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Posts tagged “rollercoaster

Six Flags Qiddiya Announces World’s Tallest, Fastest, Longest Roller Coaster

Today, Six Flags ($SIX) and the Qiddiya Investment Company announced what they hope will be the final word in roller coasters: Falcon’s Flight. While details are thin at the moment, the company claims that it will be the tallest, fastest and longest steel roller coaster ever built.

P/C: Six Flags.

The announcement coincides with the release of the Qiddiya Master Plan yesterday, outlining the park’s six themed areas. Falcon’s Flight will be the lynchpin in a greater development of the area, transforming what is currently desert to a thrill-seekers paradise, with 28 rides in total when it opens in 2023. The park will include several other record-breaking attractions, according to the news release.

P/C: Six Flags.

Despite the scale of the announcement (and it’s a big one, folks), it’s seeing quite a bit of skepticism online from both park fans and the general public. So why all the downer Dave’s & Debbie’s?

For starters, the ride (and park) are still three years away from opening, if everything goes smoothly. Generally, parks or chains hold back on “record-breaking” announcements, to not allow others to potentially compete for a longer period of time.

By telling the world you’re building a 155 mph coaster, other parks or manufacturers could get a head start on breaking those exact, same records.

However, with the animation and stats that have been released, it’s doubtful any park would – or more crucially could – spend the capital necessary to match or exceed these world records. Just from the looks of the video, this ride could easily exceed $100 million USD to build. That’s more than some park chains spent on rides at all of their parks last year!

P/C: Six Flags.

Second, there are still calls for Six Flags and other American brands to abandon their partnerships with the Saudi Royal Family, after it was revealed the Kingdom was an active participant in the murder of Washington Post reporter, Jamal Khashoggi.

Thirdly, others are wondering whether this coaster (and park) will ever see the light of day, given the company’s track record of opening new parks internationally. Of the five announced international projects, Six Flags has delayed two (China) and cancelled one (Dubai).

The last surviving park Six Flags built from the ground up is Six Flags Mid-America (St. Louis), debuting back in 1971 (Six Flags Power Plant in Baltimore was more of a themed-entertainment attraction, opening in 1985 and closing in 1990). All of the other parks that make up the chain today were acquired after they were built. (Side note: the current Six Flags, Inc. is not the same company that built the original three parks).

Of the five announced international projects, Six Flags has delayed two (China) and cancelled one (Dubai).

With all that being said – the project is backed by members of the Saudi Royal Family, some of the richest people on Earth. It’s doubtful that they would allow a project of this scope and notoriety (after today) to fail or falter, let alone never open.

The bigger issue is: can the manufacturer of this ride (or any of the rides planned) work out the inherent complications of operating safely and consistently in the scorching, desert heat and sand of the Middle East?

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see three years for the answer.


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…


California’s Great America Celebrates National Roller Coaster Day with Tongue-in-Cheek Celebration of Kiddie Coaster

Warning: this is a really cute video.

As part of their National Roller Coaster Day festivities, California’s Great America commissioned arguably one of the best tongue-in-cheek social media videos this year: a celebration of their 1999 Miler Kiddie Coaster, Lucy’s Crabbie Cabbies.

Enjoy the hilarity (be sure to look at the titles) and well done, CGA!


Why Virtual Reality Roller Coasters Seemingly Died

Galactic Attack VR Coaster

It seemed like virtual reality (VR) on roller coasters was about to be the “next big thing” in the amusement industry. Many parks / chains figured they could breathe new life into older attractions with a VR update. So why are we seeing less and less of them all of a sudden?

Slow Operations / Long Lines

The first thing folks noticed about VR coasters was their wait times – and it wasn’t because they had become instantly more popular. Ride dispatches, even on small trains could average up to 10 minutes+ making ride capacities plummet and wait times soar.

Plus, in many cases, there wasn’t a separate line for non-VR seats. Guests would have to wait the exact same amount of time to NOT experience VR as they did if they wanted to.

Galactic Attack VR Coaster

Galactic Attack was the “second generation” of VR on coasters for Six Flags. However, the long waits and malfunctioning headsets disappointed many guests.

The Experience Wasn’t Seamless

During my many experiences with VR coasters, the ride didn’t sync properly with the timing of the train or shut off completely, which led to queasy guests. Other times, the VR required people to do an action, like shoot space aliens – leaving their hands unable to brace themselves into corners and brakes.

