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Posts tagged “lost parks

California’s Great America is Staying Put

Photo credit: Kris Rowberry

As the sun rose on it’s historic 40th anniversary this morning, the fate of California’s Great America still seemed very much up in the air.

With a pending sale of the land it sits on and confirmation from our own investigation that several members of the Santa Clara City Council have entertained redevelopment proposals – all of which called for demolition of the park – it seemed that we would soon be watching our 39th Lost Park in the Bay Area.

However, there is some potential, good news to report. Speaking to the San Jose Mercury News, park General Manager, Raul Rehnborg said that Cedar Fair, “…intends to keep and grow the park exactly where it is through the year 2074.” That’s when the current lease on the park expires.

He added that there is no more debating the park’s future – they are here to stay. You can find the full article, here.

I’ve written at length here before about why Cedar Fair should’t and wouldn’t let this park go – so it’s great to hear directly from senior management that this is indeed, appears to be the case. We’ll now look forward to the actual sale proceedings from the City of Santa Clara come this June and official statements from the park as well.

What do you think of this news – are you excited or still not convinced the park is staying? Let me know in the comments section or on our social media links!


Where can I see “The Legacy of Arrow Development” documentary?

You’ve no doubt seen all the promotion and publicity for this coaster documentary. So, where exactly can you see “The Legacy of Arrow Development?”

Well, you can subscribe to American Coaster Enthusiasts on YouTube, and see it here.

– OR –

You can go to www.LegacyOfArrow.com and watch it there.

Either way, enjoy the ride and be sure to share it with all your friends, family, and favorite TV stations and streaming services!


California’s Great America won’t become a “lost park”

California’s Great America has been a fixture of the City of Santa Clara and for that matter the entirety of Northern California since late 1975.  But a recent story by SanJoseInside.com pointed to several sources inside Santa Clara City Hall, that said they don’t expect the park to be around for much longer.

Now, I know something about “Lost Parks” and this story doesn’t feel like the pattern that those parks have followed.

Specifically, the story claims that Mayor Jamie Matthews, along with Councilwoman Lisa Gillmor oversaw a presentation by the Irvine Company (who have ties to the 49ers) that showed the Great America site replaced by an office complex and high density housing (condos).

I reached out to Mayor Matthews, who told me he, “…did not recall any such presentation,” and added that his preference, “…would be to see the park stay. I was there opening day.”

Repeated calls to Councilwoman Gillmor were not returned.

So why are we even entertaining this idea that the park land is being sold off?

Well, when the City of Santa Clara bought the park and land from Marriott’s back in the 1980’s, it was to stop the hotel chain from building – you guessed it – an office park. Santa Clara purchased the park via it’s redevelopment agency and wrote into the city’s master plan that the land was to be used for an amusement park/ The park would be owned by the city but assets (I.E. rides and improvements) would be owned and operated by an established amusement park operator.

Fast forward to the 2000’s, and California’s legislature effectively raids redevelopment agencies coffers to pay down the defect – and eventually disbands them, forcing them to sell off all their assets. The land under Great America, along with the golf course and convention center in Santa Clara are part of the redevelopment agencies’ assets.

Indeed, the park does sit in the middle of a real estate buying boom (where the average household rent is in excess of $2300 for a one bedroom apartment). Commercial real estate is just as in-demand.

However, several sources tell Great American Thrills an entirely different story. They say that Cedar Fair is indeed, committed to keeping Great America around for the long haul, citing the length of the current lease – which was recently extended to 2074 – a recent re-zoning application, which will allow for newer attractions and several clauses in the lease itself that give the park the upper hand.

Here’s the full statement from the corporate office in Sandusky, OH:

“We believe that Great America has compelling potential for future development as an amusement park and entertainment venue.  Consistent with our long-term vision for Great America we have filed a rezoning application with the City of Santa Clara that would allow for the addition of new attractions, shows and events that will enhance the guest experience.  In light of the fact that our ground lease runs through 2074 we have the necessary control of the property to pursue our long-term vision.  In addition, we have also created enough financial flexibility to exercise our right of first refusal for the purchase of the property and that option will be considered as the land sale process moves forward.”

