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July 2006

More possible ride names unearthed

By Jason Goldsmith
Published: July 31, 2006 at 7:54 PM
There have been several rumors over the past couple of weeks that the name of Busch Gardens Europe's new ride is "Griffon", but according to the US Patent & Trademark website, on July 24th, Busch Entertainment Corporation has filed for two names (Iron Eagle and Voltare). Sounds like one of these might be the name for the new ride for BGE to choose from. In the past, BEC has seemed to apply for several different names, probably to through people off of what the real name is. Guess we'll have to wait until August 23rd to get the official decision from BGE.

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Yet another roller coaster death -- Six Flags Over Georgia

By Robert Niles
Published: July 28, 2006 at 9:15 AM
A 45-year-old man died of what authorities have called an apparent heart attack after losing consciousness while riding Goliath at Six Flags Over Georgia yesterday afternoon. No ID on the victim yet. Park officials closed the ride for inspection, then reported that it was functioning normally.

And on Monday, an 11-year-old girl was hospitalized for unspecified injuries after a freak accident on the Tornado roller coaster at Adventureland in Altoona, Iowa. The coaster hit a board that had been left near the track by maintenance personnel. Two others were treated for more minor injuries at the scene.

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Are visitors ignoring thrill ride medical warnings?

By Erik Yates
Published: July 26, 2006 at 10:29 AM
A 52-year-old man collapsed after riding Gwazi at Busch Gardens Africa, then died two hours later.

It is yet another death in what's seeming to be a trend of "pre-existing" conditions. According to a local TV telecast, the ride was shut down pending an investigation, but it sounds pretty much the same as everything else. Are people just ignoring the warnings? Could this be a case of brutal Florida summers taking its toll on hapless theme park goers?

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Ouimet out, Grier in at Disneyland

By Robert Niles
Published: July 25, 2006 at 10:55 AM
The Walt Disney Company has announced that Ed Grier will replace Matt Ouimet as president of the Disneyland Resort.

Ouimet is leaving the company to join Starwood Resorts, a leading upscale hotel chain. Grier is a Disney veteran, who most recently has overseen operations at the Tokyo Disney Resort as executive managing director of Walt Disney Attractions Japan.

Tokyo DisneySea has been considered one of the world's top theme parks, since its 2001 opening. (The park won the 2005 Theme Park Insider Award as the world's best theme park.) Disneyland, once the undisputed industry leader in attendance and quality, however, took much criticism under the leadership of former executives Paul Pressler and Cynthia Harriss. Under Ouimet, however, Disneyland turned around, with improved maintenance, show quality and new attractions, capped by a wildly successful 50th anniversary celebration.

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Kings Island cancels Winterfest... again

By Tony Stevens
Published: July 24, 2006 at 9:46 PM
I just got this from Paramount's Kings Island. Needless to say I am very disappointed.

Paramount's Kings Island has made a business decision to cancel the WinterFest event for the 2006 season. The park will re-focus its resources during the core operating season.

All guests who purchased tickets online through the Paramount's Kings Island web site will automatically be refunded back to the credit card that was provided when they were purchased. This refund transaction will start July 22, 2006 and could take up to 3-5 business days to appear on your account. Please check your credit card statement to verify that the refund has been credited to your account.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused and certainly appreciate your interest in our park and our special events. We look forward to providing you with more fun and entertainment in the future. Should you have further questions, feel free to contact our sales and service center at (800) 288-0808.

Paramount's Kings Island

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Clearing the confusion over Magic Mountain....

By Robert Niles
Published: July 23, 2006 at 2:27 PM
A reader writes:

Magic Mountain is a place that all of the teenagers like to go. It is like their home and they would be so depressed if Magic Mountain was going to be torn down. My first question is, why don't they just tear down Hurricane Harbor? I mean, the reasons that they are not making enough money [are] because they are spending so much on the water and they are only open in the second season (spring and summer).

My second question is that why did they just build about a million dollar ride if they are thinking of closing Magic Muntain now? I just don't understand. I hope they sell the land to someone who will understand that teenagers need this park and keep it standing for as long as they can!

