Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Gravity Group Debuts New Website

Wooden roller coaster fans will have fun exploring the all-new website that has been debuted by The Gravity Group.  The company decided it was time for an updated web presence - and just in time for this year's IAAPA trade show - with nice results.

© The Gravity Group
Naturally the website covers the services that the company offers, both wooden roller coaster design (with inversions!) as well as their supporting coaster train company, GravityKraft.  But for those not actually able to order and build a new wooden coaster, it also has a nice catalogue of all the wooden roller coasters that they have created to date.  This is the section that coaster fans will really appreciate, as each project features plenty of photographs, layouts, statistics, videos and more.

© The Gravity Group
The site also lets us explore and really get to know the handful of coasters that The Gravity Group has designed for parks in China - like Jungle Trailblazer at Fantawild Oriental Heritage seen above.  There are actually four Gravity Group coasters in China named Jungle Trailblazer, so the clarity on each of the projects is much appreciated, at least by me!

Why not click over and do some exploring on the new site?

Monday, October 24, 2016

Could a New Theme Park be Coming to Orlando?

It is a bit dangerous to buy into rumors of new theme parks in the U.S., especially given that the last few that opened haven't had the best luck (I'm looking at you, Hard Rock Park).  However, this new rumor of a 200 acre park in Orlando is pretty interesting, especially considering it is being widely reported.

I immediately think back to when it was leaked that Universal Orlando was buying tons of new land in Orlando... and that happened to be totally true.

© Bing Maps
The new theme park rumor started with the Orlando Business Journal, which reported that a "top U.S. theme park operator" is looking to build a 200 acre theme park on the site of the Artegon Marketplace mall and adjacent land.  The aerial above shows the mall, with a large open area below it.  That open space once was to be the Orlando Thrill park (filled with oodles of coasters) but the neighborhood next to it put that to bed pretty quickly.  The article also says that the mall has been for sale for a while, and the land it is on is already zoned for a theme park - plus if other open land in the area is lumped in there's plenty of room for a park.

© Bing Maps
Let's zoom out and look at the potential park site.  Fun Spot Orlando is almost directly adjacent to it, but the big draw would be Universal - which can be seen in the entire left of the image.  Also, just to the South of the area is the giant area that Universal recently purchased, plus the convention center and then SeaWorld Orlando.

Now, who could this "top U.S. theme park operator" possibly be?  Well there are several that are based in the U.S., but also several companies that are foreign but operate parks here.  The Orlando Business Journal article mentions that "international investors" might also be involved, so it might be foolish to ignore foreign companies.

Cedar Fair is doing great right now, but honestly they do not seem like they would be at all interested in building a park from the ground up.  But then again, they're led by a former Disney executive who knows first hand how much money can be made in a year-round park.  Still, this seems like a stretch.

Six Flags' current leadership seems almost aggressive enough to try something like this - after all there have been Six Flags in Florida rumors for many, many years.  They also now have ties to many foreign investors who are leasing their name for international parks, perhaps one of them wants to do the same but on U.S. soil?

Herschend Family Entertainment is private and would probably need large investors to pull off a park in Orlando.  But that also means it would be easier for them, as there are no shareholders to appease.  They've expanded their business in recent years by purchasing Wild Adventures and spending $300 million on the Dollywood resort.

Premier Parks has come back onto the scene, snatching up several U.S. parks in the past 5 years and operating several for CNL Lifestyle Properties.  They're not a big company, but if you look at their past companies it isn't hard to see that they're pretty ambitious.  Still, it doesn't seem like they would have the resources for a bit new Orlando park.

Landry's Restaurants operates a few parks in the South, but seem too interested in the restaurant side of things to bite off a project this large.

Merlin Entertainments is a global company, whose presence in the U.S. is focused on the Legoland Parks along with Madame Tussands, Sealife Aquariums and the Orlando Eye.  They're aggressive, and want several more Legoland parks in the U.S. - so could a differently themed park in Orlando be in their plan too?

Village Roadshow Theme Parks owns properties such as a handful of Wet'n'Wild water parks, Sea World and Warner Brothers Movie World in Australia.  They're working on two new parks in China, so they seem to have the development bug - but Orlando is a pretty tough market to enter without a big U.S. presence.

Finally there is Parques Reunidos, a bit of a behemoth that operates nearly 50 parks and attractions around the world.  They've picked up many parks in the U.S. in the past ten or so years, but haven't been building new ones - whereas Merlin is proven to be unafraid to do exactly that.

