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Beyond CaliFlorida: Previewing tomorrow's Six Flags announcements

Jeff Elliott

By Jeff Elliott
Published: August 27, 2014 at 10:34 AM

Six Flags – There are some people who understand what secrecy is and others that don’t. While Imagineering has no idea what the new Star Wars movie is about, Six Flags, days before their official announcement has working URLS on their website giving away the names of their new attractions. Based on what we already think we know, we can make some educated guesses as to what each of the Six Flags parks is going to get.

I really hate to think that Elitch Gardens is avant garde but it looks like Six Flags is following suit with Giant Loop carnival rides. I thought the whole idea behind having a permanent location was that you then were able to put up rides better than traveling carnivals…but then again… And another thing…what is with this boring names that don’t make any sense. Was the marketing department out on a team building exercise at the local bar when the names were agreed on? Did someone just rubber stamp them? I’m surprised the roller coasters weren’t named “Roller Coaster.”

Six Flags Over Georgia – The park is getting a Giant Loop named Jokers Chaos

Six Flags Over Texas – The park is getting a dark ride named Battle for Metropolis, which seems to be themed toward something related to Batman. One could then only expect that it is going to go into the region near their Batman ride.

Six Flags Great America – This is the only item that we are unclear about. The name of the attraction is 40 Seasons. Which is strange because next year will only be Great America’s 39th season. Could this be their way of saying that they are getting nothing this year in order to get something spectacular for their 40th birthday? Or is this may a show or exhibition of some kind? Great America got something really good last year, so an off season seems like a good bet.

Six Flags Magic Mountain – Okay, so we know the name: Twisted Colossus. What we can assume from the name is that Rocky Mountain coasters is going to give the coaster a remake. What we don’t have at this point are any details to the wild rumors. Typically if Magic Mountain is going to do something that everyone else in Six Flags is doing, they are going to have to go extreme. There is some talk about the first drop attempting to mimic a combination of what X2 and Gatekeep do as a first trick.

Six Flags New England – Wicked Cyclone is going to be the name of their old Cyclone roller coaster after Rocky Mountain Coasters has their way with it. Apparently the marketing team has forgotten that they still own the copyright for the word Psyclone.

Six Flags Great Adventure – The park is getting a Giant Loop named Looping Dragon. Is it going to be themed to a dragon? Umm…probably not.

Six Flags Fiesta Texas – The parking is getting their very own Batman the Ride. But I don’t think this is going to be your typical Batman roller coaster. I still suspect that S&S is putting up their 4D Free Spin roller coaster. This should lead to plenty of confusion about what a Batman ride is.

Six Flags St. Louis – I suspected that a flat ride was going to replace Scooby. Now that we know that their new ride will be called Battle for Metropolis and with its location just across from Mr Freeze, it seems to seal the deal. Hopefully they will keep the shooting mechanism on this, but don’t hold your breath. Batman doesn’t like guns.

Six Flags America – The park is getting a Giant Loop named Bourbon Street Fireball. Maybe I’m just getting clever by half no this name, but this sounds like three buzz words that don’t really go together very well. I mean these three words together sound like a drink you would order in New Orleans. Other than that, it sounds like what would happen when a drunk gets on this ride, mixes well, and then protein spills too close to an open flame.

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom – The park is getting the free Giant Loop from the buy 3 get one free deal and naming it Dare Devil Chaos. This is another one of those cases where the three words together just don’t make any sense at all. Dare Devil? Sure. Devil Chaos? Not so much, but it still works. Even Dare Chaos isn’t too bad. But all three of those words together make it sound like they were buzzwords picked out of a hat at random. Well, dunk poo splatter to you, too.

Six Flags La Ronde – The name of their new attraction is Maison Rouge, but right now we don’t have a clue what it is. This makes me think that it is probably going to be a show or a restaurant of some sort. Or maybe it’s a literal description of what they are going to do and build a red house. You can never tell when it comes to Canadians. Or maybe it has a deeper meaning of a medical center or a hockey rink which are both houses of blood.

Six Flags Mexico – The park is getting a Sky Screamer called Sky Screamer. I mean not even Cielo del Chillón. You do realize that they speak Spanish in Mexico? How lazy is that? Such originality in the name makes me wonder if this is a ruse and maybe they are also getting a Giant Loop and calling it Sky Screamer. I would have sworn that Six Flags had bought enough Sky Screamers a couple of years ago to put two in every park.

