The world's most authentic roller coaster and amusement park expert!

Posts tagged “six flags over texas

Debunking Common Theme Park Decision-Making Misconceptions

Shock Wave roller coaster and Oil Derrick at Six Flags Over Texas

Sometimes theme parks might make a decision that raises your eyebrow, at least for some of the most ardent of park fans. Some decide to make videos expressing their displeasure with certain parks, like this one:

While “Shock Wave Dan” notes in his description that some of his points are “jokes,” I couldn’t help but notice many of the items he brought up are actually common misconceptions across the country. In that vein, let’s debunk some common park fan misconceptions about my home park, Six Flags Over Texas!

“I don’t understand why the park doesn’t build bigger, better rides.”

I hate to break it to you, but the answer here is: they don’t need to.

As long as a park is maintaining or growing their financials consistently, there’s no reason to add a multi-million-dollar attraction to bring all those guests back. If you could keep people coming to your park and had a choice between spending $20 million or $5 million, and each would give you the same results – which one would you pick?

True, the rides at all of the Six Flags parks have been on the smaller side since the bankruptcy, but if you look at their financials (pre-2019) you’ll see the chain kept adding attendance overall. Plus, the stock price continued to rise, which looked good for the investors on Wall Street.

And while we’re at it – who’s to say these rides aren’t good? For a hardcore thrill seeker? Perhaps. But for the everyday person off the street? They could be the most exciting thrill they’ve ever experienced. It’s all about perspective.

Why doesn’t the park build more in the Tower section of the park?

This one is well talked about in online forums for Six Flags Over Texas. The answer is surprisingly simple: they don’t build in the area because it floods. A major rain event in September of 2018 sent a wall of water up to six feet deep through portions of the park, causing significant damage throughout the area.

While it was not the first time the park flooded, the City of Arlington re-zoned it as a, “…moderate risk for inundation from flood waters…subject to a 1% annual chance of flood…”

An updated flood map from the City of Arlington shows the entire Six Flags Over Texas property is zoned as a flood risk, which complicates future development plans.

What, exactly does that mean? If you try to build anything new in the area, it’s expensive. Crazy expensive. Remember, the park wanted to build Lone Star Revolution (now El Diablo) in that area, but when the flood risk was changed, the Spain section proved to be a better location.

El Diablo moved locations to the Spain section, after a flood forced a re-think of the ride’s original location.

Why is the Cave / Yosemite Sam’s Gold River Adventure still closed?

Also specific to Six Flags Over Texas, the Cave was a dark ride with floating ride vehicles that unfortunately, sustained damage during the 2018 flood.

Now, if you’ve ever dealt with an insurance company, whether for your car, doctor or dentist, you know how difficult and painful it can be.

Now imagine trying to navigate the claim on a multi-million-dollar attraction from a large corporation. Add in new restrictions on construction on your property. You’ll also need to find a vendor who’s free to begin rebuilding the ride…and create contracts for it.

Oh, and since you weren’t planning on this expense, it’s not in the budget. Think of it like the last time you hit a nail with your car. You weren’t planning on paying for a new set of tires, but surprise! In this case, just add a whole lot more zeroes to the bill.

“This park deserves better!” /  “Our park deserves better!” / “We deserve better!”

How can I argue with that? I can’t, really. Every park fan thinks their home park or favorite park should be treated better. Heck, even Cedar Point and Walt Disney World fans will find faults in their operations.

Considering the global pandemic we’re currently in, however – the fact that we can even visit a park right now is a miracle and should be treated as such.

New Texas Giant at Six Flags Over Texas. Photo (c) 2013 Great American Thrills and Kris Rowberry.
New Texas Giant at Six Flags Over Texas. Photo by Kris Rowberry.

Can things be better? Of course they can. But if you take one thing away from this editorial it should be this: parks don’t run like Planet Coaster or Roller Coaster Tycoon. And despite what you might want to think, these facilities were not built just for us, a small (but boisterous) minority of attendance.

What are some park myths you want busted? Let me know in the comments below or on my social media channels!


When thrills and storms collide!

Crank your amps all the way up to 11, it’s time to “Ride the Lightning.”

Photo by Kris Rowberry.

Captured during last night’s severe storms that passed through the DFW Metroplex, Judge Roy Scream at Six Flags Over Texas provided a stunning visual to go along with even more spectacular sights from Mother Nature.

I’ve been shooting lightning now for about a year, and it’s like playing the lottery. You rarely win, but when you do, it’s a rush almost as good as any thrill ride…

…almost.


