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April 2007

Employee killed by roller coaster at Legoland Denmark

By Robert Niles
Published: April 30, 2007 at 4:32 PM

A Legoland Denmark employee died yesterday after a roller coaster car struck her at the Billund theme park.

I've not yet found details on which ride killed the 21-year-old woman, but reports from the park say that she jumped a security fence to retrieve a customer's wallet, which would lead me to suspect that the employee was not trained on the attraction. (I can't image that any employee trained on a roller coaster ever would jump a ride fence while the coaster was in operation.)

The park is open, but the ride closed as police investigate.

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Tokyo Space Mountain reopens

By John Quinteros
Published: April 29, 2007 at 3:51 PM

After being closed for more than 5 months, Space Mountain at Tokyo Disneyland reopened on April 27, 2007. MintCrocodile has submitted a video on youtube showcasing the ride.

The ride has been given some updating on the rockets, lift hills, the main ride itself (I think), and the rockets. The rockets however, still do not have a sound system. With this upgrade, every Space Mountain around the world has been given a refurbisment...well, except for Walt Disney World's.

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The Simpsons at Universal: Don't get too excited just yet!

By Gareth H
Published: April 26, 2007 at 1:38 PM

News I received from an attendee at the "Behind Closed Doors" at the Orlando Tourist Board Meeting, held at the Orange County Convention Center, on Tuesday, April 24th.:

Aparrently, Universal Studios have admitted that the New Simpsons Ride will be a very cheap re-fit of the Back to the Future Ride, incorporating existing fittings, especially the cars.

The overhaul and relaunch of the ride is to be as cheap as possible due to NBC's Minimal Spend approach.

This would be similar to the Jimmy Neutron Ride, which replaced Hanna Barbera a few years back!

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Reader needed for 'Journey to Atlantis' media day

By Robert Niles
Published: April 25, 2007 at 9:35 PM


I can't make it to San Antonio on May 11 for the media preview of the new Journey to Atlantis water coaster at SeaWorld San Antonio. So, in keeping with Theme Park Insider policy, I'm asking for a reader to volunteer to go in my place.

Here is the deal: You must be a registered member of Theme Park Insider, posting under your real name. I'll make the arrangement for you to get into the event, and you will need to post a report to the Blog Flume and update the attraction's listing page that same day. You should take digital photos and if you're good with the video camera, a video (uploaded to YouTube) would be good, too.

You don't need to be a trained journalist, but you need to be able to write well, take some good photos and handle yourself like a pro at the event. (You'll also have to find your own way to the park and back and provide your own camera.) The upside is that you get to be among the first to ride and you have the chance to talk with some of the people who put this thing together (and tell your fellow TPI readers about that, of course).

If you are in the San Antonio area and interested in the assignment, e-mail me using the link at the bottom of the page and write a few sentences telling me why I should select you for the gig.

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The theme park idiot of the week award

By Robert Niles
Published: April 25, 2007 at 9:05 PM

And the winner of today's "total idiot who used to work at a theme park award" goes to... the SeaWorld Orlando employee who told a co-worker "I'm going to do what happened at Virginia Tech here at Sea World," according to a sheriff's report.

Needless to say, said idiot is now a former SeaWorld employee and enjoying the hospitality of the Orange County Jail. Sheriff's deputies found no firearms in the accused's possession, just a paintball gun and a baseball bat in his car.

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It's Official: The Simpsons coming to Universal Orlando & Hollywood

By Robert Niles
Published: April 24, 2007 at 12:04 PM

Universal confirmed today the oft-discussed switch of its Back to the Future rides to new attractions based on the long-running animated TV show "The Simpsons."

From Universal's press release:

Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie Simpson – stars of TV’s longest running series – will ride along with guests in a new mega-attraction opening at Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood in Spring 2008.

Guests will be rocketed along with the Simpson family on a hysterical, almost unimaginable adventure. They’ll experience a side of Springfield previously unexplored as they enjoy the new ride’s interpretation of thrill rides, dark rides and “live” shows that make up a new fantasy amusement park dreamed up by the show’s cantankerous Krusty the Clown.

Universal’s award-winning creative team is collaborating with The Simpsons Creator and Executive Producer Matt Groening and Executive Producer James L. Brooks to create and open the first-ever mega-attraction based on the blockbuster TV series. It will feature the show’s classic humor and many of its instantly recognizable characters - all voiced by the original actors.

