March 2007Subscribe: in a reader or via e-mail
By Robert NilesMy apologies for my lack of posts this week. I've been preparing for the online journalism conference I run at USC each spring. I've been so busy that I was not able to make it down the road to Carlsbad for Thursday's debut of Miniland Las Vegas at Legoland California.
Published: March 29, 2007 at 11:08 PM
More than two million Lego bricks went into the recreate of 10 hotels from the Las Vegas Strip, including the Luxor, New York, New York, Tropicana, Excalibur, MGM Grand, Paris, Mirage, Treasure Island, Venetian and the Stratosphere. (No Palms? No Hard Rock? Where will they put the little Lego Hilton sister getting plastered then?)
Images are courtesy Legoland California. I promise to get down there soon and snap a few photos of the detail.
By Gareth HLatest rumours from Universal Orlando:
Published: March 23, 2007 at 8:24 AM
Back to the Future, as we all know, will close March 30th. It seems that it won't be on the high Priority to replace just yet.
Battlestar Galatica is now a definate no-no so all it leaves is the Simpsons Rumour or the new "Back to the Future." Time will tell.
BUT, it seems high on the Priority list is a new ride next door at Islands of Adventure. As mentioned many months ago it has been mentioned to bee by a park employee (Who works within the maintenance dept. in Jurassic Park) that track is already being laid for a new coaster where the Robotic Dinosaur interaction area used to be.
It could be that this ride, if confirmed, may be open later this year, or next spring at the latest.
This would be a much needed addition to IOA as no new ride (With the exception of the Seuss Trolley) nhas been instaled in many years.
Universal, of course, had Revenge of the Mummy installed just 3 years ago.
Watch this space for updates!
By Robert NilesThe LA Times today refuels spectulation that Disneyland will soon announce another expansion to the Anaheim theme park resort.
Published: March 22, 2007 at 11:46 AM
Disney's been fighting an attempt by the city of Anheim to clear the way for an affordable housing project near the theme parks, in the city's designated resort district. And this week, the company announced it would seek a ballot initiative to strengthen the resort district zoning, requiring a city-wide vote before any exceptions to the tourism-only development in the area could be granted.
It's making people wonder if Disney's fighting residential development so hard because it has plans for more tourism development, beyond its existing two theme parks, three hotels and the Downtown Disney outdoor shopping mall.
From the article:
The company has slowly but steadily amassed 460 acres in Anaheim, including a prime chunk of strawberry fields down Harbor Boulevard from Disneyland that is the designated site of a third park.
By Russell MeyerBusch Gardens Europe in Williamsburg, Virginia has been working tirelessly since September 2006 on their newest roller coaster, Griffon. The 205-foot B&M dive machine now has its own dedicated website at:
Published: March 20, 2007 at 10:19 PM
The website indicates that the ride will open on May 25, 2007, which seems about right considering the amount of work that still needs to be done of the coaster. On Saturday, March 17, 2007, I attended passholder preview day, and while the track is completely finish, and the unique floorless, 10-seats-across trains were in the maintenance building, most of the landscaping and themeing were still to be completed, as well as the splashdown section of the coaster.
Guests can still marvel at this menacing new icon at Busch Gardens, but it appears the public will have to wait two more months to test out this beast.
By Robert NilesSome good news from SeaWorld today:
Published: March 16, 2007 at 1:19 PM
By Robert NilesThe Orange County Register's Yvette Cabrera invited a dietitian to join her on a visit to Disneyland recently, to check out the food options at the park.
Published: March 15, 2007 at 8:19 AM
Healthy eating has become a popular issue for theme parks, as parks announce plans to eliminate trans fats from their menus, and to offer other healthier dining options, especially for kids.
A Bloomberg report last year blasted the Magic Kingdom for its oversized, fat-laden fare. But Cabrera and dietitian Linda M. Gigliotti, from UC Irvine, found a reassuring number of healthy options this month at Disneyland.
"Sometimes the problem when you get into a controlled environment is that you're really stuck with what they have there," says Gigliotti. "I thought given the environment that it is, that they did have a good range of choices. There were vegetarian items; there were some low-fat items."
Are you looking for better food options at your favorite theme park? What have you found?
By Robert NilesOne of the recent trends in the theme park industry has been the addition of VIP programs, extra amenities that parks offer guests who are willing to pay extra for frills. Disney's long offered guided tours at its parks. Universal Studio Hollywood offers a hosted tour, with front of the line access. And the SeaWorld parks offer animal encounters, under the watchful eye of park trainers.
Published: March 14, 2007 at 12:43 PM
But Six Flags now is trying to out-do them all. The amusement park chain has announced a VIP ticket program that includes a slew of amentities for guests with extra cash to spend.
The cost? $249 per person, plus tax, at Magic Mountain, Great Adventure, Great America and Discovery Kingdom. $199 per person everywhere else.
The upshot of all this is that, for a thousand bucks, a family of four gets to do exactly what everyone in the family wants to do, without waiting for any of it.
I've been pricing a summer vacation up to the Bay Area this year, and after looking at $200-$300 nightly hotel rates in the tourist areas, a $250 theme park ticket no longer seems bizarre to me. Especially with all that's included here. (I can envision plenty of parents tempted by the thought of buying their elementary-aged son some one-on-one time with Batman and Superman, too.)
