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The BLOGFlume—Greetings From Texas

Celebrate Enterprise, Six Flags gears up, and California theme park safety.

Written by Russell Meyer
Published: April 10, 2005 at 8:09 PM

I’m writing to everyone from what many people around here seem to think is the greatest state in the universe, Texas, San Antonio, Texas to be exact. My wife and I planned a nice 5-day weekend vacation to celebrate having her sister married off, and all of the nonsense and drama that accompanied the weeding and planning. Yes, in addition to Space Center Houston, Austin, Natural Bridge Caverns, and the Mission Trail, We managed to fit in two of the Texas theme parks into our vacation (naturally), Six Flags Fiesta Texas and Sea World San Antonio. I will assemble a more formal trip report on the two surprisingly nice theme parks later this week, but now, it’s off to the weekend’s news…

Celebrate in Star Trek Style
Star Trek: The Experience 4/8/05

While Paramount probably isn’t in the mood to celebrate its lowest rated Star Trek series, Paramount Parks, through the Star Trek Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton, is offering special packages to give Enterprise its final sendoff. The hotel/casino will be offering a number of “Salute to Enterprise” experiences that range in cost from $20 to $75. That includes admissions to the Star Trek Experience and Borg Invasion 4-D and a free drink for the lower end package, and the aforementioned included with a hors’douevres on the bridge, a special gift pack, and a show of the series finale in the Borg theater for those willing to spend a little more. Supplies are limited to 80 people for the lower end package and 48 for the deluxe package. So, the other 15 or so viewers of Enterprise may have to miss out on this special experience. Actually, $20 for admission to the two attractions is a pretty good price, but having to share the space with probably some of the craziest Trekkers on the planet will keep all but the die-hards away. Rick Berman, the current mastermind behind the Trek franchise actually doesn’t have anything on the drawing board, so the TV and movie world may be Trek-free for the first time in almost 18 years. I know most people out there could care less, but for me, the Star Trek franchise, up until Voyager, was some of the most innovative television you could get. However, with the diversification of cable channels, and the increasing popularity of Sci-Fi Channel series, particularly Battlestar Galactica (I can’t believe they shot Adama), and the repetitive Trek storylines, sci-fi-geeks began losing interest, and that Friday 8 PM time slot didn’t help much either. So here’s to the end of Enterprise, may she come out on DVD soon, her syndication deal be sweet, and her characters show up in a Paramount Park near you soon!

Miscellaneous Six Flags News
Masslive.com 4/9/05

Six Flags New England, like many of the other non-year round Six Flags parks are getting cranked up for the 2005 season. However, the park will be opening without one of its announced new attractions. The park had announced that it would be opening a new up-charge attraction called Slingshot, but has decided not to add the attraction to the Crackaxle Canyon section of the park. The park will introduce two new rides for 2005 including Mr. Six Pandemonium, a spinning wild-mouse coaster, and Typhoon, a Master Blaster-style water coaster for its water park.

In other Six Flags news, Kingda Ka has reportedly begun testing, and rumors are that it may be ready for guests sometime in the middle of May. I’ll believe it when I see it running. The Golden Kingdom section of the park is still not complete, but the coaster section of the new Asian Jungle themed section of the park does appear to be near completion. The biggest question will be if the coaster will be able to perform consistently under full loads, and keep from extended period of down-time that has plagued just about every Intamin rocket-coaster in its first official month of operation.

Disney Against Stricter Safety Standards
Orlando Sentinel 4/8/05

Disney is seeking to overturn a ruling in California that would apply similar safety laws that apply to buses and trains to roller coaster and amusement park attractions. Other operators in California are also standing beside Disney in opposition to this new ruling, and feel that theme park attractions should be held to the “reasonable care” standard instead of the “utmost care and diligence” standard. This ruling could create a field day with lawyers that could severely hurt theme park’s ability to operate many attractions. The new “utmost care and diligence” standard would put the pressure on theme park owner to be prove that EVERYTHING possible was done to keep an attraction safe, and any well-trained lawyer could poke giant holes into just about any defense a theme park would put forward against an injury lawsuit. While I think theme parks should do everything they can to keep their attractions as safe as possible, many of us know that frequently injuries occur because of rider error. This new standard would put all of the pressure on the park to ensure that guests are following the rules, and if a guest is injured because they did not follow the rules, it’s the park’s fault for not making them follow the rules. Hopefully the California parks are able to get this ruling overturned, or we will see a flurry of lawsuits that could cripple the theme park industry.

Readers' Opinions

From Derek Potter on April 10, 2005 at 8:50 PM
San Antonio Texas....great town, home of a pretty good Sea World, and one of the few good Six Flags parks, Fiesta Texas.

