My biggest story is the multi-million $$$ redo of Disney's Califonia adventure. Is this an admission by the Mouse that DCA was a good idea poorly executed? Will the changes be what is necessary to get that park where it needs to be i.e. thought of in the the same light as the other 5 US Disney parks? The next 5 years should tell us.
For me, it came down to InBev and the Economy. It seems that the economic crisis covers too broad of a scale to simply tell it as one story, since each company is reacting differently to it, so I went for InBev. How often, in the theme park world, does an American company get purchased by a European one? And although nothing drastic has happened yet, it was the only story of the ones above that I heard non-theme park junkies (like my friends) talk about.
Its ok :)It wasn't big news anyway!
Anyway, Grand Opening! Grand Closing! HRP got my vote!
I like this debate though. In a way it's like the academy awards. A great movie that was released February gets forgotten while a good (but not great) movie becomes the toast of Hollywood come award time. This HRP saga keeps going and going...thankfully, mercifully, I just read that the rock 'n roll park in Arizona may never be built!
Can anyone think of a bigger investment that didn't go anywhere? The closest I can think of is (sorry, Disney) Mission:Space. I know that sounds silly, but when the park is crowded and the 150 million dollar attraction has a five minute standby wait, you know something has gone awry.
While I do think the inBev story is huge, I couldn't go with it because at this point there's not much more than speculation and conjecture. We won't know the full extent of how this development is really going to impact the industry for a little while.
I am thinking X - X2 at Magic Mountain....a lot of money went into that ride, twice! And from what I have read it still has its share of problems.
My pick for top story was : "Industry cuts prices and projects as advance reservations tank for 2009" as it seems all encompassing. The disaster at Hard Rock Park is just one more casualty of the economic downturn of 2008. Sure the park probably would have failed anyway at some point, but you would like to think that it would have made it one full season before doing so if not for the recessed economy and the general timidness most travelers felt about spending money over the past 6 - 8 months.
So, any predictions on the top story of next year? Manta? Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit? Diminished spending and attendance at the major parks? Let's just hope the main story is something upbeat and not the same kind of depressing news we have had to deal with in the latter part of 2008!
With that in mind, I will wish a very Happy New Year to all my fellow Theme Park Insiders!
Disney and Universal will slash overall prices, though many of the "cuts" will actually be along the lines of "buy this and get that" deals which lock people into vacations of certain length. Still, deals will be available and attendance will not suffer too much. USF might even go up with the new coaster, though IOA and USH will be flat, or down. WDW will be flat or down, DL will be up.
At the Busch parks, management uncertainty will affect the parks' ability to react with aggressive price deals, until InBev management wakes up to the fact that they're not gonna sell these parks immediately. BEC's immdeiate future depends upon InBev giving BEC management the green light to do whatever it needs to do to remain viable in the 2009 market, rather than telling it to "hold tight" and do little, pending a deal. That would be disaster.
At Six Flags and Cedar Fair parks, however, the story will be different. Lower priced Disney and Universal parks, coupled with lower priced gasoline, will rob SF and CF parks of many potential visitors. Those parks will respond with aggressive price cutting, which will end up hurting their bottom lines.
So my big prediction is... more local or regional amusement parks in 2009 will join Hard Rock by closing their gates for the foreseeable future.
I consider that a pretty big failure...
I would hate to think Disney ever felt the need to replace Mission: Space....it is my favorite ride attraction at Epcot.