which features the highly renovated restaurant that is currently known as Outer Hanks.  I'm not totally sure if the restaurant is named the Basecamp, or that's a sub-section of the greater Jungle X-Pedition area.  Either way, it's set to feature "hearty meals and snacks prepared by" the park's Executive Chef.  Nearby will be a new "immersive" retail location that will offer plenty of souvenirs for visitors.

 

© Kings Dominion
The star addition of the expansion is the new roller coaster, named Tumbili - which is the Swahili word for monkey.  The ride is one of S&S' 4-D Free Spin coasters, the same model as we saw debut this season at Adventureland.  The ride will utilize magnets that make the cars flip passengers throughout the ride, and also offer a different experience each dispatch.  The ride features some wonderful theming that tie it back to the "monkey god" temple described in the area's backstory.


Tumbili will stand 112 feet tall and feature a vertical lift hill as on other 4-D Free Spin coasters.  The ride will last around 55 seconds and passengers will travel at a maximum speed of 34 miles per hour over the 770 feet of track.


© Kings Dominion
The coaster will have supports that are painted to look like large bamboo beams, and the track will be a fittingly jungle green.  The layout includes two raven turn drops and several undulating hills that will be perfect for flipping riders head over heels on.


“Kings Dominion is in the business of making people happy, and the introduction of Tumbili and the Jungle X-Pedition themed area in 2022 is sure to excite our park guests,” said Bridgette Bywater, vice president and general manager. “We place a lot of focus on providing immersive experiences for our guests, and both of these certainly deliver on that promise. Riders will want to ride Tumbili again and again because, depending on the weight, position, and rider interaction, it provides a different ride experience every time."

 

I'm impressed with the level of detail and theming that the park has put into this expansion, and am excited to see how they incorporate the existing Avalanche bobsled coaster into the area.  By all means, let this level of theming permeate into all the Cedar Fair parks!

 

Kings Dominion has also announced that when Haunt returns this fall for their 20th year of screams there will be a new maze, new scare zone and new live entertainment - plus Winterfest will feature an all new parade this year.  


Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Heard On... Cedar Fair's Q2 2021 Conference Call


© Cedar Fair
It is once again earning release season, let's start by looking at how Cedar Fair did in the past quarter.  The company sent out their press release last week, available a this link, with plenty of detail.  Lots of numbers in there too but as always, there was more to hear on the conference call and below are some of the more interesting points.

 

• The quarter was a bit stunted by many less operating days than in 2019, which is the year to make comparisons to since 2020 was a real dud.  In 2020 they had 393 operating days in the quarter versus 726 in 2019.  Also, Canada's Wonderland not opening until early July and that's a very profitable park for the chain.


• Revenues in the second quarter were $224 million and attendance reached around 70% of what was seen in 2019.  Excluding group sales attendance was 80% of 2019 levels.  The company squeaked out $2 million in EBITDA during the second quarter.  As far as liquidity goes, at the end of the quarter they had cash on hand of $293 million and with available amounts to borrow they had in total $652 million.  The second quarter had a positive $21 million of cash flow and they expect to be cash flow positive through the end of the year.


© Cedar Fair
• The company is continuing to offer visitors "more immersive products" such as "events that compliment our world-class attractions."  These include Grand Carnivale, Cedar Point's 150th anniversary celebration and Knott's 100th anniversary celebration.  These types of event are still a focus for Cedar Fair going forward.

 

• Season passes are making up 55% of total visits through the first seven months of the year.  That's up from 53% in 2019.  Year to date they're about 8% higher in season pass sales than in 2019.


• The company has made progress on staffing by raising wages at different parks, but still are not quite where they need to be.  While many parks are doing 7 day weeks there are five parks operating on 5 days a week schedules as the company tries to "maximize attendance up against those staffing challenges."