There's no name yet for the ride. Naming theme park attractions a tricky act in the Internet era. Ideally, you want a name where you can get the dot-com URL for a promotional website, that's easy to remember, and in this case, contains the brand name of the theme. ("The Simpsons") There's been speculation, though, that the name of these attractions might include the first names of the characters, but not the Simpsons family name.

Thanks to multiple TPI readers who posted this today.

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Busch Gardens Africa to unveil Sheikra's floorless cars this week

By Robert Niles
Published: April 22, 2007 at 9:35 PM

On Tuesday, Busch Gardens Africa will unveil to the press its new floorless cars for Sheikra, the park's B&M dive coaster which devuted two years ago.

Sheikra will close on May 28 for the renovations to switch over to the new floorless cars, which will debut on June 16.

The switch will follow the May 17 debut of Griffon, B&M's first floorless dive coaster, at sister park Busch Gardens Europe, in Williamsburg, Virginia.

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Walt Disney Company linked to project in Branson

By Ben James
Published: April 22, 2007 at 2:00 PM

I found this story on ksdk.com:

Could the Magic Kingdom be coming to southwest Missouri?

Speculation is increasing around Branson after a request for road improvements for a $1.1 billion theme park in Newton County.

Such rumors of the Walt Disney Company opening an attraction in Branson were common about a decade ago. But the recent road improvement request has county commissioners investigating whether Disney is involved in the theme park proposal made earlier this month.

A Springfield company called ARM Risk is behind the project. An early proposal includes the purchase of about a thousand acres of land. A hundred acres would be set aside for the park, and construction would include six hotels, 95 shops, 27 rides, 12 stages and 18 restaurants.

Officials at Disney declined to comment on a possible theme park in Missouri.

The Disney link arose when commissioners noticed that two of the three ARM owners have offices in Burbank, California, and Lake Buena Vista, Florida -- the corporate offices of Walt Disney
Company and Walt Disney World Resort.

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Griffon Testing at Busch Gardens Europe

By Fran Emory
Published: April 19, 2007 at 8:08 PM

I located this link of a test run on Griffon on the Busch Gardens Escape website. I would love to be one of these folks! I hope there is a "soft" opening, like the Park did with Alpengiest and Apollo.

The link takes a few minutes to download.



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Legoland Kansas City one step closer to reality

By Robert Niles
Published: April 18, 2007 at 10:53 AM

Our friends at the Kansas City Star sent word that Kansas City's proposed Legoland theme park is one step closer to being built.

The Lee's Summit Tax Increment Financing Commission (let's hear it for levels of bureaucracy I didn't know existed) voted 6-4 to recommend that the city council approve the project. The recommendation is essential given the way that Legoland wants to pay for the park, which would open in 2009.

Financing for the Lee's Summit project depends on revenue bonds to be repaid by local and state tax-increment financing and a Community Improvement District that adds an extra 1-cent sales tax.

The cost of constructing the Legoland theme park is estimated at $155 million, with the developers paying $48 million. Tax-increment financing, in which part of new tax revenue generated by development is used to pay some costs, would be used for such things as roads and infrastructure improvements.

The project, even if approved by Lee's Summit officials, is contingent on getting approval of a state TIF from the Missouri Department of Economic Development and from the General Assembly.

Developers said the city could gain $121 million in new revenue during the 23-year life of the TIF. The Lee's Summit School District would get an additional $51 million, they said, and Jackson County $84 million.

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New Storyline for Spaceship Earth at Epcot

By Mike Duchock
Published: April 16, 2007 at 8:43 AM

Mouseplanet.com's WDW Park Update is reporting that Spaceship Earth at Epcot is getting some major changes due to its new sponsorship with Siemens. Read the full article here: http://www.mouseplanet.com/articles.php?art=wd070416mg. The new storyline will show "how each generation of mankind has invented the future for the next generation, and how the spirit of innovation has moved people from the caves to the cosmos," according to a Disney press release.

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SeaWorld offering free admission in exchange for your photos

By Robert Niles
Published: April 15, 2007 at 9:21 PM

Got a bunch of photos from past trips to a SeaWorld theme park? SeaWorld would like to see them, and might give you a free pass for four to one of its theme parks in exchange.

The photos will go on a new SeaWorld website, and the company is looking for all sorts of photos, from shows to family candids, from recent trips as well as ones in the distant past.

Photos may be submitted via http://www.seaworld.com/share. You have to have contact info for everyone whose faces are shown in the photos and be willing to allow SeaWorld to republish them. If SeaWorld picks one of your photos for its site, the park will give you a family pass, good for four people to visit a SeaWorld park for a day. (There's no stated deadline for submitting, expect a note that the free ticket offer is "for a limited time.")