So in conclusion?  Who knows!  Maybe it's just a rumor and nothing will ever come of it, but it's fun to think it over, no?

Sunday, October 23, 2016

New Star Trek Themed Custom Mack Coaster Completed at Movie Park Germany

© Movie Park Germany
Movie Park Germany has already completed the vertical construction of track and supports for their new launched coaster, Star Trek: Operation enterprise.  Although the ride won't open until 2017, the theme park moved quickly and while there is still plenty left to do, visitors are already excited by the coaster's looming presence.

The ride's layout is pretty compact and most of it can be seen in the above image.  The track on the far left is the initial launch (with a back spike tower not seen in the left of the photo).  After that is a non-inverting top hat element, and then a steep plunge toward the ground.

© Movie Park Germany
The trains will then head up into the giant element seen here, behind the park's entrance plaza fountain.  Riders enter the element on the left above, inverting then coming right side up, only to invert and dive again.  We've seen similar elements on other coasters so while this isn't a first (that I can tell, anyway) it's certainly a pretty cool looking element!

© Movie Park Germany
Subsequent to that high flying element is a quick turn directly through one of the park buildings, several other high speed turns toward the ground and a final heartline roll / corkscrew into the brake run.

I haven't encountered any released statistics on this Mack designed coaster yet, so I'm not sure how fast the train will be maneuvering through the layout.  I'm sure we'll find those out soon, though.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Elitch Gardens Building 17 Story Star Flyer Ride for 2017 Season

© Elitch Gardens
A brand new thrill ride, a part of an overall $4 million in investments, has been announced for Denver's Elitch Gardens' 2017 season.  Named Star Flyer, the giant swing ride will offer spectacular views of Denver and the Rocky Mountains to riders as they swing around over 17 stories above the ground.

Star Flyer will be manufactured by Funtime, which also calls the brand of ride a StarFlyer.  The ride will seat a total of 48 passengers per cycle, swinging them upward in seats suspended by chains, to more than 170 feet in the air.  Riders will hit a maximum speed of 50 miles per hour while on Star Flyer.

Star Flyer will be Elitch Gardens' 7th new attraction in the past six years, and is planned to be ready for the park's sneak preview weekend starting on April 22nd, 2017.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Minions Invade Universal Studios Japan in 2017

© Universal Studios Japan
Set to open within the first half of 2017 at Universal Studios Japan is Minion Park, the "world's largest Minion" themed area - packed full of the antics of the characters of the Despicable Me film franchise.

Minion Park will offer visitors several "themed facilities, including a toy store, sweets factory and hotel."  All of the new locations will have been fully taken over by the lovable Minions, who seem to cause a bit of trouble wherever they go.  The new land, seen above in concept art, features other notable structures such as Gru's House, all centered around a central park area.

The star attraction of the new area will be Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, a new simulator ride that replaces the Back to the Future building.  The ride, already popular at both Universal Studios Florida and Universal Studios Hollywood, sends guests on a wild 3-D adventure into the Despicable Me world.  After entering through Gru's House and entering his laboratory, riders become a part of his latest plan for world domination and actually become one of his minions.  The ride vehicles then take flight, flying off on a hilarious journey that features "realistic sensations along with a series of unexpected surprises."  The attraction features a giant dome screen standing over 65 feet tall along with a "state-of-the-art high definition laser-projection system."

While not detailed in the press release for the Minion Park expansion, the existing rides also feature a fun Minion dance party when the ride is over - hopefully to be included in Japan as well! 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Ghostbusters 5-D Opening at Heide Park in 2017

© Heide Park Resort
An all-new interactive dark ride attraction named Ghostbusters 5-D will open at the Heide Park Resort in 2017, it has announced.  The German theme park will be one of the first to offer an interactive attraction based on the Ghostbusters franchise, and is excited to bring the new ride to park visitors.

Riders will be equipped with Laser Proton guns as they board the ride 8 passenger ride vehicles and set out on a quest to help save the park from some not-so-nice ghosts including the infamous Slimer.  The dark ride will take place within a haunted warehouse building, and riders (moving in a vehicle themed as Ecto-1) will also be quipped with a ghost trap and 3-D glasses.  I'm not sure from the press release if riders will gain points for the ghosts they blast, but that might be a safe bet based on the popularity of that being added to dark rides these days.

The Ghostbusters franchise should prove popular for the park; and being that they are a part of Merlin Entertainments, it is possible that we could see other similar rides pop up in the future.