Did it make the ride better?

But for me, the biggest downfall of virtual reality coasters is that they don’t make the coaster they go on any better. In fact, in the case of Ninja at Six Flags St. Louis, it made the ride WORSE. I couldn’t brace for the “transitions” and the ride ended up being very painful.

There’s Promise on the Horizon…

Where VR coasters appear to have failed, there seems increasing promise in VR drop towers. Parks with multiple towers or vehicles seem like they could benefit the most.

To me, these experiences are a vastly superior VR experience: smoother, one plane of travel and decreased forces, coupled with not slowing down the other towers or vehicles.

Drop of Doom VR

VR on drop towers has promise, but if it lowers capacity it may not be worth all the effort from a guest perspective.

So, to sum up, the VR experience is a novel concept but it’s not quite ready for prime time, at least with it’s current implementation here in the United States. If parks can ultimately work out the capacity and reliability issues with the headsets, it might be a novel way to breathe new life into older rides.

Otherwise, virtual reality coasters should be relegated to an up-charge attraction that only runs certain times of the year or specific hours of the operating day.

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What do you think? Do you enjoy VR on roller coasters, drop rides, or neither? Let me know in the comments below – and be sure to check us out on social media!


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!


Magnum XL-200 Filming for Legacy of Arrow – Throwback Thursday

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!

CP_Kris

As for my hair – I’m pretty sure I was wearing a hat that day…


Alpine Slide Close Call

Alpine slides are awesome. Most people forgo the whole “using the brake” thing and go out full force (not advised).

This guy was having a dandy of a time in Sweden – and it only got better when a rabbit decided to get a bit of a thrill – enjoy!

http://thechive.com/2015/05/25/rabbit-has-a-close-call-on-this-downhill-luge-video/

By the way – how about that Swedish ride commentary! 🙂


Roller Coaster Videos Moving From POV to Storytelling

There’s been a subtle, but noticeable trend recently when it comes to “roller coaster videos” online. And we think it’s for the better and far overdue.

While there are some that still continue to tape GoPros to the front of trains and then monetize (commericalize) their work – all without permits or sometimes without park knowledge – there is a growing trend among park fans to elevate the medium to a far more sophisticated level. What do I mean?

Well, check out this awesome, short documentary on Thunderbird at Holiday World:

Coupled with the work of Devin Olson Media, particularly on his “From Dreams to Screams” documentary series – the world of amusement fandom has gone from handheld ride footage to bona fide storytelling:

And we couldn’t be happier to see this trend. So, how can you help elevate the medium? Subscribe to these storytelling channels – while POV is fun, it’s telling a story that leaves a true mark on people.

Shameless plug: “Legacy of Arrow Development” documentary is still scheduled to make it’s debut later this year. Time to raise your game, everyone!


Jeremy Clarkson Rides a Roller Coaster With His Mum

It turns out adrenaline can transfer from the race track…to the coaster track.

While members of the American Coaster Enthusiasts are romping through the British countryside this week as part of their UK Tour 2015 – now seems like the perfect opportunity to share this wonderful BBC segment of former Top Gear presenter, Jeremy Clarkson and his mother…on Arrow’s (then) record breaking “Big One” at Blackpool Pleasure Beach.

Quite simply, it’s “brilliant!”

(Video credit: BBC)


Riding Roller Coasters to Preserve History

legacy-arrow_ad_myaceblog_02

With the exception of wooden roller coasters, most of today’s state of the art thrill rides are designed by European firms. But in the 1960’s, Northern California-based Arrow Development was the company that parks around the world came to for the latest in steel coaster innovation.

Last month, a small crew of volunteers from American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) Worldwide, Inc. crisscrossed the country to tell the story of an American manufacturing legend that entertained millions. The team visited amusement and theme parks with prominent Arrow rides, including: Six Flags Over Texas, Cedar Point, Kennywood, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Lagoon Park and Silverwood Theme Park.

Nicholas Laschkewitsch is the Video Promotions Coordinator for American Coaster Enthusiasts:

“The story of Arrow is the story of the American dream,” said Laschkewitsch. “Four steel workers quit their jobs to form their own company in a car garage and quite literally, turned the world upside down.”

