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February 2008

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Eagles to open Hard Rock Park, June 2

By Robert Niles
Published: February 29, 2008 at 11:56 AM
It looks like the Eagles will headline the opening ceremony for Hard Rock Park, on June 2 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

The classic rock band will play at the park's entrance, followed the next day by another concert by the British band the Moody Blues, for the opening of the park's Nights in White Satin ride.

The park is expected to soft-open to the public in mid-April, with a media preview day in May.

Comments (5) | Archive Link

Busch's Worlds of Discovery coming to Dubai

By Mike Duchock
Published: February 28, 2008 at 10:03 AM
[Update, Feb. 4, 2009: The project is dead now.]

Busch is making it's first international expansion with Worlds of Discovery on The Palm Jebel Ali in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

The project will include all four of Busch's park brands: Busch Gardens, Sea World, Aquatica, and Discovery Cove. The project, a joint venture with real estate developer Nakheel PJSC, will open its first phase in 2012.

Concept art courtesy Busch

Nakheel will provide build and manage the project, under license from Busch. The project will be built on a killer-whale-shaped island, with SeaWorld occupying 107.5 acres on one end, Busch Gardens taking up 112.4 acres on the other, and Discovery Cove and Aquatica in the middle. In addition, there will be 10-acre "shopping, dining and entertainment" zone between SeaWorld and Aquatica.

Below, you can see how Worlds of Discovery will fit in with the rest of The Palm Jebel Ali, a series of man-made islands off the Dubai coast.

Concept art courtesy Busch

Comments (13) | Archive Link

'CSI: Live' coming to Magic Mountain

By Bradley Robertson
Published: February 27, 2008 at 4:54 PM
It looks as if Magic Mountain's push have more family oriented entertainment is going to be coming via a "CSI: Live" interactive stage show. The show has the audience solve crimes based on forensic evidence presented during the show. You can read the LA Times Travel blog entry here.

Now I don't regularly watch CSI, but I do know that sometimes the crime scenes can be fairly graphic. Is it safe to assume that this stage show will be toned down to accommodate younger audiences, or do you think they will put a disclaimer that "this show may be too intense for younger audiences?"

Comments (4) | Archive Link

Disney to sell time shares in tower next to Contemporary Resort

By Mitchell Botwin
Published: February 26, 2008 at 4:47 PM
Walt Disney Co. will be creating the "Kingdom Tower" next to the Contemporary Resort. The $110 million dollar complex will be 15 stories and will be the 9th component of the Disney Vacation Club.Expected completion is the fall of 2009. The Orlando Sentinel has the Disney exclusive.

Comments (3) | Archive Link

Vote of the week: Early bird or night owl?

By Robert Niles
Published: February 22, 2008 at 10:12 PM
I've long advocated that people get to parks early in the morning, to get rides on a park's most popular attractions before the lines get long. But not every one's an early bird, and hauling yourself out of bed hours before normal ain't much of a vacation for most folks.

So... what kind of theme park visitor are *you*?

Notice that I didn't allow "both" as an option. ;-) Ya gotta pick one. Discuss in the comments, please!

Comments (27) | Archive Link

Six Flags CEO talks up Magic Mountain plans

By Robert Niles
Published: February 22, 2008 at 10:09 AM
I was laid up with a nasty bug yesterday, so I was not able to get out to Six Flags Magic Mountain for a meet and greet with CEO Mark Shapiro and park president Jay Thomas. So I will have to direct you to the LA Daily News' coverage of the meeting, instead.

The suits announced that Magic Mountain will be getting a new, unspecified thrill ride in 2009. Otherwise, the focus was on the previously announced X2 and the Thomas Town kiddie area.

I've got an invite to come back and talk with the new SFMM park president (when I'm not longer a semi-conscious germ, of course....) so if readers have some questions they'd like me to ask, post 'em in the comments.

Comments (4) | Archive Link

Officials stop work on Six Flags Batman coaster

By Robert Niles
Published: February 21, 2008 at 3:05 PM
The building inspector in Agawam, Mass. has ordered Six Flags New England to stop work on The Dark Knight Coaster, under construction at the park. The Batman-themed indoor roller coaster is slated to debut at SFNE, as well as several other Six Flags parks, later this spring.

According to an AP report, town officials claim that Six Flags began work before having the proper permits and permissions in place. There's a meeting coming up on March 5, to sort out the snag.

Comments (4) | Archive Link

Disney's Hollywood Studios veteran to take Ops post at Disneyland

By Robert Niles
Published: February 21, 2008 at 3:00 PM
It looks like Disney's selected a replacement for Greg Emmer, the highly regarded Disneyland operations chief who resigned earlier this year.