Oakwood (UK) – The park is going to replace their Wild West area with a Legend of Sleepy Hollow area. One brutal make-believe land transforming into another brutal make-believe land. Maybe the real reason is to get all of the wannabe cowboys off of the payroll, which is something I completely understand and sympathize with. The exchange is that you are going to have a bunch of people running around with no heads. And the lead character is one of the original nerd/geeks. So a cowboys-for-geeks exchange sounds pretty good to me. It will make it a much more relaxed place to work for all of the good looking ladies.

Gardaland (Italy) – The park is hard at work on their new B&M Dive Coaster.



Busch Gardens Williamsburg – Track for their low-capacity cloned roller coaster is now on site while land clearing is underway. I’m not quite certain why they went with this coaster instead of one of many cloned roller coasters that are in fact cheaper and run much rougher thus thinning the crowds for the ride of season pass holders who will refuse to ride the thing a second time. I’m sure Elitches would sell their Vekoma Boomerang or Mind Eraser for pennies on the dollar if you really wanted to go cheap.

SeaWorld/Busch Gardens – SeaWorld is in a bind. They have some investors that are talking about a class action lawsuit against SeaWorld. Even the CEO this week admitted that they should have done more to counter the Blackfish movie. Now the stock is near all-time lows and the only one to have made any money out of the deal was Blackstone who originally bought SeaWorld/Busch Gardens from InBev, took them public, and then quietly sold all of their shares and backed out completely. Currently their stock price is so low that they are bait to be taken over. But the question becomes: who would want them? In pieces there are plenty of people who would like a piece of the pie. Herschend and Six Flags would be interested in the two Busch Gardens parks, or maybe a split between the two where Six Flags get Busch Gardens Tampa (and their long desired foothold in Florida) and Herschand would take Williamsburg. But the big question would be who would buy SeaWorld/Busch Gardens and then divvy it up? Reports are that Comcast is currently looking into this. They had a shot a while ago when InBev was doing the selling but passed on the opportunity. This time, I think Comcast has something they can bring to the party and turn around a dying park.

If…and this is a big if…Comcast were to take over SeaWorld, the first thing they would have to do is change the name. Something like UniversalSea would be ironic, but I’m sure they could come up with something much better. The second thing they would need to do would be to fire all of the Shamu’s. Getting rid of the killer whales is something that SeaWorld can’t do because the killer whales are their corporate symbol and part of their identity. UniversalSea would have no such attachment and could win a huge PR battle with the outspoken environmentalists by just getting rid of them. As consumers we lose because it would make killer whales extremely rare in captivity, but that is not Comcast’s problem. SeaWorld has decided not to pursue the litigation of allowing trainers back in the water with the killer whales, so the old way of doing business is now officially dead.

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The Rao Family Visits the Roller Coast: Part 1

James Rao

By James Rao
Published: August 26, 2014 at 8:39 PM

There is a huge difference between a theme park and an amusement park. The former is designed to make you lose your sense of the real world, while the latter specializes in helping you lose your lunch! Both have merit and a place in the broader spectrum of the theme park world and serve to flesh out the experiences available to both thrill seekers and immersion lovers alike. Last year (2013) the Rao Family made the trek to one of the best theme parks on the planet, Disneyland, so it was only fitting that this year (2014), we would journey to one of the best amusement parks on the planet, Cedar Point, where we would be immersed in a little more testosterone and a lot less story. And since my youngest duckling finally reached the coveted height of 54”, I actually felt like it was my duty as a father to plan a visit to the “Roller Coast”. While I was planning this excursion, I thought that because we were headed to the great state of Ohio to visit the self-proclaimed, “greatest amusement park in the world,” why not plan a stop at its nearby sister park, Kings Island, also in Ohio, to visit B&M’s latest coaster masterpiece, Banshee, as well? Why not, indeed?