The amusement industry needs fans more than ever

Shock Wave roller coaster and Oil Derrick at Six Flags Over Texas

As we slip into yet another week of seemingly endless COVID-19 despair, lock downs and quarantines, our nerves just seem to get more frayed. We’re all snapping at one another more than ever, both online and in-person (myself included). The stress level we’re all under is perhaps only eclipsed by a nation at war.

Many amusement parks and ride vendors across the country have had to make significant furloughs or even layoffs just to survive though the end of the year. Anyone who depends on the amusement industry is worried sick about what the future holds. Our beloved hobby – the very thing we write, photograph and video for fun – needs us fans to help promote and support it more than ever.

So what can we do?

Simply put: 2021 needs to see a moratorium on theme park fans’ petty criticism. Both online and in person. Full stop. To put it another way: parks deserve a pass for the next 18 months.

Shock Wave roller coaster and Oil Derrick at Six Flags Over Texas
Shock Wave and Oil Derrick at Six Flags Over Texas during COVID-19 pandemic.

Yes, it’s easy to highlight everything wrong at parks. I get it, I’m guilty of it myself on occasion. But let’s be frank: the very survival of the amusement industry, most notably the smaller parks and many vendors, is at stake.

Posts or stories about rotting wood, employees not smiling or long lines might have a place in our fandom, and those types of posts certainly drum up clicks and engagement. But, when the industry we purport to love so much is seeing it’s very foundation being eroded away, those types of posts can wait.

Outside of being positive, unpaid spokespeople for the industry we love so much, what else can we do? Well, we can put our money where our mouths are.

If your local park(s) are open, visit them! The vast majority who have re-opened have taken extraordinary steps to modify their operations, mitigating the risk far better than any restaurant ever could. My last visit to Six Flags Over Texas earlier this month was so well monitored by staff for masks and sanitation, that brought me a sense of normalcy I haven’t felt in half a year.  That’s why we love parks so much: the feelings they give us.

If your local park(s) aren’t open, see if they are able to sell merchandise or other souvenirs online or over the phone. Or better still, get a season pass for 2021. Yes, it’s a drop in the bucket in what is sure to be a crippling financial year for most facilities.

But, it’s also something we CAN do, instead of sitting at home, moping about when everything goes back to being normal. Because if we do nothing, there may not be a “normal” or a park to return to.

These are unusual times. And unusual times call for unusual solutions. If you’re willing to fight for changes inside the park, it’s time to change your fight to help this industry survive.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments section below or on our social media channels!


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!


GoPro fail roller coaster photo goes viral for all the wrong reasons

San Mateo based GoPro learned the hard way on Tuesday that not every photo taken with their venerable cameras is the best to highlight to a larger audience.

On Tuesday, the company posted this photo to all of their social media accounts, from Gopro / coaster fan, Peter Win:

GoPro Ad Fail

Screenshot credit to our friends over at: http://www.ParkJourney.com

 

While the photo is quite spectacular – it’s also spectacularly against the rules to even attempt.

In addition to the selfie stick being a loose article aboard the ride – the dangers of smacking a low beam, hitting a fellow passenger or jamming part of the ride’s mechanical systems SHOULD have made it clear not to even attempt. Park rules clearly state this not only in line, but also as you board. We also heard reports of riders with mounted cameras on their body being asked NOT to wear them.

They don’t call those beams “headchoppers” for nothing.

So called, “selfie sticks” have damaged rides at both Disneyland and Disney World due to clearance issues, in addition to ruining the experience for everyone around the user.

The New Texas Giant – the ride featured in the photo – hits a top speed of 65 miles per hour with a first drop of 79 degrees.

Surprisingly, when you filtered out the inevitable spam, every single comment on the photo questioned why the company would post a photo that so blatantly broke the rules and endangered other riders. You’ll note I’m writing in the past tense – that’s because the company took the photo down just a few hours after initially posting it.

Let’s be blunt – they got HAMMERED with negative comments.

But I believe the hammering might be for the better in the long run, as it indicates something greater: a vast majority of people are finally recognizing that the “selfie stick” is not only incredibly annoying, it’s downright dangerous in many situations it’s being put into.

And it’s not just ride enthusiasts recognizing this. Many in the “general public” are finally seeing that extending a three foot pole on a ride moving at freeway speeds – all for a photo or video – isn’t the smartest decision.

In other words, there’s hope that the “selfie stick fad”  may be just that – a fad.

No Selfie Sticks

We can hope cell phone recording on rides goes away too, right?