So what does this all mean? To me, it says the park isn’t going anywhere. Cedar Fair has already spent too much to NOT buy the park land for themselves – and breaking a lease with over half a century still left on it will be tied up in court for years.

This isn’t the Kinzel-era, anymore. His obsession with garbage cans is not the top priority anymore. It’s claimed that current CEO Matt Ouimet (who comes form Disney) said after touring Great America for the first time, that it was, “…a diamond in the rough,” and, “Why did we treat this park so badly?”

Yes, the park hasn’t received that monster attraction in recent years – but neither has several other parks in the Cedar Fair chain. The investments that have come in the past few years over the LONG TERM are going to keep the park in far healthier shape fiscally than any one coaster would. And the key words there are “long term.”

Now, if the park DOESN’T buy the land underneigh it – that’s something to watch for. There’s still the lease to break AND the master plan, which would need a vote by the residents of Santa Clara in order to change…

To sum it up: Don’t write off Great America just yet – keep enjoying it.


The Seven Days of Arrow Development – Day 7

All this week, we’re been posting a new graphic, both here and on all our social media channels, that features a milestone moment in Arrow’s history.

Today’s post is of Ron Toomer, Arrow’s first engineer and the man behind some of the most iconic steel coasters ever built. While the company may be best remembered for their rides – remember that without the people behind them, they would have most certainly never have existed.

Day Seven of Arrow

Be sure to LIKE, COMMENT or SHARE with the amusement park fans in your life – and don’t forget that “The Legacy of Arrow Development” premieres THIS SATURDAY at the Montgomery Theater in San Jose. Tickets are still available here: bit.ly/ArrowTixSJ

See you there tomorrow evening!


The Seven Days of Arrow Development – Day 6

All this week, we’re been posting a new graphic, both here and on all our social media channels, that features a milestone moment in Arrow’s history.

Today’s post is of X at Six Flags Magic Mountain – the world’s first 4th Dimension coaster and the last coaster Arrow ever built.Day Six of Arrow

Be sure to LIKE, COMMENT or SHARE with the amusement park fans in your life – and don’t forget that “The Legacy of Arrow Development” premieres THIS SATURDAY at the Montgomery Theater in San Jose. Tickets are still available here: bit.ly/ArrowTixSJ

See you there on Saturday!


The Seven Days of Arrow Development – Day 5

All this week, we’re going to post a new graphic, both here and on all our social media channels, that features a milestone moment in Arrow Development’s history.

Today’s post is of Magnum XL-200, the world’s first hypercoaster (200+ feet) and a throwback to the out and back wooden coasters of the 1920’s. It’s also considered by many as the moment the “coaster wars” officially began.

Day Five of Arrow

Be sure to LIKE, COMMENT or SHARE with the amusement park fans in your life – and don’t forget that “The Legacy of Arrow Development” premieres THIS SATURDAY at the Montgomery Theater in San Jose. Tickets are still available here: bit.ly/ArrowTixSJ

See you there on Saturday!


The Seven Days of Arrow Development – Day 4

All this week, we’re going to post a new graphic, both here and on all our social media channels, that features a milestone moment in Arrow Development’s history.

Today’s post is of the Corkscrew – the world’s first modern looping roller coaster:

Day Four of Arrow

Be sure to LIKE, COMMENT or SHARE with the amusement park fans in your life – and don’t forget that “The Legacy of Arrow Development” premieres THIS SATURDAY at the Montgomery Theater in San Jose. Tickets are still available here: bit.ly/ArrowTixSJ

See you there on Saturday!


The Seven Days of Arrow Development – Day Three

All this week, we’re going to post a new graphic, both here and on all our social media channels, that features a milestone moment in Arrow Development’s history.

Today’s graphic features El Aserradero – the world’s first log flume. Built only using scale models and slide rules, the flume has become a mainstay of parks around the world!

Day Three of Arrow

Be sure to LIKE, COMMENT or SHARE with the amusement park fans in your life – and don’t forget that “The Legacy of Arrow Development” premieres THIS SATURDAY at the Montgomery Theater in San Jose. Tickets are still available here: bit.ly/ArrowTixSJ

See you there on Saturday!


The Seven Days of Arrow Development – Day Two

Each day, we’re going to post a new graphic, both here and on all our social media channels, that features a milestone moment in Arrow Development’s history.