By Erik YatesIt seems that just about every single theme park company out there is being accused of patent infringment for using a magnetic breaking system. Safety Braking claims they hold exclusive licenses to the patents from Magnetar Technologies Corp., based in Seal Beach, California, and the other from G&T Conveyor Co., based in Tavares.
Published: March 7, 2007 at 5:33 PM
Safety Braking won the patents in 1994 and 2003.
This could mean that if the court decides in the favor of Safety Braking that all theme parks involved, including DISNEY, will have to pay hefty fines. More on this as it develops.
By Robert NilesLegoland owner Merlin Entertainment Tuesday bought U.K. theme park operator Tussauds in a billion-pound deal. Tussauds owns parks such as Alton Towers and Thorpe Park as well as the London Eye ferris wheel ride. Merlin, with financing from Universal Orlando co-owner Blackstone Group, in 2005 bought the Legoland theme parks from the family that controls the toy maker.
Published: March 5, 2007 at 11:14 PM
Throw in Merlin's Sea Life aquariums, and you've now got the new number two theme park company in the world, measured by guest visits, surpassing Universal and trailing only Disney.
Okay, trailing by a country mile. The new Merlin drew an estimated 30 million visitors last year, way behind industry leader Disney's 100+ million.
Here's more detail from UK's The Guardian newspaper.
By Robert NilesSeaWorld Orlando unveiled details about its Aquatica water park at a webcast press event this afternoon. The 59-acre park will open in March 2008 and will, in the words of SeaWorld's Jim Atchison, "blend up-close animal experiences with high-speed thrills and expansive beaches, all with a focus on great service."
Published: March 5, 2007 at 12:25 PM
Aquatica will offer a South Seas decorative theme but also include animals and flora from tropical environments around the world. The park will offer 36 water slides, six pools and lagoons and an 80,000-square foot beach. The park's signature ride will be a 300-foot water slide, with a 42-foot drop, that will take riders in clear tubes through a Commerson's Dolphin habitat. (These are the black and white dolphins that SeaWorld San Diego includes in its Journey to Atlantis ride.)
More details from today's press event:
One of park's two river rides will take riders under the Commerson's Dolphin habitat and through an underwater grotto filled with tropical fish. The other river will be focused on thrills, and move four times faster than its sibling. The park's twin waves pools can be programmed, in tandem, to offer nine different wave patterns. The park's beach will offer waiters and private cabanas.
Atchison promised that the new park will have "the highest attraction capacity of any park in Florida," helping to minimize wait times.
Finally, kudos to SeaWorld for webcasting the event. Having attended many theme park press events in the past, I know that parks sink much time and money into producing these shows. Why not show them to their fans on the Web? At best, a park might get a few seconds from its event on a local evening newscast. But with Web fans around the world, especially those economically important out-of-market fans, can see the entire thing.
By Robert NilesSeaWorld is inviting theme park fans to watch online Monday afternoon as it announces its newest theme park.
Published: March 4, 2007 at 5:37 PM
The webcast of the announcement starts at 2 p.m. Eastern Time on Monday, March 5. The webcast will be linked from SeaWorldOrlando.com.
This is the new water park, set to open next year that's been slated for the area across from the park. (We've been discussing the park for a while on the discussion board.)
By Robert NilesThe California Division of Occupational Safety and Health set up a battle with SeaWorld San Diego in a report released this week, warning that it is only a matter of time before one of the park's orcas kills a trainer.
Published: March 2, 2007 at 9:48 AM
The report was in response to an incident last year when a killer whale dragged a trainer under water.
The LA Times provides the details. The state lauded SeaWorld's training and declined to cite the park for any safety violations. But it noted an inherent risk in working with large, carnivorous animals.
SeaWorld ripped the state report, meeting with the state agency's district manager and asking him to withdraw the report.
"We have proven over 40 years that we are very safe," Mike Scarpuzzi, vice president of zoological operations at SeaWorld San Diego and a former whale trainer, told the LA Times.
"The emergency procedures worked," he said to the paper. "We have a whale and a trainer, and both are alive. That's a successful end."
Update: Just got this from Busch corporate:
I saw your post on the California thing. We had a call with Cal OSHA today and they have agreed to rescind the informational memorandum (the document on which Tony Perry's [LA Times] story is based) as well as rewrite the 13,000-word narrative summary. From the release that we expect to issue today:
By Robert NilesA couple stories out of Walt Disney World today:
Published: March 1, 2007 at 11:58 AM
First, Disney has confirmed the news that Kevin Yee reported last year, that there will be a new Downtown Disney-style mixed use development on the Western Beltway, for "value conscious" visitors. (As the All-Star Resorts were to the Contemporary and Polynesian, this will be to Downtown Disney, it appears.)
In addition, Disney will partner with the now Bill Gates-co-owned Four Seasons on a hotel to to open in 2010. As part of the development, the Osprey Ridge golf course will be rebuilt and rebranded as a Four Seasons property.
But the story you *really* want to talk about comes from Disney's Animal Kingdom. Lemme defer to the Orlando Sentinel's lead of the day:
A tussle between two workers in the hippo pond at Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom overnight ended with one man doused in gasoline and the other in jail, according to the Orange County Sheriff's Office.
Here's the rest of the story.
Keep reading: February 2007 Archive
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