And, yes, the Mouse House stayed in-house, moving Michael O'Grattan, V.P. at Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World across the country to rejoin the Disneyland team.

Comments (1) | Archive Link

Knott's announces Spring Safari

By Robert Niles
Published: February 20, 2008 at 12:13 PM
SoCal parents take note: Knott's Berry Farm is offering its "Snoopy’s Spring Safari" this year from March 15-31. Located in Camp Snoopy, the event features a special show, along with new walk-through attractions.

From Knott's press release:

Join the Peanuts gang in “Charlie Brown’s Jungle Journey” at the Camp Snoopy Theatre. This live musical revue stars Charlie Brown and his closest pals in an adventure through some uncharted terrain where you never know what you will encounter.

At the Lost Ruins of the Golden Beagle, Snoopy greets explorers and sends out safari teams through an interactive jungle that offers up more fun than fear and ends with the sweetest of treats.

On Linus’ Adventure Trail explorers will have to keep their balance across the barrel bridge and navigate through a cave before reaching the Bug Bungalow, where they will get up close and personal with the creepy-crawlies of the Safari.

The event is included in regular admission, which runs $19.99 for kids, 3-11. Adults can get into the park for $28.99 with a coupon from Albertson's, available March 13.

Archive Link

Indiana Beach Sold

By Domenik Jost
Published: February 20, 2008 at 10:45 AM
After 80 years of being a family operation, the Indiana Beach Resort, which has 6 roller coasters and more than 30 different rides and attractions, has been sold.. The resort was bought up by family owned Morgan RV Resorts.

Here is what the Indianapolis Star had to say about these news.

Comments (5) | Archive Link

Simpsons exterior is wrapping up at Universal Studios Florida

By Scott Marlow
Published: February 18, 2008 at 11:38 PM
On my trip to Universal Studios Florida this weekend, I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse "behind the fence" at the new Simpsons Ride.

From what I could see, it looks like they are just about done with the sidewalk out front, and the building looks ready, although I did hear a rumor about a giant Krusty the Clown Face going up on the building.

The "Kwik-E-Mart" gift shop redesign was done well, and there were also several carts selling Simpsons Merchandise around the World Expo area. Now all we need is an opening date, and it'll be time to plan the return trip!

Comments (7) | Archive Link

Vote of the week: Have you worked in a park?

By Robert Niles
Published: February 15, 2008 at 8:27 PM
This week's question just popped into my head. It doesn't really have anything to do with trip planning, but as a former Disney World cast member, I am curious:

By "worked in a park," I am talking about fixed-site theme and amusement parks, where your primary job assignment was to work inside the park -- and not for a parent company or subsidiary elsewhere. (So, for example, working at Disney-owned ABC and being assigned to go down for a shoot one day at Disneyland doesn't count.)

If you have worked in a park, please share a favorite story from your time as an employee, in the comments. And if not, share a favorite story about a theme park employee. Heck, maybe s/he's reading!

Comments (17) | Archive Link

Disney's Night Kingdom?

By Jason Jackson
Published: February 15, 2008 at 7:56 PM
Came across this blog about a proposed 5th Disney Park at WDW called Disney's Night Kingdom. Sounds interesting...

[The park would be Walt Disney World's fifth, would open in late afternoons... and charge between $250-300 per person. Think a Disney version of Discovery Cove. Look for a 2011 opening.]

Comments (8) | Archive Link

New attraction spotlight: Evel Knievel

By Robert Niles
Published: February 15, 2008 at 12:14 PM
Six Flags St. Louis isn't one of the country's more popular theme parks, so it isn't one we devote much attention to on Theme Park Insider. But this year, the park, the last built especially for the Six Flags chain, will debut an intriguing wooden roller coaster: Evel Knievel.

Evel Knievel roller coaster construction photos
Construction photos courtesy Six Flags

The $7 million CGI design, named for the late motorcycle daredevil, will boast an 80-foot drop and a top speed of 50 mph. The park promises 16 hills and a track that crosses itself 14 times, so expect a typically wild, woodie-type ride, instead of the smooth, sweeping B&M arcs that many parks have been so eager to install over recent years.

The park is shooting for a "mid-summer" opening date, and the minimum height on the ride will be 48 inches.

Comments (2) | Archive Link

Disneyland trying House of Future concept again

By Robert Niles
Published: February 13, 2008 at 10:29 AM
It looks like Disneyland is going to revive its "House of the Future."

The House was a Tomorrowland fixture back in the 1950s, and was later stripped, boxed up and moved to Florida, where it is now rotting, I believe, on U.S. 192 in Kissimmee. Disney's revisited the concept of futurist living over the years more times than I can count: Carousel of Progress, Horizons, the old Space Mountain exit, to name three examples that pop into my head immediately.

