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Posts tagged “cedar fair

Kings Island Announces Massive New Ride – Online “Fans” Decide they Already Hate It

Talk about entitled!

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.

P/C: Kings Island.

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.

Apparently dropping upwards of $25 million on a new thrill ride isn’t enough for these folks.

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:

For reals, dude?

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.

It’s almost like they’ve ruined their own hobby…where have we heard that before?

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.

SPOILER ALERT: Parks don’t build ride for the 1% (or less) of enthusiasts like us.

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…


Fan Journalism has Officially Jumped the Shark

Remember when blogging was just a fun hobby? When you could start a website (or visit one) that covered all the cool happenings going on at your favorite theme or amusement park?

Well, those days are numbered – in the name of clicks and likes.

Over the past few years – and especially the past few weeks – amusement park fans online have been bombarded with fake stories, new ride announcements spoiled through “investigations” and general bad behavior.

And it’s ruining our entire community.

Let’s get one thing straight: just because you cover a park, it does not make you a journalist. All true journalists are bound by a code of ethics with the constant threat of losing their jobs if they get something wrong.

Theme park “journalists” have no such code and as such, can (and do) post malicious, false or confidential information, generally with little to no ramifications. Take it from a guy who’s worked both sides of this story: Fan journalism is rapidly running out of style at parks across the country.

Can you blame them? Investigating and “breaking” news like shipping documents or permits showing what new ride is coming next season…what fun is that? It’s akin to searching for (and finding) your Christmas presents hidden in the closet.

Not to mention all the hard work and planning that goes into these announcements from the park side. True, the general public will most likely never visit these sites, but don’t you want to be surprised on announcement day like them?

“Take it from a guy who’s worked both sides of this story: Fan journalism is rapidly running out of style at parks across the country.”

For all the good bloggers out there, all it takes is one bad apple to spoil the bunch. Some parks have even removed bloggers entirely from the equation, simply because of perceived issues with the greater community.

So what can we – as a community – do to stop it?

In so many cases, we cannot remove these people from our community – but we can take away from them the one thing they want: attention. Flag false stories. Don’t engage on tabloid-style stories. Basically, take back the community we worked so hard to create.

On the park side, actions must have consequences. Share problem bloggers with others in the industry and let them know (in no uncertain terms) why they’re not being invited to events anymore. Give them a road map to success and if they stray – it’s on them, not you.

These bad actors cannot be allowed to represent us as a whole, otherwise our community is doomed to toxicity (and irrelevancy) for eternity.


How to Make Ride Announcements Better for Amusement Park Chains

Mako at SeaWorld San Diego

It’s that time of year again – time for park fans to begin serious speculation about what may (or may not) be coming to their favorite parks in 2020.

With SeaWorld Parks already making announcements (or teasing them) for all of their parks, Cedar Fair and Six Flags are up next to reveal what’s in the works for next season.

Mako at SeaWorld San Diego

All of the SeaWorld parks are expecting major, new additions to their facilities in 2020, including Mako at the original SeaWorld in San Diego, CA.

There seems to be two trains of thought on how to best make these announcements: by individual park or as a complete chain.

At Cedar Fair it appears the chain spreads out their announcements, usually over a two week period, so that each park receives their “day in the sun” with media coverage in their local markets.

Meanwhile at Six Flags, the chain has made it a tradition to announce every park’s newest addition in a single video, with each park sending out a release to their local media. The idea is that the single announcement carries more weight on a national level, which should translate into more traction with the national media.

But this “one day fits all” strategy does have a potential flaw: what if a park hasn’t opened their new ride from 2019? Wouldn’t that potentially kill the buzz for both?

Sadly, for the good folks at Six Flags Magic Mountain, they don’t have to imagine this scenario – they’re living it.

Since their “new for 2019” attraction, West Coast Racers, isn’t even finished being built, it’s highly likely the park will be forced to announce another new ride, without even finishing the last one they announced.

West Coast Racers at Six Flags Magic Mountain

Despite being announced in late August of 2018, West Coast Racers is still far from being complete.

Personally, I’m a fan of the spread out approach. The collective anticipation continues to build throughout the week or two you keep dropping announcements. Plus, there’s a smaller probability that your least-visited parks or smaller investments won’t be lost in the giant, one day announcement.

And if a situation like Magic Mountain’s sets up, there’s flexibility built into it to delay an announcement.

No matter the way you announce it, 2020 is setting up to be a record year for new capital investment. Let the speculation and intrigue begin!

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What do you think? Are you a fan of a “one day” or “spread out” announcement style for new rides and attractions? Let me know in the comment section below – and be sure to check us out on social media as well!


Could Great America’s Consulate become the next great season pass perk?

Hidden in plain sight above Bourbon Street in Orleans Place, lies a little bit of Disney magic inside the confines California’s Great America:

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The balcony of the Consulate as seen during the Taste of Orleans festival.

Known as “The Consulate” – it’s primary function is a meeting room, where some of the biggest decisions about the park have gone down.

Photo courtesy of The Coaster Guy - used with permission.