Today’s post is of the Matterhorn Bobsleds – the world’s first tubular steel roller coaster. While it many not be the smoothest ride, it set the prescient for 55 years of roller coaster designs!

Day Two of Arrow

Be sure to LIKE, COMMENT or SHARE with the amusement park fans in your life – and don’t forget that “The Legacy of Arrow Development” premieres THIS SATURDAY at the Montgomery Theater in San Jose. Tickets are still available here: bit.ly/ArrowTixSJ

See you there on Saturday!


The Seven Days of Arrow Development – Day One

The Legacy of Arrow Development, Day One

With the upcoming premiere of our documentary, “The Legacy of Arrow Development” we wanted to do something cool in the final week leading up to it.

Each day, we’re going to post a new graphic, both here and on all our social media channels. It will feature the company’s “A” logo – and an important ride or person related to it.

Today’s post is of the Alum Rock Carousel – Arrow’s first ride and the moment the company shifted forever. The Legacy of Arrow Development, Day One

Be sure to LIKE, COMMENT or SHARE with the amusement park fans in your life – and don’t forget that “The Legacy of Arrow Development” premieres one week from today in the Montgomery Theater in San Jose. Tickets for the premiere are still available – get yours at: bit.ly/ArrowTixSJ

See you there next Saturday!


What Happened to Lost Parks of Northern California?

Many of you have been asking, “When will we see another episode of “Lost Parks of Northern California?”

Well, “Lost Parks” has been on a bit of a hiatus this year – but there’s a perfectly good explanation for it:

We’ve been working all year on a documentary on the history and legacy of former amusement ride manufacturer (and Bay Area company) Arrow Development!

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But, don’t worry – the award-winning show will return – just as soon as we recover from the workload of the “Legacy of Arrow Development” project!


85 year old rides roller coasters at Geauga Lake

The phrase “young at heart” is thrown around often in our society, but I’m pretty sure this video encapsulates it perfectly. (Plus, some bonus “Lost Parks” footage, too!)


What’s Great American Thrills’ big announcement?

Something BIG is coming from Great American Thrills.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t figure it out before we announce it.

Head on over to our Facebook page, give it a “LIKE” – see if you can figure out the hints. Be sure to leave us a COMMENT with your guess, too. Like we’ve said before, “…no one saw this coming,” but if you can put together all the clues – you’ll be in the know before anyone else.

Let the speculation continue!

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Great American Thrills teases at major announcement

Pi Day Tease 1


Remembering Gary Owens

We lost a legend in media this week.

Gary Owens, famed radio announcer, TV presenter and voiceover actor, died at the age of 80 on Friday. You may not know the man, but you certainly know the voice.

Like many in my generation, we were introduced to Mr. Owens not by his work on the radio or television, but on his very popular “Dinosaurs!” VHS tapes.

So what’s the amusement park connection? Well, both he and Eric Boardman took a trip on Kingdom of the Dinosaurs at Knott’s Berry Farm – and here it is for you to recall…and to enjoy. With Voyage to the Iron Reef now opening in it’s place – it’s a great look back with a true media legend.

Thanks for the memories, Gary.

And here’s some raw footage from the episode, featuring the park as well:

 


Newest Lost Parks Episode Debuts – Frontier Village in San Jose

These are the days I look forward to the most. After several months of blood, sweat and tears, we are finally ready to pull back the curtain on our latest “Lost Parks of Northern California” – presenting San Jose’s beloved Frontier Village.

Be sure to LIKE and SHARE the video with all your friends, family and favorite television networks and personalities – let’s make this the biggest Lost Parks episode EVER, TOGETHER!


Lost Parks of Northern California wins at the 2014 CreaTiVe Awards

Pardon us if you’ve already heard the news, but…we think it’s worth bragging about:

Lost Parks of Northern California,” the series produced by ACE Northern California and Great American Thrills took home the award for “Best Community Access Television Series – Professional” on Saturday at the CreaTiVe Awards in downtown San Jose.

Accepting our CreaTiVe Award for Best Professional Community Access TV Series

Accepting our CreaTiVe Award for Best Professional Community Access TV Series (Photo by: CreaTV San Jose)

The show airs on both CreaTV San Jose and Peninsula Television here in the Bay Area.

