Thursday, May 31, 2012

2011 TEA and AECOM Attendance Report Now Available

This past year's amusement, theme, and water park attendance has once again been documented in the 2011 Theme Index, provided by the Themed Entertainment Association and AECOM.

The report paints a picture of a generally healthy industry in North America, naturally where our focus is.  In 2011 the top 20 U.S. parks saw a 2.9% attendance growth, while the top 25 parks worldwide saw a 4.8% upswing.  The fastest growing segment in the world is again Asia, which saw a 9.4% increase in attendance at its top 20 parks.

The report also details the top parks on an individual basis by location, showing that once again the Magic Kingdom in Florida is the most visited park in North America with 17.1 million guests.

The big news of the report is Universal's Islands of Adventure, which saw an astonishing 29% increase in attendance, making the park the 6th most visited in North America with 7.6 million guests.  Compare that to the park's 2009 attendance of 4.6 million before the Wizarding World opened, and you can really get a feel for how massively popular the addition has been.

The report is not just numbers, but contains some interesting commentary on the industry as well.  For a direct link to the .pdf of this year's Theme Index, follow this link.

Bluegrass Boardwalk Delayed Until 2014

Developers behind the plans to reopen Kentucky Kingdom have spoken more about the status of the park, which is leading them to delay the opening of the park until 2014.  When it does open, the property will be renamed Bluegrass Boardwalk.

The company's CEO, Natalie Koch, stated that "when the park was closed in 2009, needed winter maintenance was not been performed on the rides.  For example, pumps for the water rides were not removed for off-season winterization and inspection. Plumbing and structural infrastructure are in need of extensive repair. Buildings are damaged from leaky roofs. Rides are missing parts. The list goes on and on. We believe 75 percent of the rides will require significant overhaul following in-depth inspection by certified ride experts.”

Frustrating news I'm sure for those who hoped to be enjoying the park once again next season.  In addition to the above reasons officials have met with ride manufacturers regarding bringing the rides back online, and the consensus seems to be that 11 months simply isn't enough time.

When the park does come back it will be significantly different than when it closed, with potentially only the Thunder Run coaster reopening.  Another news source reported that plans show the park will receive several new water attractions, including a new slide tower and something referred to as the "Racer".

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Cedar Point's 2013 Coaster Plans Exposed

The big news of the day, indeed, is that the Sandusky Register has blown the cover off of Cedar Point's 2013 plans for a new roller coaster.

Granted, rumors of the addition have been swirling for some time now, but the Register is publishing information that came from a memo written by CEO Matt Ouimet to the company's board of directions.

So what is it?  They're reporting that a very large Bolliger and Mabillard wing coaster will grace the point next year, and as part of the addition both Disaster Transport and the Space Spiral observation tower will be removed.  The coaster will take up their space, travel out over the parking lot, and interact with the front entrance.

The removal of the rides will free up access to an area of the park that is underused due to the odd shape of Disaster Transport, and also open views of the beach, something Mr. Ouimet has said he wants.

Taking a look at the aerials, as I always do right away, we can see just how large a space is available for the ride.

Aerial Image © Bing

The red is the ride area being cleared out.  The green is the potential area for the new coaster.  I can't be sure if the ride will just head out near the front gates, or really travel over theme - also hard to know how much of that parking lot will be used.

The article puts the project at $25 million, with a 170 foot lift and the longest track and ride time of any B&M wing coaster.  Currently Dollywood's Wild Eagle is the largest B&M wing coaster, with a 210 foot tall lift, 135 foot drop, and 3,127 feet of track. 

Naturally, this will be one story we will keep our eyes on!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Adventureland's Adventure Bay 2012 Expansion

Over the past few years Iowa's Adventureland Amusement Park has been continually expanding their waterpark, named Adventure Bay, but I have to admit that just how much had escaped me until now.  From starting with an interactive play structure to now having a full day's worth of slides and rides, Adventure Bay is most certainly all grown up.

Thankfully the park threw together this friendly video that explains the development of the park, including the park's massive new attraction, named Breaker Beach Wave Pool.

Really though, that amount of brightly colored modern slides should have any waterpark fan eager to check the property out.  But how about that new wave pool?  The $3 million Breaker Beach is part of an even bigger $7 million expansion, which adds a very significant amount of space to the park.

