Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Dorney Park Announces Stinger for 2012

Dorney Park announced this morning that in 2012 they will welcome their 8th roller coaster, named Stinger, to the park's thrill lineup.

"Stinger is a 138 ft tall inverted shuttle roller-coaster that resembles a scorpion ready to strike, but there is no venom here, riders will only be injected with a pure rush of adrenaline as they sit face-to-face with friends and get flipped six times as they race along the 1,014 of overhead track both forward then backward at speeds of up to 55 mph."

© 2011 Dorney Park

Stinger will be situated in the location of the park's former Laser coaster, in the Northwest corner of the park's property.  The new ride will include a redevelopment of that section of the park, including redesigned midways that extend to the Asylum haunted attraction, open in the fall during the park's Haunt.

© 2011 Dorney Park

The coaster's trains feature face-to-face seating, so that guests may watch the faces of their friends while they ride.  In order to announce this new project the park had a press event this morning, during which more details of the coaster were revealed.

Charles Hutchison, the park's Manager of Public Relations explained that "ride announcements are always exciting for me because I think of the tens of thousands of guests who are going to be thrilled by the new experience, who are going to be running to the ride in the morning, then able to share their stories of bravery with their families.  One of our goals is to make the Dorney Park experience the absolute best day of their summer."

The park's Vice President and General Manager, Jason McClure had the duty of officially unveiling the new ride.  He pointed out the capital that has been added in the 5 years he has been at Dorney, and also the amazing fact that Cedar Fair has invested over $275 million in the park since they acquired it in 1992.

"In 2012, the park's 128th season, we're excited to get back to another roller coaster addition, our latest world-class coaster, Stinger," McClure announced.

Dorney Park brought some "live mascots" to the announcement - Emperor Scorpions - since the ride itself resembles a scorpion ready to strike.  The coaster represents a $10 million investment to the park for the 2012 season.

Guests who are excited about the new coaster for next year can stop by the Possessions gift shop and pick up some Stinger swag.  Here we see an example shirt that really shows off the ride's scorpion theme.

Regarding the construction of the ride, which is well underway, the park's Vice President of Construction and Maintenance, Brad Nesland had a few words.  First, the park has been able to hire many local contractors in the construction so far, which has helped the local economy.

According to Mr. Nesland, "The 38 piers that are done range in depth from 17 to 45 feet, we're now installing the pier caps.  Once those are in we'll have a curing period, and when done with that we will start to erect steel in early October.  From that point we're projecting early November we'll be able to work out the commissioning of the ride which will allow us to hand the keys of the ride over to the park around December 1st."

Laser's former home is currently a massive work site, with footers in various stages of completion.  Since the ride was moved from another park, it has undergone a complete rebuild.  When it opens it will feature an all new control system, along with several other upgrades.

The ride's track has been heavily refurbished as well.  It was sandblasted down to its original state, and then non-destructive testing was performed on all pieces, much like what was done with Possessed.  Only then were the ride pieces repainted in their new colors.  When Stinger opens at Dorney Park, it will be like "a brand new ride."

While vertical construction will be underway during the Haunt, the park still plans to have the Asylum haunt attraction open for guests.  They will clean up the midway seen above, adding fencing to the area so that guests may safely pass by the work site.

When completed, the ride's Cobra Roll will stand just to the left of the above tree.  That means the lifts will peak toward the restrooms located adjacent to the Asylum.  There's a good chance it'll be pretty close to layout #2 that I shared back in February. (wink, wink)

Stinger will have a 54 inch height requirement, and the 28 passenger train will allow a theoretical 840 riders per hour.

Dorney Park also announced their 2012 season pass offerings today, with a significantly lower introductory price of only $89.99 for a regular pass, and $59.99 for a junior/senior.  Passes will go on sale at the park starting this weekend, Steptember 3rd.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Fiesta Texas' Mystery Addition

With only a couple days left before what appears to be a chain wide 2012 announcement of grand proportions, Six Flags Fiesta Texas has thrown in their own mystery image to drum up some excitement.

The park joked that they spilled water on the image, but whatever they've done it to it things are certainly pretty twisted in there.  I can't be sure, but it looks as though people might be screaming in the sky next year in that part of Texas, if you catch my drift.