We could not have done this without everyone who we’ve met along the way, contributed a video or photo at a lost park they once visited, or simply shared their experiences with us. Thank you for the opportunity to live history vicariously through you! Here’s to many more awards and celebrations.

And yes, you’re allowed to say, “We knew them when…”


Top Five Amusement Park Mistakes

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!

 

5.) VertiGO; Thrill Shot – Cedar Point; Six Flags Magic Mountain

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*)


What’s Ahead for Great American Thrills in 2015

Now that the calendar has been officially flipped over to 2015, we wanted to fill you in on what’s to come for the year ahead with the Great American Thrills® brand.

Lost Parks Title Card

Season Two of “Lost Parks of Northern California” continues, with two more episodes, featuring Frontier Village in San Jose and the 1939 World’s Fair on Treasure Island. Both should debut in January and March, respectively.

Also, you can look forward to Season Three of “Lost Parks” debuting in late Spring, with episodes focused on Scotts Valley’s “Lost World” and Redwood City’s “Marine World Africa USA.”

Marine World Africa USA logo

We’ll also be providing you content from our partner sites, such as The Coaster Guy, Thrills by the Bay and Park Journey, in addition to revamping our website to be more user friendly.

And finally, we’ve got something truly special up our sleeves for 2015. We can’t tell you what it is just yet – but we think that every amusement and theme park fan will enjoy it for years to come. Stay tuned to our social media feeds for the latest…as they might have you going around in circles!

So, as you can see, it’s going to be another fun filled and busy year for Great American Thrills®. Be sure to share us with your favorite cable channels, networks, friends and family – we’d appreciate it!

Here’s to the year ahead of us – let’s ride, everyone!


Bay Area Proud and “Lost Parks”

It’s crazy to think how time flies by, but this week marks one year since were had the incredible fortune of being followed for the day by Garvin Thomas of NBC Bay Area.

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Surreal, nerve racking, inspiring – all words that would describe us that day. But Garvin and his assistant kept us at ease – they never were intrusive, yet you knew they were there. They never got in the way, yet somehow always got the shot they needed. In case you missed it, here’s the story that Garvin produced.

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But Garvin didn’t just stop there. He went a step beyond. When a TV station tried to hire me away from my current gig, Garvin was more than happy to dish out advice – good advice mind you – that has served me well ever since.

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The motto at my high school was “Men and Women for Others.” I must say, after meeting with and working with Garvin – he is the living epitome of that phrase. I can only hope to someday return the favor. Maybe with a mention in an Emmy speech…or how about the CreaTiVe Awards if we’re nominated?

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The Inverted Wooden Roller Coaster is Real

This is guaranteed to be the craziest, most awesomely bad (yet good) idea you have seen today, possibly for the rest of the year.

A gentleman by the name of Jonathan I. Gordon of Stamford, CT took an idea that so many roller coaster enthusiasts have joked about for years – and actually went through the process and cost of patenting it with the United States Government. Behold, the patented “inverted wooden roller coaster” in all of it’s glory:

Inverted Wooden Coaster Sketch

Now, the reason so many coaster enthusiasts balk at the mere idea of this is simple – it would be a maintenance nightmare, very inaccessible for crews to inspect and repair – and incredibly uncomfortable – but that doesn’t mean you can’t patent it! Someday – a manufacturer might be just crazy enough to attempt this, and when they do, Mr. Gordon will be receiving royalties for his foresight to patent this insane idea.

It’s one of many ideas that you’ll find with a search of the patent office that are amusement related. Some, more thought out than others – but all are creative and help move the industry forward.

Here’s the official patent office link to the inverted woodie, so you can bask in all of it’s amazing-ness. This ranks right up there with the Bridge Coasters proposed for the 1939 World’s Fair…what do you think? Tell us on our social media pages, or comment below!


Flying a Drone over an Amusement Park – Good Idea?

With the advancements in UAV technology over the past few years – coupled with the explosion of video online – it’s no wonder these devices are becoming increasingly popular. But, before you go off buying and flying one of these incredible devices at your local park – know what you’re getting into first…

Photo by www.ACENorCal.org

Photo by American Coaster Enthusiasts, Northern California region. Used with permission.