Banshee

For those who don't know me, some introductions are in order! I am a “humble” project leader (started as a programmer years ago) working at one of the top employers in Kansas City. Originally born in Southern California, I cut my teeth on parks like Disneyland, Knott's Berry Farm, Magic Mountain, and Marriott’s, yes, Marriott’s Great America. In my early teens, my family moved to the East Coast to Annandale, Virginia, where Busch Gardens and Kings Dominion became my stomping grounds. Finally we moved to Missouri at a time when Worlds of Fun was not owned by Cedar Fair and still had wonderful attractions like the Orient Express and the Zambezi Zinger. I miss those days especially now that Worlds of Fun is so diminished and my adopted home park, Silver Dollar City, is four hours away in Branson, Missouri. I am 45 years old as of this writing, but will turn 46 at the end of the month (“It's not the years, it's the mileage”). My wife, Robin, just turned 29 for the twentieth time a few days ago. She is a mom, a microbiologist (one weekend a month), and a teacher as she has successfully homeschooled all three of my kids, Jacob (16), Jeremy (14), and Emma (11) for a number of years. For this trip we wanted to make sure everyone had a ride buddy, so we invited a family friend, Joanna (13), to ride side by side with my little princess, Emma. Being a solo rider ain't all it's cracked up to be. Besides, with the kids otherwise occupied mom and dad can make googly eyes at each other at all the coaster photo ops!

Enough about my family, on with the trip report…

Our first step in executing this vacation was to pick up Platinum Passes at my local Cedar Fair stationary carnival, Worlds of Fun. Calculating admission, parking, and discounts on food, the Platinum Pass was clearly the way to go. Plus as an added “benefit” we would get to visit our home park whenever we want. Yay! (Oops, I just sargasmed!)

Our second step was to hit up Theme Park Insider regulars Derek Potter (Kings Island) and James Koehl (Cedar Point) for their opinions and expertise. These two gentlemen provided a plethora of great info, tips, and tricks for maximizing our visit to these two coaster meccas. With the assistance of these two gurus, I developed a couple of touring plans not unlike what I would build for a Disney or Universal park, just filled with a lot more machismo! So, I cannot proceed further in this diatribe without thanking Jim and Derek. You guys rock! It is nice to have some kindred thrill seekers just an email away!

Touring plans

Our third step was to figure out when to visit, how many days to tour, and where to stay. We settled on early June, and four days, two at each park. Working with Derek and Jim we found a couple of nice hotels (more details later) not far from both parks. Sadly, our first hiccup involved the June dates. It just so happened that I was working on a transition project for one of the top clients at my place of employment. Originally the live transition date for this project was November of 2013. But, it got pushed back a couple times finally making late June our live date. Needless to say, the needs of the client outweigh the needs of the few or the one, no matter what Captain Kirk might blather, so we pushed the dates of our trip back to August…

…which gets us up to the present day. It is now August 10th, the 23rd anniversary of my marriage to Robin, and we are in my 2006 Toyota Sienna (“The Family Truckster”) about six hours away from Mason, Ohio, and Kings Island. Today is supposed to be just a travel day since we won’t get to our hotel until about 7 or 8 PM, but you never know. Kings Island is open until 10 PM tonight, so maybe we can get a couple hours of fun in before the main visit tomorrow? If not, we’ll eat dinner, swim, then pray the predicted thunderstorms blow past during the night, while we shuffle off to sleep. Kings Island opens at 10:00 AM tomorrow, but Early Ride Time for Gold and Platinum Pass Holders starts at 9:30, so we’ll be at the park by 9:00 AM sharp.

I cannot wait to ride Banshee!

After some major stop and go traffic in Brazil, Indiana, we finally made it to the Comfort Suites in Forest Park, about 20 minutes away from Kings Island, but just a few minutes from Pappadeaux’s Seafood Kitchen. Yum. Maybe we should go get some dinner?

This Comfort Suites offers a good sized room with two queen beds and a queen sized pull out couch. Plenty of room for the six of us, though with one bathroom we’ll have to coordinate morning festivities. The indoor pool is decent, but over chlorinated and a bit cloudy. We might swim tomorrow night if things get cleaned up. The fitness room is decent sized for a Comfort Suites with a good collection of equipment including not one but two treadmills. Overall the hotel is nicely appointed and tended, with new carpet and good smells throughout. For $110 a night and free breakfast, I think it will be a good two night stay.

Comfort Suites

Tonight, though, I decide at the last minute that we will unpack, eat a quick dinner, and head to the park before the rains hit. If we can knock out a few coasters ahead of Monday our touring plan just gets that much easier. So, we’ll eat at a nearby Panera (sorry Pappadeaux’s), then bolt to the park. More later….