Kris Rowberry is the Executive Producer, as well as the host of “The Lost Parks of Northern California”:

“Everyone knows Silicon Valley as a hotbed for technological innovations,” said Rowberry. “But few know that the valley that gave us Google and iPhones also spawned the world’s first log flume and corkscrew roller coaster. It truly is a forgotten piece of our national history.”

Robert Ingle is a Producer on the film as well as a Photographer:

“This project will literally bring history to life, as well as preserve it for generations to come.”

The public is welcome to join the team on the journey by following American Coaster Enthusiasts on social media or by using the #RideWithACE and #LegacyofArrow hashtags. Fans can also visit: my.aceonline.org/arrow

About ACE: Founded in 1978, ACE is a non-profit, volunteer organization dedicated to the preservation, promotion, appreciation and safe enjoyment of roller coasters. With more than 5,000 members across the globe, ACE is the largest amusement park enthusiast organization in the world. In addition, numerous television outlets such as the Travel Channel have prominently featured ACE and it’s members.


The Arrow Dynamics Pipeline Coaster – This Week’s Throwback Thursday

Today’s Throwback Thursday is a rare gem!

Arrow Pipeline Coaster

Presenting the Arrow pipeline concept – a roller coaster that stood for many years in Arrow’s Clearfield, UT plant. However, it never made it into a park (although Intamin would make a similar design in Asia several years later).

This video shows the process of testing and some rare POV of the ride as well – anyone want to get in line to be the first riders? Don’t forget to check out our documentary project on Arrow Development by following American Coaster Enthusiasts on Facebook!


Colossus at Six Flags Magic Mountain once featured on Nickelodeon’s “Wild and Crazy Kids”

With Colossus’ days numbered at Six Flags Magic Mountain, I thought it be appropriate on this Throwback Thursday to share a bit of my childhood relating to the “King of Wooden Coasters” before it’s too late.

Like many other early Millennials, I grew up with Nickelodeon. And not the crap Nickelodeon they’re passing off today. I’m talking Salute Your Shorts, Rocko’s Modern Life and Double Dare holy crap this is amazing Nickelodeon.

One of the mainstays of the channel was a show called “Wild and Crazy Kids.” It featured groups of kids competing in wacky, sometimes messy games with the goal to just have fun (Imagine that!)

WAC Colossus

Colossus, gleaming under the spotlight of basic cable television!

I, like many other wide-eyed kids watching, were introduced to Colossus by this show – with their “Wacky Roller Coaster Spill.” That and the hope that someday, God willing – I’d get on the show and get to score one of those shirts…

Now, the editing isn’t very good in terms of continuity (I think they show the first drop three times and the double up twice). But it still shows a beautiful and thrilling Colossus – and an interesting game to boot. Enjoy this bit of 80’s / 90’s kid nostalgia – and #FarewellColossus!

If you’re looking for the latest on what comes after Colossus, be sure to check out our friends in Southern California, The Coaster Guy and Park Journey.

If the video isn’t loading properly, just skip to 9:16 for the good stuff…

Video is used only for educational or informational purposes. No claim of copyright intended.

colossus_logo_899


UPDATED: Ninja at Six Flags Magic Mountain Derails Due to Fallen Tree on Track

A major incident tonight on a Six Flags Magic Mountain roller coaster has capped an already tragic day in the amusement industry.

First, a young, British teenager was killed after being allegedly ejected from an Intamin ZacSpin, called “Inferno” at Terra Mitica park in Europe.

Then, just moments ago – reports came in that Ninja, Six Flags Magic Mountain’s suspended coaster – had a major derailment, with at least one car wheel assembly completely separated from the track. At least four people have minor injuries, according to local media. Crews from the local fire department, as well as Magic Mountian maintenance staff are on scene, assisting riders as I type.

Screengrab from live coverage at: www.KTLA.com

Screengrab from live coverage at: http://www.KTLA.com

UPDATE: A statement from Park Public Relations Manager, Sue Carpenter: “The issue was caused by a tree branch fell on the track of the roller coaster obstructing the train.

In situations like this – and I cannot stress this enough – we need to let the investigations run their course. There will be much said over the next few weeks about maintenance, ride safety and parks in general that will be absolute junk and rubbish. “Coaster experts” will pop up all over the media, spouting off things that they have no qualifications to say, with their only qualifications being that they’ve ridden many rides.

You will not find any of that type of speculative reporting here. 

Let’s allow the facts to come out – as speculation will only lead to rampant misreporting and really ends up being a complete disservice to everyone involved.