Now reports say that Disney's trying again, with a 5,000-sq.-ft. home that will open in Tomorrowland in May.

The $15 million home is a collaboration of The Walt Disney Co., Microsoft Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., software maker LifeWare and homebuilder Taylor Morrison.

Visitors will experience the look of tomorrow by watching Disney actors playing a family of four preparing for a trip to China.

"It's much different than a spiel that you would get at a trade show," said Dave Miller, director of alliance development for Walt Disney Parks & Resorts. "We won't get into the bits and the bytes. It will be about the digital lifestyle and how that lifestyle can help you."

Comments (12) | Archive Link

TPI reader contest: Best reports on new parks

By Robert Niles
Published: February 11, 2008 at 9:51 PM
Planning on visiting Aquatica or Hard Rock Park during their soft openings? Want to spread the word about these new parks, and possibly make a few bucks?

Then we've got a contest for you!

I'm opening up a pair of trip report contests, starting right now. The winner of each contest will get $250, and there might be runner-up awards of $100 each, based on the number and quality of entries received.

So what's the contest? I'm looking for the best reader-written report on Aquatica and Hard Rock Park. Here's what you need to do to enter: Visit either park, either during soft opening or its first week of "official" operation. Take notes, take pictures, then post a detailed trip report here to the Blog Flume.

You'll increase your odds of winning by taking photos of the attractions at each park and posting them to the relevant attraction listing pages here on Theme Park Insider. And if you really want to make your case, shoot a video, submit it to TPI's YouTube group and embed it in your trip report. (Also, we need the attraction line-up for Aquatica submitted through our Aquatica listing page.)

I'll read all the entries and pick the winner(s). It's $250 for the best overall report for each park, and if I have a hard time picking a winner, I'll give $100 each to up to three runners-up.

Here's what I am looking for:

  • Detailed descriptions of each new attraction, ones that put these rides, shows and exhibits in context with existing attractions. Describe, compare and contrast.
  • Fresh, sharp and concise writing.
  • Vivid photography that helps readers fell like they are standing right there.
  • Early reports. In case of tie, the report submitted first wins.
  • Reports submitted under real names, not pseudonyms.

    Here's what I am not looking for:

  • Pictures and video taken in violation of parks' safety policies. (This will DQ an entry.)
  • Words or images you poached from another site. (Also a DQ.)
  • Your opinions or conclusions, without supporting evidence.
    Don't tell us what you thought -- tell us what you saw, how you physically felt and how that compared with other parks. We will decide, then, whether the park sounds worth visiting or not.

    The Aquatica contest ends March 8. [Okay, let's make it March 10 instead.] The Hard Rock Park contest ends May 3 8. I will look through Blog Flume submissions, attraction photo submissions and attraction vote comments to select the winners. The decisions will be made by myself alone and all decisions are final. Payment will be by check, in U.S. dollars. You must be a registered member of Theme Park Insider in order to post and, therefore, to be eligible.

    Have fun with this one, and I, along with other TPI readers, look forward to reading your reports!

    Comments (4) | Archive Link

  • Four hurt after engine blaze at Animal Kingdom

    By Robert Niles
    Published: February 11, 2008 at 1:36 PM
    An engine fire at Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney's Animal Kingdom in Florida yesterday injured four people and shut down the ride for the day.

    Multiple sources quote a park official as reporting that an engine hosed failed, starting the fire. Three people were treated at the scene for minor injuries, and a girl was taken to Celebration Hospital for a reported knee injury, after jumping from the vehicle.

    The ride opened again this morning.

    Comments (5) | Archive Link

    Vote of the week: Carnival games

    By Robert Niles
    Published: February 8, 2008 at 2:34 PM
    I know that this isn't an issue for most Disney theme park visitors, 'cause Walt is said to have ordered carnival games kept away from Disneyland (an order the Mouse House has, for the most part, followed in its theme parks).

    But elsewhere, carnival games are a prominent part of many theme and amusement parks. Do you think these games are fun? Or a waste of money and time?

    Talk about your view of carnival games (and your favorites, if you do play them), in the comments.

    Comments (9) | Archive Link

    Disney World announces 'American Idol' attraction

    By Robert Niles
    Published: February 7, 2008 at 4:32 PM
    Well, I suppose this was inevitable....

    Walt Disney World announced today that it will bring an "American Idol" attraction to Disney's Hollywood Studios, in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. The show will put park guests in competition with each other for... a front of the line shot at an "American Idol" regional audition.

    American Idol at Disney's Hollywood Studios
    Image courtesy Disney

    From Disney's press release:

    [The] experience will include an audition process, open to all who register, where guests perform “live” in front of a Disney’s Hollywood Studios producer to be cast in a theme park show. After backstage preparation -- working with a vocal coach, hair and make-up -- it’s lights up and showtime in front of a “live” audience and a panel of judges.

