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General Travel

Great America Pavilion Now Open VIP Preview

If you’re a corporate planner in the greater Silicon Valley or the head of your company’s “Party Planning Committee” – there’s a new venue that demands your attention…immediately.

Great American Thrills was given a VIP preview of the Great America Pavilion, which will play host to the official pregame party for the 49ers this upcoming week. We’re still overwhelmed from the experience of this VIP preview, however.

Let’s start at the beginning. Some will argue this is simply a refresh of the old “Paramount Pavilion” space that has been at the park for years. But that’s where the comparisons end.

The room can be set up in several different configurations. The park showed off three of them that day: The Holiday Party, The Product Launch and The Company Gathering.

As you’ll see in these photos, the whole place just oozed class – you didn’t feel like you were at an amusement park – it felt much more like a corporate retreat:

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And then there was the food options – try to remind yourself that this is food at an amusement park – cooked at the park…FRESH. Each park in the chain now also has Executive and Sous Chefs. That should tell you everything you need to know as you view these mouth watering pics below:

 

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Glass Coke bottle – it always tastes better this way!

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Just a few more of the space of this building:

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 The Peanuts Gang was also on hand for the unveiling event. However, don’t let the photo fool you – it was about 93 degrees outside that day!

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And out of nowhere, Charlie Brown wanted to take a selfie (good training, Clayton) so of course I obliged.

It didn’t work out too well with the 24mm lens on the T5i, however. Something about that giant head… 🙂

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So, no – while it’s not a new ride or coaster this year as so many fans always clamor for – the addition of the Great America Pavilion will add an additional, significant revenue stream to the park and help keep it on it’s upward swing for many years to come. In fact, it just might be a better addition than a ride ever could be in the long run.

You can see why Cedar Fair wanted this revamp done here first – many companies in Silicon Valley are looking for new meeting spaces and CGA’s attached amusement park is a big selling point. I can easily see it going to other parks in the chain over the next few years.

Extra special thanks to California’s Great America for the hospitality and invite – can’t wait to see this facility filled up soon.

What do you say? Would you try to bring your group to this event space? Are you going to the Red Zone Pregame? Write us a comment below or on our social media pages – and let’s keep the conversation going!

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New Amusement Park Rides Delayed Significantly This Summer

Remember when new rides and attractions opened with the start of the season at your local amusement or theme park? That’s certainly not the case this year.

A record number of attractions are still fighting to open up for the season, this as many parks pass the halfway point of their operational calendar.

And it’s not just one factor that’s throwing things off – it would appear the entire industry ran into a figurative “buzz saw” when it came to opening attractions on time this year. Here’s a list of attractions off the top of my head that have found themselves “behind the 8-ball” just this year:

Falcon’s Fury
Zumanjaro Drop of Doom
Diagon Alley
Verruckt
Break Point Plunge
Goliath
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
New England SkyScreamer

Now, I say “behind the 8-ball” for this reason: parks advertise their newest product to get people excited to come back next year. But if you (or your group) came early in the season, you more than likely missed out on the new attraction completely (at least, this year).

Even professional park travelers like myself plan for and anticipate delays for new rides – but even we’ve been taken aback at rides opening beyond the Fourth of July – especially in seasonal parks closed in the winter.

So what’s behind all these rides having what I consider to be major delays in opening? Are they too extreme or complex? Or is it sometime much simpler? Let’s take a closer look:

 

Weather:

Photo courtesy of Kings Island Facebook page.

Photo courtesy of Kings Island Facebook page.

This was the worst winter on record east of the Rocky Mountains. In many cases – construction couldn’t even start until the snow was moved and the ground thawed. Sadly, that didn’t happen until April in some places. (It was still icy in the Great Lakes in JUNE).

 

Fabrication:

There are only so many pieces that can be built by these companies, some of which employ less than 50 employees. If a company waited to buy a product until late in the season, they’ll be at the end of the line, so to speak to receive their new products.

 

Bureaucracy:

"Red tape" has done more to kill off parks than it has to make them safer!

“Red tape” has done more to kill off parks than it has to make them safer!

If you’ve ever played the game “RollerCoaster Tycoon” you know it’s quite easy to build new attractions. But if the game were to be truly accurate, players would have to spend more time in the local permits office than managing their park. The litany of paperwork and regulations ended up killing a famous water park here in California.

While most point to the Golden State as the epicenter of red tape (See Gold Striker’s struggles to finally open) the East Coast is now getting into the act.

After a brutal winter prevented construction for most of the off-season at Six Flags Great Adventure, Zumanjaro – a world record free fall in New Jersey, was finally ready to open for season pass previews after months of delays…

…only to be told by the State that their ride inspector would not be able to get out to the park to officially sign off on its operating permit. Whoops.

