What would you do? Building a new roller coaster at Holiday World
Written by Robert Niles
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Holiday World's The Voyage will compete tomorrow at 11am Eastern for the Best Roller Coaster in America title. When you think about it, that's a pretty impressive position for a ride at a theme park which hasn't cracked the annual Top 20 in attendance, and stands on a county road in rural southern Indiana.
But Holiday World draws a crowd from far beyond its humble Hoosier home. With two other award-winning coasters (The Raven and The Legend), as well as family-friendly service and free parking and soft drinks for all, Holiday World has elicited powerful loyalty from a growing collection of fans.
So how do we repay Holiday World for all it's provided?
Hey, we're theme fans - we get greedy and ask for even more! :-)
Since Holiday World's three-for-three on its roller coasters, why not make it four-for-four? When I lived in Indianapolis, the park was known as "Santa Claus Land," owning to its location in Santa Claus, Indiana. Visitors enter the original "Christmas" section of the park first when they enter, reaffirming that Christmas remains the original holiday in this world.
And yet... there's no signature, world-class ride in the Christmas section of the park. Wouldn't a "Santa's Sleigh" roller coaster make a delightful addition to Holiday World?
So... now where should they put it?
(Sound of record screeching.) Ohhh.
Welcome to the ongoing challenge facing any theme park manager: Site placement. Where do you fit a new attraction within the park? Can you squeeze it between existing facilities? Do you replace existing rides? If so, would they provide an adequate "footprint" for the new attraction? Is there any room for expansion beyond the current park boundaries? If so, can you obtain that land, and will the local authorities allow you to use it for your park?
Site placement challenges have affected design decisions at many of the industry's iconic attractions. Remember the stretch room in Disneyland's Haunted Mansion (which is competing in the Best Themed Ride bracket later today)?
Disney's Imagineers didn't put that in there simply because they thought it a cool effect. They didn't have the space for a haunted house attraction on its site in the park's New Orleans Square, but they did have room for a show building behind the earthen berm which surrounded the park. But they needed a way to get people from the park, under the berm and into the building.
Enter the stretch room, an elevator which allows guests to descend to an underground passage, through which they walk under the berm to the Mansion show building.
Here's a somewhat out-of-date Google Maps aerial view of Holiday World. (The view lacks The Voyage and the Thanksgiving expansion. Click for a full-screen view.)
And here's a close=up of Holiday World's official park map (click to see the full version, on Holiday World's website):
Not a whole lot of room there in Christmas, eh?
So this brings us to this week's "What would you do?" What would you do about building a new world-class attraction at Holiday World?
Is "Santa's Sleigh" feasible? Could it be shoe-horned in the space along the southern edge of the park, wrapping around the edge of Holidog's Funtown? That would require placing the entrance somewhere along the currently wooded slope just past Kringle's Banquet Hall. A very tight fit. And what about those support buildings north of the County Road? (You can see those on the Google Map.) Those very likely are not expendable. What do you do with them?
Create underground facilities? Maybe if you have Disney's annual budget. Remember that we're dealing with a privately owned, family-run park here. I imagine that the Koch family doesn't have the Blackstone Group's multi-billion-dollar capital reserves. Creating an underground tunnel system to service all of Holiday World ain't gonna happen, so don't bother proposing it.
What about pushing Christmas forward? Not on the calendar (I wish), but by moving the front gate west into the parking, allowing additional space for a new coaster, or maybe a dark ride "Santa's Sleigh" attraction?
Interesting, but where do you park those cars on a busy day? Remember, Holiday World doesn't charge for parking, and I don't see it building a multi-level garage with that money, even if it did.
Ah, but all that space south of the road? What about that? I'm assuming that if it were easy for Holiday World to obtain that land, and permission to use it, it would have already. Maybe I'm wrong, but until someone tells me otherwise, I'm calling that land off-limits.
Or do you just say forget it, and take my daughter's less expensive suggestion: Create a "Hanukkah" section and throw in a spinner ride called "The Dreidel"? (My daughter, like her father, is a bit, uh, silly at times.)
So... what would you do? Develop one of these ideas and order Santa's Sleigh? Build a new coaster with a different theme elsewhere in the park? Tell us your idea, in the comments, with as much detail as to make your idea so compelling that park president Will Koch will jump away from his computer and yell "We've *got* to do this!" :-)
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