 

Sawmill Creek Renovations © Cedar Fair
• The company sees the increased wages they offered this year as the new normal for them, and is looking to change more positions to year-round ones to better service properties with year-round operations (like Cedar Point's Sports Center and at Knott's).  They also understand there is a big benefit to training and guest service that comes from a full time employee.


• Per caps at the parks are through the roof this year, in the month of July alone the per capita spending was $61.93, 120% of the 2019 amounts.  Sales for front of the line passes and all other in park revenue categories are way up.

 

© Cedar Fair
• In terms of capital spending, which we're all keen on, the company is focused on "responsibly investing in" their parks to enhance the guest experience but also need to pay down debt.  Through the first 6 months of the year they have spent $25 million in capital on "essential compliance and infrastructure requirements as well as the restarts of select unfinished 2020 projects."  Two of these are named as renovations to Castaway Bay and Sawmill Creek Resort near Cedar Point.  Both resorts are set to play "key roles" in expanding Cedar Point's operating calendar in the future.


• More on capital spending.  For the rest of this year they plan to spend between $50 and $75 million on finishing those hotel renovations and kicking off new projects for 2022.  The company, based on positive results in the first 7 months of this year, plans to spend between $175 and $200 million in calendar year 2022 to give "immersive and unforgettable guest experiences."  Those are significant numbers when compared to past years.  They do plan to get back to spending between 9% and 10% of revenues on capital each year in the long term.


Backbeatque at Cedar Point © Cedar Fair
• But wait, more on capital!  They note that while they will invest in attractions they also have research to show that the significance of food and beverage having high-quality offerings is key to their guests.  They also note that they had incredible guest feedback from Knott's food festival.  To that end they will "invest aggressively for the 2022 season to upgrade and expand our facilities across the portfolio, while at the same time, improving the capabilities, technologies and our efficiencies of our food preparation on delivery systems."  To be like Oprah, you get a restaurant, you get a restaurant, everyone gets a restaurant!!!  But joking aside, I'd expect to see a lot of food and beverage changes next year at all the parks, along with possibly even more food festivals.


Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Mt. Olympus Water & Theme Park Building America's First Slidewheel in 2022


© Mt. Olympus Water & Theme Park
Mt. Olympus Water & Theme Park will be introducing America's first rotating water slide, known as a Slidewheel, for their 2022 season.  The new attraction will be a part of the resort's indoor water park, though much of the slide will actually be outdoors, but fully enclosed.


Per the park's description, the Slidewheel combines "the movement of a Ferris wheel and the speed and thrill of a water slide" into one innovative attraction.  Decked out in purple, green, blue and yellow, the sizeable attraction will certain draw attention from curious park-goers.  


© Mt. Olympus Water & Theme Park
As these images depict, riders will start inside at the ride's mid-level and enter the main wheel portion of the slide, which slowly rotates constantly.  The rotation allows the rafts to slide down, then backward, then forward again once the wheel turns enough.  The nature of the turning tubes actually allows for three different family-style rafts to be making their way through the attraction at once.


After the rafts make their way thought the twisted rotating portion they will move through several more traditional twists and turns before making their way back inside the water park and into the run out.


The park is featuring several animated videos of their new Slidewheel on their website which make it much easier to understand, they're available here.


Monday, August 9, 2021

Six Flags Over Texas to Open New Dark Ride in Addition to Aquaman: Power Wave in 2022


© Six Flags Over Texas
Six Flags Over Texas has announced that in addition to Aquaman: Power Wave it will open a second new attraction in 2022.  The park will be reopening one of their classic dark rides after being totally renovated to become Pirates of Speelunker Cave.  Woohoo for more dark rides!

 

Pirates of Speelunker Cave will take over what was formerly Yosemite Sam and the Gold River Adventure, which hasn't operated recently.  The new attraction hearkens back to the attractions original theme, when it was called The Cave.  It operated from 1964 until until 1991 after which it became the Yosemite Sam incarnation.  During the new ride visitors will find a "state-of-the-art attraction that will place guests squarely in the middle of a pirate treasure hunt thwarted by resident Speelunkers."

