Published: October 17, 2009 at 8:20 AM
The age old argument rears its ugly head, once again...
SeaWorld could just have easily added a top notch dark ride, and the same or a better attendance increase would have occurred. Heck, several parks added new coasters last year and actually saw attendance drop (Worlds of Fun, Magic Mountain, etc). Furthermore, as much as I like Kraken and as much as I am sure I will like Manta, they will take up about 90 minutes of my entire day at SeaWorld, while the other ten and a half hours will be spent watching shows and exploring the sights. If all SeaWorld had was Kraken and Manta...would anyone even visit? Coasters do not make the park, but they are a nice complement.
IMHO, the best attractions in Orlando are not uber 200 ft tall, 75mph coasters. I'll take Spider-Man, Mission: Space, Tower of Terror, Revenge of the Mummy, Expedition Everest, Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Mickey's Philharmagic, Pirates of the Caribbean, Dinosaur, Kilimanjaro Safaris, Haunted Mansion, Ripsaw Falls, and Terminator 2 3D over Kraken and Manta any day of the week. While I love a good uber coaster, I love a good story even more. And when I go to Orlando, I want story and thrills, not just thrills alone.
As far as how a coaster park like Cedar Point would compete in Orlando, you need look no further than Southern California at the flagship of the Cedar Fair empire (attendance-wise), Knotts Berry Farm. Situated within 10 miles of Disneyland the park pulls less than 25% of the visitors of the original Disney park. Sure, Knotts pulls some nice numbers, but they are not really in the same league as the non-coaster focused Disney parks. Furthermore, even if you combine KBF's attendance with Six Flags Magic Mountain and its 16 coasters, you are still at less than half Disneyland's attendance.
If all it took was a few roller coasters to build the world's most successful park, then Cedar Point would have the #1 per day attendance in the world, which is just not the case. Not even close. CP averages about 23k a day (3.5 mil/150 days), while the Magic Kingdom (the number one theme park in the world) averages about 47k a day (17 mil/365 days). Furthermore, even Epcot, which has NO coasters of any sort, averages 30k attendance a day.
Coasters are great. I love them. But I can drive 20 minutes from my house and ride three of the best in the nation. On a vacation, I expect a lot more than a 200ft drops, high speeds turns, and a few inversions. For me, it is about park experience. Which is why Herschend offers the best Orlando alternative to Disney, Universal, and SeaWorld. Immersion, family experiences, great shows, great food, and even a few real nice coasters thrown in to keep adrenalin junkies happy. Go Herschend!