The concept seems like a wonderful idea – get past the long lines at at your local amusement park, just pay a few extra bucks for your admission. But, is it really that great of an idea, or is it creating more problems than it solves?
Today, we’ll look at arguments both for and against the “fastpass” system – as well as historical background on the topic.
First, a quick history…of lines.
Lines have been with us for most of eternity. The Bible speaks of how the animals lined up, two by two to get into Noah’s Ark. Lines also developed during the Great Depression, waiting for food at the local soup kitchen. At the same time, the concept of legally jumping the line was born.
Let’s face it, those unicorns probably should have gotten a fastpass…
So, on one side of the argument, a paid fastpass-type system effectively “punishes” those who can’t wait, by charging them more for their day at the park.
Now, the flipside of the argument, is that much like traffic fines, those with more disposable income will simply pay the extra amount, as it really doesn’t mean much to them. But, does this mean there’s a “class system” developing in our amusement and theme parks?
I don’t think so.
Why? Because we’ve had a class system in our parks for decades – it’s just that so many people now have access to the “upper echelon.”
Hear me out – if you’ve ever been to an amusement or theme park when a celebrity is there, you know (or knew) that they wouldn’t ever stand in line. They would be shuttled up the exit by staff members to get on the ride with as little fanfare (and fan interaction) as possible.
True fans of Disneyland and California’s Great America should also know about the secret clubs that are in the park, designed for those with deep pockets – 33 and The Consulate, respectively.
While The Consulate is no longer used for it’s original purpose, the fact that it was set up for that purpose 40 years ago shows that the “class culture” has been with us for quite some time.
So is it class warfare in our parks? No. Does it suck to wait an extra few minutes – sure. Is it worth the extra cash to skip the line?
Maybe the better question is this: are you willing to give parks more of your money to feel richer?
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.”
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 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.