The BLOGFlume—Happy Memorial Day!

Lines, makeovers, and ESPN drops the NHL

Written by Russell Meyer
Published: May 30, 2005 at 2:22 PM

Lines Abound
The Cincinnati Enquirer 5/27/05

It appears that Paramount’s Kings Island’s newest roller coaster, Italian Job Stunt Track, has created a problem. The lines for the attraction have surpassed the park’s expectations, and it seems that they are trying different techniques to try to meet guest demand. Not only is the ride incredibly popular, but also the coaster does not have the largest capacity with only 12 passengers per train, meaning that the capacity is somewhere around 1,000 passengers per hour at maximum efficiency. The park is encouraging guests to ride the new coaster as soon as the park opens, and to expect long lines throughout the day. Kings Island will also be offering special “speed pass” tickets for Gold Season Pass members beginning on June 6, 2005, which will allow guest to schedule a return ride time later in the day. The speed passes will be limited to one per member per day, and the park will continue this policy until August 14, 2005. Kings Island is also considering the testing of other types of ride reservation systems throughout the summer, but I would only count on the Gold Season Pass system for the foreseeable future. Some more positive reviews have started to hit the web, and it seems that only the crazy coaster fans seem to have a problem with this new coaster. However, it seems that Kings Island should have found some way to increase the ride’s capacity in anticipation of the overwhelming demand for this highly themed attraction.

Not Much Change

Since it’s the unofficial start of summer, I usually try to avoid theme parks on Memorial Day Weekend. However, I happened to be over near Six Flags America Sunday afternoon, and with a parking pass to go along with our normal season pass, we decided to take a peek at the park to see how crowded it was, and check out the changes made to the water park. As I had expected, the parking lot was filling up at 11:00, and was into the overflow section when we left at 1:30. The main section of the park was relatively crowded, but the lines were manageable. Most of the rides were operating at peak capacity, aside from Batwing of course, but lines were starting to fill up when we left in the afternoon. I wasn’t able to make the media preview day for Six Flags America’s “new” water park Hurricane Harbor, so I took a little time before leaving in the afternoon to see what changes had been made. I haven’t been to the water park in a couple of years, but from what I could tell, very little has been changed. There is a lot of new neon-colored paint everywhere, and lots of new colorful signs, and of course the three new attractions. Still, these are primarily superficial changes. In fact, two of the three new attractions, Bahama Blast and Buccaneer Beach were not yet complete, and it appeared that Tornado had just been finished in the nick of time. I didn’t bother taking a spin on the new water slide because of the lengthy line, but I don’t quite understand the popularity of this type of water slide. Guests are forced to lug giant 4-person cloverleaf slides up to the top of the staircase, only to slosh back and forth before going down the drain and into a splash pool. The line moves incredibly slowly, with only one raft able to be in the funnel at a time, so only a maximum of 4 people can ride the attraction every 30-45 seconds. While Six Flags bought stock in fluorescent paint, aside from the bright colors and three new attractions, nothing else was improved in what was advertised as a brand new water park experience. The walkways are still cracking, and seating areas are still incredibly limited, especially around the wave pool. The park is still incredibly lacking in shady spots. While I had expected Six Flags would do as little as possible, my hope was that they would have really given the water park a full upgrade, but as usual, Six Flags manages to disappoint.

LA Times 5/28/05

Despite the bleak outlook for the end of the NHL lockout, hockey is still one of my favorite sports. I know eventually the players and owners will come to their senses soon to settle their differences. However, even if the lockout ends prior to the start of the 2005-2006 season, fans may have a hard time finding NHL games on cable. ESPN has smartly declined an option in its NHL contract to broadcast games for the 2005-2006 season. The NHL will be out the $60 million that ESPN would have paid for the broadcast rights for the upcoming season, but may be able to recoup some of the money be negotiating a new deal once the lockout ends. ESPN is still interested in broadcasting NHL games, but feels that the $60 million is too much for a league that doesn’t seem to be missed too terribly by its normal viewers. The NHL is really starting to feel the pressure from the lockout, as it has now lost an entire season. Wall Street investors have recently increased their bid for the entire league to $4 billion, but the owners still want to hold on to their losing investments as they try to solve their problems with players. My home team, Washington Capitals, have a local cable television deal that has not yet been affected, but many other fans may have just lost their only access to professional hockey, and unless the NHL can get its act together, hockey as a nationally broadcasted sport may be over.

Readers' Opinions

From Derek Potter on May 30, 2005 at 7:44 PM
That is one thing about Kings Island that will probably have to change soon. They still have yet to establish a freeway/fastpass type of thing for their most popular rides, and now it's come back to bite them a little. While I can see the Italian Job being popular, 1000 riders per hour is a bit low for a roller coaster, and when you combine new coaster popularity with a not-so-fast people mover, long lines will come. I postponed a Memorial Day visit to PKI, thanks to the fantastically unpredictable crappy weather here in Ohio (85 and sunny on Sunday....60 and cloudy/rainy/windy on Monday, which then turned to sunny and 75 at about 6:00...just enough time for me to mow the grass)

Can anyone honestly blame ESPN for dropping NHL? The league is in shambles and fans are probably walking out the door left and right. Owners and players have clearly demonstrated that money takes precedence over the fans and the sport, so if you think that viewership was down last season, wait until we see viewership tank when (or if) the NHL comes back. Maybe ESPN dropping them will serve as a wake up call. It's pretty bad when you get dropped by the sports network.

From Melinda Webster on May 31, 2005 at 8:11 AM
I am going to PKI in 3 weeks, mainly for the new coaster, I guess I better pack my patience and arrive early and beat feet straight for that ride!

As far as hockey goes, I am a Florida Panthers Season Ticket holder and if they don't come to an agreement quick I am pulling my money they have been holding to pay for this season, and I will also pull the 6% interest it has earned for them holding it. I wish I made even the $600,000-900,000 the low men on the totum pole make!

From Robert Niles on May 31, 2005 at 8:52 AM
I hate ride reservation systems for most attractions, as it makes visiting a park too confusing for most guests and does nothing to increase operating capacity.

That said, ride reservation systems are a must for new attractions where the park suspects the wait will exceed two hours for most of the day. (The easiest way to implement this is to hand out ride times as folks enter the front gate. No new infrastructure or patents required.)

From Derek Potter on May 31, 2005 at 10:39 AM
For all those going to Kings Island in the near future, be sure to go to the Italian Job first to get a ride ticket. Some people without one have been turned away because of the large lines and their lack of a ride ticket. Add to that the gold passholder line cut policy, and you have lines. I doubt that riding will be a big problem on weekdays, but it surely could be one on the weekends. Long lines aren't a problem Monday through Thursday, because PKI has enough people eaters to handle the crowds. Friday through Sunday, it sometimes seems like the attendance triples because there are times when I can hardly walk at a normal pace through certain areas. Despite the weekend crowds, the lines still do move quickly, so don't be discouraged from going on the weekends if that's your only option.
From Kevin Baxter on June 4, 2005 at 2:50 AM
Lord, people head to a ride the second it is opened and then they wonder why waits are long and they can't ride it? Those people are too stoopid to be allowed to leave the house.

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