    Guest performers with the highest votes will compete in an end-of-day Grand Finale show at Walt Disney World, and the winner of the Grand Finale show will receive a guaranteed reservation for a future regional stadium audition -- to ensure no waiting in long lines.

    The show will debut at Disney's Hollywood Studios in late 2008.

    Comments (13) | Archive Link

    Hard Rock Park names new General Manager

    By Robert Niles
    Published: February 7, 2008 at 12:31 PM
    Hard Rock Park is just two months from its soft opening, and the park's putting its operations management team in place.

    The Myrtle Beach, South Carolina park announced today that it has hired Dale Kaetzel, former GM and senior VP at Canada's Wonderland, to be the general manager of Hard Rock Park. Kaetzel's a long-time Paramount Parks executive, having worked at four of the former chain's parks, according to a Hard Rock Park press release.

    Any Canadian readers care to comment on how the park ran under his watch there?

    Comments (4) | Archive Link

    "These results once again highlight the quality of our content"

    By Mitchell Botwin
    Published: February 6, 2008 at 9:42 AM
    Disney posted earnings for investors that were strong thanks to the theme parks and TV. The headline is part of the quote by Iger that was released with the results on the Orlando Sentinel.

    The diversity of Disney allows them to handle a rough economy, but you wonder how much of the new construction will be impacted if we go into recession.

    Comments (8) | Archive Link

    New attraction spotlight: River Battle at Dollywood

    By Robert Niles
    Published: February 5, 2008 at 3:28 PM
    Well, the darn groundhog saw its shadow, but the emerging construction at theme parks around the world shows that spring is on its way. Each week for the next few weeks, I'll post here on TPI links and concept art or construction photos for new attractions.

    First up is River Battle at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. This is the third U.S. installation of the the 3DBA Splash Battle attraction, following the Pirate-themed Splash Battle at Legoland California and an initial installation at Indiana Beach.

    River Battle concept art, courtesy Dollywood
    Concept art courtesy Dollywood

    The ride puts visitors in rafts, where they can aim individual water cannons at targets around the course, or, more likely, at other boats. Cannons also will be pointed at the course from the shore, letting waiting visitors in on the action. Dollywood estimates an 800-person/hour ride capacity, so even though you might envision this wet ride as perfect for mid-afternoon, you'll probably want to hit it earlier in the day, before the queues get too long.

    Dollywood's aiming for a "spring" opening, and the park opens for the season on March 21. If you can't wait, you can play Dollywood's online River Battle target game to practice your aiming skills.

    For a list of other upcoming theme park attractions, check out TPI's page on What's New or Under Construction at Top Theme Parks.

    Comments (3) | Archive Link

    Coming to a Six Flags near you: more ads

    By Robert Niles
    Published: February 4, 2008 at 9:53 AM
    Six Flags is spreading word within the media community of increased as sales opportunities within its parks.

    Theme parks long have sold sponsorships of attractions and restaurants within their parks as a way to offset the massive cost of building these places. Walt Disney himself was a master at this; hustling sponsorships from TV networks and soda pop companies to get Disneyland built. So fans have gotten used to in-park branding; the question is, though, at what point does the in-park branding detract from the theming of the in-park experience.

    Six Flags is promoting its new Six Flags Media Networks, which will sell in-park ad placement on signs, in-queue TVs, park maps, attraction ride units and through wireless networks.

    The company's facing ongoing financial challenges, as it works to pay off debt while attracting more-lucrative family consumers to what had become teen-dominated thrill parks. And ads are one quick way to bring in more revenue. But will they drive away the visitors that Six Flags needs to attract?

    Comments (9) | Archive Link

    Vote of the week: Best destination for visiting outside the parks?

    By Robert Niles
    Published: February 1, 2008 at 4:14 PM
    Sorry for the lack of posts over the past few days. But here's something to talk about over the weekend.

    By the fact that you are on this site, I'm pretty confident that I can assume you like visiting theme parks. But there are other things one can do on a vacation in addition to visiting the parks. I've picked five U.S. destinations with top parks in the Theme Park Insider reader ratings. Of those, which has the best vacation offerings *outside* their theme parks?

    Lake Erie and Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame? Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown? Canoeing, the beach and the Kennedy Space Center in Florida? Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park? Or Los Angeles, with the beach, Beverly Hills and local mountains?

    (FWIW, I left the international options off the list because it just seemed too weird to me to throw Paris and Tokyo in as options here. Maybe in a later poll I'll take the top two options here and face 'em off against those cities.)

    Pick your choice, then talk about it in the comments.

    Comments (10) | Archive Link

    Keep reading: January 2008 Archive

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