The thoughts and prayers of the entire Great American Thrills staff is with the friends and family directly affected by this difficult day.


The Death of the Wooden Coaster at Six Flags

This past month has not been a good one if you’re a wooden roller coaster residing at a Six Flags park. The chain announced the closure of not one, but two additional woodies: the Riverside Cyclone at Six Flags New England and the legendary Colossus at Six Flags Magic Mountain.

Colossus dominates the parking lot of Magic Mountain, but not for long.

Colossus dominates the parking lot of Magic Mountain, but not for long.

The Colossus rumor is the worst kept secret in the industry – but the Cyclone announcement was out of left field. In the past 5 years, five different wooden coasters will be either modified or removed from Six Flags parks. So why do I claim this as the “death” of the wooden coaster era there? You have to look at the pattern of other parks in the chain to understand it:

1.) Park builds wooden coaster.

2.) Due to unknown reasons (some insiders claim it’s to save money) maintenance is deferred, making the ride rougher.

3.) As a result, the coaster must be modified from original form to save on wear and tear, either via brakes or “topper track.”

4a.) The coaster is EITHER removed altogether due to lack of ridership, complaints or sheer amount of work needed to repair and restore it…

OR

4b.) The coaster is modified to a steel track, provided by Rocky Mountain Construction, making it a steel coaster with wooden structure. (a la the “New Texas Giant,” “Iron Rattler”)

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Iron Rattler at Six Flags Fiesta Texas

Now, to be fair – each of these rides (sans Medusa) were well beyond their prime. Of the five wooden coasters that have been converted to steel or are slated to close, three were heavily modified from their original form, making them shells of their former selves. (In the case of the Cyclone, the ride itself was just poor, rough and terribly paced to begin with.)

Hell, Colossus and it’s dual track hasn’t really raced for the past 20 years. Why? Usually only one track was open – you guessed it – to save on maintenance and wear. Anyone who’s ridden it this year will attest, the right side track hasn’t been used in months – and it shows.

The original drop of the Riverside Cyclone can be clearly seen below the modified drop.

The original drop of the Riverside Cyclone can be clearly seen below the modified drop.

Not many guests know, but most of the rides and attractions at Six Flags aren’t American built – they’re almost exclusively from Europe. The traditional wooden coaster is really America’s sole contribution to the amusement community worldwide (not forgetting the Log Flume).

So then, are we witnessing a generational shift in technology, much as our Great Grandparents saw the shift from side-friction coasters to safer (and more extreme) wooden upstop rides? Or are we witnessing a stopgap cost cutting measure? Tell me what you think in the comments section, below.

Personally, I’m torn – everyone loves the latest and greatest – but you have to remember and preserve the past, too. Wooden coasters are expensive to maintain, no doubt – but NOT maintaining them through their life ends up being more expensive in the long run.

My final thought – the Giant Dipper in Santa Cruz is 90 years old and yet it’s smoother than any wooden coaster at any Six Flags park. And yet, all of those woodies are at least 50 years YOUNGER.

tombstone


Bolliger and Mabillard the Cadillac of Roller Coasters

There are many different coaster manufacturers, some build small rides, others build massive ones. But none have the mystique and prestige of Bolliger & Mabillard. Their factory in Ohio is shrouded in secrecy – it’s practically the “Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory” of the coaster world:

B&M Logo

Even their logo is simple – just like how they design their rides, with simplicity in mind.

So, why are their rides always so much more expensive than others? And why all the prestige? Three words: quality, reliability and safety.

1.) Quality –

A B&M coaster is unmistakable, even from a distance. Their trademark “roar” grabs your attention – and their boxy track looks beefier than other manufacturers – because quite simply, it is!

By hugging the outside of the rails, B&M was able to tighten the tolerances of their wheels, making their rides incredibly smooth. Photo © Kris Rowberry

By hugging the outside of the rails, B&M was able to tighten the tolerances of their wheels, making their rides incredibly smooth. Photo © Kris Rowberry

It is said that the tolerance, or distance between the rails and the wheels is never more than the thickness of a sheet of paper. Most other manufacturers have noticeable gaps in their wheels, or which spin after the ride stops. Not a B&M. That’s why they’re so much smoother than other steel coasters – they’re simply built better…now that’s Swiss precision!

