The BLOGFlume—Bottom of the Barrel
Italian Job debuts, trouble in China, and fight club in Valencia.
Written by Russell Meyer
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Cincinati Post 5/19/05
With all of the other big openings and news over the weekend, it seems that one new attraction has been overlooked. Paramount’s Kings Island officially opened The Italian Job Stunt Track over the weekend. When it was announced last fall, Italian Job was one of the most anticipated new attractions of 2005, but it seems that its opening has been overshadowed by much larger and more glamorous machines: SheiKra and Kingda Ka. In fact, reviews for the new highly themed coaster are rather difficult to find, and are not as positive as one would have expected. Italian Job’s trains look just like three bumper-to-bumper Mini Coopers, complete with operating doors. Linear induction motors on three different sections of the ride launch the trains through a parking garage, subway station, and a splashdown section. The cars feature flashing lights, rear view mirrors, and an interesting feature that allows the cars to “spin” out around tight corners. From the descriptions, Italian Job Stunt Track sounds like the coaster of the year, but apparently, the relatively slow 40 MPH top speed and fake-looking special effects and cardboard-like props cannot live up to the hype. Instead of being one of the best themed and most exciting roller coasters in the country, it turns into an overblown kiddie coaster. However, a number of the reviews I have seen are from “coaster” people who may have been expecting something more exciting, and with two incredibly intense coasters also making their debut, Italian Job might seem like a letdown compared to SheiKra and Kingda Ka. Paramount’s Kings Island may be shifting its focus from coaster fans to families, and the early reviews from coaster fans do not represent the target audience for Italian Job. Paramount may not have been able to get as much nationwide publicity with the opening of its new coaster- however, by the end of the year, Italian Job Stunt Track could end up being the biggest hit for families as coaster fans gravitate to New Jersey and Tampa.
In the Soup
It appears that Hong Kong Disneyland may have found itself in some hot water, or should I say hot soup. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has slammed the park before it has even opened its gates for wanting to serve Chinese specialties in its restaurants. The main dish in question is a rather popular delicacy in China, shark fin soup. The main ingredient of the soup is harvested in a rather inhumane way by slaughtering the entire shark by removing just its fins. The sharks are also frequently overfished, as they are an important species of the ocean near the top of the ecological food chain. Disney has said that the special menu items have been reserved for special banquets at the guests’ request. The soup is a staple of Chinese wedding banquets, and if Hong Kong Disneyland wants to hold these events, they must have the soup available. Disney has been put into a corner, and no matter what decision they make, they will not be able to make everyone happy. While the negative publicity around the world will slightly scar the Disney name, taking the soup off the menu could severely affect their business in a market that they are trying to attract for the first time. Perhaps Disney could find a way to harvest the primary ingredient in a more humane fashion, but until they can find another way, soup’s on.
A Really X-Treme Park
Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, California is often referred to as the X-treme park. With 16 roller coasters- granted, they never all run on the same day anymore- and some of the most unique designs on the planet, Magic Mountain used to be on of the top parks in Southern California. However, over the past few years, the park has seen its image tarnished by uninspired employees, non-existent ride maintenance, and unbearable lines. Now the park must deal with a new problem, fights. This weekend saw a fight that involved 25 park guests, some incurring a number of minor injuries, and it was not the first instance of fighting in the park this season. For the 2005 season, Magic Mountain lowered its season pass price to the cost of a standard daily admission. This single move could be the cause of these incidents. With a park overcrowded with people who have paid very little to enter, the repercussions of being ejected are not even enough of a deterrent to prevent miscreants from wreaking havoc. While the lower price of season passes is great for those who live on a tight budget, those cut-rate discounts have turned a once promising park into a gang-riddled playground.
What can Six Flags do to fix this obvious problem?
They could quickly solve the problem by adjusting the price of their season passes and daily tickets. They could lower the single day admission to a thrifty $35-$40, and raise the season passes back up to $100 or more. The guests who pay for single-day admissions are more likely to be families or tourists, and are probably less likely to misbehave in the park. By increasing the season pass price, the park ejection and pass revocation penalty for misbehavior is also increased, and could lower these type of incidents. However, Six Flags really cannot change its policy halfway through a season, and must come up with a way to deal with these problems now. They first need to start with their employees, who always seem to turn a blind eye to misbehavior and lawlessness. Six Flags had supposedly hired a new staffing firm that would be more selective when hiring new employees, and provide more comprehensive training for all park employees. Six Flags needs to identify employees who are willing to report dangerous activity, and enforce park rules, and place them in locations where incidents are more likely to occur. They also need to find employees who turn their back, and show those employees the door. I’ve seen it on a number of occasions where park employees, not just at Six Flags parks either, who allow guests to break rules because they are afraid of not being cool, or are afraid of being ganged up on by rowdy guests. Whatever they decide to do, Six Flags needs to put their foot down, and let it be known that these types of incidents are not acceptable in their parks. Without a firm stance, line cutting, smoking, and fighting will continue, and could lead to something much more serious.
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