Let's clear some confusion: Magic Mountain's making plenty of money. So is Hurricane Harbor. Both are popular parks (though MM could make even more money with a few long indoor or flume rides.)

The reason Six Flags is selling Magic Mountain and some other parks is because the managers who used to run Six Flags borrowed billions of dollars to expand the company in the late 1990s. And, despite the money Magic Mountain and the other parks are making, the company isn't making enough to pay off that debt.

So Six Flags needs to raise cash. And the fastest, easiest way for it to raise cash to sell off the incredibly valuable real estate that Magic Mountain sits on.

The desicion to build Tatsu was made years ago, by Six Flags' old management team, the one that created this financial mess that the current managers are trying to clean up. Even if the park does close, though, Six Flags could make back much of the ride's cost by selling it to another park, which would love to have a year-old B&M roller coaster.

Sure, Six Flags would be happy to sell the whole park to another theme park company. But there aren't many around that would have the cash to buy and operate the park. Disney and Universal never have bought another company's park in the United States. Cedar Fair already owns Knott's Berry Farm and just spend over a billion dollars to buy the Paramount Parks (including Great America in Santa Clara.) Busch used to have a park in L.A., in the San Fernando Valley, but an executive with the company told me that "the cost of rendering that park into a high-quality family attraction in the model of Busch Gardens or SeaWorld is probably beyond our means."

That's it. There are no other companies in this country with an established track record of running a park the size of Magic Mountain.

Still, closing Magic Mountain is not a done deal yet. Six Flags could choose another option to raise cash. Local politicians are thinking up ways to throw millions of dollars of incentives (or, as I like to call them, "corporate welfare") at Six Flags to keep Magic Mountain open. And if real estate values keep dropping in the L.A. area, Six Flags might decide that it's not worth letting go of the park at this time.

But if Six Flags does sell Magic Mountain to someone who closes it, trust me, theme parks and developers around Southern California will race each other to capture the loyalty (and dollars) of Magic Mountain fans. Universal Studios Hollywood and Knott's Berry Farm will introduce new rides to attract those fans. Local water parks, malls and theaters will try to lure them to hanging out at their properties as well.

And even if Magic Mountain closes, I wouldn't be surprised to see a deal where Hurricane Harbor remains open (though under a different name) as the anchor of a new retail/entertainment complex built on Magic Mountain's land.

In short, it's not the park's fault. This whole mess is the fault of a bunch of managers in Oklahoma City, who gambled by borrowing more money than they possibly could afford, under the mistaken notion that the value of the property they were buying would continue rising in value forever, eliminating the crushing burden of those loans.

Not those the Six Flags managers (who don't work for the company anymore) are the only people to make that mistake. Heck, many of the folks who bought homes in the L.A. area over the past four years might soon find themselves in the same situation....

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World's second 4D coaster opens at Fuji-Q park in Japan

By Steve Chisnall
Published: July 23, 2006 at 2:26 PM
On July 19th, Six Flags Magic Mountain's X lost its crown of world's only 4th dimension coaster. It has a younger brother, christened "Eejanaika" (pronounced "eh-ja-NIE-kah"), is taller and faster and has been refined, with trains that weigh less than those on X, and a new element called a "Full-Full" in which the train does a heartline roll of sorts (heartlining is technically impossible on a 4D coaster) while the seats do a somersault in perfect sync with the roll.

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Universal Studios Japan will build coaster for 2007

By Chris P.
Published: July 21, 2006 at 9:18 AM
Universal Studios Japan will build a new coaster for 2007. Hoping they will attract more visitors to the park after a attendance decrease the first quarter of this year.

The new coaster will cost more than $50 million and will start near the park entrance and go near the center of the park towards the lagoon.

This is the park's second largest investment towards a new attraction.

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Roller coaster accident at Alton Towers injures dozens

By Robert Niles
Published: July 20, 2006 at 9:28 AM
Three people were hospitalized after a wreck on the Runaway Mine Train at the U.K.'s Alton Towers theme park this morning.

Two of the injured were airlifted to local hospitals while a third was taken by ambulance. Others were treated at the scene. The BBC has more details.