Thursday's Six Flags announcements are looking better and better!

On an unrelated note, Dorney Park will be announcing their 2012 ride tomorrow morning at the park, so watch for coverage from that here on NPN!

Leviathan Construction Update

Since Canada's Wonderland has announced Leviathan, the first ever B&M Giga coaster, the community has been buzzing about the ride.

One thing in particular that was of interest to me was that B&M did not include a mid-course block brake section, instead choosing to move it to the end of the ride.

That does make the ride look just a tad awkward with the super long brake run - but for the ride to have no interruptions to its extremely fast course will be awesome.  The pacing of the ride looks like it really won't let up until it does hit those final brakes!

As far as the construction that is taking place at the park, CWMania has some new photos of the massive, like really massive, support pieces that are showing up.  They look like they are for the lift hill, seen in the concept photo above.  The photos were taken in really good light, which also lets us clearly see the difference between track and support color.

I think my passport expired last year - fixing that is now on this winter's to-do list!

Monday, August 29, 2011

How the Parks Handled Irene

Sometimes no news is good news. Hurricane Irene recently hit the Northeast over the weekend, and while many homes are still without power, many parks in the path appear to have managed to avoid the blunt of the damage.

Starting off, Six Flags Great Adventure park reps want you to rest assured that Kingda Ka was not toppled, despite rumors to the contrary. Reps posted the following picture to the park's facebook page.

Next off, Morey's Piers posted a picture to their facebook page stating that the duck is down, but not out.

Coney Island appears to have escape significant damage, which is encouraging given this picture of a weather reporter attempting to broadcast from Coney Island.

While the following list of park closings due to the storm is not exhaustive, it does seem to follow the general path of the storm.

Kings Dominion closed all day Saturday but reopened Sunday. Six Flags America closed both Saturday and Sunday. Both Rye Playland and Six Flags Great Adventure closed all day Saturday and Sunday, and remain closed today for cleanup. Dorney Park closed early Saturday and remained closed on Sunday. Hersheypark had no disruptions to its operating schedule besides an early closing Sunday night.

Here's to no major news to report about the impact of the storm on the parks!

The Great Smoky Mountain Treat - Part 2

Editor's note: This is the second part of a look at my recent visit to Dollywood. If you missed Part 1, be sure to check it out!

After taking a quick spin on the Tennessee Tornado, it was time to enter the older sections of Dollywood, and the change can be felt immediately.  Suddenly fully grown trees shade you from the sun, thematic elements are along all the midways, and the landscaping is as much a part of the park as the rides.  Needless to say, I liked the feeling that these sections - starting with Craftsman's Valley - had.

One of the first attractions you encounter in the area is Blazing Fury.  This unique dark ride/coaster combo was actually built in-house by the park in '78, and judging from its lines is still one of the park favorites!  The ride is great for families, and starts out slow as you pass scenes of a Western town that's been set ablaze.  There's plenty of comedy included in the ride, but also some neat tricks like the train collision, and a surprising drop finale!

Craftsman's Valley is titled so for a reason - you can find just about anything that's hand crafted in this area of Dollywood.  Really though, there's a leather store, candles, the Grist Mill, even a furniture store!

Aside from its blatant beauty, this area of Dollywood also is home to some of its famous theaters.  We were able to check out some of the Country Crossroads show, and even the small sampling there showed how Dollywood's live entertainment is a step above most parks'.

If you take a path off the main walkway of the area you'll find yourself face to face with the above view, and that's a good thing.  This is Dollywood's version of the traditional Log Flume, aptly named Daredevil Falls.  Like so many of the park's rides, it takes the natural terrain and uses it to the ride's benefit, in this case a big drop on the side of an even bigger hill.

One of the "super flumes" built by O.D. Hopkins, Daredevil Falls starts at the Outfitters Base Camp.  Their wilderness excursion, as the trip is called, includes tunnels, bats, mine shafts and a 67 foot, 50 mile per hour plunge.  Even better, as the boats make their splash a series of geysers launch all around it, creating the splash seen above.  Be sure to sit in the front seat if you want to get totally soaked!

