Ever wonder why the double corkscrew element on classic Arrow and Vekoma roller coasters are so pleasing to the eye? True, the entry and exit isn’t too pleasing to your neck, but there sure feels like there’s some artistry put in those curves.
Turns out, there’s a lot more math at work, too.
Whether it was done on purpose I can’t say, but the reason for their inherent beauty lies in the “Golden Spiral,” also known as the Fibonacci Sequence.
So what is it? Well, it’s a set of numbers discovered over 1,300 years ago by Italian mathematician, Leonardo de Pisa (aka Fibonacci). When plotted on a flat surface, it creates the “Golden Spiral” which occurs naturally in shells, flowers and apparently…roller coasters.
The “mask wars” of the COVID-19 pandemic have finally made it to the amusement park fan community.
Recently, several prominent ride / park fans have been hit with online criticism recently for posting updates of them without masks from parks and facilities across the country.
Putting aside the fact that the Centers for Disease Control (or CDC) as of 8/26/20 says, “Travel increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19,” is the criticism over posting mask-less photos at parks warranted?
First, we should consider context. Someone could wear a mask all day inside a safely operating theme park, take it off for one moment and someone snaps a photo. From there, the internet (which is known for thoughtful, critical thinking) immediately piles on the update, saying, “How dare you not wear a mask!”
That being said, let us also remember that large reach and “influence” on people’s behavior, comes with a heightened sense of awareness. We are no longer anonymous, general park guests.
We certainly wouldn’t post a photo of us on a coaster with the restraints in an unsafe position – that would be irresponsible. Right now, the most responsible thing to do (if you’re outside your home) is to wear a mask and socially distance. As such, we should model that behavior to fans and to the general public.
Yes, this means we need to plan what we share even more carefully than before. And yes, it’s going to be more difficult to do. But these are inherently different times and much like the modified operations at the parks we enjoy, we too must adapt how we do things.
If someone’s not in a mask in a photo in a park – let’s opt to not use it or post it. Think of it like I do with empty seats in a photo…it just doesn’t look right.
The more we hammer home that none of this is normal, perhaps more people will take the pandemic and it’s effects more seriously. Only then will we be able to defeat this virus and return to a sense of normal. We owe it to the 190,000 of our fellow Americans who are no longer with us.
Look, 2020 has been one disaster after another, I get it. We are all still flying by the seat of our pants, trying to figure out what the path forward will be. Since there’s no way to stop snap judgments on the internet, let’s not give them the opportunity to make one.
TLDR: We’re probably gonna have to mask up…in every update. In every photo and video…until we beat this thing.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below or on my social media channels!
Sometimes theme parks might make a decision that raises your eyebrow, at least for some of the most ardent of park fans. Some decide to make videos expressing their displeasure with certain parks, like this one:
While “Shock Wave Dan” notes in his description that some of his points are “jokes,” I couldn’t help but notice many of the items he brought up are actually common misconceptions across the country. In that vein, let’s debunk some common park fan misconceptions about my home park, Six Flags Over Texas!
“I don’t understand why the park doesn’t build bigger, better rides.”
I hate to break it to you, but the answer here is: they don’t need to.
As long as a park is maintaining or growing their financials consistently, there’s no reason to add a multi-million-dollar attraction to bring all those guests back. If you could keep people coming to your park and had a choice between spending $20 million or $5 million, and each would give you the same results – which one would you pick?
True, the rides at all of the Six Flags parks have been on the smaller side since the bankruptcy, but if you look at their financials (pre-2019) you’ll see the chain kept adding attendance overall. Plus, the stock price continued to rise, which looked good for the investors on Wall Street.
And while we’re at it – who’s to say these rides aren’t good? For a hardcore thrill seeker? Perhaps. But for the everyday person off the street? They could be the most exciting thrill they’ve ever experienced. It’s all about perspective.
Why doesn’t the park build more in the Tower section of the park?
This one is well talked about in online forums for Six Flags Over Texas. The answer is surprisingly simple: they don’t build in the area because it floods. A major rain event in September of 2018 sent a wall of water up to six feet deep through portions of the park, causing significant damage throughout the area.