© Adventureland Amusement Park

The expansion includes not only the 500,000 gallon wave pool but also expanded cabanas, a new kiddie pool area, and a second swim-up beverage location, this time catering to kids.  The wave pool features six foot waves and is the largest in the state.

As for why Adventureland has been so aggressively expanding Adventure Bay, well did you catch this shot during the video?

Look how crowded the waterpark is!  It looks like Adventureland has really found their niche in the water activity category.  Now that the heavy expansions are done though, will the park turn back to adding dry rides again in the future?  One hopes.

Closer and Closer to the Apocalypse

© Six Flags America

Everyone recovered from their Memorial Day Weekend park trips?  I hope so!

Let's take a look at one right that wasn't quite ready for its debut this past weekend, Apocalypse at Six Flags America.

Some recent photos that have been uploaded by the park, and also in a great update from SFAFans, show just how quickly the final touches of the ride are coming together.  Some interesting thematic elements are showing up underneath the stand-up coaster, the station is now far along and complete with new signs, and even the gift shop is looking close to finished.

Apocalypse is the first new coaster at Six Flags America since the opening of Batwing back in 2001, so it is being welcomed with much anticipation.  The ride is scheduled to open on June 7th.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Galveston Pleasure Pier's Opening Weekend Has Arrived

Memorial Day weekend as seen a lot of great rides and attractions open for the first time to the general public, but how about an entire new park opening?  That's news worthy, right?

© Galveston Pleasure Pier

Galveston, Texas, officially has a new amusement park with this weekend's opening of the Galveston Pleasure Pier, which stretches out 1,130 feet into the Gulf of Mexico.  Technically the park is in a sneak preview mode, with several of its larger attractions not open just yet.  The pier has reduced the admission fee for the period until all rides and attractions are up and running.

The $60 million investment has added a total of 16 rides to the property, along with plenty of games, retail, and food locations in a colorful, family friendly atmosphere.  Texas' first Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. has also opened at the entrance to the park, offering both sit down and food-to-go options for visitors.

Thirteen rides have opened already, with the Iron Shark roller coaster, Texas Star Flyer and the Galaxy Wheel still to come. Among those already thrilling guests is the Pirate's Plunge Log Flume, a classic Carousel, and the Pier Pileup Bumper Cars.  There are rides on site that range from high thrill all the way down to gentle spinning children's attractions.

There is a general admission fee to enter the pier, though you can purchase an all day ride pass which covers the access fee.  Individual ride tickets are also available as an option.  Congratulations to the park on their opening, and hopefully they will find much success - I can't wait to see some video of the Iron Shark!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Frontier City's New Crowd Pleasing Water Attraction

Next on the list of attractions that just opened this weekend is Frontier City's brand new Wild West Water Works, a massive water playground that has expanded the park's reach from dry rides into true water park style attractions.

Granted, with the nearby location of White Water Bay I doubt that Frontier City will expand their water park offerings much more, but the new attraction is still sure to be a hit during the hot Summer months.  Wild West Water Works was built by WhiteWater West, and is one of their AquaPlay RainFortress attractions.

The five story tall new structure took its initial theming design from the minds of those running Frontier City.  WhiteWater was able to turn their design dreams into reality, adding items such as a western general store, tepee, horse back riders, and plenty of other traditionally 'wild west' decorations.

With the opening of Wild West Water Works, adventurers will find 200 different interactive play elements located throughout the structure.  There are also eight separate water slides connected, ranging from small ones for toddlers all the way up to larger, twisting models. 

Naturally, the 1,000 gallon tipping bucket, themed as a barrel, is the show stopper.  When it dumps that much water on the ground below it is rather hard not to notice!

Bonzai Pipeline Thrills Riders at Six Flags St. Louis

Another new attraction that just had its grand opening is the Bonzai Pipeline set of water slides at Six Flags St. Louis.  The new attraction is located in the theme park's Hurricane Harbor area, which is a full waterpark that is included in the property's general admission fee.

Bonzai Pipeline stands six stories tall, and once riders get to the top they enter one of two different launch capsules.  After proper instructions are received the countdown begins, and suddenly the floor drops out from underneath the riders.

After dropping they spiral down 290 feet of slide at a maximum speed of 40 miles per hour, heading through a twisted horizontal loop, and finally slowing down in a splash-filled run out.  Traditionally quick slides such as these were thrill enough, but adding a true freefall drop at the start really turns things up a notch!