New for 2011 at Dollywood is the Owens Farm area, which sits just off Craftsman's Valley.  The Farm is the historical site of some very famous aerial shows that featured the Dueling Daredevils, stunt pilot extraordinaires.  Currently the site features Barnstormer, a giant swing ride that pays tribute to the site's high flying history.

Barnstormer quite literally rips through the area's barn, as the giant swings take riders up to 81 feet in the air at 45 miles per hour.  The ride was provided by S&S Worldwide, which is known for it's air-powered attractions that blast riders one way or another.

I couldn't pass up this shot of guests experiencing just what that sign is offering!  The $5.5 million ride lasts for just about one minute, just long enough to scream at the top of your lungs without losing your voice.

Adjacent to Barnstormer, in the Owens Farm area is an attraction for the little ones which features the Pig Pen water play area, along with a giant bi-plane climbing structure.  This one another area where Dollywood does it differently - with each big attraction comes an area that's aimed at kids and families.  Instead of sitting on a bench while guests ride the thrillers, families with smaller kids have a play option right there.

While not a new attraction, the Mountain Sidewinders have joined their new neighbor, Barnstormer, in the Owens Farm area.  These unique 'dry' water slides seat four people in a toboggan that race down the mountain, and feature a thrilling drop at the end of the run.  The great deck area the park has built next to the unload is great for people watching - the faces of guests coming down that last drop are priceless!

I'm not usually one to keep including photos of landscaping in my stories, but Dollywood has proven to be the exception to that rule for me.  I cannot say enough how much time and effort goes into the grounds of the park!  It's scenes like the one above that give Dollywood a special atmosphere, I could have used a couple extra hours at the park just to take it all in.

Moving deeper into the park leads you to The Village area, with the thrill packed Country Fair section right next door.  The Village is where you can board the Dollywood Express, an authentic 110 ton coal fired steam engine that takes riders on a five mile trip up into the Smoky Mountains.  The Village also offers the park's Carousel, and the Heartsong Theater, where you can see a filmed musical tribute to the area, hosted by Dolly herself.

Dolly must have really enjoyed the Country Fair when she was younger, because Dollywood has recreated a pretty awesome one for guests.  There's rides that spin, twirl, and send guests flying in the air - with plenty for kids, too.  While I did not get to snap a photo, I loved how the Ferris Wheel was even the smaller kind I used to ride at carnivals, fitting its setting perfectly.

Rivertown Junction is home to another of Dollywood's splashing water rides,  named Smoky Mountain River Rampage.  The boats, which have seating for six, sail around the course narrowly missing waterfalls, geysers, and rapids - or maybe not so narrowly at all!

We also stopped in Aunt Grannie's for her all-you-care-to-eat buffet, filled with homestyle cooking.  This brings me to another point - the food at Dollywood is out of this world!   No need to decide between pizza or chicken fingers here, the park has an array of food outlets with hearty offerings.  I now can say I've had excellent mashed potatoes at a theme park!

The area toward the front of the park is filled with several smaller themed areas, such as Jukebox Junction.  Seen above, the area is home to Red's Drive-In, the Rockin' Roadway car ride, and the Pines Theater, featuring the Dreamland Drive-In, which explores the music of the 50s and 60s.

Around the corner in Adventures in Imagination is a special treat for Dolly fans - this is where you can visit the Chasing Rainbows museum, a tribute to Dolly's life and career.  It even includes a look inside her tour bus, parked out front.  Next to the museum is a 4-D theater that shows different movies throughout the season, swapping them out for festivals and other special events.

At this point we've actually completed that Dollywood loop I spoke of earlier, returning to Showstreet and the entrance area.  Showstreet features two of the park's largest indoor theaters, the Showstreet Palace Theater and Dolly Parton's Celebrity Theater.  The latter is the home of Sah-Kon-O-Hey!, a huge theatrical performance that celebrates the Smokies through original music, acrobats, and other performers.  It's arguably Dollywood's most popular show, so be sure to check it out if you visit.

By now you've probably noticed that countdown box over on the left - Dollywood has a very large announcement to make in about a week.  Make sure to stop by that evening to read the latest on what will be a very exciting new ride!