While it was not the first time the park flooded, the City of Arlington re-zoned it as a, “…moderate risk for inundation from flood waters…subject to a 1% annual chance of flood…”
What, exactly does that mean? If you try to build anything new in the area, it’s expensive. Crazy expensive. Remember, the park wanted to build Lone Star Revolution (now El Diablo) in that area, but when the flood risk was changed, the Spain section proved to be a better location.
Why is the Cave / Yosemite Sam’s Gold River Adventure still closed?
Also specific to Six Flags Over Texas, the Cave was a dark ride with floating ride vehicles that unfortunately, sustained damage during the 2018 flood.
Now, if you’ve ever dealt with an insurance company, whether for your car, doctor or dentist, you know how difficult and painful it can be.
Now imagine trying to navigate the claim on a multi-million-dollar attraction from a large corporation. Add in new restrictions on construction on your property. You’ll also need to find a vendor who’s free to begin rebuilding the ride…and create contracts for it.
Oh, and since you weren’t planning on this expense, it’s not in the budget. Think of it like the last time you hit a nail with your car. You weren’t planning on paying for a new set of tires, but surprise! In this case, just add a whole lot more zeroes to the bill.
“This park deserves better!” / “Our park deserves better!” / “We deserve better!”
How can I argue with that? I can’t, really. Every park fan thinks their home park or favorite park should be treated better. Heck, even Cedar Point and Walt Disney World fans will find faults in their operations.
Considering the global pandemic we’re currently in, however – the fact that we can even visit a park right now is a miracle and should be treated as such.
Can things be better? Of course they can. But if you take one thing away from this editorial it should be this: parks don’t run like Planet Coaster or Roller Coaster Tycoon. And despite what you might want to think, these facilities were not built just for us, a small (but boisterous) minority of attendance.
What are some park myths you want busted? Let me know in the comments below or on my social media channels!
Crank your amps all the way up to 11, it’s time to “Ride the Lightning.”
Captured during last night’s severe storms that passed through the DFW Metroplex, Judge Roy Scream at Six Flags Over Texas provided a stunning visual to go along with even more spectacular sights from Mother Nature.
I’ve been shooting lightning now for about a year, and it’s like playing the lottery. You rarely win, but when you do, it’s a rush almost as good as any thrill ride…
As if 2020 wasn’t bad enough for the amusement industry, Hurricane Laura is currently and rapidly intensifying in the Gulf of Mexico, and could strike three Galveston-area amusement parks with heavy rain, high wind and significant storm surge.
However, Schlitterbahn Galveston isn’t as fortunate, and lies just a few feet above sea level on Galveston Island. All three parks face the threat of damaging winds, torrential rain and severe thunderstorms, complete with tornadoes.
But, it’s not all doom and gloom, park fans. Back in 2008, when Hurricane Ike struck the area, all of the parks did see moderate to significant damage. However, all three also rose up and operated once again.
It also helps that Boardwalk Bullet (a CRIMINALLY underrated woodie) at Kemah Boardwalk was significantly overbuilt (much like modern woodies in California are for earthquakes) for just such an occasion.
What’s truly unfortunate about Hurricane Laura is her timing. While a glancing blow could mean just a week or two of closures, in the COVID-19 era, these parks had just begun to recover from what was otherwise a miserable attendance year.
To put it a better way, Hurricane Laura is a proverbial “cherry on top” on the world’s worst ice cream sundae that is 2020.
So, as you go about your lives this week, do keep these three smaller parks in your thoughts over the next few days. As I said in my last blog, odds are that your local park could use all help they can get right now.
As we slip into yet another week of seemingly endless COVID-19 despair, lock downs and quarantines, our nerves just seem to get more frayed. We’re all snapping at one another more than ever, both online and in-person (myself included). The stress level we’re all under is perhaps only eclipsed by a nation at war.
Many amusement parks and ride vendors across the country have had to make significant furloughs or even layoffs just to survive though the end of the year. Anyone who depends on the amusement industry is worried sick about what the future holds. Our beloved hobby – the very thing we write, photograph and video for fun – needs us fans to help promote and support it more than ever.