To help celebrate the opening of the Bonzai Pipeline, four local couples tied the knot at the top of the tower and made taking the plunge their first activity as husband and wife.  For more on their thrilling wedding, and some video of the slides in action, check out the park's news release.

Bonzai Pipeline is Hurricane Harbor's new attraction this year, while the previously opened Mr. Freeze Reverse Blast is also thrilling the masses at the theme park next door.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Sea World San Diego's Manta Open to Guests

This weekend marks the grand opening of many new rides and attractions, and one of the largest is Manta at Sea World Sand Diego.  The park's brand new double-launch roller coaster is taking its first riders around the course, inviting them to feel as though they're swimming with a ray.

One of the largest expansions that Sea World San Diego has ever undertaken, the coaster represents a close blend of the ride elements with a natural ray habitat and other theming elements.  The coaster stretches 2,835 feet in length and starts with a trip under the sea in a tunnel with a 270 degree projection screen.

As the train slowly moves forward and backward guests are treated to a glimpse of rays swimming underwater, when suddenly the launch doors open and the train takes off, reaching a top speed of 43 miles per hour.

The trip includes a dive under the bridge that guests use to enter the Manta ride plaza and ray exhibit.  As the train dives down toward a water feature fountains shoot as if the ray-themed trains had skimmed the water.

The ride's entrance features a beautiful rock structure that holds the ride's marquee, and guests descend down under it as they enter the ride's queue.  The winding queue takes guests past the 100,000 gallon marine life exhibit, including 400 fishes and 65 California bat rays.

Manta was created for Sea World San Diego by Mack Rides, of Germany.  The coaster is designed for families to be able to experience together with a low height requirement of 48 inches.  The four trains have a beautiful Manta ray shaped first car that leads the trains through the two LSM launches.

If you are interested in checking out a point-of-view movie of Manta, check that out at this link!

Legoland California Celebrates Pireate Reef's Grand Opening

Pirates have one again invaded Legoland California (Carlsbad, CA), this time in the form of a multi-million dollar family ride named Pirate Reef that is opening this weekend.  The attraction is a scaled down shoot-the-chutes ride, perfect for riders big to small.

Guests board their own boat and head up the lift hill.  After rounding a 180 degree curve the boats plunge down a 25 foot drop at 26 miles per hour between two massive Lego pirate ships and under a spectator filled bridge.  After riding Pirate Reef guests exit across the bridge that connects the two ships, named Captain Blue Brick and Captain Red Brick, and discover plenty of interactive water elements that allow them to do battle.

As with other attractions as the Legoland California park, plenty of Lego characters can be found in the area.  According to the park, "throughout Pirate Reef, guests encounter more than 30 pirate-themed models including pirates, monkeys, parrots, and frogs, all created out of more than 223,000 Lego bricks."

The new ride is situated between the Pirate Shoes area of the theme park and the Legoland Water Park, accessible from both.  The park has shared some video footage of the ride and its surrounds, check it out!

Friday, May 25, 2012

2012 Waterpark Preivew - Part 3

Funtown Splashtown, located in Saco, Maine, has added a large slide tower for the park's 2012 season.  Interestingly named The Mount Olympus Water Slides, the structure features several experiences from one launch point.

© Funtown Splashtown

The tower has a set of four racing mat slides which start out with a unique curving section before a steeper than average plummet down to the finish.  There are also two slides that start with trap door launches, one that features two large horizontal loops, and another that's a straight freefall.

The park has also built a new restaurant and added a significant amount of lounge space to the Splashtown.  Sounds like a great season is planned!

Staying in New England territory we move to New Hampshire's Water World, billed as the region's largest waterpark.  New this year is Dr. VonDark's Tunnel of Terror, a fully enclosed Tantrum slide that has added special effects.

© Water World

The menacing sky in the background of this photo really fits with the theme, no?  The new slide is a major addition to the park, and will send riders down in rafts seating two at a time.  They will twist through the darkened path, past waterfalls and projection elements and into the funnel section.

Dr. VonDark's Tunnel of Terror isn't meant to be the biggest or scariest water slide around, but instead will give a thrill to the whole family.  It is expected to open with the park on June 9th.