 

2.) Reliability –

When a B&M coaster stops operating – never get out of line. 99% of the time, it’s a simple computer error that needs to be cleared. Even if it’s a minor mechanical issue – it doesn’t take long to fix. That’s because unlike other manufacturers who are overly reliant on electrical and hydraulic restraint systems – B&M continues to use the tried and true ratchet system – a system that is highly reliable and easy to repair. That’s why these stations are traditionally louder than others – it’s metal on metal contact.

 

3.) Safety –

B&M has always prided itself on efficiency – the four across seating model moved twice as many people as comparable coasters – but they did it with without sacrificing safety, in fact – they increased it.

KMR_6389

Before B&M – no coaster had the ability to sit four people across a single row. This design innovation effectively doubled the capacity of other rides, while shortening the train. This decrease in forces allowed for tighter twists in the track. Photo © Kris Rowberry

This commitment to “getting it right the first time” has earned it’s most important asset: a flawless safety record.

You read right. B&M has never had a catastrophic failure or death on any of their coasters…EVER. (There have been three incidents involving people being hit by trains, but these were a result of guests trespassing on the infield, not a result of the ride or it’s manufacture.

B&M’s were one of the first to feature a redundant seat belt to backup their restraints – all without sacrificing the efficiency of the dispatches.

It is that sterling record that makes parks who choose B&M some of the safest in the world – and which commands such a higher price. Quite simply, you get what you pay for. This rings true not only in real life, but in the amusement world as well. A B&M coaster is like a new appliance – you can get the cheap-o model and save on the front end – or get the high-end model, and have it save you throughout it’s life.

A B&M is one of the best investments a park can make – so the next time track appears outside the factory in Ohio, cross your fingers it’s being delivered to your favorite park.


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Photo of the Day: Gold Striker at California’s Great America

After many years of becoming a park known for REMOVING rides rather than ADDING them, California’s Great America in Santa Clara, CA made a major statement this year with the addition of Gold Striker. Billed as the tallest, fastest (and certainly most intense) coaster in Northern California, Gold Striker is easily one of the top five wooden coasters I’ve ever had the privilege of riding – and should be under consideration for the Top Ten in the United States.

Despite some minor setbacks and delays in opening, mostly due to ongoing noise abatement issues – the ride is now roaring every operating day, to delighted and packed crowds.

A winner all around, this coaster is seen by many as the catalyst for revival at California’s Great America – and fans are loving every moment of it. But don’t take my word for it – check out Westcoaster’s recent review.

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Big thanks goes out to my friends at BorrowLenses for allowing me to capture such beautiful photos with their gear.

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Photo of the Day: Batman – the Dark Knight at Six Flags New England

There’s nothing like a custom roller coaster layout to get an enthusiast excited. Batman: The Dark Knight is a custom designed B&M “floorless” coaster.

You got to love the facial expressions I find in these shots! Always a delight when I’m post processing these types of photos.

Batman: The Dark Knight at Six Flags New England. Photo (c) 2013 Kris Rowberry and Great American Thrills

Big thanks goes out to my friends at BorrowLenses for allowing me to capture such beautiful photos with their gear.

Interested in purchasing / using some of my photos? Check out my 500px: http://500px.com/GreatAmericanThrills

View my videos on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/GreatAmericanThrills

Follow me on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/GreatAmericanThrills

Tweet me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/krowberry

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How to use YouTube to Combat Cell Phones on Coasters

Seems counter intuitive, right? How can the very thing that allows dangerous, illegal POV video to be so popular be used to stop it? Well, read on and find out:

Arguably, cell phones are one of the greatest inventions of the past century – the convenience of being on contact whenever, where ever. The freedom to upload photos and videos at any moment – including while guests are on your rides and attractions.

You don’t have to hear me tell you that cell phone filming on rides is an epidemic in our industry. It’s pushing insurance premiums higher and higher. A projectile of that density, loose at 65mph could be several injury lawsuits just waiting to happen, not to mention the bad publicity in the media.

Before the Gold Striker wooden roller coaster even opened to the public at California’s Great America this past month, guests were seen filming on the ride using cell phones. When opening day came, the second train of the day that featured general public passengers had three (3) cell phones out.

“But we already provide guests with storage options while they’re on rides!”

Sadly, that doesn’t matter. The mentality of guests today, specifically Millennials, is to not experience the ride they’re on, but to record and share the experience with all their friends. The more “Likes” on Facebook, the higher “Thumbs Up “ count on YouTube, the better.

