Today’s Throwback Thursday comes from this past summer, when I had the privilege to cross the country with my good friends Robert Ingle and Nicholas Laschkewitsch to help tell the story of Arrow Development.
The documentary is coming out later this year – so for now, enjoy this great scene of Magnum XL-200 (world’s first hypercoaster) from Cedar Point in Sandusky, OH. The fire ants and muffleheads were INSANE!
As for my hair – I’m pretty sure I was wearing a hat that day…
There’s been quite a bit of chatter over those few weeks in regards to rides and attractions that could be coming down the pipeline, so I figured I’d take the time to address one in particular – Vortex at California’s Great America being next in line for a floorless conversion.
Let’s start with how this rumor even came about. Longtime Cedar Point Public Relations Manager, Janice Witherow apparently told the paper (and was printed as saying so) that, “…Cedar Fair plans to do the same with other aging coasters in its portfolio, including one next year at its park near San Francisco.”
I don’t think I’ve ever seen another park spoil the announcement of a new ride…for another park. Let alone one in your own chain. That being said…
Why this would be a good idea:
1.) Standup coasters were a fad. They require two different locking systems which slows down capacity – and they aren’t the most comfortable riding position. Basically, it was throwing the adage of, “…don’t stand up on a coaster” to the wind. But that was about it. The last new standup to be built: 1999’s “Georgia Scorcher.”
2.) Also, the conversion could theoretically smooth out the ride, the second B&M ever built. It’s a marketable product with a minimal investment. Seems like a safe, economical idea. Even if the conversion isn’t that popular, it’s only about the same amount as the revamp of Planet Snoopy – as opposed to a new, $22 million hypercoaster from B&M.
Why this would be a bad idea:
1.) This is the park’s 40th anniversary. It’s been through some rough times in the past decade, but most will argue the park has emerged from the doldrums and is making strides to become a destination park. This addition (if true) just screams, “meh” to me.
But, upon further research, recent “anniversary” celebrations haven’t been very stellar or marketable at this park for awhile:
2001 – 25th Anniversary: Removal of the beloved Scenic Railway for cancelled S&S Hypersonic coaster. Addition of Psycho Mouse and used Wave Swinger from Carowinds.
2006 – 30th Anniversary: Survivor: The Ride re-named Tiki Twirl.
2011 – 35th Anniversary: Invertigo removed; three new shows; Halloween Haunt expansion.
You have to go all the way back to 1996 and the 20th anniversary season to see a record breaking or marketable new attraction in an anniversary year: Drop Zone Stunt Tower.
2.) The park’s direct competition (Six Flags Discovery Kingdom) already has a taller, faster, longer and smoother version of this ride. (Medusa). I can speak from personal and direct experience – Rougarou didn’t make Mantis much better, if better at all. It’s still rough in spots, although the capacity is slightly higher now due to faster loading. Not that we waited longer than 10 minutes to ride (Millennium Force and Maverick had hour long waits while we were there, for comparison).
Let’s just hope that if the conversion takes place, it’ll include a covered loading station…like they should have done back in 1991 when it first opened…
Now, this is ALL conjecture – no official announcement has been made – but if the park does decide to convert Vortex to floorless, they’re going to have one HELL of a time in a market that is already ultra-competitive for entertainment dollars. Plus, we haven’t even addressed that RMC rumor up in Vallejo…
It’s good to know people. But it’s even better to know there’s all sorts of things inside our favorite amusement and theme parks that can make your day that much more special, IF you know them! Here now is my top six most celebrated amusement and theme park “insider” experiences as parks open up for full time operation this week:
6.) Dole Whip:
Once only reserved for visitors to Disney’s Tiki Rooms, this Polynesian frozen treat is slowly making its way out from the mouse and into regional parks, to the delight of pineapple fans everywhere. If you haven’t experienced one yet – hunt it down or request it be brought to your park.
5.) The Rollback:
We ain’t talking about WalMart here…an exclusive experience to Intamin cable-launched coasters, this delightful event occurs when the launch isn’t quite strong enough to get you over the first hill, resulting in screams of euphoria from enthusiasts – and shrieks of horror from the general public.
In reality, it’s all perfectly safe and for the lucky riders, it’s like getting 1.5 rides for the wait of just one!
4.) The Round-Trip Skyway Ride:
Because nothing’s better than watching all those people in line scratch their head over why you’re not getting out of your sky bucket. But, with so many of these rides being removed in recent years, plus the increase in overall park attendance (which means longer lines for rides) this experience has become far more difficult to cross off your list.
3.) The Track Walk / Evacuation:
A very rare event that you don’t necessarily want to root for experiencing for yourself. Why? Because it most certainly means the ride will be down for at LEAST the rest of the operating day.
But the experiencing of walking a coaster lift is most certainly a memorable one.
2.) The Last Ride of the Night:
There is something oddly cathartic about knowing you’re the last person to experience all that fun. Well, at least until the mechanics come in tomorrow morning to start checking on things. this fun. But, until then…
And the number one most celebrated amusement park insider experience?
1.) Exclusive Ride Time (ERT):
The only thing better than the last ride of the night, is having the ride all to yourself or the group you’re at the park with!
Just think about it – no line and fast operations. It doesn’t get any better than that. Heck, it’s one of the biggest reasons I joined ACE!
Did I miss an experience? Do you have one to add to the list? Tell me about it on my social media channels or leave a comment below!
GOING HEAD OVER HEELS FOR SOUTH BAY HISTORY
Former ride manufacturer to be featured in new documentary from local filmmakers
MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA – Great American Thrills® and Totally Twisted Media are proud to announce a historic partnership with American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) Worldwide, Inc. to produce a documentary on the former Bay Area amusement park ride manufacturer, Arrow Development. The film is expected to premiere at the IAAPA industry trade show in Florida this November.