Some of the biggest deals in the park’s history have been signed at this table. Photo courtesy of The Coaster Guy – used with permission.

But that wasn’t always the intended purpose. In fact, it was originally built with the idea that the Marriott’s would use the space to stay during trips, a la the apartment above the firehouse at Disneyland. That is, until the Marriott’s realized they had nice hotels already near their properties with concierge service and a lack of crowds.

So while the Consulate is still used today for business – what if it’s wrought iron gates were opened to a select few park-goers as a VIP lounge? And what if you could upgrade your Platinum Pass to a “Consulate Pass?”

Photo courtesy of The Coaster Guy - used with permission.

Photo courtesy of The Coaster Guy – used with permission.

The idea isn’t that far fetched – several parks have hosted hospitality centers for bloggers and other influencers, where they could store items and get free refills and snacks, all away from the crowds. Why not give guests the opportunity to pay for that same, sweet access?

Plus, the pass could add a few other perks, maybe higher discounts for food and merchandise – or even a single fast lane per visit. It’s a Platinum, Platinum Pass.

Since upgrading to a Platinum Pass isn’t worth the cost for most Bay Area folks, with the exception of those who want to go to Knott’s (and I’ve covered that in a previous article) and considering an upgrade from a Gold Pass to a Platinum Pass doesn’t add any more value to a visit at CGA, maybe this benefit might be the incentive people need to pony up those extra bucks. And since we’re here in Silicon Valley, receiving that “premium” experience is not a hard sell.

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The Consulate seems frozen in time. Photo courtesy of The Coaster Guy – used with permission

Should it be by invite only? Probably to start. Parks tend to (or should) know their heaviest users and could easily identify probable candidates from common knowledge – or just looking at pass usage data.

What do you think? Would you pay up to get access to the Consulate? How much would you be willing to shell out to step up to the second floor? Let me know in the comments below.

Again, special thanks to Kurt (The Coaster Guy) for permission to use his photos of the Consulate during ACE’s Coaster Con XXXVII!


Mass Effect New Earth Opens at California’s Great America Review

After several weekends of “beta testing” California’s Great America officially opened “Mass Effect: New Earth” to the general public today.

So, did the park finally “dial in” the attraction?

In a word…yes.

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Photo credit: California’s Great America

I’ve written about the ride experience previously, but that was based on the “beta” experience. Thankfully, the park took feedback from guests and made many of the necessary adjustments to make the experience even better. (Still need more shade in the line, though!)

Photo credit: California's Great America

Photo credit: California’s Great America

Speaking with the people who worked on the attraction after the “first ride,” many of them had been on the project from the initial concept nearly 18 months ago. You got the sense talking to them that this experience is just the beginning for this technology.

But don’t take it from me – see it for yourself:

Even the CEO of the company who created the over 4K display screen told me, “We could have pushed the envelope even further.”

Further? I’m not sure how much more realistic it could be. Remember, this is the same technology that was supposed to debut for Michael Jackson’s “This is It” tour – and the tech has only become better since then:

Photo credit: California's Great America

Photo credit: California’s Great America

With all the sound channels now perfected and all the effects now working – Mass Effect: New Earth is worth a trip to California’s Great America.

However, I do echo the sentiment of at least one other reporter, who mentioned in their review that while gamers will love this ride and understand it top to bottom, but those who have not played the series may have a difficult time discerning what’s going on in front of them.

As much as video game people like to think otherwise, it’s still a niche marketplace and doesn’t have the mass appeal that say, “Star Tours” or a “Star Trek” themed ride would have. A bit more background and storyline in the queue would certainly help that.

Overall though, I think we’re looking at a solid new attraction for a park that needed it, and it just might the ride we look back on a few years form now and say this is where the amusement industry stepped up to the tech plate and started a truly digital revolution.

You read it here first, people.

For more information on “Mass Effect: New Earth,” visit: www.CAGreatAmerica.com


California’s Great America Announces Massive Capital Investment and Retail Project

How long have we heard that California’s Great America doesn’t have anywhere to expand? “The park is landlocked – there’s nowhere for them to go.” And what about, “Cedar Fair doesn’t care about this park – they want to sell it.”

Well, this aught to shut up the naysayers…

In an unprecedented announcement on Wednesday, the park announced that it has applied for a rezoning from the City of Santa Clara, which will allow it to add significantly more attractions with less red tape, intends on purchasing the land on which the park sits on and will build a massive retail and entertainment complex near the front gate of the park.

CGA fans, get ready to drool:

Photo credit: 1590 KLIV-AM (Used with permission)

Photo credit: 1590 KLIV-AM (Used with permission)

To think this was a park that looked like it was about to close just a few years ago – now look at all the new stuff that’s planned and proposed…

The official notice from the City of Santa Clara, announcing the proposed change in zoning

The official notice from the City of Santa Clara, announcing the proposed change in zoning

There’s a lot of verbiage to get through, but here’s the most important part (in my opinion). Long time fans of this park may recall the proposed “Front Gate” project during the Paramount era, before the land was converted into two office towers. Well, long time fans, your patience has finally paid off:

CGA Entertainment District

This gives the park a major, strategic advantage over it’s competitors – no other park in Northern California offers this sort of experience. If it reminds you of Knott’s Marketplace, Universal CityWalk or Downtown Disney – that’s no mistake.