One of the largest waterpark openings of the year is Aquatica at Sea World San Antonio.  Like its sister park in Orlando, the new property is quite beautiful.  Sea World has taken what was an average water park before and made some dramatic changes, creating a top notch facility.

They've also not been shy to add some unique attractions along the way.

© Aquatica San Antonio

Take for instance the Walhalla Wave, seen above.  Rafts have an enclosed portion that's thrilling enough on its own right, but then drop into a massive curved wall, providing a floating feeling.

© Aquatica San Antonio

If you look closely at the pool of water under the brightly colored slide above, named Stingray Falls, you can see that at the end of the slide rafts actually go underground.  This is such an awesome idea!  Riders get an undersea view of the rays swimming in their habitat as their rafts pass through an underwater grotto.

The entire park has plenty of features that are meant to provide a true escape from reality, complete with lots of theming and a dense offering of amenities.  Be sure to read up on the park, I have a feeling we'll be seeing a lot more from Sea World San Antonio in the future!

Legoland Florida is riding on their initial success by reopening the waterpark that was built as part of Cypress Gardens.  Opening this holiday weekend, the Legoland Water Park has been totally renovated and includes new theming, shade, amenities and a special children's area.

To really kick things off the park just held an attempt at gaining a world record for the most beach balls being bounced into the air - a record they easily grabbed with over 1,300 participants!  Looks like fun!

© Legoland Florida

Seen above is the Joker Soaker, a water play area that features a giant bucket that periodically soaks everyone below.  Guests can also relax in the Lego Wave Pool, or add their own Lego creation to their inner tube as they float down the Build-a-Raft River.  For thrill seekers the Twin Chasers and Splash Out slides are sure to deliver.

The park will naturally be accented with plenty of humorous Lego creations, everything from surfing Lego characters to those just looking to lay out and catch some sun!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Bluegrass Boardwalk: Possibly Delayed + Coasterless?

Some significant news has broken about the possibility of Bluegrass Boardwalk having its opening delayed to Summer 2014.

From this news story it sounds like the decision is not final yet, but delays in financial related issues, including tax incentives, are making the 2013 opening increasingly difficult.  The final lease will not be signed until those items are in place, and they're taking much longer than expected.

Regarding the park's coaster selection when it does reopen, it sounds like there won't be much offered.  The news report that due to certain coaster's age, reliability, and cost prohibitive repairs they will not be brought back online - including the Twisted Twins (1998 CCI dueling wooden coasters) and T2 (Vekoma Suspended Looping Coaster).  The park's classic Schwarzkopf shuttle loop, Greezed Lightnin', was not mentioned specifically.

According to the plan when the park opens only select rides will be included, such as the park's river rafting ride, several flats and kiddie rides and the carousel.  In future years other rides will be brought back, like the Ferris wheel and Thunder Run wooden coaster.  All waterpark attractions will be reopened.

So, that leaves me wondering - will that be enough?  Will the focus on the waterpark be enough to overshadow a small selection of rides?  I expected many rides not to reopen, but thought a larger balance between water and dry rides would be achieved.  Developers do point out that this is not set in stone, so available rides could change quite a bit once the lease is signed and full inspections are done.

Scott and Carol Present: Verbolten at Busch Gardens Europe

Finally the day has arrived, media day for one of the most anticipated coasters, by families at least, of 2012.

Following the signs we made our way into the parking lot.

If you look closely there is a rare image of Carol appearing in the mirror.

Gerta and Gunter Schwartzwald, the brother and sister team who virtually run the entire Oktoberfest village at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. We will learn more about them later.

Carl Lum, Park President offers his insights. "When I moved here a year and a half ago I was amazed about how much people talked about Big Bad Wolf. So I knew it was a big deal and whatever we put here to replace we really needed to think carefully through it and do a good job because the Big Bad Wolf was a big deal."

"One of the strengths of this park are the European countries so when we redesigned all the buildings here what’s important is that we stayed with the German theme. We tried to make sure we did a nice job with that and the ultimate compliment was when the ride manufacturer was here about three weeks ago they said “I feel like I am back in Germany. So that was pretty cool!"