I'd like to thank Dollywood for having us at the park, and for the help with this story.  The park stays open through the Holidays, so there is still plenty of time to visit this year.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Europa's First GCI Bents Going Up

© Great Coasters International

Well that didn't take long at all!  Not long after finding out more about the layout of Europa Park's new GCI Wooden Coaster, the ride has gone vertical!  And what a sweet spot to begin with - the track that is in the tunnel at the base of the first drop.

Great Coasters has been sharing some new photos of the ride's work, which can be seen at this link.  Also check out this video, which shows more of the ride's animation and interviews Clair Hain, Jr.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Weekly Rewind 8.27.11

The birds are back at the Magic Kingdom - old school style.  The Enchanted Tiki Room has reopened after a refurbishment that returns the show to its origins, no longer "under new management."

Legoland California has announced the addition of a three story, 250 room hotel set to open adjacent to the park's main gates in 2013.  The hotel will feature themed rooms that are designed for families, a pool area and restaurant.

Some good news for the potential reopening of Kentucky Kingdom - a private investor has offered to back up to $20 million in loans needed to get the park reopened.  If the plan sticks, the park could reopen next Spring with only minor expansions in place.

With each new piece of track added to the new B&M Inverted ride going into Parc Asterix, the ride looks better and better.  Check out the latest update of the just about completed ride.

Universal Studios Singapore is planning on opening Transformers: The Ride in December of this year.  A new mini-site for the ride has been launched.

The expansion of Coney Island will continue next year, according to this report.  CAI is planning on developing more of the site, possibly including water rides, go-karts, and even another Ferris wheel. 

Details on rides and attractions opening at Shanghai Disneyland are still scarce, but the company has released some news on the park's signature castle - the biggest of any Disney park.

Six Flags Magic Mountain released a pretty mysterious hint about the park's next big addition at the end of this video.  Not sure what it is, but they point to the top of Superman - must be something tall!

Now that we are post-Skyrush announcement the hype has calmed down, but the work at Hersheypark rages on.  Check out the latest update, with more footers completed and some nice yellow track that has arrived.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Great Smoky Mountain Treat - Part 1

My recent road trip afforded me visits to several parks, some that I've been to before (but not in years, meaning lots of new attractions to see), and some that were brand new to me.

One of these parks, Dollywood, has been near the top of my must-visit list for years now.  You can understand how excited I was to finally visit the park!

When you enter the parking lot of Dollywood you'd almost never know that you had just pulled into one of the best theme parks around.  Why?  Well there's no theme park to be seen at that point!  The park is quite literally situation among the hills and valleys of the Smoky Mountains, such that the parking lots are tucked away from the entrance.

When the tram drops visitors off at the gates, the high level of theming and atmosphere the park has is felt immediately.  Few parks have managed to give a feeling of being home via their entrance area - but Dollywood excels at this.

Dollywood first opened in 1961 under the name of Rebel Railroad, and had several monikers - including Silver Dollar City Tennessee - before becoming Dollywood in 1986.  It was at that time that a great amount of expansion at the park began, in fact Dollywood has doubled in size since being renamed.  The park received the coveted Applause Award in 2010, which was personally accepted by Dolly Parton.

After grabbing a map to become a little better oriented with the park, we noticed most guests turning right after entering, so that meant we turned left.  This small, winding path leads to the Timber Canyon section of the park, a somewhat recent addition to the park's themed areas.

Without a doubt, the view guests have when they enter the Timber Canyon area is one that will elicit excitement, as the park's wooden coaster, Thunderhead, stands prominently before you.  A bonus to the view is that you can't really see all of the ride, yet you know that its winding around the hillside, twisting under itself multiple times.

Thunderhead was added to the park in 2004, and marked the beginning of the Timber Canyon area, which eventually, with the addition of one more themed area, connected the park in a giant loop.  I had the benefit of visiting with that loop complete, making a trip around the park a breeze and easy to navigate.

But back to Thunderhead now.  It's an amazing ride, certainly worth the praise it has received over the years.  In fact, the ride has twice been named the best wooden coaster in the Golden Ticket Awards, something the park happily promotes.  After embarking up the lift to 100 feet above the ground, the train descends and the twisting begins.  Millennium Flyer trains, provided by Great Coasters International keep the ride smooth yet wild enough for a solid thrill.