And for fans of the park itself, they didn’t forget about you, either. The rezoning will allow the park far more flexibility in building new attractions – and it’s all spelled out, here:

You read that right - 6 MORE attractions proposed OVER 200 feet tall. Need a towel?

You read that right – 6 MORE attractions proposed OVER 200 feet tall. Is your jaw on the floor, yet?

Cedar Fair CEO Matt Ouimet also told those in attendance that any change in the use of land would have to first be approved by the City of Santa Clara AND Cedar Fair – which all but ensures the park will be around through 2074.

So, CGA fans – who’s ready to watch their park transform into an entertainment destination? Tell us in the comments section below or on our social media links!


California’s Great America’s Winterfest forgot New Year’s Eve

Yesterday, California’s Great America made their official announcement on Winterfest – a holiday-themed event that will extend the season nearly to the end of the calendar year.

And yet, the park appears to have missed out on a major marketing and event opportunity…New Year’s Eve.

For decades, the South Bay has tried to find its identity, beyond the shadow of San Francisco. For those of you not from the area, it’s actually a big deal to South Bay people, especially considering we’re the larger population area. One only has to look at the coverage for the recent Super Bowl for evidence of that. San Francisco also has a tradition of a massive fireworks show at midnight to commemorate the New Year.

In sharp contrast, the South Bay does not have a marquee New Year’s Eve show. Instead, we have to remind our residents not to shoot their firearms into the sky.

So, it was a bit shocking to me to see in the park press release yesterday that Winterfest festivities will end the day before New Year’s Eve, which this year falls on Saturday night.

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Are you catching my drift yet?

Simply put – how can you put on a first-time holiday event and not throw a New Year’s Eve celebration – especially if you’re already open the day before and more importantly, in an area DESPERATE to find such a tradition? Just imagine for a moment: an evening of fun capped off with one of the coolest new traditions in the South Bay – falling into 2017.

Wait, what?

You heard me right. New York says they “drop the ball” in Times Square, when in reality a computer controlled winch slowly lowers that ball down a flagpole. Why can’t California’s Great America use the park’s tallest “flagpole” – Drop Tower – and give 24 lucky people the opportunity to leave the ground in 2016, and “drop in” to 2017, all at the stroke of midnight?

But Kris – how are you going to ensure they drop precisely at midnight?

Easy! The ride has a manual mode – which allows the operator to release the cabins manually from the ground. When the clock strikes 12, all they have to do is push the button on the control panel and wheeeee here comes 2017, complete with fireworks going off in the distance (or even better – off the top of the tower itself).

And here’s the best part – the 24 seats could be auctioned off, with the benefactor being local charities.

Okay Kris, but what if the weather isn’t conducive to riding Drop Tower and what about families who may want to come? (I.E. rain and wind)

No problem – you simply move to the other “ball drop” – or in this case – “ball raise” – the Star Tower. It’s enclosed, also able to do manual modes and breaks down maybe once every other season.

That same auction could take place, albeit with more participants – and anyone can ride (with chaperone, of course).

To me, this seems like a no-brainer, probably because I proposed this very event all the way back in 2003. I was much younger then; a wide-eyed, new employee of the park who didn’t understand how corporations worked. The idea never made it past the suggestion box and I didn’t make it past my second season.

Nonetheless, if you’re going to make a new event stick in this industry, you have to go big that first year to make it beyond memorable. Otherwise, it won’t warrant additional capital for the next year and worse – people won’t come back.

Discovery Kingdom did it their first year by bringing in the world’s largest Christmas tree – what will CGA’s big selling point be?

To sum up – without a New Year’s Eve celebration to cap it off, Winterfest at California’s Great America isn’t really as good of an event as it could or more importantly SHOULD be.

Oh and since I’ve been giving away so much free advice in this article, CGA folks – you may want to A.) just hire me to do this full time for you or B.) check out several other ways how you can score big points for your 40th anniversary.


California’s Great America announces Winterfest year-round operations

Today, California’s Great America announced “Winterfest” a spectacular larger than life holiday event. The event will be in direct competition with Six Flags’ “Holiday in the Park” which has been running for several years now up in Vallejo. “Winterfest” will be free to attend for anyone with a Gold of Platinum season pass.

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Included in the winter wonderland will be a skating rink in front of Carousel Columbia, light displays, holiday shows, limited ride operation and holiday themed food options.

It will be capped off with one of the Bay Area’s tallest Christmas trees and even giant toy soldiers greeting guests.

Not too bad.

The five-week WinterFest celebration begins November 25 for weekend operation. Daily operations run December 19th through 23rd and 26th through 30th.

Suddenly, buying a season pass to the park this year got a whole lot more enticing. Certainly the addition of “Mass Effect” wasn’t enough to bring me back for another year –  but this might do the trick.