1.) Flying over anything is inherently dangerous – gravity ALWAYS wins:

Many people don’t realize that when you’re flying, you’ve got several pounds of equipment hovering over other people’s property and / or selves when you’re flying. That payload can strike someone or something at damaging velocities. One doesn’t have to look far to find plenty of spectacular drone crash videos.

A dead battery, gust of wind, or unexpected obstacle could spell instant disaster for your aircraft, and serious injuries or worse to anyone below. Know that if you cause damage to a park employee, guest or ride as a result of your UAV – they’ll be calling you to recoup the damages – and it won’t be cheap.

There are also significant airspace restrictions to be aware of, too – as you’ll soon see…

 

2.) Getting permission from a park to fly over is ALWAYS the best move:

(Video by William Francis)

Don’t be like this guy and cause a panic amidst Disney security and guests – while it should be common sense knowledge – you DON’T fly over a park that already has major security protocols in place.

Make whatever argument you can (“The Ferris Wheel was closed,” or “FAA says only MANNED aircraft aren’t allowed over”) the fact remains – flying an unmanned drone, without telling anyone is begging for panic and unnecessary resources diverted away from real emergency situations. There are reports everyday of people shooting these aircraft down – not informing someone you’ll be in their space sets the wrong precedent and reflects badly on the community as a whole. You wouldn’t jump over a fence for a photo update – so how is flying over at low altitude any different?

ALWAYS ask ahead of time and more importantly, HONOR the decision – even if it isn’t what you wanted.

 

3.) Privacy rights may not be set in stone, but there are common sense limits:

Fences are there for a reason – it’s to keep people out. Flying over construction sites, while a cool perspective at low altitude – can be considered an invasion of privacy. Now, this is where it get’s muddy…at what altitude is too low? Aircraft are required to stay at least 1,000 AGL (above ground level), but drones aren’t quite aircraft – they’re considered “model aircraft” by the FAA at this time. That means they cannot exceed 400 feet AGL. But the privacy barrier isn’t set in stone.

 

4.) Commercializing (monetizing) your drone video requires more than just a click of the mouse:

When you monetize a video on YouTube, you’re certifying that you own all the rights to the video, you made it yourself and you had all the necessary paperwork to allow it to be commercialized. This means getting insurance, paying all location fees oh – and GETTING PERMISSION TO FLY IN THE FIRST PLACE! When you monetize a video online, you’re making money off of it – which makes you a commercial film producer. There’s far more work that needs to be done as a result…

So, to recap – while UAV’s (drones) offer incredible angles once reserved to just airships / helicopters – it comes with great responsibility to ensure the safety and privacy of everyone involved, including the parks you’re considering a flyover of. Know what you’re getting into before you fly…

*FULL DISCLOSURE: “Great American Thrills” and “Lost Parks of Northern California” utilizes UAV (drone) footage in our work, following all recommended practices, under the supervision of trained professionals and with permission of property owners.


Berlin’s Abandoned Spreepark Amusement Park Burns Down

One of three things will happen to an amusement or theme park that’s been abandoned and left standing:

1.) It will eventually be resurrected (See: Kentucky Kingdom, Santa’s Village)

2.) It will be continued to be abandoned (See: Six Flags New Orleans)

3.) Someone (or something) will eventually burn it to the ground.

Such is the case in Berlin, at the infamous Spreepark – a place that saw so much history – and became a mecca for “rust porn” aficionados. The park burned this past weekend, in a suspected case of arson.

http://www.citylab.com/design/2014/08/the-bizarre-history-and-fiery-end-of-berlins-iconic-abandoned-amusement-park/375930/

And you wonder why we do our “Lost Parks of Northern California” series? It’s because our history is far more fleeting than you think. As we saw with the recent demolition of the Popl Barn from the Scott’s Valley “Santa’s Village” – once it’s gone, it’s gone for good.


Lost Parks of Northern California on CreaTV San Jose tonight

“Lost Parks” fans – our latest episode is heading to a television near you!

Our 1915 Pan Pacific Exposition episode will be broadcast on cable channel 30 in San Jose and Campbell tonight at 8:30pm!

If you’re not in the Bay Area, or don’t have Comcast cable, you can also catch the episode here:

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