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August 2006

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Busch inks deal with Sesame Workshop

By Russell Meyer
Published: August 24, 2006 at 7:43 PM
It seems that Busch Entertainment is making even more news this weeks in addition to the announcements of new major attractions in Sea World San Antonio and Busch Gardens Europe. The theme park chain has signed a long term deal that will introduce the Sesame Street characters into all of the parks beginning next year. The deal also ensures licensing for Busch-owned Sesame Place, which has operated in Langhorne, PA since 1980.

According to the press release, guests can expect the first wave of Sesame themed attractions to debut in 2008. This move definitely improved Busch's standing in the family theme park business by giving it a recognizable brand for kids attractions. Currently, the Busch parks contain Shamu themed kids areas in the Sea World parks and Land of the Dragons kids areas in the Busch Gardens parks. Most people probably don't see this as a big move, but in the world of branding, Sesame Street is an extremely strong brand for families with children under 5, and Busch Entertainment has made a strong move to attraction families with small children.

PRNewswire 8/24/06

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Dive coaster 'Griffon' to land at Busch Gardens Europe in Spring 2007

By Jake Countiss
Published: August 23, 2006 at 11:34 AM
Busch Gardens Europe has announced Griffon, a 205-ft. B&M dive machine with two vertical drops, a water splash and not one, but two, Immelmans. To make the ride even better, the trains are floorless so that your legs dangle helplessly during the two vertical drops. This ride will be open to the public in Spring of 2007.

Image courtesy Busch Gardens

Editor's note: Here are excerpts from the press release:

Teased since early July with park billboards touting "Like Nothing Else in the World," Busch Gardens Europe took the plunge and unveiled its latest steel marvel, Griffon, the world's tallest and only floorless dive coaster. Currently under construction, this diving, driving force in roller coaster engineering will debut at Busch Gardens late spring 2007.

Griffon will send riders through an extraordinary journey 205 feet up and 90 degrees straight down at more than 70 mph – and that’s just the beginning. The name Griffon evokes the power and speed of a mythical beast that is part eagle and part lion. The ride twists, turns and plunges – giving riders a breathtaking adventure unlike any coaster experience in the world.

Griffon will incorporate two Immelman loops (a simultaneous loop and roll, the name of which was derived from the World War I German flying ace who invented the tactical maneuver). The world’s first floorless dive coaster also incorporates a second 130-foot dive and one water feature with spectacular viewing platforms where ride watchers can share in the thrills. Each floorless coaster car will consist of three, 10-person wide rows.

The roller coaster is being constructed by Bolliger & Mabillard of Monthey, Switzerland on the former LeMans Raceway site in the French section of the Williamsburg theme park. Griffon is the fifth member of the park’s family of renowned coasters.

Construction began July 6, 2006. The most recent roller coaster to debut at Busch Gardens was Apollo’s Chariot in 1999.

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Summer theme park death toll rises, again

By Robert Niles
Published: August 17, 2006 at 9:39 AM
By my count, the number of people who died this season on or during attractions is up to seven now.


The latest was a 10-year-old girl with a heart condition at Illinois' Six Flags Great America, last night.

Of the seven deaths, two were of employees. All the remaining five guest deaths appear to have been from pre-existing medical conditions.

So... when was your last complete health physical? If it was more than 12 months ago, give your doctor a call. Today.

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Unions announce campaign to organize Universal Orlando workforce

By Robert Niles
Published: August 16, 2006 at 9:11 AM
A group of labor unions announced this week that it is trying to organize the workforce at Universal Orlando Resort. Florida Today reports.

Representatives of the International Association of Machinists, the United Steelworkers Union, the International Union of Journeymen and Allied Trades and the Transportation and Communications Union have been talking with Universal employees over the summer, starting with employees who have relatives and friends working at union-organized Walt Disney World.

Editor's commentary: Since management provides a unified front in offering wage and benefits to employees, why shouldn't employees present an equally unified front in trying to get the best deal for themselves? Workers have little shot at sharing proportionally in a company's success if management can make a "take it or leave it" offer, never having to negotiate with employees who have real power to shut down operations if the company's offer is not adequate.

Maybe it's human nature to want to dictate, instead of negotiate. But unions built America's middle class, and union labor made America the world's largest superpower. Dictating's easier, and more profitable, in the short term, but over the long-term, management and workers better serve themselves by forging a real, mutual, equitable relationship where *both* sides give when they need to to help the other side succeed.

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Teen injured on Busch Gardens' Alpengeist

By Robert Niles
Published: August 11, 2006 at 9:00 PM
We're getting word of a 17-year-old breaking his leg on Alpengeist at Busch Gardens Europe in Williamsburg, Virginia.

According to initial reports from James City County fire officials, the boy fractured his femur in two places while riding, at about 5:20 p.m. Now, here's where the story gets unusual. Park officials said that the victim suffered from a pre-existing medical condition that affected his legs. So, as a result, the teen was airlifted from BGE's parking lot to a Children's Hospital in Norfolk, which, apparently, is the only hospital in the area with experience treating this condition. (FWIW, I'm still awaiting word on what the condition is.)

Alpengeist is B&M inverted coaster, where riders' legs dangle freely during the ride. How that combined with whatever this condition turns out to be to result in multiple leg fractures, I suppose we'll have to await an explanation.

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Terrorist threats: Are theme parks safe?

By Erik Yates
Published: August 11, 2006 at 10:48 AM
With the recent discovery of a plot in London involving liquids and discharging explosives mid flight, it is abundantly clear that we are still at threat of a terrorist attack on US soil. With that clarity in mind, how long before plans are discovered or made to hit yet another symbol of American disregard, the theme park? I'm not saying that theme parks are bad places with a disregard for human life or values...far from it. I am, however, saying that many religions who see the U.S. as an enemy, could see the theme park industry as a prime target because of the fact that so many people spend their time and money there.

The first thing that pops into mind is, of course, Disney. It is the biggest theme park of them all, and certainly the most well known. Everyone has been expecting an air attack, but what about ground attacks? Are theme parks doing enough, by checking bags at the front gates to ensure no improper materials be brought in?
In recent months security has been scaled down at parks like Universal Orlando to help move lines quicker. Instead of checking everyone at admission gates, they check certain individuals at the parking center. Are these measures enough?
Many parks say a resounding yes, saying that not only have their own security forces been stepped up, but the hiring of offduty sherriff employees as well.

Will this latest discovery have an effect on the still faltering tourist industry in Florida with the "British Invasion" currently weeks from hitting its peak? Experts say yes. This could cause enough panic, and frustration at the airports to keep many people away from traveling. The good news in this, you may see theme park prices lowering due to falling attendance. And you may see more parks adapting Universals "Kids Stay Free" way of marketing. Either way you look at it, its not good news for the theme park industry.

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Huss Rides files for bankrupcy

By Jake Countiss
Published: August 7, 2006 at 10:16 PM
Screamscape has reported that Huss Rides, a German Company has just filed for bankrupcy. This seems to be pretty shocking because they seem to have rides popping all over the place. For anyone that dosen't know, Huss built flat rides and they are also the creater of the Giant Frissbee, and the Top Spin flat rides. Huss will be missed.

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Are Disney's higher ticket prices setting a bad precedent?

By Erik Yates
Published: August 7, 2006 at 8:47 AM
Walt Disney World has raised its prices for yet a second time this year, pushing the price to over sixty dollars for a single day base ticket admission. Polls all over have indicated that people dont want to pay the price, but yet people still flock to that park in record numbers despite rising gas prices and cost of living increases. With two raises in price in a year will disney see a bottom of this barrel and end up paying the price with a sudden drop in attendance? Can the other parks afford to do the same thing? For example in Orlando you have two other parks, as well as Busch Gardens in Tampa. They have all raised prices this year, it seems only because disney has done it. Should they raise prices, or should they take the more business like approach and not only keep prices the same, but capitlize that disney keeps raising prices. Eventually gas will get so high that people wont be able to afford to go to the big parks.

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Six Flags continues to plummet

By Russell Meyer
Published: August 3, 2006 at 8:45 PM
Washington Post 8/3/06

I caught this article skimming the Post this afternoon and was startled by the continued slide of the Six Flags chain. It seems that Dan Snyder and Mark Shapiro still have not found a winning combination in the theme park business as the regional park chain operated in the 2nd quarter 2006 with a $39.6 million loss in addition to having their corporate outlook downgraded from "stable" to "negative" by Moody's Investors Service. To make matters worse, the 14% decrease in attendance doesn't even include the three parks that Six Flags is in the process of selling, which includes the former "flagship" park, Six Flags Magic Mountain.

While I have noticed many of the changes that Snyder's group has made to the parks, most notably the $15 parking and stronger character presence in the parks, it seems to not have dramatcally changed the profitability of the parks. After criticizing Cedar Fair for blaming lower than expected profits on weather, Shapiro now turns to heat waves in the Midwest and torrential rain in the East for the surprising downturn in attendance. However, Shapiro also notes that customer satisfaction is up, and in-park spending is also higher than last year.

What Snyder and Shapiro don't understand is that when guests begin to realize that a season pass is probably going to cost twice as much for 2007 (Snyder had not taken control of the parks in time to change pass prices for 2006), Six Flags will lose its core audience, and have millions of dollars of rides and attractions that will not be geared to the day-trip guests that will likely frequent the park in coming years.

If Dan Snyder thinks he can change this franchise overnight, this financial report should prove to him that turning around a loser of a theme park chain is much more difficult than running an NFL franchise.

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That's one way to get cheap tix: Cops bust Busch ticket scheme

By Robert Niles
Published: August 3, 2006 at 8:50 AM
Police in Virginia have arrested a 21-year-old Busch Gardens Europe employee in a discount ticket scheme.

According to a Hampton Roads Daily Press report, Justin Sands, a front gate employee, would pocket visitors' tickets as they entered the park, instead of scanning (and voiding) them. Sands then allegedly sold the $52 tickets online for $10 to $20 each.

Busch Gardens wouldn't comment. Sands is facing felony embezzlement charges.

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Orlando's Islands of Adventure shut down Tuesday evening

By Gareth H
Published: August 1, 2006 at 9:49 PM
A hit and run driver forced the closure of Univeral's Islands Of Adventure in Orlando, Florida, this evening.

The hit and run happened on a slip road, leading onto the I4, WestBound, that virtually runs parallel to the Universal Resort.

The driver of the car that hit and injured an Orange County deputy evaded police and an all out search is currently underway at IOA, forcing a complete block off of the Universal Resort. Police bloudhounds were led through CityWalk and the trail led the Deputies into IOA.

Currently all visitors to the parks are having to provide valid ID to exit the park and no one is allowed in.

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Keep reading: July 2006 Archive

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