Now, the park HAS tried something similar in the past – in the first season, back in 1976. Those small rings near Carousel Columbia’s top were to help mount Christmas lights. Unfortunately, it didn’t do so well, mostly due to poor weather. However, with the success of Six Flags’ “Holiday in the Park” in nearby Vallejo – it seems like a no-brainer to capitalize on the demand.

The other major issue is ride rehabilitation schedules. Staying open longer means some rides won’t be ready in late March, when the park opens for its 2017 season. Disneyland has perfected this art with a complete schedule of when rides will be down.

However, no other park has been able to duplicate this, usually resorting to single train operation for a majority of the early-season. We shall see how this park is able to handle the lack of time for annual rehabs.


Dorney Park’s flag stolen and the massive social media backlash over special needs employee not rehired

Dorney Park in Altoona, PA learned the hard way this week that when it rains, it pours. (or maybe when it snows, it blizzards). A member of the Cedar Fair chain, the park saw not one but two major media events – and neither one was positive.

Last Sunday, after the park had closed – four teenagers were able to enter the park, and somehow scaled the 200 foot tall “Dominator” free fall ride to steal one of the large flags at the top. “Dominator” is a triple S&S tower.

Not a great start to the week, admittedly. But then it got worse. Much worse.

Christopher Emery, a special-needs individual had worked at the park for 12 consecutive years, cleaning bathrooms. When he went in for his annual interview with managers, he apparently didn’t do well. So much so, they decided not to rehire him.

When his friend – who also works at Dorney Park found out – he jumped onto social media to vent his frustration. Outside of having a bad interview, there wasn’t apparently any other reason for not rehiring him.

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Within a matter of minutes, both #ShameOnYouDorney and #ShameOnYouDorneyPark were trending locally in the Philadelphia area as well as in the online amusement community.

It took until the next day for Dorney to issue a statement to the press, as well as try to quell fervor online. It was textbook, “too little / too late.”

Social media is a double edged sword. You can rise and fall very quickly and you’re always under a microscope. Parks can’t afford to not have a social media person ready to go at any time and not monitor their feeds constantly. No engagement is walking tightrope without a net.

Dorney eventually responded - but only issuing one statement and not responding to individuals only incited more anger towards the park.

Dorney eventually responded – but only issuing one statement and not responding to individuals only incited more anger towards the park.

One of the best examples of handling a crisis of late came from overseas. Alton Towers not only immediately issued statements on an incident on the Smiler via their social media channels – they responded to their guests’ questions and complaints – ALL OF THEM. And it wasn’t a canned response either – it was custom for each one.

It just goes to show the power of social media in this new era – and that trying to avoid it is only inviting trouble. As for Dorney Park, let’s hope this week is a bit more calm on the media front, for their sake.


Could Yankee Harbor Return to California’s Great America?

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With the announcement of Carolina Harbor (and the all-but-certain expansion of the water park at California’s Great America in the near future), it got me thinking…

Could California’s Great America score some MAJOR brownie points and pull off one of the biggest throwbacks EVER with the re-branding of their Boomerang Bay water park to one of the classic Marriott-era themed areas – Yankee Harbor?

Theme parks generally have specific areas that work together with the rides and attractions to form a cohesive theme.

Admit it – this is a perfect name for a water park inside “GREAT AMERICA.” Photo by: Kris Rowberry. 

During the Paramount-era, it wasn’t uncommon to use a singular brand across multiple parks. After all, it was cheaper and the design team only had to do one thing. But the Carowinds announcement may signal that Cedar Fair is looking to create not a singular brand identity across all their parks, but an INDIVIDUAL PARK IDENTITY.

Boomerang Bay was originally themed after Crocodile Dundee movies – but once Paramount bailed on the park, licensing forced a slight change in name. But the name really doesn’t work with the rest of the park. (Aussie area in GREAT AMERICA?) The park has already made significant efforts to revive Orleans Place, with signage and background music, so could this be the next, logical step?

What better way to mesh the old theme of the park than with a newly expanded, American-themed water park that – let’s face it – would be the GREATEST THROWBACK EVER (I.E. even I’d buy merch if it had the classic logo integrated somehow). Nostalgia sells these days – just ask the people at Busch Gardens Williamsburg who can’t keep up with demand for their Big Bad Wolf shirts…

Plus, maybe the park could get the old lighthouse to spin up and shine again.

What do you think – would you welcome a return to “Yankee Harbor” or does “Boomerang Bay” still work for you? Leave a comment below and tell me what you think:


Five Ways to Have a Bad Day at an Amusement Park

1.) Forget to check about special events on park website:

Nothing will ruin your day faster at a park to find it overrun with cheerleaders for a regional competition or packed for a concert in their ampitheatre.

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2.) Wear sandals:

They might seem like a good choice for hot weather, but their lack of support and ability to fly away on certain rides will leave you more miserable than you think.

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3.) Dress incorrectly for the weather:

You can always bring a jacket to warm up, but you can’t take your pants off to cool down (it’s generally frowned upon). If the weather calls for rain, it’s probably best to re-schedule your trip to the park.