In a rather ironic accident the Runaway Mine Train literally ran away, as the some cars in the train seperated from the rest. The lead cars rolled back and collided with the remaining cars.

The ride remains closed pending investigation.

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Dollywood announces Mystery Mine coaster for 2007

By Jason Jackson
Published: July 19, 2006 at 8:43 PM
Dollywood announces a new $17.5 million roller coaster for 2007: Mystery Mine. From the concept drawings, it appears to be a highly themed roller coaster with a story!

From the park's release:

Mystery Mine, scheduled to open at Dollywood in spring 2007, is the United States’ first system based on Gerstlauer’s Euro-fighter ride, which combines an intimate guest experience with hair-raising 95-degree drops. Located in Dollywood’s Timber Canyon area, Mystery Mine is themed as a long-abandoned coal mine with an eerie past. Mystery Mine utilizes a state-of-the-art show experience built on special effects, audio and lots of excitement.

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Myrtle Beach's Hard Rock Park breaks ground

By Russell Meyer
Published: July 17, 2006 at 11:07 AM
Some may say that a park themed solely around rock music will be nothing more than Rock n' Roller Coaster expanded to a whole-park scale. However, designers of the Hard Rock Theme Park, to open in spring 2008 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, suggest otherwise. Both Steven Goodwin, CEO of HRP Myrtle Beach Operations LLC, and Oliver Munday, Vice President of Hard Rock International feel that the Hard Rock Park will be an "evolution of theme parks," and a place to "showcase some of the finest pieces" of rock memorabilia.

In fact, Mr. Goodwin and Mr. Munday, along with Mark Sanford, Governor of South Carolina, arrived to the groundbreaking ceremony last week in the Beatles Magic Mystery Tour Bus, which will have its permanent home at the park. The three also shoveled Myrtle Beach sand with custom-made Gibson Guitar shovels to officially break ground for the park's construction. Even Bob Hendrix, cousin of Jimi Hendrix and representative of his estate, was on hand to experience the beginning of what could be a very special theme park.

The $400 million park will be built on 150 acres. It is expected to draw an estimated 30,000 visitors per day and create more than 3,000 jobs, and is the largest single investment in South Carolina history. "Mount Rockmore" – a large sculpture created out of sand, gave attendees of the groundbreaking a taste of what guests can expect from the Hard Rock Park, as likenesses of Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, and Bob Marley presided over the ceremony.

Why build a theme park in Myrtle Beach?

Oliver Munday pointed out to me that Myrtle Beach has an average length of visitor stay that is greater than many tourist destinations in the Unites States, including Orlando. That means that while the millions of visitors to Orlando split their dollars between Disney, Universal, and numerous other destinations, the millions of visitors who visit Myrtle Beach each year will have just one major theme park, along with the typical beach attractions, where they can spend their money. The only difficult task will be to convince families to spend a day or more away from that sand and tantalizing ocean breeze. The lack of competition should help, but can a theme park really be successful just over a mile from one of the most popular beaches on the east coast?

I, along with probably everyone else who visits Theme Park Insider, was most interested in what rides and attractions guests could expect to see in the first major theme park built in the Unites States since Universal's Islands of Adventure debuted in 1999. Much to my chagrin, the Hard Rock Park's designers were rather tight-lipped with details. For more information about parks lands and attractions, including concept art that looks suspiciously like a B&M coaster, visit our Hard Rock Theme Park page.

And let the speculation begin: What happens when you cross a theme park with a Hard Rock Café?

Could we see a 70's Elvis All-You-Can-Eat Buffet restaurant?

How about a Woodstock Mud Wrestling Arena?

What about a dark ride that features animatronic figures incessantly singing #9 from the Beatles White Album?

I highly doubt we'll see anything that cheesy, but it will definitely be a challenging task for park designers to create a rock n' roll theme park that the entire family will find entertaining. I wish the designers the best of luck, and look forward to experiencing the world's first rock n' roll theme park in the spring of 2008.

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Keep that reader feedback coming!

By Robert Niles
Published: July 13, 2006 at 7:31 PM
We're looking for your help on a couple items here at Theme Park Insider.