I wouldn't hold my breath for any Star Trek Characters at a Paramount Park. The only major attraction having anything to do at all with Star Trek is Borg Assimalator at Carowinds. Kings Island used to have Klingons about the park, but that didn't last very long either. One would think that Paramount could come up with a properly themed Star Trek attraction, but why would they. Except for the nutball conventions (no offense), Star Trek is pretty much dead at this point. Paramount will focus on newer films (Sky Captain, Sahara, etc).

Six Flags...blah blah. Just like you Russell, I'll believe it when I see it.

Not surprised at California's attempt to further regulate safety standards. After all, didn't Big Thunder Mountain have 58,000 accidents last year. Goliath at SFMM claimed a life not too long ago as well (not really their fault correct?). I can understand Disney trying to stop them, this kind of regulation could cost a lot, but hey, Disney hasn't got the best safety record lately, and California probably doesn't like one of their best tourist attractions not going above and beyond the call of duty. It's one thing if it's rider error, it's another thing if the ride is allowed to run because the park says it's ok, and then breaks down a couple more times. It's a fact that theme park rides are way way safer than any other form of transportation, and parks usually do a good job of policing themselves, I hope that the ruling is overturned, but maybe this is a wake up call that Disney needs.

From Robert OGrosky on April 11, 2005 at 7:08 PM
This isnt being used to serve disney with a wake up call, but a bunch of ambulance chasing lawyers trolling for business by trying to using a law that has nothing to do with theme park rides/attractions and hoping to get a typical liberal justice system in CA to side with them.
From Derek Potter on April 11, 2005 at 7:54 PM
I understand that. I wasn't really implying that the State was trying to give Disney a wake up call, just that the suit itself is one. Ambulance chasers are only effective if given the ammunition. It would seem to me that Disney's recent transgressions with Big Thunder Mountain could have served as that ammunition. Disney and others have to practice safety to the highest degree for the well being of their guests, and if it takes a bunch of trolling ambulance chasers to scare them a little, then fine. At the same time though, the issue of rider irresponsibility also has to be addressed. That is where this particular ruling has fallen short of being adequate.
From Robert OGrosky on April 12, 2005 at 11:08 AM
A few accidents on BTMR doesnt mean disney isnt taking the safety of the riders into consideration and doing a great job. When one looks at the millions upon millions of rides riden at DL there are so few accidents where it is a blip on any statiscal ledger. You should always strive to do better and im sure DL will but that will never stop the ambulance chasing lawyers from going after the company even if they arent at fault, whoever has money is a lawyers target!!!!!!!!
From Russell Meyer on April 12, 2005 at 11:27 AM
To update from an e-mail I received last week, and never got to until today (e-mail can sure pile up when you go on vacation) from Six Flags Great Adventure...

It appears that they are trying to launch Kingda Ka on Thursday, April 21, 2005 at 11:00 AM. The park is auctioning 18 seats on the first launch on e-bay starting at $456. You can view the auctions at E-Bay. All of the auction proceeds will benefit the Children's Miracle Network. The rest of the Golden Kingdom is set to debut to the on Saturday, April 23, 2005. Of course all dates are subject to change, but the fact that they're holding this auction suggests that Six Flags feels pretty confident that they can get this coaster up and running in a week and a half.

From Erik Yates on April 12, 2005 at 1:29 PM
I agree(oddly) that this isnt a wakeup call for Disney. More of a warning, and unfortunately Disney is the only one with enough lawyers in their pockets to bully out of this one. It would be a crippling ruling for the entire theme park industry, and disney is not the sole share holder on that market, as much as everyone would like them to be. Now that I've said that, I will say that disney does a fantastic job with safety, but you can do all you want to with equipment, that does not stop the stupidity of people. But again, the ruling is not a smart one for ANY of the parks to let pass in the current form.
From Derek Potter on April 12, 2005 at 7:05 PM
456 bucks for a ride on Kingda Ka? I would expect my money back if and when it doesn't make it over the first time. Can I buy the rollback for half price??
From Derek Potter on April 12, 2005 at 7:08 PM
From Chuck Campbell on April 12, 2005 at 7:52 PM
If you're not satisfied with your unfinished ride on Kingda Ka, Six Flags will be happy to refund the unused portion of your money.
From Derek Potter on April 13, 2005 at 6:27 AM
I suspect that they will have already spent it by the time I get to the park.

Seriously though, I'm glad they are using the money for charity. Some people will actually pay that and more for the first ride, and it's great to see Six Flags doing some good with the money, even though they need all that they can get at the moment. When the time comes, remember those four words "Dates subject to change".

By the way, the videos of Kingda Ka's first test runs are in. Here's a link, sorry that you have to register to view it. The video is terrible, but it gives you an idea of how far they still have to go.

http://www.gainsider.com/