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4.) Bring your iPad or tablet computer:

No one wants to be a Padhole. But, you’re risking damaging that $500 device every time you bring that dumb thing to a crowded place. Plus, it blocks our views during the show. Just bring a small point and shoot camera – it has better resolution, anyway.

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5.) Visit on Memorial Day Weekend, 4th of July or Labor Day Weekend:

Traditionally the three worst times to visit any park. Although, actual Memorial Day and Labor Day tend to be less crowded than the weekends preceding them.

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Got any suggestions to add to this list? Tell us on social media, or comment below!


Have Halloween Events Gone Too Far?

In light of recent events at Six Flags America, as well as a haunted house that literally scared someone to death (albeit with a pre-existing heart condition), some people – including myself – are questioning if we’ve gone too far with Halloween. Now, before you go jumping down my throat, I’m specifically questioning the experiences being offered / encouraged (not necessarily the crowds that it attracts).

Have we gone too far with our haunted house experiences?

Believe it or not, this isn’t real…it’s part of a haunted house experience.

Full disclosure, us Americans tend to do two things with holidays: ruining the true meaning of them and over-doing them. Halloween is no exception. But when events begin to leave such a large psychological mark on people – to the point that some now require you sign waivers – are we really having fun, or just harming ourselves?

I actually enjoy these events – and while I don’t live for it every year, I’ve noticed a ramping up as of late with the realism…and I’m not so sure that’s a good thing. For instance…some events now offer “terrorist experiences” where you can feel like an ISIS hostage, without the actual pain and suffering. How is that FUN, exactly?

Even more traditional events have felt the pressure to be more realistic. The rope drop at Halloween Haunt at California’s Great America now features a large mass of people being run after by monsters. Now, normally, I’m a big fan of this park and while I get the idea of building up the atmosphere – I’m no fan of being trampled when I’m trying to have fun.

So, are the events getting too intense for you? Or do you see it as simple, harmless fun? Keep the conversation going on our social media pages, or leave a comment below – we’d love to hear from you!


What’s the Difference Between an “Amusement Park” and a “Theme Park?”

You hear the phrases “amusement park” and “theme park” thrown around all the time. But what exactly makes a park one or the other? It seems like the two terms are interchangeable at times – but in reality, they’re two completely different experiences.

This week, Six Flags Magic Mountain was named by USA Today as “America’s #1 Theme Park” – but is it really themed like a Disney park is? (And it should be noted, that the “contest” was a user poll) Heck, there’s even parks that called themselves “Themed Amusement Parks” – we’re looking at you, California’s Great America.

Theme parks generally have specific areas that work together with the rides and attractions to form a cohesive theme.

Theme parks generally have specific areas that work together with the rides and attractions to form a cohesive theme.

So then, let’s define exactly what makes an amusement park and theme park – and start using the phrases correctly, shall we?

FAIR / CARNIVAL – Any non-permanent installation of a group of rides and attractions that typically travels in a geographic area. 

Examples: County Fair, State Fair, Circus

AMUSEMENT PARK – Any permanent installation of a group of rides, with or without a gated entry. Single rides may be themed to specific topics, areas or storylines, but a cohesive theme(s) is/are not seen in the park as a whole.  Rides tend to be judged based on statistics and “thrill factor” over immersiveness of the experience.

Examples: Six Flags Magic Mountain, Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Six Flags Great America, Cedar Point

THEME PARK – Any permanent installation of a group of rides and attractions themed after specific topics, areas or storylines. At no time is the illusion of theme dropped while inside the park gates (I.E. everything must have a cohesive theme, not just one ride). Rides are about immersing guests in an experience, not necessarily as thrilling from a statistics standpoint.

Examples: Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, Busch Gardens, Universal Islands of Adventure

What are your thoughts on my definitions? I’d love to hear from you!

Leave a comment below or write to me on social media – let’s keep the conversation going!


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!


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


Inaugural #CoasterChat TONIGHT on Twitter!

Join the creator and host of Great American Thrills®, along with the creator of CoasterAddict.com, for the first ever #CoasterChat tweetup!

Many of us love roller coasters and the amusement parks that build them. Similarly, many of us also tweet…all of the time. Now, we hope to merge the two together on a weekly basis, discussing the latest news and topics surrounding the amusement park industry. We look forward to hearing all of your great ideas and enthusiastic candor!

So, how can YOU participate? It’s easy! Just log into Twitter around 6:00pm TONIGHT, and search for / follow the #CoasterChat hashtag – it’s that easy to join in on the fun – see you there, coaster fans!

Logo by: CoasterAddict.com

Logo by: CoasterAddict.com


Social Media and the Amusement Park: Don’t Take Yelp Lightly

Despite your personal opinion of the site, Yelp.com has become the de facto review source for many users on the internet. The site says that it’s “Real People, Real Reviews,” and with your amusement park being a major business in the area, chances are someone has already reviewed you and / or created a page for your park. So, how do you monitor and work Yelp to your needs? Read on:

1.) Create an officially moderated Yelp business page, then have it verified:

Multiple pages created by guests will only add to the confusion. Clean these up by creating an officially moderated page and contacting Yelp about removing the other ones.