 

Design Flaws / Challenges:

Verruckt required a complete re-design after tests showed it wasn't performing as predicted.

Verruckt required a complete re-design after tests showed it wasn’t performing as predicted.

Whether it’s too complex in terms of computer and electrical systems – or just a bad design to begin with – sometimes rides don’t transfer perfectly from the computer and drafting board to the real world. All parks (except the old Action Park) have guests’ safety as their number one priority – and if it means opening a ride late to ensure it does not hurt, maim or kill people – it’s a delay that’s always worth taking.

So will all of the rides and attractions open by the end of THIS season? Only time (and a host of other factors) will tell. One can only hope that parks can get “back on schedule” next year and start debuting rides when the season begins (or shortly thereafter).

What do you think? Are there any other factors I might have missed? LEave me a comment either below or on my social media channels – I’d love to hear what you think!


Great America Pavilion the pregame destination for San Francisco 49ers fans this season

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If you’re a California’s Great America fan – it’s time to start cheering. Literally and emphatically.

Yesterday, the park announced that in addition to becoming “the official amusement park of the San Francisco 49ers,” (as if there was any doubt) they will soon be opening the “Great America Pavilion,” an 18,000 sq. ft. multi-purpose facility that will be home to the Red Zone Rally pregame event for all 49ers home games, as well as other Levi’s® Stadium events.

“We’re very excited to be partnering with the 49ers on the Red Zone Rally pregame events,” said California’s Great America Vice President & General Manager Raul Rehnborg. “For 49ers fans and attendees of other Levi’s® Stadium events, Great America Pavilion will be the perfect venue to enjoy the game-day atmosphere, dine on delicious food offerings and easily access Levi’s® Stadium, which is located adjacent to the new facility”

“The Red Zone Rally will be a tremendous pregame destination for 49ers fans,” said 49ers Chief Operating Officer Al Guido.

During 49ers home contests, the Red Zone Rally at Great America Pavilion opens three hours prior to kickoff, features flat screen televisions throughout, San Francisco 49ers Gold Rush cheerleaders and alumni, an array of live entertainment, interactive activities and incredible dining options.

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And when the stadium isn’t in use – the park now has a completely upgraded meeting and dining facility, that can be divided into three distinct areas or combined into one incredibly large venue. Oh, and the first event has already been held in the nearly-finished facility…Coaster Con XXXVII.

So yes, it’s not a new hyper coaster or ride – but it’s more important than that – it signals (quite clearly) a fundamental shift in the relationship between the San Francisco 49ers and Cedar Fair. Specifically, this announcement has far-reaching implications for the long-term future of the park – all positive in nature. Gone are the days of Cedar Fair Corporate (Dick Kinzel in particular) berating and indeed SUING the 49ers over a litany of issues.

It’s quite obvious that new Cedar Fair CEO, Matt Ouimet, has seen the San Francisco 49ers not as the enemy, but rather as a lucrative and positive business partner – and that can only bode well for a park that many (myself included) wrote off only seven years ago. (Lord knows Dick Kinzel tried to literally write it off according to my sources).Resized - Pavilion-Rendering-6(1)So on the outside it may appear to just be an expansion of a picnic pavilion – but this announcement means the world to a park that’s on one hell of a kickoff return.

For more information on the Red Zone Rally, visit: www.49ers.com/tickets

For more information on Group Sales at the park, visit: https://www.cagreatamerica.com/group-sales


Utah Olympic Park bobsled is the ride of your life

With the Sochi Olympics now officially open – the world will showcase the best in winter sports, many of which call to us thrill seekers.

But while most of us will never have the guts to try a ski jump or snowboard a half pipe – there is one Olympic sport that you CAN experience…and it’s one HELL of a ride, too! 

And the best part – you don’t have to travel all the way to Sochi, or even Vancouver to experience this thrill ride – it’s just a short flight away, in Park City, Utah!

Preparing for the 80 MPH thrill ride that is “The Comet” at Utah Olympic Park.

The first part of the experience is in the classroom – that’s where you’ll learn about the course, the sled and safety concerns – and there are many of them. The most notable of which – is how to react if the sled flips. Officials said it doesn’t happen often – but it DOES happen. Even with an experienced pilot at the helm – it’s still a risky sport:

Participants of this thrill ride are warned several times, that a flip is a real possibility.

Participants of this thrill ride are warned several times, that a flip like this is a real possibility.

Despite what it looks like on TV, the ride is rough…VERY rough – and puts an incredible strain on your body. In some instances, g-forces reach between 5.0 – 6.0 G in an instant as you enter the turns. So, if you weigh 200 lbs, like me – that means you feel like you weigh 1200 pounds in an instant. People with heart, neck or back issues – need not apply.