Several of the most prominent and respected names in the amusement industry have already signed on to participate in the documentary. These include: Cedar Point, Irvine Ondrey Engineering, Silverwood Theme Park, S&S Sansei and Six Flags Magic Mountain, among others.
The documentary is being produced by the all-volunteer team behind the award-winning “Lost Parks of Northern California” series, with filming beginning shortly. Nicholas Laschkewitsch and Kris Rowberry are leading the project:
“Everyone knows Silicon Valley is famous for technological innovations,” said Rowberry. “But very few people are aware that the valley that gave us Google and iPhones also spawned the world’s first log ride and tubular steel roller coaster, along with countless other ride innovations.”
Joining Rowberry as Executive Producer on the project is Nicholas Laschkewitsch, Video Promotions Coordinator for American Coaster Enthusiasts.
“Arrow Development and its mechanical marvels have always mesmerized me and held a special place in my heart,” said Laschkewitsch. “The sheer opportunity to be able to tell the story of Arrow to the masses is a dream come true.”
Fans can keep up with the latest happenings on the project by following American Coaster Enthusiasts on Facebook and Twitter or by using the #RideWithACE hashtag. To join ACE, visit: www.ACEonline.org
Many people have expressed interest in either helping out or participating in some way with our newly announced documentary on Arrow Development. So, here’s three quick ways you can be a part of history:
1.) Join ACE:
As a recognized 501(c)3 non-profit organization, the members of the American Coaster Enthusiasts are all about the preservation and enjoyment of amusement parks and roller coasters. By joining, you’ll help preserve our incredible amusement heritage, while becoming part of one of the largest and most respected roller coaster organizations in the world. Learn more at: www.aceonline.org
2.) Contribute photos or videos of Arrow rides, both past and present:
Do you have some “vintage footage” of older Arrow rides? Maybe a photo of you and your family next to a defunct Arrow coaster? Feel free to send them to: email@example.com and we’ll do our best to get them in the documentary – with proper attribution, of course.
3.) Join us for a shoot!
Parks are run by humans – which means that sometimes (although rarely) they will make mistakes. It’s human nature, after all. Sometimes, taking a risk on a prototype pays off. (Look at how well Magnum XL-200 did!) However, in these cases, things didn’t quite work out as well as the parks had hoped.
That being said, let’s take a look back at five of some of the biggest “not-so-stellar” moves made by amusement and theme parks. Got one you think should be added to the list/ Tell us on social media, or leave a comment below!
When park fans first saw this mammoth attraction, complete with it’s programmable ride sequence, many of us shouted, “…shut up and take my money!” Unfortunately, stress cracks that were discovered in the models and a snapped pillar in Ohio led the attraction to completely disappear to almost as little fanfare as it debuted to.
4.) Silver Bullet, Knott’s Berry Farm
Talk about a more appropriate name – many park fans will argue that the addition of this custom B&M inverted coaster nearly killed the charm from “America’s 1st Theme Park.” Plopped right in the middle of the park, the ride straddles several themed areas, and necessitated the moving of a church on the property as well as the original Berry Stand and vines that made Knott’s famous.
Built in an apparent attempt to compete with Six Flags Magic Mountain, Silver Bullet was the second to last major attraction built / purchased under the Kinzel-era of Cedar Fair’s management. Since then, the company has shifted, to re-investing in the parks’ classic attractions, bringing back the nostalgia and charm that made Knott’s the friendlier and less-crowded alternative to nearby Disneyland.
3.) Stealth – Paramount’s Great America
Announced in 1999 to much fanfare, this expensive, $17 million prototype attraction gave riders the sensation of flying…if they were willing to wait up to three hours on a GOOD day.
However, the ride was removed after only three years of operation, due to high maintenance needs, large amounts of downtime and that very low throughput / capacity. The second station was never built to completion, which allowed riders to bake in the sun for up to ten minutes while another train was dispatched. Quite simply, the ride never lived up to nor operated at it’s original potential.
Originally committed to several models of the ride for their parks, Paramount Parks allegedly pulled the contract on Vekoma after the disappointing results from Stealth. The area the ride sat on became the “Boomerang Bay Waterpark” but sharp eyes can still spot footers for Stealth in the Yankee Harbor area of the park.
2.) The Bat – Kings Island
Even the masters have their mistakes. For years, Anton Schwarzkopf had been designing a swinging, suspended coaster. Unfortunately, Anton’s skills with fabrication and design didn’t translate to running a business, and the company went bankrupt before “The Bat” could be finished. In stepped Arrow Development, who finished the ride.
However, high bank forces contributed to very high track maintenance, which eventually shut the ride down. It was replaced by another Arrow creation, the multi-loop “Vortex.”
Arrow would go on to build several suspended coasters of their own, one of which made a return to Kings Island, named “Top Gun.” Ironically, the park renamed and rebranded it to “the Bat” in 2014.
1.) Son of Beast – Paramount’s Kings Island
The looping wooden coaster. Once the holy grail of coaster-dom; now, it’s the “next big thing” when it comes to parks. But back in 2000, it was still a “work in progress.” True, the ride worked fine, but the heavy trains custom designed to transition between the steel loop and wooden track tore up the 7,000+ feet of track on the ride, to the point it became unbearable to ride.
Removing the loop and adding lighter, Gerstlauer trains didn’t help, either. The coaster was shuttered for several years and then eventually torn down in favor of a custom, record breaking B&M inverted coaster, “Banshee.”
What do you think? Are there other “not-so-great” moves that are worth noting? Tell us what you think on our social media feeds or leave a comment with video clip below!
(*All videos featured in this article are copyright of their respective owners. No ownership is implied*)
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.
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!