As if the coaster's layout wasn't thrill enough, those waiting to ride in the station are treated to an extra surprise when the train comes roaring through at 40 miles per hour, only 8 feet above the exit stairs!  After reading for so long about how this coaster sits near the top of many fans favorite ride list, I now understand - Thunderhead really is a great coaster!

While Thunderhead was a wonderful surprise, my attention quickly turned around to the rest of the Timber Canyon area.  Just to the left of this photo is the Timber Tower, a unique flat ride that is not operating this season.  Beyond that, a dilapidated looking mine structure quickly drew my attention and beckoned me to head that direction.

The dilapidated appearance of Mystery Mine was done on purpose, naturally, as the theming standard at Dollywood is very high.  The ride is a part indoor and part outdoor coaster, but all fun.  While a thrill ride, Mystery Mine is still aimed at families, sporting a kid friendly 48 inch height requirement.  The structure is dark and imposing, but the ride itself is lighthearted and fun.

Riders sit eight to a mine car and load inside a dingy looking station, complete with flickering gas lamps hanging overhead.  The fun starts immediately - right after dispatch the cars drop down into a black as night hole in the side of the station.  Excellent.

From there I'd rather not ruin any surprises for future guests, but let's say there are two vertical lifts, two rockin' inversions, and even some fireballs!  Just make sure that canary keeps on singing, or that's a sure sign you're in for some trouble.  You'll know what I mean!

Mystery Mine is a Gerstlauer designed custom Euro-Fighter as far as hardware is concerned, but an excellent attraction as far as rides go.  Taking a ride that's (now, at least) somewhat similar to others in the area and adding a decisively thick layer of theming and story takes Mystery Mine from a ride into an experience. 

Once you get your thrill fix, then enjoy some eats at the LumberCamp, its time to head to the park's newest area, Wilderness Pass.  Immediately upon entering the area you'll see River Battle, a ride added in 2008 that along with a new walkway officially connected the Dollywood loop - as it could be called.

Wilderness Pass hasn't had the opportunity to truly 'grow in' quite yet, so it can be a tad hot in the sun. Thankfully River Battle is all about keeping riders cool by providing them about a gazillion ways to get soaked.  The boats that travel on this river are armed with spray shooters, and there's plenty of water guns stationed along the walkways surrounding the ride.  That leads to the Battle part of the attraction - it's hilarious to watch people on the ride duke it out with those on land.  Both parties eventually end up soaked!

Just past River Battle is an imposing yet beautiful structure on the side of the hill, this is the park's interactive course named Adventure Mountain.  If you take a ropes/obstacle course you might encounter at a fair or even the mall, then times it by ten, add in waterfalls, geysers, rock walls and other theming elements, well only then do you have Adventure Mountain.

Guests are able to choose which course they want to experience, and there's several so that everyone has something that 'fits' them, mild up to challenging.  There's even an adorable kids area named Camp Teachittome that's perfect for the young ones to experience.  It's attractions like Adventure Mountain that really set Dollywood apart from other parks I've visited.

Since we've covered two of the park's large coasters, we might as well hit upon the third right away.  After guests pass Adventure Mountain they encounter an open area (that won't be open for long, ahem, 2012...) and then reconnect with the 'original' part of Dollywood, in Craftsman's Valley.  At the very top of this area is the Tennessee Tornado, a large steel looping coaster.

The Tennessee Tornado is rather difficult to photograph, so forgive my lack of excellent photos.  While a bit mysterious to get an image of, the ride makes up for that with intensity.  At this point I've been on my fair share of Arrow designed looping rides, and the Tennessee Tornado is the most intense of its kind that I've ridden.  It's also the last of the traditional sit-down looping rides that Arrow created, having opened in 1999.

The Tennessee Tornado start outs innocently enough, with a traditional few turns before heading up the lift.  At the top there's a sloping right turn, a hop, and then a steep drop into a tunnel.  From there the train hits a massive 110 foot tall vertical loop, climbs into a banked turn, then plunges down below grade into another loop and sidewinder inversion combo.  A quick turn to the brakes and the ride is complete - and then it's time to catch your breath!

We've explored roughly half the park, but there's still plenty ahead.  Watch for the second part of my visit, coming soon!