Busch Gardens Creative Director, Brian Morrow began telling us Verbolten's back story, "The story starts in Oktoberfest, where that holiday is celebrated every day in Busch Gardens Virginia. Imagine yourself as a tourist in Germany, which is what Busch Gardens is about, immersing yourself in different cultures. One thing you always want to do when traveling abroad is see the countryside and rent a car. So that is where this all started was this car idea. We knew we wanted to do a car themed ride because cars are really sporty and fun. Everyone can relate to them because everyone drives cars."

Brian continued the tale "Gerta the operator of the visitor center where travelers can rent cars and Gunter operates the garage that supplies the cars. Gerta loves the people, loves the village, but she is very afraid of the Black Forest, and gives us lots of warnings to stay out of it."

"Gunter on the other hand, is obsessed with the Black Forest and he wants to protect it from people who think it’s evil and bad. He does a lot of work for the forest like pulling the personal belongings out of the cars reclaimed by the forest."

Two of the five trains that will concurrently operate on Verbolten.

Brian said, "Gunter makes a lot of his own equipment to monitor the forest and to explore the forest so what you see in the queue and in the station is the closed circuit television system that shows six individual story lines along with Gerta and Gunter. In the station are also view ports into Gunter’s greenhouse where his collection of plant specimens are overgrowing his office and the station."

Carl added, "We always want to do things to accommodate our guests with any type of disability but we also wanted to do that because when you design that the right way you get better throughput and more people can get on the ride. You don’t want to build a ride and then have a line that is three hours long to get on it. We can operate five trains concurrently on this ride. "

The train rolls out of the station into some swooping turns with undulating hills.

Here the train is rolling into position for the launch into the "Black Forest." Just inside the building there is a nice pop of air before you encounter a wide sweeping upward spiral where you are stopped for the "show."

Brian gave us some more details, "We are the first people to use the new ultraviolet strobe lights. They are LED black lights and these are directional and focus able, so we can control exactly what we want you to see. We can dim them and strobe them, and while there are other types of lights in there too these are the majority of them."

The second launch takes you out of the "Black Forest" where you encounter a bridge.

Again from Brian, "Of course it is the wrong bridge, ready to collapse, so you encounter the main drop, down to the lake." The Rhine River on the park map is really a lake and Larry offers his ideas. "What we try to do at Busch Gardens is to utilize the terrain when we design our rides to bring the coaster and have it follow the great terrain we have available to us instead of trying to force fit in into the park.

The train slows to a crawl on the bridge, to better heighten the anticipation and also allow the guests to better experience the "Creaking Timbers," before the big drop.

Larry Giles, Vice President of design and engineering said "That is part of what we try to do at Busch Gardens is utilize the terrain when we design our rides is to bring the coaster and have it follow the great terrain we have available to us instead of trying to force fit it.

There was a lot of genius in Big Bad Wolf, there’s no denying it. And one of our discussion points early on was could we really improve that final drop. The answer that came back was probably not. Why would we want to try, if we tried to make it better, might end up making it worse. It was such a great finish to a ride, let’s go ahead and do it. We made it ten feet taller to give you a little more airtime in the back seat which you will feel and it ended up being a nice finish for the ride."

Carl told us, "The footers are in what is called an environmentally protected area, a wetland in this case, and because environmental responsibility is very important to our company, as part of the design were purposely reused those footers. It didn’t save us much money but I thought it was important to minimize the impact in that wetlands area so we reused them."

Larry said, "We want people to ride rides, not wait in line and we know that with two-across seating we can load quickly and get the train out of the station very quickly. We figured with a flat floor we could unload and load much faster. We ended up with a sixteen passenger train, we originally wanted a smaller train but we could get to our capacity expectation that way."

One of the banked turns on Verbolten. The trains all have side mounted lap bars as ride restraints.

Carl said, "The nice thing about the queue is that there is an experience there with the office and we purposely put the line on the other side of the building so people could see the trains coming in and be entertained by that. We knew we wanted to make the queue experience interactive and entertaining. Brian also had an interesting observation, "I am really happy with the way the guests are understanding the story that we have woven here and their appreciation for the fact that all the family members can ride. Lots of kids can ride the attraction with their moms and dads. We feel it is a powerful imagination based attraction that turned out as thrilling as we hoped it would be."

As for our thoughts on Verbolten, join us for a ride!

Thanks to all the kind folks at Busch Gardens Europe for the opportunity to share the Verbolten experience with NPN readers!