 

What do you think? Will so-called “selfie sticks” eventually find their way to the trash heap? Or will incidents like this become more common? Tell us on our social media channels, or leave a comment below:


Texas Giant: Leave the Speculation at Home

It’s only natural to want to try and speculate on what exactly happened last Friday night at Six Flags Over Texas. I’ve even caught myself doing it on occasion to friends or co-workers, who have asked me about the unfolding situation.

But that doesn’t mean it’s right.

With inaccurate eyewitness reports, the urge to find out as much information as possible before anyone else has it – we as humans tend to want to fill in the facts when there’s an unknown. The speculation had already begun today, as well as recommendations for change, despite not even knowing what exactly occurred.

People were already getting in front of the media, illustrating, “…where she fell out,” and were even calling for “Over the Shoulder Restraints” or OTSR on more rides, as if they would have clearly prevented this accident from occurring. All of this was being done without any formal information on what exactly happened.

Speculation can only lead us as a society to a skewed, unwarranted perception of the event. Currently, that misconception is: “…because someone died on a roller coaster – ALL OF THEM must be dangerous!”

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The truth is this, folks: You’re more likely to be hurt riding an ESCALATOR at the mall than you are on a looping roller coaster. Parks don’t want accidents – they want you to feel safe. It’s very much a “self-policing” industry. Gone are the days of the Roaring 20’s, where rides that killed became MORE popular.

While we live in an age of instant communication, instant answers – this is one event that we must wait for. Only time will tell what happens next in this investigation – but can’t we all just give this investigation just that, a little TIME?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Illegal POV Filming – When Will They Learn?

I hate to be a broken record – but if you’ve been reading my writings on illegal, handheld POV filming on rides – then watching this video should come as no surprise to you.

If you think filming on rides is harmless behavior – how would YOU like to be hit with a GoPro Hero3 at 55mph?

Thankfully, no one was apparently injured in this situation.

Here’s the kicker – while the ride starts well after the train has been dispatched and out of the eyesight of ride employees – the lift has not one, but TWO cameras on it. There’s got to be a better way of preventing this – and there is!


Advertising in an Amusement Park – Practice what you Preach!

This large, banner ad is currently up at Six Flags Over Texas, hanging on the outside of the “La Vibora” bobsled coaster station. It’s promoting MetroPCS – but the cute green Android figures aren’t what caught my eye…it’s the fact that the ad is encouraging people to have their phones out on rides:

Photo (c) 2013 Kris Rowberry and Great American Thrills

It’s okay to film and photograph on rides with your phone, according to this ad – but not according to park rules and announcements.

Don’t believe me? Check out the figure with the “M” on their shirt. Yup. They’re snapping a photo while the ride is going. What’s even more troubling – they’re snapping a photo on what appears to be a swing ride – an attraction that had just debuted when I visited this year (2013); in fact, it’s the tallest in the world at 400 feet.

It also happens to be located next to the main roadway entrance to the park. Boy, that be a heck of a way to start your day when you’re driving into the park and your windshield shatters from a loose cell phone, don’t you think?

If you’ve read my previous post on this topic, this epidemic of cell phone filming is only going to become worse as the Millennial generation becomes of the age to own a cell phone. Showing ads like this, then telling them to not have loose articles aboard the ride? It just wreaks of, “What were they thinking?!?” and it’s just plain DUMB in my opinion.

Seriously – how did this ad proof get by both the corporate offices AND the local marketing officials?!?

“But loose cell phones never hit people or fall out of hands! They’re not as big of a threat as you make them out to be!”

I probably would have confided to you that I’ve never seen an injury as a result of a phone getting loose and hitting someone…though I do have proof that phones are coming loose:

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

Cell phone carnage under Mr. Freeze: Reverse Blast at Six Flags St. Louis.

That was before this past weekend, however. That’s when I DID witness several people get injured by a loose cell phone at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. The guest whipped out their cell phone after concealing it on the “Double Shot” freefall tower attraction just as it launched – and wouldn’t you know it – the phone got loose, fell 125 feet and promptly smashed into guests waiting in line.

This madness simply has to stop – before someone else is either injured or outright KILLED by a flying, loose article. Ads like this aren’t doing the parks any favors. They’re literally shooting themselves in the proverbial foot.

“I think you’re reading into this ad a little too much – people don’t get encouraged by ads or do what they say…”

You sure about that? Because I’m lovin’ it.

You thought of McDonald’s just now, didn’t you? Feeling a bit hungry all of a sudden? As much as we don’ t like to think it, advertising is a very powerful tool to control behavior – so to encourage the very behavior you’re trying to eliminate in your safety spiels and park map rules is well – not the smartest move in my book.

My point is this – advertise all you want to your guests, but at the very least, practice what you preach!

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®