Multiple pages created by guests only add to confusion in search results and SEO. Plus, misinformation will spread faster.

When searching “Six Flags” in the Bay Area, these are the top four results. Note how there’s seemingly multiple accounts for the park, with reviews about the park in each one. This only makes people confused when they’re trying to find you online. True, the more of you out there, the better for SEO – but not in this case.

By creating an official, park moderated page, Yelp will be more inclined to remove errant listings, making it easier for people to find and review you. Plus, it makes it far easier to respond to guests when there’s only one place to go.

2.) Monitor, monitor, MONITOR!

Is this really an accurate review?

Is this really an accurate review? Hardly – so why allow it to sit for others to view?

It should go without saying, but Yelp is yet another place that you need to be monitoring your image online. Just like your Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts, Yelp should be monitored closely to make sure that any reviews placed on it are fair, accurate and not derogatory towards your business.

For example, the posting above – is it really an accurate portrayal of the park? Absolutely NOT! So why then would you allow it to stay up, for others to view 24/7? Yelp also gives you the ability to flag reviews for abuse – which is what this one should have done to it.

At the very least – a post like this should be responded to from the park’s official account with accurate information. 95% of angry guests will be quelled once they see the park responding directly to them. Don’t think of it as damage control – think of it more as an opportunity to make a new sale by bringing a guest back. Who knows – they just might upgrade to a season pass…

3.) When you’re wrong – admit it.

Would you eat at a "C" graded restaurant? How people portray you on Yelp has a major impact on decisions to visit.

Would you eat at a “C” graded restaurant? How people portray you on Yelp has a major impact on decisions to visit.

Look, we’re all human, so we’re not perfect. Mistakes sometimes happen, so it’s up to you to recognize these and make them right wherever possible. But completely ignoring your internet footprint (especially on Yelp) isn’t going to make bad reviews go away.

If a bad review comes in, try to contact the guest first, off of Yelp. Get more information, and then proceed to see what can be done to correct it in the future. Remember that the sooner you contact an angry guest, the better the park looks in their eyes for wanting to assist.

4.) When all else fails, pay Yelp.

Ever wonder why some companies NEVER have a bad review on Yelp? Is it because of the service or business? Maybe. Mot likely, it’s because they pay for those reviews.

You heard right. What most people don’t know, is that companies can actually PAY to look better on Yelp. Yes, call it a shakedown, call it what you will. But the good news – you don’t have to give money to Yelp.

Just by monitoring and responding to reviews through your own company, much as you would with a customer service agent over the phone, or guest service manager would in the park – you’ll see your numbers trend upwards. At the very least, you’ll start getting a better pulse about what your guests are having issues with, and can adapt your business model around it.

Review my prior posts about “Social Media and the Amusement Park” here.

About the Author:

Kris Rowberry has been following the amusement industry for over 15 years. He is the creator and host of both “The Lost Parks of Northern California” and “Great American Thrills®


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Featured on “This Week in Photo” Podcast!

If you haven’t already, check me out on the “This Week in Photo” podcast! We’ll discuss photo composition, the impetus for me getting into photography…and of course, nausea.

Enjoy, everyone!

Learn more about Frederick’s work at: www.thisweekinphoto.com


A Difficult Day for the Amusement Industry, But Don’t Rush To Judgment

An unprecedented two major news-making events took place at two separate amusement parks in the U.S. within minutes of each other on Friday, bringing up the inevitable media hype over ride safety.

At Six Flags Over Texas and Cedar Point, two major incidents occurred that have splashed across the media.

In the wake of yesterday’s tragic event and subsequent investigation at Six Flags Over Texas, Iron Rattler at Six Flags Fiesta Texas has been closed as a precautionary measure, according to a park representative. The ride features the same style of “Iron Horse”  track as the Texas Giant and same train manufacturer, Gerstlauer of Germany.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone involved in today’s tragic events.

When reporting news, there’s always the possibility of reporting inaccurate information. When the story is breaking, that risk is even bigger. These stories are no different.

One of the more glaring items that stands out to me is from the The Dallas Morning News. They reported that eyewitness, Carmen Brown, who was in the loading station of the Texas Giant, “…said the woman had expressed concern to a park employee that she was not secured correctly in her seat.”

“He (the ride attendant) was basically nonchalant,” Brown said. “He was, like, ‘As long as you heard it click, you’re fine.’ Hers was the only one that went down once, and she didn’t feel safe. But they let her still get on the ride.”

Here’s the problem – the Texas Giant doesn’t use “clicking” restraints. In fact, according to Gerstlauer, the manufacturer of the trains for the Texas Giant, “The cars feature four self-restraining seats with T-shaped lapbars.” It continues, “The use of redundant hydraulic cylinders ensures that each lap bar can be infinitely adjusted and offers maximum security.” in other words, these restraints come down in silence.