So what can we do?
Simply put: 2021 needs to see a moratorium on theme park fans’ petty criticism. Both online and in person. Full stop. To put it another way: parks deserve a pass for the next 18 months.
Yes, it’s easy to highlight everything wrong at parks. I get it, I’m guilty of it myself on occasion. But let’s be frank: the very survival of the amusement industry, most notably the smaller parks and many vendors, is at stake.
Posts or stories about rotting wood, employees not smiling or long lines might have a place in our fandom, and those types of posts certainly drum up clicks and engagement. But, when the industry we purport to love so much is seeing it’s very foundation being eroded away, those types of posts can wait.
Outside of being positive, unpaid spokespeople for the industry we love so much, what else can we do? Well, we can put our money where our mouths are.
If your local park(s) are open, visit them! The vast majority who have re-opened have taken extraordinary steps to modify their operations, mitigating the risk far better than any restaurant ever could. My last visit to Six Flags Over Texas earlier this month was so well monitored by staff for masks and sanitation, that brought me a sense of normalcy I haven’t felt in half a year. That’s why we love parks so much: the feelings they give us.
If your local park(s) aren’t open, see if they are able to sell merchandise or other souvenirs online or over the phone. Or better still, get a season pass for 2021. Yes, it’s a drop in the bucket in what is sure to be a crippling financial year for most facilities.
But, it’s also something we CAN do, instead of sitting at home, moping about when everything goes back to being normal. Because if we do nothing, there may not be a “normal” or a park to return to.
These are unusual times. And unusual times call for unusual solutions. If you’re willing to fight for changes inside the park, it’s time to change your fight to help this industry survive.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments section below or on our social media channels!
It gives me no pleasure to write a piece about this, but I think it IS important to see what happens when societal paranoia meets the reality of our society.
On Saturday night, reports began to circulate online of a group of disruptive teenagers inside California’s Great America. As part of a strong-arm robbery attempt inside the park, someone began shouting “SHOOTER,” inciting mass panic among the attendees.
Guests began running for any exit they could find, including making their own by scaling large, barbed wire fences in backstage areas.
Police scanner traffic reported a few some minor to moderate injures, consistent with trampling crowds, but that no shooting had occurred. There was no word if the group responsible for the false shooting reports were taken into custody.
The park put out a statement about 30 minutes after police arrived, saying:
They concluded with, “The safety of our guests and associates is our highest priority.”
Now, growing up at this park, it is beyond heartbreaking to watch a place I had so much fun in, turn into a place of pure, unadulterated terror. In an era where we drill our students about mass shooters in school, is it much of a stretch to see theme / amusement parks as a soft target? Sadly, no.
That being said, the security to get into theme / amusement parks like Great America is very good. I’ve never felt unsafe at a park event, except for what no security checkpoint can detect: bad actors. A person or group of people who are determined to hurt others in order to make themselves feel better.
The physical damage to the park is repairable. However, the reputation damage to the park and mental damage to those who were in attendance (both guests and employees) is not as easily repaired.
Are there are lessons to be learned here? Absolutely. I imagine parks across the country will be taking a look at their emergency and crisis plans to ensure this never happens at their parks.
But truth be told, we (as a nation) cannot allow ourselves to be so paranoid – and yet, here we are. That being said, after seeing all of these videos over and over, if I were placed in their shoes, I ask myself, “What would I do?”
I finish this op / ed with a question for all of us: Is this the type of country we want to live in? A country in which one bad actor can incite a mass panic, over the generally unfounded fear of someone gunning us down?
Because as much as we want this to be an isolated incident – barring radical change in our society – I’m fearful that this sort of occurrence is only the tip of the iceberg.
Today, Six Flags ($SIX) and the Qiddiya Investment Company announced what they hope will be the final word in roller coasters: Falcon’s Flight. While details are thin at the moment, the company claims that it will be the tallest, fastest and longest steel roller coaster ever built.