FWIW, we're always happy to get your attraction photos on TPI, too. Though, um, we don't have any tickets to give away.... :-(

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Disney World unions launch website profiling employees

By Robert Niles
Published: April 12, 2007 at 3:04 PM

A coalition of unions representing almost 30,000 workers at Walt Disney World has launched a website in an effort to draw public attention to those workers.

WeAreDisney.info offers personal stories from cast members as well as data about wages, benefits and other issues the unions see as important in ongoing negotiations with Disney.

From the press release:

WeAreDisney.info takes you behind the scenes to meet those who work so hard to make millions of visitors' dreams come true every year. Featuring profiles of Disney workers, also known as Cast Members, the site details their struggles to support themselves and their families.

The site also features the recently released study, "Walt Disney World's Hidden Costs: The Impact of Disney's Wage Structure on the Greater Orlando Area." The study shows that deteriorating wages at Walt Disney World led to an economic loss of $23.4 million to the greater Orlando economy in 2006.

The main contract, covering about 21,000 Disney cast members, expires April 28.

* * *
My $.02: I am a former Walt Disney World cast member and a progressive who thinks that union representation is essential in building and maintaining a strong middle class in society. I also believe that paying your employees a wage that allows them to support themselves and at least one dependent is key in not only attracting highly qualified employees, but also reducing employee turnover, minimizing training costs and improving customer experience.

Also, Econ 101 says that a company's labor costs have next to zilch effect on consumer prices. *Those* are determined by what the market will bear. If a company's raking it in at the box office, union representation's the best way to ensure that a bigger chunk of the revenue goes to the workers, and not to executives.

A bone to the other side: Smart union leaders negotiate over money and benefits. That's it. Don't try to usurp management's job. Let management be flexible about job definitions, assignments and duties, in exchange for more cash.

Okay, that was more than two cents' worth. But I wanted to get it out there to pre-empt any knee-jerk, dittohead responses bashing unions.

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Theme Park Insider's Google Map of all top U.S. theme parks

By Robert Niles
Published: April 11, 2007 at 7:00 PM

Ever wish you could have a Google Map of all the top U.S. theme parks?

Google Map of U.S. Theme Parks

I've put together a Google Map of the U.S. theme parks covered on Theme Park Insider, with links back to the TPI ratings and reviews pages for each park. The map should be quite handy to get custom driving directions to the parks.

The parks are listed in the left column in more-or-less west-to-east order. Or you can use the map interface to zero in on parks in your area.

Hope this helps!

Late add: Of course, the really cool part of this is that if you select the "Satellite" option you can see aerial views of all the parks!

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The strangest theme park injury yet....

By Robert Niles
Published: April 10, 2007 at 11:03 PM

I can imagine (and have seen) many different ways to get hurt in a theme park, but this has to be the most bizarre one yet.

This one's gonna end up in ER lore: "Um, you got hurt doing what?"

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Local promotion turns into gridlock at SFOG

By Ed Newman
Published: April 5, 2007 at 9:49 PM

This occurred on Thursday morning, April 5th. A radio station promotion for free tickets at Six Flags Over Georgia led the park to close its gates after heavy traffic, which started building at 3:30 am, shut down Interstate 20.

This week is Spring Break week for most metro Atlanta school systems (Six Flags is open daily this week). Not sure who is more to blame, SFOG or the local radio station which sponsored the promotion.


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Ask and ye shall receive; Universal Orlando to drop $100 mil on new attractions

By Robert Niles
Published: April 5, 2007 at 10:54 AM

Universal fans are buzzing about the company's latest SEC filing, which reveal plans to more than double capital spending, to "$100 million to $120 million" on shows and attractions in 2007. Universal told federal regulators that it plans to spend just $15 to $20 million of that on maintenance of existing rides.

(Background: All U.S. companies whose stock is traded through public exchanges must file quarterly statements with the SEC, the Securities and Exchange Commission, revealing how much money they've spent and earned, plus any plans they have which could affect their stock price.)

Universal's announcement lends support to rumors that the park is planning a major retheming of one of the IOA lands, possibly to a Harry Potter theme. Keep in mind that $100-$120 million is just what Universal's planning to spend this year. A newly rethemed land would not open until 2008, at the earliest, so additional funds for the project, presumably, would come from the 2008 budget, as well.

As I noted earlier this week, Universal's attendance has not kept up with rival Walt Disney World's, and has declined at IOA. Attendance remains down, 3 percent for the year, according to the SEC report. So Universal needs to do something to boost attendance. And the Blue Man Group, tweaked admission deals and another Orange County ad campaign won't cut it.