 

© Six Flags Over Texas
The attraction will feature 26 boats, state of the art animatronics and wide-projection technology that will immerse riders in the physical and digital sets spread among 17 scenes.  The ride will also receive a new entry plaza that will feature coastal theming and an open view of the boats' initial descent into the cave. 


“As the world’s first regional theme park, Six Flags Over Texas has built a solid reputation of providing innovative thrills and lifelong memories for generations of families,” said Six Flags Over Texas Park President Ron McKenzie. “What better way to celebrate our park’s 60th anniversary than by announcing a brand-new attraction that pays homage to our past and launches us into the future,” added McKenzie.


Sunday, August 8, 2021

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park to Add Defiance Coaster in 2022


© Glenwood Caverns / Gerstlauer
Back in April we heard from Gerstlauer that they had secured a contract to build a record breaking new roller coaster at a park in the U.S. that would open in May of 2022.  Flash forward to last week when Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park gave USA Today the exclusive story of their announcement of Defiance, a brand new mountain top custom-designed Euro-Fighter roller coaster.


The ride is a major addition for Glenwood Caverns, which does already feature several thrill rides but is not at all a typical amusement park.  They have some very unique rides, such as the S&S swing ride that goes out over a canyon, and the drop ride dug into a hole on the side of the mountain.


© Glenwood Caverns / Gerstlauer

Defiance will start as most Euro-Fighters do, with a vertical lift that takes passengers up to 75 feet.  Granted that's 75 feet from the start of the lift, but since we're talking on top of a mountain here, who knows how high up you'll really be!  After a brief pause trains will roll down the 110 foot first drop at 102.3 degrees, well beyond vertical, hitting a top speed of 56 miles per hour.


The ride's layout after that is somewhat short, but is sure to pack a punch.  The trains will head up into a twisted top hat element, then fall down and up into a banana roll.  After that comes an upward zero g roll that straightens out into the final brake run.  There will be a total of three inversions.


One of the best aspects of Defiance is that it will feature only lap bars, allowing unobstructed views of the area around the ride, which are sure to be beyond priceless.


Saturday, August 7, 2021

Wicked Twister at Cedar Point Closing Forever on September 6th


© NewsPlusNotes
After a season of rumors that the ride was going to be removed from Cedar Point, the park has finally confirmed that Wicked Twister's last day of operations - ever - will be September 6th, 2021.  The rumors of the coaster's demise were strong enough earlier this year that the local news even picked them up, so to a certain degree this is not a big shocker for fans of the Point.


The park announced the closing of the ride late on a Friday afternoon - a common time for sending out no-so-great news - with this blog post and the below video.


Wicked Twister has operated at Cedar Point since 2002, making the 2021 season its 20th operating year and its last.  Created by Intamin, the coaster features two twisting spikes that stand 215 feet in the air.  The train utilizes a LIM launch to rocket the train back and forth up the towers at a top launch speed of 72 miles per hour.


© NewsPlusNotes
Interestingly, Intamin did not make another similar coaster with twists on both ends of the ride until just this year.  Located in China, "Legendary Twin Dragon" features a similar color scheme to Wicked Twister but stands 230 feet tall and goes just a couple miles per hour faster than Cedar Point's ride.  


Wicked Twister was one coaster at Cedar Point that usually didn't have a very long line, whether due to its placement on the edge of the park or a general lack of popularity, I'm not sure.  However, it seemed to make the decision to remove it that much easier in the end.


© NewsPlusNotes
The area of the park that Wicked Twister will vacate has already seen development in the form of GateKeeper and WindSeeker at either end of the ride.  It does seem like an area that will be wonderfully opened up to the beach and lake once Wicked Twister is removed.  For now Cedar Point is only saying the ride is coming down as they "prepare for future park improvements."  That can mean a lot of different things, so we will have to stay tuned to see what the park has planned.