 “But, it’s free publicity!” 

Yes, it is free publicity – telling everyone online that it’s okay to film on your rides – and risk the safety of everyone around them. It’s nothing a good marketing campaign of your own marketing team couldn’t accomplish (see #3).

So how then, does your park stop this major liability and potentially lower your insurance premiums at the same time? It’s actually a simple, three step process:

1.)  When it Comes to your Park’s Policies, “Grow a Pair”

Stark as it is, it needs to be said. For so many years, park guests have received warnings about what NOT to do at a park. They’ve received so many that they’ve become complacent to them. A good comparison would be to think about the last time you actually picked up a safety card in an airplane and read it. That’s the same mentality going on with your younger guests.

Also to consider – Millennials expect warnings. They’re willing to go right up to the warning and only back down when confronted. This is a generation where “everybody’s a winner,” and there’s little to no consequences to their actions. If your sign says “anyone caught with a camera on a ride will be removed from the park” then DO IT. (While deleting or confiscating the offending device.) The only way to change guests’ behavior is to show them that you mean business.

For example, Six Flags New England has a single warning sign at every high profile attraction. It reads, “Any cell phone or filming on this ride will result in immediate ejection from the park, no refunds and a 5 year ban from the park.” That gets people’s attention. In addition, all of their ride auto spiels also include a warning: “Anyone using a cell phone or MP3 payer to record while on the ride is subject to immediate dismissal from the park by Six Flags Security.”

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk goes a step further. Ride attendants actively monitor the lift hill of the Giant Dipper roller coaster via security video. If a cell phone or other recording device is seen, the ride is immediately stopped and will not start again until the offending device is put away. If the device re-appears after the lift, security is called to wait at the station, takes away any tickets or passes the guest may have and is escorted immediately off park property.

Now that you’ve taken the first steps to stem the flow of content at the source, it’s time to move onto where the content lives…online.

2.)  Actively monitor and police social media, especially YouTube.

This should go without saying, especially if you read my last post – but if you don’t watch your social media channels continuously, you’re in for a shock…

What’s your signature ride at your park? Go ahead and search it on YouTube, I’ll wait…

Okay, you’re back? Great – how many results came up? Each one of those videos are potential lawsuits from injured guests, who will blame you for allowing people to film on rides. The real scary part – these are only the videos that were tagged properly on YouTube – many more could potentially exist without proper tagging or incorrect spellings. (Not to mention Facebook videos as well.)

Remember, this is your property people are filming on. You are well within your rights as a park to have videos on YouTube flagged or taken down for safety, security or other reasons.

Use the ban as an opportunity. In the complaint, be sure to add a link to an authorized POV (point of view) video that came from the park, with a friendly reminder to not film on rides.

Some park-centric websites have gone so far as to monetize videos filmed at parks . Yes, you heard me correctly – they were filming commercially – and they paid none of your fees, had no insurance coverage AND you didn’t even know they were there. You wouldn’t allow a film crew to just wander around the park without your spokesperson, so why would you allow this?

3.)  Film (and share liberally) professional, on-ride video that you created or authorized.

Gone are the days of needing a film crew, jibs, cranes and more when it comes to making high quality video. A simple GoPro Hero with accompanying mounts will run your department about $400-$450 after tax. That’s a small price to pay to avoid millions in lawsuits.

Mount the camera on either the handlebars of the front car, or via the suction cup mount to a flat, non-porous surface. Duct tape can be used to stabilize the rig, but it’s not necessary in many cases. Never use any footage that could come across as shaky, or handheld. You’ll run the risk of having it look too much like a cell phone video; guests will be only encouraged to film on their own.

Now that you have authorized POV, post your video everywhere – not just on YouTube. Link to it via your other social media outlets – have it available for download for free (just be sure you include your personal watermark to show it’s really from the park). Have a QR code posted near the ride exit, so guests can scan it and receive a link to the video. It takes the work (and risk) of filming on a ride out of the hands of the guests – it’s already been done for them!

Combine that with active monitoring and better training for ride attendants, and you’ll see a significant decrease in after the ride and receive it on their phone. Take all the work out of guests filming and put it on yourself – you will see results quickly and hopefully, watch your insurance premiums decrease as well.