This may look like fun (and it is once or twice), but it’s an incredible amount of work to steer these bullets on ice – while concentrating though incredible g-forces…these folks are TRUE athletes to be able to make multiple runs in the sleds each and every day!

Ironically, the “bobsled” coaster (built by Intamin of Switzerland) was a mainstay of many parks. Even before Intamin was created, “Flying Turns,” made of wood – were in many traditional parks around the country. Knoebels, a park known for taking daring risks to preserve ride history – recently debuted their “Flying Turns” – a wooden bobsled coaster that MET modern safety regulations and codes.

Of course, there’s also the “de facto” bobsled coaster – the Matterhorn at Disneyland…

The Intamin Bobsled coaster saw a surge in popularity in the 1960's through the 1980's.

The Intamin Bobsled coaster saw a surge in popularity in the 1960’s through the 1980’s.

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Flying turns were found at many parks – and saw a resurgence when Intamin began to market steel, less maintenance-heavy versions in the 1970’s.

Even more ironic – the bobsled is directly responsible for the development and impetus for the roller coaster. As far back as 1650, there are documented reports of Russian ice slides, which eventually added wheels to allow for year-round operation. (Except in Siberia). Eventually, hills and loops were added – and the modern roller coaster was born. 

But, back to the present day – while Knoebel’s was able to bring back the tradition of the wooden “Flying Turns,” and Intamin had their bobsled coasters – they certainly don’t come close to the 80 mph top speed – but with that being said – they’re still definitely worth a trip to experience. 

There is no way to describe the rush of reaching down a pipe at nearly 80 mph, except to say, "Wow!"

There is no way to describe the rush of screaming down a frozen pipe at nearly 80 mph, except to say, “Wow!”

That being said – there is ONE thing about the Comet that puts off many people – the price. A single plunge will cost you $199. But, for the true thrill seeker, it’s a worthy investment to say you rode (barreled) down an Olympic bobsled run at 80 mph…on blades and ice. (If you visit in the summer, they still run the sled, albeit on concrete and with wheels – at a slower 70 mph.

So while you watch the bobsleds scream through the Olympic course these next few weeks – grab a ticket on the Comet – and experience it for yourself!

Special thanks to Great American Thrills® friend, Lydia LaPutka for allowing me to experience this once-in-a-lifetime thrill!


Week of Big Announcements!

This week, Great American Thrills® is proud to announce not one, but TWO major initiatives regarding the brand and television concept that are sure to rock your socks off!

Major Announcement #1 –Codename: Showbiz”

Some of you have heard rumblings that “Lost Parks” wasn’t the only project we were working on – and I’m happy today to confirm that this is absolutely true.

We will be premiering an entirely new travelogue / roller coaster / amusement park show concept in the next few weeks. And while we’ll need YOUR help to get it to as many eyeballs as you can – we’ll get into that once it arrives. Oh, did we mention this project is ALREADY trademarked, copyrighted AND registered with the Writer’s Guild of America – so don’t even think about stealing it.

 

Major Announcement #2 – “Project Neptune”

Over the past two years, I’ve seen this website go from a simple WordPress blog, to a significantly more complex “destination” on the web – and the web traffic proves. it. As a result – the site isn’t working as well as it should – and changes will have to be done far more than just cosmetic.

While the timeframe for “Neptune” is not set in stone, expect major changes to the website (in terms of design and interface) to begin showing up over the next few months.

So, why the name “Neptune?” Honestly – it sounded cool – so don’t read into it too much!

This February will be the 4th official year of work (on and off) on this project. It’s amazing to watch it all coming together – slowly, but surely – we’re inching closer to our goal of bringing Great American Thrills® to the masses. We’re so glad to have you along for the ride!


Undertow Now Open at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

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Photo Credit: Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

After several months of will they / won’t they open, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk pulled a “Disney” and had a soft opening for their Undertow spinning roller coaster today.

The first reviews are already in – and everything points to positive so far!

The ride, a brilliant yellow with sea foam green supports, combines the sharp curves of a “wild mouse” with the uncontrolled, spinning action of a “spin n’ puke.” It is manufactured by Maurer Sohne, of Germany.

It is a historical throwback to the past as well – for many years, the park had a wooden wild mouse located on the present site of the “Logger’s Run” flume ride.

Undertow replaced the aging “Hurricane” steel roller coaster that debuted in 1993 in the same location.


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The New Bay Bridge

Sometimes, the thrills in life aren’t just about amusement parks – sometimes, it’s about being a part of history.

So when they announced the new, $6.4 billion eastern span of the Bay Bridge was to open ahead of schedule, late last night – I charged up the GoPro and jumped into the Escape: