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January 2007

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Busch Gardens makes official: SheiKra to go floorless

By Robert Niles
Published: January 30, 2007 at 9:58 PM
The announcement will come in a conference all at 10:30 Wednesday morning, but that's 7:30 a.m. L.A. time, and I'll be rushing to get the kids off to school then. So I'll jump the gun on news many of us already know about anyway.

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay will announce tomorrow that its B&M Dive coaster SheiKra will become a B&M floorless dive coaster later this year.

Don't know the exact date yet, but I assume that the change on the SheiKra trains will come sometime after sister park Busch Gardens Europe debuts its B&M floorless dive coaster, Griffon, in May. That way, Griffon can retain the title as "world's first" of this model.

[FWIW, all the promotional material I've gotten from Busch on this announcement has been branded "Busch Gardens Tampa Bay," and not "Busch Gardens Africa." But the stuff I've been getting from Williamsburg has been using the new, continental name, "Busch Gardens Europe." Just noticed that. Is something up with this, or is BGT/A (wow, what an acronym *there*) just burning through old letterhead?]

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Rumors swirl over 'Harry Potter Island' at Universal Orlando

By Robert Niles
Published: January 29, 2007 at 3:07 PM
Whispers are building to a roar that NBC Universal's about to announce the first major change to Universal's Islands of Adventure since the park opened in 1999.

Arthur Levine sends word from About.com that "Universal's creative wizards plan to substantially change one of the park's five islands and re-theme it to the stories and characters of one of the most popular children's franchises. And I mean hugely popular."

A TPI reader wrote "Rumour has it that IOA is going to be rethemeing an area of the park with some major new attractions.......what should this be...Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings......I have heard that Harry Potter is a goer........thoughts or any information?"

Playing process of elimination: There's no way Universal would scuttle the theme for Seuss Landing... or Marvel Island... or Jurassic Park.

That leaves... "Toon Lagoon," which could have a new cartoon-related theme imposed on it relatively easily.

Or... "Lost Continent," which could be morphed into a LotR or Harry Potter Island with little effort. (Save for a stunning new attraction, of course.)

Of the two, Lost Continent has, by far, the weaker overall identity. Plus, the Sindbad show could be swapped for another theme with minimal fuss. And the Poseidon show takes up a large footprint which could be given over to a more impressive ride or show. I would think Dueling Dragons would have to remain, but its backstory could be made to fit any Dragon-friendly narrative. (Like, oh, say, Harry Potter....)

What are you rooting for Universal to do with IoA?

Comments (29) | Archive Link

Legoland California announces record attendance, plus plans for 2007

By Robert Niles
Published: January 25, 2007 at 3:36 PM
Legoland California drew 1.65 million visitors in 2006, a record for any Lego theme park, park officials announced today.

Amusement Business magazine estimated that in 2005 Legoland drew 1.4 million visitors, ranking the Carlsbad, California park 40th among U.S. theme and amusement parks. Legoland officials credit last year's Pirate Shores expansion for the attendance boost.

“The area was very well received. A record setting guest satisfaction of more than 97 percent helped the Park achieve summer and fall attendance 20 percent higher than the previous year,” John Jakobsen, Legoland president and general manager, said in a statement.

For 2007, Legoland will add Captain Cranky's Challenge, a swinging ship ride, to Pirate Shores. The ride is slated to debut in May.

On March 29, Legoland will unveil its other addition for 2007 -- Miniland Las Vegas. If you've paid close attention to the detail Lego adds to previous Miniland sections (check out New Orleans sometime), you, like me, probably can't wait to see what Lego drops into its version of Vegas.... "Uh, daddy, what are those little Lego people doing?" "Hey kids, look over there! Ice cream!"

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From Wall Street to virtual reality... wait, aren't they the same thing?

By Robert Niles
Published: January 25, 2007 at 12:35 PM
Several business stories from the past week to round up today....

  • Six Flags inks video game deal with Nintendo

    Nintendo's wii will be the official video game console at Six Flags, with in-park promotions promised for the upcoming year. Sounds like yet another of Six Flags' recent marketing deals (Papa John's pizza, etc.), until you remember that the second-biggest stockholder in Six Flags, behind Daniel Snyder was... Bill Gates.

    Yeah, that Bill Gates. Head of Microsoft. Maker of the XBox.

  • USA Today disses Six Flags stock

  • Disney World wins energy efficiency award

    The University of Central Florida lauded the Walt Disney Resort with the second-annual Florida Energy Achievement Award, for Disney's "Strive for Five" program to reduce its overall energy consumption by 5 percent. Congrats to Disney.

  • More good news for Disney, in Europe

    Attendance at Disneyland Paris/Walt Disney Studios Park was up 8 percent in the first quarter of this new fiscal year, leading to a 10 percent increase in theme park revenue.

    Trends, conclusions and conjecture from these stories are left to the reader ;-) Comment below....

    Comments (1) | Archive Link

  • Good-bye to Pressler... again

    By Robert Niles
    Published: January 22, 2007 at 9:50 PM
    Those of you with memories that stretch back more than a couple years surely will remember Paul Pressler, the one-time Disneyland President whose regime saw the beginning of a Web-based uproar over declining quality at the Anaheim, California theme park.

    Pressler got kicked upstairs to Disney corporate, overseeing Disney's theme parks around the world. Until he was lured away (just before he got pushed out the door, some say) to run The Gap, Inc.

    Well, until today. Pressler's out of a job now.

    Choice quotes:

    Gap Inc. dumped Paul Pressler as chief executive Monday after a year of broken promises that culminated in a dismal holiday shopping season to deepen the clothing retailer's misery.


    "This was a long time coming," said retail industry analyst Jennifer Black. "They need to bring in a visionary, an incredibly talented merchant who can see quite a ways into the future."

    Comment away....

    Comments (5) | Archive Link

    Let's go Colts!!!

    By Robert Niles
    Published: January 21, 2007 at 10:34 PM
    I saw my first Colts game in October 1980, I think, as the Colts beat the New England Patriots, in Baltimore. My Boy Scout troop from Indianapolis was on a "Mystery History" trip to the Washington, D.C. area and capped off the long weekend with an NFL game.

    No one had any idea that three and a half years later, I'd be parked on an Interstate overpass, between first and second periods at my high school, watching a convoy of Mayflower trucks bring those Colts from Baltimore to Indy. My parents applied for season tickets, but so did about 200,000 other Central Indiana families. Fortunately, some friends did get tickets and I saw two games in the (then) Hoosier Dome that fall.

    From the Mike Pagel era, through the Halloween Eric Dickerson trade, Jim Harbaugh's almost Hail Mary to the Steelers game last year (where the final minute never happened... because I just couldn't deal with it if it did), I've remained a Colt fan ever since.

    Patience, finally, delivers its reward. Tonight, the Colts beat the Patriots again, this time in Indianapolis, and this time to win the AFC Championship and a trip to the Super Bowl, in two weeks in Miami.

    Chicago, you're going down! ;-)

    This is an open thread. Talk football, or whatever else is on your mind this Sunday evening.

    Comments (18) | Archive Link

    Psyclone at Six Flags Magic Mountain being dismantled

    By John Quinteros
    Published: January 20, 2007 at 4:15 PM
    Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valenica, California will tearing down its Psyclone and Flashback roller coaster for "future expansion."

    The coasters are gone from the park's website and park officials are said to have confirmd the moves.

    The demise of Flashback, which hasn't operated for years, should be no surprise. But the removal of Psyclone, another coaster criticized for a rough ride, should provide further proof that Six Flags CEO Mark Shapiro is serious about repositioning the former "Xtreme Park" as a more family-friendly attraction.

    [Update: The L.A. Daily News adds to the story, quoting TPI. -- Editor.]

    Comments (7) | Archive Link

    New Disney attraction concept art released

    By Robert Niles
    Published: January 19, 2007 at 9:27 AM
    The Walt Disney Company has included concept art for several new attractions, including the Pixar-themed Midway Mania ride at Walt Disney World's Disney-MGM Studios and Disney's California Adventure.

    The pictures are available online as part of Disney's 2006 annual report to stockholders.

    The pictures include concept art for a new Disney theme park, though no details are provided. (To me, it looks somewhat DisneySea-ish.) The page also includes an image from a Pixar-themed racing car ride, also rumored for Disney's California Adventure.

    Comments (7) | Archive Link

    Six Flags renames Marine World 'Discovery Kingdom'

    By Robert Niles
    Published: January 18, 2007 at 9:40 AM
    More changes at Six Flags: Today, the chain announced that it is rebranding its Northern California park. Starting in March, Vallejo's Six Flags Marine World will be known as Six Flags Discovery Kingdom.

    (Wow. Um, ya think that maybe they're trying to sound a little like, oh, um, Disney with that new name?)

    The newly branded park will also divide into three themed lands, "Land," "Sea" and "Sky." From the press release:

    "The name Six Flags Discovery Kingdom now reflects every aspect of what makes the park so unique," said Six Flags President and CEO Mark Shapiro. "Throughout its history, Marine World offered guests a truly distinctive theme park environment, and Six Flags Discovery Kingdom will build and improve on that great tradition. Only at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom can guests ride world-class coasters, feed giraffes, interact with dolphins and watch a killer whale glide through the water, all in one location. A trip to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom will be an unforgettable experience that will create a lifetime of memories for our guests."

    Comments (8) | Archive Link

    Sugarland, Sara Evans headline SeaWorld concert series

    By Robert Niles
    Published: January 17, 2007 at 11:45 AM
    SeaWorld Orlando sends a reminder about its "Bud & BBQ" concerts, this month and next at the park. The four concerts, free with park admission, feature country and classic rock acts. Here is the lineup:

    Saturday, January 27 - Sugarland

    Saturday, February 3 - Sara Evans

    Saturday, February 10 - Dennis DeYoung: The Music of STYX

    Saturday, February 17 - Little Big Town

    All concerts start at 4 p.m., in the Bayside Stadium. In addition, SeaWorld will be offering special dining options on concert days, "including an all-you-care-to-eat barbeque buffet from noon to 3 p.m. and sampling booths available throughout the day."

    Archive Link

    Another death at a South Korean theme park

    By Robert Niles
    Published: January 15, 2007 at 11:12 AM
    A 38-year-old woman died at South Korea's Everland park yesterday. The woman was getting on the Magic Battle spinner ride when, reports say, she became frightened and tried to exit. The ride op did not see her and started the ride. The woman then was hit by one of the spinning ride vehicles.

    The woman suffered a broken neck and died.

    For more information, see The Korea Herald. The incident also is now listed on the Theme Park Insider Accident Watch.

    Theme park safety's become a hot issue in South Korea this month, following last week's announcement that Lotte World will close for several months to repair and renovate rides and other facilities, following several incidents at that park.

    Archive Link

    Universal Hollywood offers free tickets to park... and 'Today' show

    By Robert Niles
    Published: January 12, 2007 at 10:22 PM
    NBC's 'Today' morning show is coming to Universal Studios Hollywood next week. The show will broadcast live from the NBC-owned theme park on Wednesday, January 17. Fans can view the show in person for free, and all who attend will get a free one-day admission ticket to Universal Studios Hollywood as well.

    The catch?

    Well, remember when I said the show is broadcasting *live*? And did you know that folks back in New York see the show at 7am? And that USH is in LA, three hours earlier than NYC?

    That's right, you must be present at the USH front gate by 3:30 am to get in, see the show, and get your free USH ticket. The good news is that the USH ticket is good through December 31, 2007. So you can save it to visit USH on a later day... and go home after the show to sleep.

    Comments (3) | Archive Link

    Six Flags sells Elitch Gardens and Darien Lake, plus others, for $312 mil

    By Robert Niles
    Published: January 11, 2007 at 11:07 AM
    Six Flags today announced the sale of six of its properties to a group led by one of the founders of the original Six Flags Over Texas theme park.

    PARC 7F-Operations Corp. of Jacksonville, Florida, will buy Elitch Gardens in Denver, Darien Lake in Buffalo, N.Y., Wild Waves and Enchanted Village in Seattle, Frontier City and White Water Bay in Oklahoma City, SplashTown in Houston and Waterworld USA in Concord, California for a total of $312 million. The chairman of PARC is Michael Jenkins, a former vice president of Six Flags Over Texas.

    Money from the sale will go to help reduce Six Flags' $2.2 billion in corporate debt, accumulated when the former Premier Parks bought the chain and name from Time Warner, then went on an expansion spree just before the economy tanked in 2001.

    Full report from Bloomberg

    The sale does not include Six Flags Magic Mountain, which will remain open for the 2007. A Six Flags spokesperson said that the company is not actively looking to sell more parks, meaning that Magic Mountain will remain a Six Flags park for the near future... unless somebody with big bucks makes the company a huge offer.

    Comments (8) | Archive Link

    South Korea's Lotte World closes over safety concerns

    By Robert Niles
    Published: January 10, 2007 at 11:50 PM
    Lotte World, Seoul, South Korea's largest theme park, announced this week that it has closed for the next four months in order to inspect and repair its facilities.

    The park, which drew an estimated 6.2 million visitors in 2005, has suffered several highly publicized accidents in recent months. The incidents, coupled with poor maintenance, earned the park the nickname "Death World" among local scolds.

    The Korea Herald provides more detail:

    Last week, Dongyang Structural Engineers Group and the Korea Disasters Research Institute disclosed the results of their two-month examination of the amusement park, raising serious safety concerns.

    According to the examination, severe problems were found in four of Lotte World's facilities including the roller coaster ride, the movie theater, the swimming pool and the bumper car arena.

    More problems had been found in the aging ceilings of the indoor playground and the park's poorly managed electric equipment, which left exposed power lines near pedestrian areas.

    Warning of the possible collapse of ceilings and electric shocks or fires, the report had advised Lotte World to immediately renew its aging facilities.

    After the report was disclosed, the Songpa District Office ordered the amusement park to shut down six rides immediately.

    Just for perspective, Lotte World's attendance in 2005 (last year for which numbers are available) put it ahead of Universal Studios Florida, SeaWorld Orlando and Disney's California Adventure. So, for folks outside South Korea, it's not like we're talking about some small, obscure county-fair-type park here.

    Archive Link

    Great Britain loses one of its theme parks

    By Robert Niles
    Published: January 10, 2007 at 11:06 AM
    The American Adventure theme park in the United Kingdom has closed.

    The park's owners blamed poor attendance and have already sold off about half the attractions at the park. Park director Roger Lloyd said in a statement:

    "American Adventure theme park states that it has invested considerably in trying to make the Park a commercial success but a fall in attendances which has been experienced across the UK theme park market has proved impossible to overcome."

    Rival Alton Towers reported a slight increase in visitors last year, but rumors about American Adventure's future, coupled with a lack of new attractions, kept visitors away from it.

    American Adventure did not own its land, but instead leased it from Derbyshire County Council. The closure illustrates that although theme parks can be cash cows, if an owner does not invest in new attractions, a park will lose its market.

    For more: Report from Ripley & Heanor News

    Comments (3) | Archive Link

    Tigger: Friend of Pooh or Vigilante?

    By Erik Yates
    Published: January 8, 2007 at 9:47 AM
    First it was the groping incident. Now Tigger is beating children. At least thats the story a visitor to Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom is telling. A video was released Sunday showing a teenager jumping into a picture with his younger siblings with Tigger, when the costumed character turns and punches him in the face. You can view the video online at:

    It really doesnt seem like the hit was intentional, although other stories report the employee is already claiming self defense as the 14 year old was pulling Tiggers mask from behind.

    It seems that the family really over reacted demanding that "Tigger be a man and step out of the costume." Poor Tigger seems that he should try just a little harder to stay out of deep Pooh.

    Comments (18) | Archive Link

    'Back to the Future': Plans go back to the cutting room?

    By Gareth H
    Published: January 6, 2007 at 11:49 PM
    Ah ha, I have some important information regarding the closure of Back to the Future at Universal Orlando.

    After discussion with a Universal Studios Florida engineer (Will remain nameless) it has been made clear to me that the Simpsons Rumor is a diversion, apparently often used when a ride is to close.

    The replacement for the ride, date of full closure not yet decided, is one of two things.

    The first and least likely, is a BattleStar Gallactica ride. Although no details are available, it seems a viable option as the long running TV show is still current and still on Unversals "USA" channel.

    The second option which I'd guess would be more popular, is what we'd all suggested, a major re-work of the current ride. All current equipment would be removed and the ride would be completely re-made, although keeping with the current style.

    This of course is common among popular rides. Shrek will soon go through a change as a new film is due for release and the current 4D film is now dated (Go figure T2:3D)..

    So would you accept an updated version of the ride with (If they can pull it off) aged charactors, or old footage???

    [Previous: It's now official: 'Back to the Future' will be part of the past]

    Comments (7) | Archive Link

    Sexual assaults alleged at Universal and on Disney Cruise Line

    By Erik Yates
    Published: January 5, 2007 at 11:10 AM
    The security is in question not only at Universal Orlando where a woman claims she was sexually assaulted in the Express Line for the Revenge of the Mummy, but also a 13-year-old Canadian Tourist was sexually assaulted aboard the Wonder, part of the Disney Cruise Line.

    In the case of Universal, the woman said that she asked who she thought was a Universal employee about the entrance to the line when she was grabbed and drug down an emergency exit hallway and assaulted. She fought her way from the man and went screaming into the rest of the line.

    In the case of Disney, the girl was told to follow someone who she thought was a Disney employee because he wanted "to show her something". When she wouldn't agree, she was threatened to be thrown overboard. The suspect in that case is in custody while the suspect in the Universal case remains at large.

    In both cases, a prime example is set about the lack of security and the need to increase watch and awareness. Still with as many people that visit each area on a daily basis, the fact that these have been the only occurances says that where there are crowds, there are bound to be a few bad apples.