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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Photo of the Day: Boomerang at Six Flags St. Louis

Boomerang at Six Flags St. Louis. Photo (c) 2013 Kris Rowberry and Great American Thrills

Yesterday, Six Flags St. Louis unveiled their latest coaster in their collection and Great American Thrills was there on OPENING DAY to see what the venerable Vekoma design had in store for guests.

Amazingly, the ride is SMOOTH for a Vekoma – and the park is working diligently to improve the catch on the second hill to eliminate that traditional “thud” that’s so common on this model. The ride sits between the Tidal Wave flume, Sky Screamer and venerable Screamin’ Eagle wooden coaster at the top of the park.

Boomerang at Six Flags St. Louis. Photo (c) 2013 Kris Rowberry and Great American Thrills

Big thanks goes out to my friends at BorrowLenses for allowing me to capture such beautiful photos with their gear.

Interested in purchasing / using some of my photos? Check out my 500px: http://500px.com/GreatAmericanThrills

View my videos on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/GreatAmericanThrills

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Photo of the Day: Loose Articles under Mr. Freeze

Cell Phone carnage at Six Flags St. Louis. Photo (c) 2013 Great American Thrills and Kris Rowberry

This is the reason that parks don’t want you to have loose articles onboard roller coasters – because this is almost ALWAYS their fate!

Cell Phone carnage at Six Flags St. Louis. Photo (c) 2013 Great American Thrills and Kris Rowberry

Big thanks goes out to my friends at BorrowLenses for allowing me to capture such beautiful photos with their gear.

Interested in purchasing / using some of my photos? Check out my 500px: http://500px.com/GreatAmericanThrills

View my videos on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/GreatAmericanThrills

Follow me on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/GreatAmericanThrills

Tweet me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/krowberry

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Photo of the Day: Bizarro at Six Flags New England

Bizzaro at Six Flags New England. Photo (c) 2013, Great American Thrills and Kris Rowberry

Originally called Riverside Park, Six Flags New England is by definition the oldest in the chain (opened in 1840) – however, it has only been a Six Flags branded park since 1999.

One of the first major attractions added was Superman: Ride of Steel. The ride was recently re-themed to Bizzaro, complete with mist, sound and lighting effects (That weren’t on during my visit – which wasn’t a bad thing, actually.)

This coaster has won several Golden Tickets (Five in total) – and it’s easy to see why – this turn has become the de-facto “photo” of SFNE and was even featured in an episode of Family Guy! (See below)

Bizzaro at Six Flags New England. Photo (c) 2013, Great American Thrills and Kris Rowberry

Screen Shot 2013-06-06 at 4.30.53 PM

 

Big thanks goes out to my friends at BorrowLenses for allowing me to capture such beautiful photos with their gear.

Interested in purchasing / using some of my photos? Check out my 500px: http://500px.com/GreatAmericanThrills

View my videos on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/GreatAmericanThrills

Follow me on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/GreatAmericanThrills

Tweet me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/krowberry

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Follow me on Instagram: http://instagram.com/krowberry


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Photo of the Day: El Toro at Six Flags Great Adventure

El Toro at Six Flags Great Adventure. Photo (c) 2013 Great american Thrills and Kris Rowberry

Since opening on June 11th, 2006 – El Toro has maintained the #2 or #1 spot in the world for wooden roller coasters. With the second steepest drop in the world (78 degrees), speeds up to 70 mph and airtime hills that would make any coaster phobic just looking at them, you can see why this next generation wooden coaster ranks so high.

I swear that I caught Bubba the Love Sponge and (then) wife Heather Clem in the front row that day. Can anyone validate that claim?

El Toro at Six Flags Great Adventure. Photo (c) 2013 Great american Thrills and Kris Rowberry

Consistently ranked the #1 wooden roller coaster in the world since opening. The smiles say it all.

Big thanks goes out to my friends at BorrowLenses for allowing me to capture such beautiful photos with their gear.

Interested in purchasing / using some of my photos? Check out my 500px: http://500px.com/GreatAmericanThrills

View my videos on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/GreatAmericanThrills

Follow me on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/GreatAmericanThrills

Tweet me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/krowberry

+1 me on Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/1/115502587437263155125/posts

Follow me on Instagram: http://instagram.com/krowberry


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Photo of the Day: Thunder Run at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom

Thunder Run at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom. Photo (c) 2013 Great american Thrills and Kris Rowberry

Just shouting distance from both Churchill Downs and sitting between the flight path to Louisville Int’l Airport, (Then) Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom had a tough life. The park was poorly designed, owing to it’s confusing layout and bisected sections. While it WAS part of the Six Flags chain, it stood on state fair land – and had to relinquish control (and profits) of all it’s rides and attractions for two weeks, while the state fair was occurring.

