But... is it? Whenever I hear about a supposed new project coming to a theme park, I find it helpful to ask where that project stands within the development process. Put somewhat simplistically, here are the 10 steps to a new theme park development:
1. Spitballed it in a meeting
2. Surveyed fans/visitors about it
3. Worked up some plans
4. Filed a patent application
5. Created blueprints
6. Filed a trademark application
7. Hired contractors
8. Pulled permits
9. Started construction
10. Announced it
Before I go further, allow me to reassure people who work in the industry who might be reading this post that I know this is a really simplistic list. But I'm trying to summarize a complex process for a wide audience of readers, to help all of us become better-informed consumers of theme park news. (And if you have suggestions on how to present a better, more insightful 10-step list, please let me know and I'll modify this one.)
Okay? Good. Now steps four and six sometimes aren't necessary in the development process, especially if the project isn't employing any new tech or isn't using a new IP. And some steps can be flipped, especially steps nine and 10.
Why is it important for fans to understand this process? It helps when you're trying to evaluate the theme park news you read online. Some sites like to announce attractions as done deals at steps one or two. At Theme Park Insider, I tend to wait until I see a project get to steps seven or eight before reporting it as a real, upcoming development. At that point, a park is sending significant amounts of cash outside the company, so ideas that aren't going to become real typically don't make it to those steps.
Now, it's fun to think about projects that are kicking around in the spitball or survey stages. But I think it's important for readers to have the context to understand that such ideas are a long, long way from becoming real projects that they will be able to visit one day.
Yet the traffic and money a website can make when it gets a scoop in this business is huge. So that creates an incentive to slap "BREAKING" on a post and report a step one or two project as a step 10 deal.
At this stage, the public doesn't seem to have developed enough collective memory to ignore or otherwise punish sources that consistently break news about future projects that never actually make it into a park. Maybe that will happen at some point. Maybe it won't. I covered politics and government for years before hitting the theme park beat, and I saw major newspapers and television stations that consistently reported crap never get punished by the public for that, so I'm not holding my breath waiting for it to happen on the theme park beat, either.
So it's up to you to read skeptically. Developing a project from blue-sky spitball to opening is a long, long haul, and many people who work in this industry rarely see a project all the way from step one to construction. I hope that this context will help you tell the difference between "news" that should be consumed for entertainment purposes only and news that you can use in helping you plan the best possible time for your future theme park visits.
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