As I was just out at Six Flags Over Texas about five weeks ago, I can attest to this fact. The Texas Giant also features an electronic indicator light on each train, (one for each restraint) which alerts operators if a restraint is too high for safety. The light turns from red to green.

It should not be lost on anyone, but you should know – your odds are far greater of being injured DRIVING to your local amusement park then they are INSIDE your local amusement park. In addition, if you do not feel confident in a ride – you always, ALWAYS have the choice of simply asking to be let out.


Gold Striker Closed Only Temporarily for Modifications

After two weeks of soft testing, a lavish grand opening ceremony and over a month of regular operation, the Gold Striker wooden roller coaster at California’s Great America is closed temporarily to allow for additional sound mitigation to be placed on the ride. But don’t hit your panic buttons – published news reports say the ride is expected to be back up and running by the July 4th holiday – NOT an extended, unknown period.

According to the City of Santa Clara’s “Smart Permit” website, Gold Striker had several criteria to meet in order for it to open permanently, the biggest of which states: “Should the additional testing reveal that the coaster is not in compliance with Condition 23 (amount of sound coming from the ride) or any applicable City ordinances, Cedar Fair shall undertake Remedial Measures, as defined in the Settlement Agt Agreement.” Apparently, the ride was just shy of making all those criteria.

Many industry watchers and local boosters see this addition to the park (and the subsequent work to ensure everyone is satisfied) as a serious commitment from corporate owner Cedar Fair, LP to both the park and the local economy.

“Cedar Fair elected to close the ride to install additional sound mitigation upgrades,” said Santa Clara Mayor, Jamie Matthews. “Those upgrades should bring the ride into full compliance with the previous settlement. I’m hoping to see it open here for the 4th of July.”

He added, “I am very happy with the way this is situation is working out – it shows responsible citizenship – that we can all work together and come to a solution.”

Noise Tests at California's Great America. Photo (C) 2013, Kris Rowberry and Great American Thrills. All rights reserved.

A man with recording equipment and headphones monitors the noise coming from Gold Striker from one of Prudential’s buildings.

Since “soft-opening” in May, Gold Striker has seen major additions, most notably the addition of plywood walls and white foam along the sides and underside of the track. By coincidence, these spots pass closest to or face the buildings located on Great America Parkway. During initial construction, the park added what was dubbed an, “initial descent tunnel” onto the first drop of the ride. This feature was presumably added to mitigate the sound from the first drop of the ride.

Trying to build this ride has been quite the roller coaster ride in and of itself – the plans go back to 2007, when the park first began the permitting process. In addition to the standard permits, three hearings were held on potential noise levels – all of which were initiated by appeals from the owners of the buildings closest to the proposed ride.

Billy D’Anjou, a local roller coaster enthusiast, has logged 80 circuits on the coaster since it opened in May and is hoping to hit his 100th ride in July.

“I personally don’t mind more enhancements (to the ride) but I think the whole noise mitigation issue has gotten out out of control,” he said. “In the end it makes me worry what limitations Great America will have in the future. (Prudential) should expect noise from a theme park. It’s not a library or fine art museum.”

Gold Striker at California's Great America. Photo (C) 2013 Kris Rowberry & Great American Thrills. All rights reserved.

Gold Striker thrills riders on a recent operating day.

Gold Striker is the first wooden roller coaster built in Northern California since 1999. It boasts the tallest and fastest drop in Northern California and is the largest capital investment in the park in over a decade. The ride was built partially on the footprint of another ride, Willard’s Whizzer – a steel coaster that operated from 1976 to 1988.

The land that Prudential’s buildings sit on was originally an auxiliary parking lot for Great America. The land was sold in the late 90’s during the dot com boom. Prudential acquired the buildings in early 2002, according to a press release on their website.

Marriott’s Great America opened in 1976, as a celebration of America’s bi-centennial. The concept was to create a chain of parks to become an answer to Disney’s theme park empire.


Season Pass Podcast Interview

We had the pleasure of being interviewed at the Gold Striker media day by the great Doug Barnes of “The Season Pass” podcast. Check out the interview about halfway through at the link below:

Can’t wait to talk up “Lost Parks” some more in the future, Doug!

iTunes:

https://itunes.apple.com/podcast/the-season-pass-the-essential/id268430539

Direct Link:

http://traffic.libsyn.com/seasonpasspodcast/The_Season_Pass_235.mp3

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Gold Striker Video – Rider Reactions

With Gold Striker now officially open to the public at California’s Great America – enjoy this on-ride video of myself and “Lost Parks” Producer, Nicholas Laschkewitsch (who is also the ACE NorCal Asst. Regional Rep) taking in a ride.


Gold Striker NOW OPEN at California’s Great America

Yes, it’s official. As of this afternoon, the Gold Rush has officially met your adrenaline rush – GOLD STRIKER at California’s Great America is now offically OPEN TO THE PUBLIC!

Look for a full media review in the next few days – but for now, get out and enjoy Gold Striker at California’s Great America!