When I visited in 2008, the back half the park was closed due to financial reasons. The park closed that next year.

Closed for several years now, Kentucky Kingdom park is looking to make a comeback in the next few months by re-launching without a major brand behind it. (I.E. it is no longer part of the Six Flags brand).

Ed Hart, the former park president who famously posed for this photo,will once again head operations.

Thunder Run at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom. Photo (c) 2013 Great american Thrills and Kris Rowberry

Thunder Run was a highlight of the park, even in the “lean” years before it closed.

As always, a big thanks to my friends at BorrowLenses for allowing me to capture such beautiful photos with their gear.

Interested in purchasing / using some of my photos? Check out my 500px: http://500px.com/GreatAmericanThrills

View my videos on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/GreatAmericanThrills

Follow me on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/GreatAmericanThrills

Tweet me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/krowberry

+1 me on Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/1/115502587437263155125/posts

Follow me on Instagram: http://instagram.com/krowberry


Pre-planning, Part Deux

With this being the first weekend that most seasonal parks either begin advertising or actually open, it’s time to get beyond just the planning of how you’re going to pay for admission – it’s time to actually plan your trip.

These “General Tips” will help maximize your fun and enjoyment at ANY theme / amusement park, not just the ones located in my great State of California.

 THE No. 1 RULE – “Always Plan Ahead”

The Boy Scouts are famous for their motto: “Always be prepared.” It should also be you and your group’s motto when planning an amusement / theme park trip. Weather is the most crucial factor, but there are many other smaller factors that can add up quite quickly (and that most regular park guests overlook) but not I.

These are the questions you and your group should always, ALWAYS ask before heading out the door to the park:

What’s the weather supposed to be like?

Fowl weather days mean less crowds, but also less operating time.

Parks are under no pressure or obligation to give you a rain check and / or refund for bad weather. If the weather looks (and is predicted to be poor) don’t spend a whole day’s worth of admission, to only to get rained-out two hours later.

Some parks do offer rain checks, in the form of a free complimentary ticket (or comp as they’re called) given to you as you flee the park to find shelter in your car – but don’t bank on all of the parks you visit to do this.

Many parks (especially in the Midwest) now show the chance of bad weather right at the ticket booths. If the number is 50% or higher…be sure you know what you’re getting into. Remember that you’re wagering a coin flip that you’ll lose your admission over the weather…

There are many guides out there that will suggest that these “inclement” days are the best to go to parks, as crowds usually stay away, and lines tend to be shorter. For the most part, that’s true. However, if that rain or severe weather doesn’t clear up, the park is not going to re-open, no matter how loudly you and your family complain to Guest Services.

Plain and simple…I don’t take the chance and neither should you – do as a zeppelin airship does…if the weather has a hint of being bad, cancel!

 

Are there any park sponsored special events going on when we’re visiting?

Some parks allow for re-entry after weather or mechanical delays, but don't bank on it.

Nothing, and I mean NOTHING will ruin your day at a theme park faster that driving up to the front entrance to find out you visited on a “Cheerleader Competition” day. Screaming, running, loud and obnoxious cheerleaders…waiting in line for hours in the hot sun…with you and your family. Ugh!

Fireworks, certain holidays and other special concerts / shows can also lead to larger crowds, so be aware of them when you’re visiting. Also, be aware there are religious and alternative lifestyle events held at parks too, which may or may not agree with your personal beliefs.

The moral of the story – always call or log on ahead of time! That being said, there is always the “lone exception” to this rule, so make sure to read all the specific park descriptions later on in this blog!

The park’s webpage is always a good, first source to visit in planning for your trip. These types of special events are usually found under the “Special Events” section or header.

If you’re not a fan of computers, you can always call the park information line. The switchboard operator should be more than happy to assist you, or direct you to the correct department.

With all the pre-planning completed, you’re still not quite finished, but you’re close! When the big day finally arrives, there are still a few more questions you’ll need to ask to make sure all your planning was worth it…

In my next post: “What should I wear and bring to the park?”