2010 in Review: What was the top story of the year in the theme park business?
Published: December 14, 2010 at 2:44 PM
Based on site traffic here at Theme Park Insider, here are the five finalists I've selected. At the end of the post, I've put up a vote for you to help decide the top story of the year.
In selecting the top story, I hope that you will vote for the event you consider to be the significant for the entire theme park industry, not just for the people and businesses directly involved, but also for the fans who love and support theme and amusement parks.
Here are the finalists, ordered randomly:
Universal Studios Singapore opens
Universal Studios opened its fifth theme park in March of 2010, as part of the Resorts World Sentosa development in Singapore. Theme Park Insider editor Robert Niles got a sneak-peek tour of Universal Studios Singapore in February.
Like many theme park openings, this one was not without troubles. The park's Madagascar: A Crate Adventure ride was delayed until 2011, and the park's dueling Battlestar: Galactica roller coasters closed within a few days of the park's soft opening. Ongoing repairs are supposed to have that ride open by next year, as well, when a new Transformers 3D ride is also set to debut. As a result, even though the park is open, it's not officially open, as the park continues to describe itself in a "soft opening period."
Killer whale attack at SeaWorld Orlando claims the life of a trainer
On February 24, Tillikum, a male orca at SeaWorld Orlando, attacked and drowned Dawn Brancheau, a veteran trainer who was lying on a ledge at the Shamu Stadium pool. SeaWorld closed the Believe show at all of its parks temporarily, then ordered its trainers out of the water pending investigations - one of which ultimately led to a $75,000 fine from the federal government. The incident revived debate over SeaWorld's use of orcas - and live marine mammals in general - in its shows.
Holiday World owner passes away at age 48
Holiday World has become one of the great stories in the theme park business over the past few years. A loyal and passionate fan base helped power the southern Indiana theme park's The Voyage roller coaster to a win in 2010's Best Theme Park Attraction tournament. In addition to the park's outstanding trio of wooden coasters, many fans cite the leadership of the Koch family in making Holiday World - which doesn't charge for parking, soft drinks or sunscreen - one of the friendliest parks in America.
On June 14, fans were stunned to learn that the park's president, Will Koch, had passed away at age 48. A medical examiner's report attributed the death to drowning in the family's swimming pool, though family members insisted that Will's diabetes played a role, as he was reportedly an excellent swimmer. Will Koch was inducted into the amusement attraction industry's hall of fame in November.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter debuts at Universal Orlando
On June 18, Universal Orlando officially opened The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal's Islands of Adventure theme park. And with that, the balance of power in the Orlando theme park market tipped: Universal's attendance would rise over 30 percent for the summer, while archival Walt Disney World saw its attendance slip.
Tens of thousands of fans queued for the opening day, with the line snaking through the entire park and spilling into CityWalk. TV helicopters ogled the scene, which helped pump up the buzz that made Universal Orlando the place to be in the theme park business in 2010.
Legoland Florida confirmed
Legoland for years has been looking for a site for its second U.S. theme park. After several years trying sites in the Kansas City area, the company in January confirmed it would do what many fans had been suggesting all along: Legoland would come to Central Florida.
Instead of building new, though, the park would redevelop the space formerly occupied by the now-defunct Cypress Gardens park in Winter Haven. The park will open in October 2011, providing another major family-oriented attraction along the Orlando-to-Tampa corridor.
Let's hear, in the comments, your thoughts about how the top stories of 2010 will affect the industry in the years ahead.