Gold Striker at California's Great America

Gold Striker is officially open to the public!

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Social Media and Your Amusement Park

Arguably, the biggest change in terms of marketing in the past decade has to be the meteoric rise of social media.

In the past (referred to as web 1.0), parks and attractions had fan pages or message boards that covered daily events or changes. In some cases, these outlets also promoted the park in a positive light, but that wasn’t always guaranteed.

Today (in web 2.0), parks now have the ability to schedule and control messages to potential and repeat customers on an ongoing, daily basis. Even the best television campaign could not reach such a targeted audience.

But, being relatively new to the game, many parks don’t quite understand how to use social media properly to benefit them. Sadly, in many cases, parks are shooting themselves in the digital foot.

So how then can your park or attraction avoid the most common pitfalls of social media?

1.)    Social media means just that – BE SOCIAL!

The point of social media is to start (or maintain) a conversation. Whether it’s between you and your customers, or your customers and potential customers – once a story or idea starts online it can quickly lead to revenue, if it gains enough traction and virality.

However, simply throwing up a daily update on something cool about the park is not going to reach most of your audience. Just because you have 50,000 likes on Facebook, does not mean all 50,000 are seeing your post.

Not everyone enjoys pretty pictures – some are more engaged with a “What’s this Part” or “Flashback Friday” post. Create a weekly checklist of specific post types so that you can reach a greater majority of your online audience.

2.)    Always promoting an item or product is social media poison.

Yes, we’re all looking for a quick return on investment, but consider this: If you throw away junk mail whenever it comes in your mailbox at home, why wouldn’t you do the same if presented with the same situation on your social media channels?

While a thinly veiled call to action is okay every now and then, it’s not good to fill your feed up with “BUY THIS!” in each and every post you put out. Simply put, lose the 1960’s “Mad Men” advertising jargon that we all have had been beaten into our heads over our lives, and be more, “real.”

That being said, don’t forget that your social media posts are a major (and instant) public-facing outlet that has the potential to reach millions if something goes awry.

Simply put, social media is not something you assign your seasonal marketing intern as a fun project. It should be a full-time position, as it can actually keep your audience engaged (and spending money) even in the off-seasons.

3.)    While your park or attraction may close for the night, your social media feeds don’t.

Remember that the internet is on 24/7/365. While a majority of posts are made between 8:00am and 8:00pm, that can change depending on your audience and operating hours. Responding to posts, both good and bad, in a timely manner can mean the difference between closing a sale and losing a customer for life.

In addition, the larger your social media audience becomes, the more susceptible you become to nefarious postings, such as links to pornography on your public facing wall or feed. The faster you can pull them down, the less people will have seen it.

4.)    Negative feedback on your social media feed is an opportunity, not blight.

The absolute, worst behavior a park could do when managing negative feedback on social media is to simply ignore it. There are very limited circumstances where a deleted comment or all-out ban from the page could be necessary, but if managed properly, these situations are rare.

Nothing will make an angry guest feel better than to know that someone is listening or trying to rectify the situation. Even if it’s simply re-iterating a policy that the guest does not agree with, it’s still better to show the effort to others on the feed than to delete it or worse, ignore it altogether.

5.)    Stir (and track) conversation with park centric hash tags, but don’t make it too complicated

Remember the old “Kodak Photo Spot” in your park? Hash tags are the new photo spot. Create a simple one to see what people are doing and saying in your park, along with mentions of things that people may talk about, such as new attractions.

Because you’ll be tracking mentions and hash tags, you’ll quickly discover that a good majority of your social media content literally writes or creates itself. You can share guest photos, positive experiences and interact directly with them. I guarantee they’ll want to share with all their friends and family that, “…’So and So Park’ re-tweeted my pic!” That’s social media at work.

6.)    Use cell phone photos only when absolutely necessary – have a DSLR with you.

Cell phone cameras are convenient, yes – but they have limitations in terms of quality. While it’s easy to post an update from inside your park via phone, try to resist. A higher quality photo – from a SLR style camera – will allow you to add logo watermarks back in the office. A higher quality photo will also encourage people to save it on their desktop or share it with others – where it will always be in front of them at work, home or their mobile device. And your logo is right there next to it.

Shares and re-tweets, however can be cell phone shots – as these are directly from guests. A higher quality photo automatically sets the parks’ content above the guests, so it becomes more recognizable.

7.)    Use the outlets that work the best for your skill and for your park.

While it’s not a bad idea to get your feet in the water on as many of the popular social networks as possible – beware that they all have different audiences and content requirements. Google+ tends to be a more educated, affluent crowd. Instagram requires only photos, while Pinterest is weighted heavily towards women.

Don’t try to overreach when you first start off – go with the outlets that make most sense to you and your audience. Once you’re comfortable, slowly begin to expand. Sometimes too much of a good thing is well, too much!

Review my prior posts about “Social Media and the Amusement Park” here.

About the Author:

Kris Rowberry has been following the amusement industry for over 15 years. He is the creator and host of both “The Lost Parks of Northern California” and “Great American Thrills®