The announcement coincides with the release of the Qiddiya Master Plan yesterday, outlining the park’s six themed areas. Falcon’s Flight will be the lynchpin in a greater development of the area, transforming what is currently desert to a thrill-seekers paradise, with 28 rides in total when it opens in 2023. The park will include several other record-breaking attractions, according to the news release.
Despite the scale of the announcement (and it’s a big one, folks), it’s seeing quite a bit of skepticism online from both park fans and the general public. So why all the downer Dave’s & Debbie’s?
For starters, the ride (and park) are still three years away from opening, if everything goes smoothly. Generally, parks or chains hold back on “record-breaking” announcements, to not allow others to potentially compete for a longer period of time.
By telling the world you’re building a 155 mph coaster, other parks or manufacturers could get a head start on breaking those exact, same records.
However, with the animation and stats that have been released, it’s doubtful any park would – or more crucially could – spend the capital necessary to match or exceed these world records. Just from the looks of the video, this ride could easily exceed $100 million USD to build. That’s more than some park chains spent on rides at all of their parks last year!
Thirdly, others are wondering whether this coaster (and park) will ever see the light of day, given the company’s track record of opening new parks internationally. Of the five announced international projects, Six Flags has delayed two (China) and cancelled one (Dubai).
The last surviving park Six Flags built from the ground up is Six Flags Mid-America (St. Louis), debuting back in 1971 (Six Flags Power Plant in Baltimore was more of a themed-entertainment attraction, opening in 1985 and closing in 1990). All of the other parks that make up the chain today were acquired after they were built. (Side note: the current Six Flags, Inc. is not the same company that built the original three parks).
With all that being said – the project is backed by members of the Saudi Royal Family, some of the richest people on Earth. It’s doubtful that they would allow a project of this scope and notoriety (after today) to fail or falter, let alone never open.
The bigger issue is: can the manufacturer of this ride (or any of the rides planned) work out the inherent complications of operating safely and consistently in the scorching, desert heat and sand of the Middle East?
I guess we’ll just have to wait and see three years for the answer.
On the eve of National Roller Coaster Day, Kings Island in Ohio announced their tallest, fastest, steepest, longest and most expensive steel roller coaster ever. It checks off all of the superlatives any marketing manager would drool over and is just the sort of ride a family watching the news would immediately say, “Let’s go to Kings Island next summer!”
Except, of course, for a select group of loud, online roller coaster enthusiasts.
You see, apparently dropping upwards of $25 million isn’t enough for these folks, as they IMMEDIATELY began to bash the new ride.
You read that correctly: they’re heavily criticizing a ride that isn’t built yet, based solely on photos and snips of POV video.
Am I missing something here? This ride is going to be one of
only seven “giga” coasters in the world (300 foot drop). It’s a capacity
darling with three train operation and four-across seating. It’s everything a
sane coaster enthusiast should love.
But no. It apparently wasn’t extreme enough for some online. And being the Internet, they made sure the park knew their displeasure – via social media:
Let’s not even get into the fact that these are the same group of “enthusiasts” who scoured the Internet, stumbling upon the ride’s name months ago.
SPOILER ALERT: Parks don’t build ride for the 1% (or less) of enthusiasts like us. They build them to attract families to come to the parks, spend all day (and all of their money) multiple times a year.
Several park chains have switched between the thrill-seeker demographic and family one. Time and time again, the return to family attractions (with thrilling rides sprinkled in-between) has ALWAYS been the better formula for success.
Just be thankful your home park is receiving anything at all, let alone a massive, new coaster from one of the best manufacturers in the world.
Just to put it into perspective: other park chains are “looking forward” to announcing glorified carnival rides and ultra-low capacity coasters as their new for 2020 attraction later this month.
Oh and for anyone trying to not call this thing a giga coaster – Steel Phantom would like to have a word with you…
As part of their National Roller Coaster Day festivities, California’s Great America commissioned arguably one of the best tongue-in-cheek social media videos this year: a celebration of their 1999 Miler Kiddie Coaster, Lucy’s Crabbie Cabbies.
Enjoy the hilarity (be sure to look at the titles) and well done, CGA!