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2006 theme park attendance data released (finally!)

By Robert Niles
Published: April 3, 2007 at 6:26 PM

When Amusement Business magazine folded last year, many theme park fans wondered where we would be able to get a list of annual park attendance, since AB wouldn't be around to publish its annual list anymore. Well, AB's partner in producing that data, Economics Research Associates (ERA), has teamed up with TEA (formerly Themed Entertainment Association), to produce the TEA/ERA Theme Park Attendance Report.

As expected, Disney laid the smack down in 2006, posting strong attendance gains while Six Flags and Universal parks largely declined or remained flat.

Here are the world's top 10, for 2006:

  1. Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, 16.64 million, up 3 percent
  2. Disneyland, Anaheim 14.73 million, up 1.2 percent
  3. Tokyo Disneyland, 12.90 million
  4. Tokyo DisneySea, 12.10 million
  5. Disneyland Paris, 10.60 million
  6. Epcot, 10.46 million, up 5.5 percent
  7. Disney-MGM Studios, 9.10 million, up 5 percent
  8. Disney's Animal Kingdom, 8.91 million, up 8.6 percent
  9. Universal Studios Japan, 8.50 million
  10. Everland, South Korea, 7.50 million

And the top 10 U.S. theme parks, by attendance:

  1. Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, 16.64 million, up 3.0 percent
  2. Disneyland, Anaheim, 14.73 million, up 1.2 percent
  3. Epcot, 10.46 million, up 5.5 percent
  4. Disney-MGM Studios, 9.10 million, up 5.0 percent
  5. Disney's Animal Kingdom, 8.91 million, up 8.6 percent
  6. Universal Studios Florida, 6.00 million, up 1.2 percent
  7. Disney's California Adventure, 5.95 million, up 2.1 percent
  8. SeaWorld Orlando, 5.74 million, up 2.5 percent
  9. Universal's Islands of Adventure, 5.30 million, down 4.8 percent
  10. Universal Studios Hollywood, 4.70 million, flat

The next 10 North American parks are (in order):

  • Busch Gardens Africa
  • SeaWorld San Diego
  • Knott's Berry Farm
  • Canada's Wonderland
  • Cedar Point
  • Kings Island
  • Six Flags Great Adventure
  • Hersheypark
  • Six Flags Great America
  • Six Flags Magic Mountain

The largest year-over-year percentage attendance gain in the report was posted by Legoland California, which was up 16.6 percent to 1.66 million.

The full report is available online at http://www.connectingindustry.com/pdfs/TEA-ERAAttendance06.pdf (Yep, it's a PDF file. And a biggie.) For comparison, here is last year's AB report.

[Correction: Reader Travis points out that the reported attendance for Six Flags Great Adventure in the TEA/ERA report is larger than that of Hersheypark, which TEA/ERA lists one slot ahead of SFGAdv. I've flipped them in the rankings on this page as a result.]

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Busch Gardens Europe opens contest to ride 'Griffon' first

By Robert Niles
Published: April 3, 2007 at 4:05 PM

If you want to be on the first train of riders to go on Griffon, Busch Gardens Europe's new B&M floorless dive coaster, here's your chance.

Busch Gardens has opened its sweepstakes to pick the first riders for the launch party on Thursday, May 17. [Note: this is a change from the original date, which was the 18th. - Ed.] The entry form is online at http://www.buschgardens.com/bgw/sweepstakes_index.aspx.

Contest ends at 4 pm Eastern Time on April 30.

If you win, I trust that you will provide TPI with plenty of pictures and a trip report, of course. Good luck!

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Back to the Future - Closing Day

By Gareth H
Published: April 3, 2007 at 4:04 PM

As we all know, Back to the Future - the Ride, closed today after 16 years of entertaining, and inflicting pain, on thousands upon thousands of people.

I was there to see it close & all I can say is what a disappointment.

Universal Studios made no effort to remember this once great ride. There was No Marty, no Doc Brown. The only people there to recognise that this ride was closing were a hundred or so fans and some very local staff.

The only Media I saw, or in this case "Heard" make any mention of the closure was Orlando's O-Rock 105.9

There wern't even any notices in the park to let the guests know that today would be the last chance to get bumped "Back to the Future".... Only online did Universal pass on that today was the day.

Maybe it was kept low key because Universal are planning a re-launch of a new version of this classic? Only time will tell.

Well, goodbye Back to the Future, I hated you but I WILL miss you...

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Keep reading: March 2007 Archive