    More: WFTV Orlando and WESH Orlando

    Comments (7) | Archive Link

    Alton Towers fails restaurant inspection

    By Chris P.
    Published: January 4, 2007 at 4:31 PM
    Most of the restaurants in Alton Towers failed an inspection yesterday conducted by food hygiene experts at the park. Only four restaurants were up to standards and requirements.

    Big chain outlets like KFC and McDonald's have now been ordered to "clean up". The KFC in the park was the worst, where hygiene was so bad it did not meet legal requirements.

    Even the park's own staff restaurant was said to be unhygienic.

    Examples of faults were dirty sweet scoops, damaged kitchen worktops and lack of hot water.


    Has anyone ever had any problems with Alton's restaurants?

    Comments (1) | Archive Link

    Disney closes more Pleasure Island clubs to under-21 crowd

    By Robert Niles
    Published: January 3, 2007 at 3:56 PM
    Starting this week, Disney is raising the minimum age to enter several Pleasure Island nightclubs to 21.

    Mannequins had long been a 21-only club, but 8Trax, BET, Motion and Rock and Roll Beach Club had allowed younger guests in (though, of course, they could not buy alcohol). Now those clubs also will bar entry to minors.

    Teens and young adults still can get into the Adventurers Club and the Comedy Warehouse, provided they come in with an adult. (Those two clubs, unlike the others, are oriented to entertainment beyond dancing and also rely more on waiters rather than bartenders for drink service, making carding easier.)

    Comments (9) | Archive Link

    Disneyland brings back 2fer deal, puts Chili Peppers on coasters

    By Robert Niles
    Published: January 2, 2007 at 11:31 AM
    Disneyland's offering two promotions, one old and one new, to pump attendance in the traditionally slower post-New Year's period.

    In what is becoming an annual rite, Disneyland will offer its 2fer deal, where Southern California residents who buy a one-day ticket to Disneyland get a second day ticket for California Adventure free. (Yes, you can do it the other way around, but let's be honest here... I'd guess 99 percent of folks don't.)

    The new promotion is new soundtracks on Disneyland's Space Mountain and California Adventure's California Screamin' roller coasters. The Red Hot Chili Peppers provide both, with "Higher Ground" playing on Space Mountain and "Around the World" on Screamin'. (Uh, isn't that backward... when you think about it?)

    The Chili Peppers soundtracks will run on the two coasters from Jan. 3 through April 26.

    Comments (2) | Archive Link

    Watching the 2007 Rose Parade... from the end of the route

    By Robert Niles
    Published: January 1, 2007 at 1:57 PM
    Sure, you could watch the Rose Parade on TV with millions of other viewers around the world, and see the floats, bands and equestrian units of the world-famous parade when they are fresh for the cameras.

    But where's the fun in that?

    Instead, let's head five and a half miles down Colorado and Sierra Madre Boulevards, to the end of the Rose Parade route, where Theme Park Insider watches the parade every year.

    This is where the band members are tired, the horses are peeing freely and some floats are busted, retracted or just shut down. (Rose Parade floats over a certain height must retract to get under the I-210 overpass near the end of the route.)

    Kudos to all those parade participants who don't let that killer distance bother them, and still manage to give us folks at the back of the route a good show. The Oklahoma Centennial Honor Band, for example, broke ranks to greet the crowd with much enthusiasm. So we treated them to chocolate doughnuts, which they scarfed like, well, a bunch of teen-agers who'd just hiked five miles lugging band instruments.

    Chewbacca greets the crowd on the Endor float, leading the "Star Wars Spectacular" unit in the 2007 Rose Parade. Despite the "spectacular" name, both floats in the unit kept their animation elements lowered and shut down after going under the I-210 bridge.

    "Star Wars" fans dressed in stormtrooper gear mass for the 2007 Rose Parade. What makes this picture though is a friend wearing a cap for "Carrie Fisher's Wishful Drinking," now playing at the Geffen in L.A. and much inspired by life with the folks above.

    Okay, we're stretching for a theme park connection here, but American Honda's float in the 2007 Rose Parade featured these... dueling dragons.

    Disney did not have a float in the 2007 Rose Parade, but the City of Anaheim celebrated its 150th birthday.

    The Notary Association float was one of the few to raise its animation elements after lowering them to get under the I-210 bridge in the 2007 Rose Parade.

    Happy New Year from Pasadena, California, to everyone on TPI! (For more pictures, see Robert's wife's account on Violinist.com.)

    Comments (2) | Archive Link

    Keep reading: December 2006 Archive

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