First, please take a look at our discussion board thread, What is your dream theme park experience? I'm looking for interesting features to cover over the next few months here at TPI, and I'd like to start by collecting your ideas for the stuff you'd like to experience, if money were no issue. Readers already have suggested a few neat ideas; I'd like to read yours.

Second, by request, we've added a page for Knoebles Amusement Park in Pennsylvania. But, since I've not been there before, I need readers' help in adding the attraction line-up for the park. Just click to the page, then click the link to update its description, and to add missing attractions. (Which, at this point, are all of them.)

As always, you can make such additions and corrections to any park's listing here on TPI. Folks do a pretty good job of keeping the big parks current, Disney, Universal, etc. But, being a volunteer, reader-written website, we always need help on the smaller, regional parks. If you see something that needs to be added -- a missing ride, a park touring plan, a link to park hours on an official website -- please do not hesitate to add it. Thanks!

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Universal's Halloween Horror Nights return to Hollywood

By Robert Niles
Published: July 11, 2006 at 3:44 PM
Heck, summer's just started, but tickets are now on sale for Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights.

This year's dates are Sept. 29-30, Oct. 6-8, 11-15, 19-22, 26-29, and 31.

Tickets are $59.95 plus tax and can be bought online at www.halloweenhorrornights.com or over the phone by calling 877-284-GORY (4679).

And Halloween Horror Nights are coming back to Universal Studios Hollywood, too. Universal's website reports that the event will start on Friday, Oct. 13 and run the weekends through Halloween. No information yet on tickets.

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Disney's Mission: Space -- another incident

By Gareth H
Published: July 11, 2006 at 11:57 AM
News has broken that yet another rider on Mission: Space at Epcot has become ill.

This time a 35-year-old woman lost consciousness when she got off the ride Monday night.

She was airlifted to Orlando Regional Medical Center after experiencing tingling in her arms & hands.

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Son of Beast coaster accident sends dozens to hospitals

By Robert Niles
Published: July 9, 2006 at 9:14 PM
An accident at the Son of Beast roller coaster at Kings Island late Sunday afternoon sent abnout two dozen people to Cincinnati-area hospitals. Local authorities said most of the injured were treated and released for minor neck and chest injuries, but that at least one person was admitted for more extensive treatment.

The incident happened at the end of the train's run, when it stopped abruptly in the station, according to several witness reports.

Update: It was a busted timber. The Cincinnati Enquirer is quoting a state ride inspector saying that one of the ride's wooden support beams is "cracked and had actually splintered in places." The ride is closed indefinitely.

A broken main support beam on a roller coaster is like a broken leg on a racehorse. Sure, you could spend many millions to repair it. But in most cases, you just put 'er down. Given this ride's awful reputation for roughness, one wonders if new owners Cedar Fair will be willing to undertake the expense of rebuilding the ride... or will cut the loss and find a replacement instead.

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Kids rate their favorite theme parks with TPI Kids

By Robert Niles
Published: July 8, 2006 at 9:27 PM
We're introducing a new feature on Theme Park Insider today -- Theme Park Insider Kids, a program that allows kids under age 13, with their parents' permission, to rate and review theme and amusement park attractions on the site.

Interest parents should visit our TPI Kids page for more details, plus the permission/sign-up form. TPI Kids is intended as a way to expose kids to the joys (and responsibilities) of writing for a public audience, while reliving the fun of a theme park visit.

Because kids safety is important to us, a TPI Kids account won't be like a regular TPI account. Kids won't be able to post to the discussion board or Blog Flume, nor will other TPI members be able to contact TPI Kids. But their ratings and reviews will appear on the site -- and provide the votes for a new "Best Theme Park for Kids" award that we will present as part of the Theme Park Insider Awards next summer.

Parents, if your kids love theme parks as much as mine do, and if they love writing, I invite you to let them join the site through TPI Kids. Thanks, and please do not hesitate to contact me personally if you have any questions about TPI Kids, or the site.

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National press takes note of trend toward more family-friendly theme parks

By Robert Niles
Published: July 7, 2006 at 9:58 AM
I wanted to draw TPI readers' attention to a couple articles that add to the theme I wrote upon last week after the death on Rock N' Roller Coaster.

I wrote that the death would accelerate the emerging industry trend away from thrill rides toward more family-friendly, story-driven interactive attractions. Writing for the Christian Science Monitor, Daniel B. Wood examines the shift toward family fun. (And quotes yours truly in the process.)

And today, in the Los Angeles Times, Kimi Yoshino offers another interview with Six Flags CEO Mark Shapiro, [BugMeNot for a log-in to read] where reality's set in and he vents his frustration with huge problems the chain faces in switching to that more family-friendly model. (FWIW, Yoshino's stories demonstrate the best grasp of theme park industry on the Times' staff. It's nice to see her on the Business page and, presumably, getting more attention than she did in the relative obscurity of the Orange County edition.)

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Shooting at Six Flags; Drowning at Playland

By Robert Niles
Published: July 5, 2006 at 8:50 AM
And here are today's post-Fourth of July buzzkills:

Three people were injured in a shooting outside Six Flags Over Georgia yesterday, after an argument inside the park turned for the worse. Cobb County police told the Associated Press that one of the arguers later pulled a gun on another at a bus station outside the park entrance. The gunman fired into the crowd at the bus station, hitting three bystanders. The two adults and a teenager hit were hospitalized and are expected to recover.

At Playland Amusement Park in Rye, N.Y. (home of two deaths in recent years) a 43-old Flushing man drowned after wading into a restricted lake near the park's picnic area.

The man was visiting the park with his wife and son, but they were elsewhere at the park when the accident happened, according to a detailed Journal News report. Instead, the victim, who had been drinking, was with an unidentified "female companion," who bailed when the two got to the deep part of the lake.

The bizarre incident concluded when other park visitors brought the man to shore after park employees in a powerboat failed to do so.

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Busch Gardens Europe wins 2006 Theme Park Insider Award as 'World's Best Theme Park'

By Robert Niles
Published: July 2, 2006 at 3:47 PM
Internet readers around the world this year selected Busch Gardens Europe in Williamsburg, Virginia as the "World's Best Theme Park" in the 2006 Theme Park Insider Awards.

The awards, presented annually by ThemeParkInsider.com, are based on votes over the previous 12 months by the site's more than 12,000 registered members, in all 50 states and more than 80 countries.

The win by the former Busch Gardens Williamsburg marks the first for a Busch theme park in the top award, which in the contest's first four years was captured by theme parks from Universal and Disney.

The Williamsburg park's 3D dark ride Curse of DarKastle won last year's Theme Park Insider Award for "World's Best New Theme Park Attraction."

This year, that honor goes to Expedition Everest at Disney's Animal Kingdom in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Everest is a highly-themed roller coaster attraction that has won praise for its mix of thrills and story-telling.

Two repeat winners round out this year's honors.

ThemeParkInsider.com readers for the fourth consecutive year picked Mythos Restaurant at Universal's Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Florida as the "World's Best Theme Park Restaurant."

Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Florida won the honor for "World's Best Theme Park Hotel" for the second consecutive year.

Comments (8) | Archive Link

Universal's 'Cinesphere' spectacle delivers at its premiere

By Gareth H
Published: July 2, 2006 at 1:23 PM
Well, what can I say? There was hype. Universal 360 – A Cinesphere Spectacular at Universal Studios Florida was to be a first of its kind -- world's biggest show, one that combined floating spheres, movie footage, lasers, projections and fireworks.

Did it prove to be what they said it would?

Heck, yeah!

In a nutshell, Universal 360 delivered at its public premiere last night just what Universal Orlando said it would. The spheres were the centerpiece upon which fireworks were used in split-second timing. Projectors cleverly used surrounding buildings to maximise the clips that were being shown on the spheres. And lasers were added to fully utilise the whole lagoon area upon which a show for the senses was put on.

Seventeen minutes of memories, literraly projected into your mind. Who remembered that Universal Studios had made so many top movies, including the less obvious ones, Like Babe, Bourne Identity, Erin Brockovich & so many more.?

This feast for the ears & eyes is a must see.

I took video footage, which will be uploaded soon. Just remember that there is much more to see than the footage I took. I couldn't capture it all!

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Keep reading: June 2006 Archive

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