Upon arriving at Kings Island the first thing that struck me is the fact that this park is huge. And it is in your face. Big-boy rides dominate the horizon, sweeping into the sky like a downtown cityscape. If you are a height-challenged person, you might be better to just move along. Thrill seekers only, please!

We quickly parked and fast walked into the main entrance, snapping photos of Banshee signage along the way. We hardly had time to enjoy the impressive “Main Street”-esque entrance as we sped with single minded, OCD purpose toward Action Zone and Banshee!

Banshee Signage

What a photogenic coaster! Banshee is simply breathtaking from every angle. B&M made art with this bad boy, art, I tell you! Skipping with Coaster Boy glee, we hopped into the rapidly moving line and made it to the load house in about five minutes. In wonderful Disney fashion an employee (cast member?) was directing folks to the various lines.

Side note here: one thing Kings Island does, that I really like, is control the loading areas. At Worlds of Fun, guests just cram into the load house like sardines, making for an incredibly uncomfortable and often swelteringly hot experience. Not at Kings Island. Here, employees either direct folks to given rows, or at least hold them back until the load area clears a bit then releases a small number to select a queue. I love the organization and commitment to a good customer experience.

Anyway, we were directed to a couple of middle rows and quickly boarded. There was an excitement, a buzz in the area, with guests jubilantly exiting the ride and enthusiastically boarding. We could tell Kings Island had a winner on their hands with Banshee just by the broad smiles from riders and workers alike. The environment was sizzling!

Amid hoots and hollers the train rolled out of the station ascending the lift hill with relentless abandon, and then, without the traditional B&M kicker, plunged into the oh-so-amazing course. So fast. So smooth. So upside down! My goodness, what a wonderful coaster. Just a tremendous ride filled with acceleration, force, and dizzying twists, turns, and inversions. One brilliantly executed element after another. And that oh-so-slow final corkscrew…wow! Banshee does not disappoint. In fact, it alone was worth the 10-hour drive.

Returning to the station shouting exaltations to the ride ops, we quickly plunged out the exit, through the gift shop, and immediately got back in line. The second ride was just as brilliant as the first. I do not know how B&M can produce a better inverted coaster. Excellent.

Storms had been forecasted all day, and clouds were threatening, so despite a strong desire to ride Banshee for a third time we moved off to Diamondback. Sadly, only two trains were in operation and the line was fairly long. We ended up waiting about 30 minutes, while the clouds got thicker and blacker, and the night got darker and more forbidding [note: that 30 minute wait ended up being our longest wait at Kings Island].

Diamondback

For my first ride I grabbed a wing seat on the left hand side in the middle of the coaster. Diamondback is smooth and powerful, and a very fine ride. The turnaround is excellent. Sadly, I think the ride loses a little bit of steam on the comeback, but it is still well above average. It compares favorably to Apollo’s Chariot at Busch Gardens Williamsburg but is not quite as good. I look forward to several re-rides over the course of the next two days.

It was nearing 9:15, so we headed for our last ride of the night: The Beast. It was dark, very dark, by this time, and rain was threatening. The ominous skies added to the atmosphere and while we waited about 20 minutes for our ride, no one cared. The anticipation just kept building. We were having that special kind of night where everything seemed transcendental, and even the lines and the people around us were a lot of fun.

Beast

Again, we sat in the middle of the train, a bit more towards the back than the front. And as we left the station it was pitch dark. I mean, midnight black. We couldn't even read the signs at the top of the lift hill it was so dark.

Now, I knew The Beast had a slow lift hill, but man, I had no idea how slow! That thing just does not feel like it is going to make it! And then, just as I was sure we were going to come to a complete stop the train picked up speed only to drop to a crawl just before we crested the peak.

There we sat, poised on the brink, slowly making our way over the top of the lift hill to the first drop, surrounded by blackness, and suddenly the Heavens opened up and poured out their wrath upon us in the form of buckets of rain. The timing of this downpour probably will never be repeated. Off we went, racing down the first drop, with the rain beating down and combining with the pitch blackness of the night to create a visual wall that our eyes could not penetrate. We were riding blind! It felt like we were racing towards our inevitable doom. Our screams echoed in the night, echoed in the tunnels, and grew louder as the train continually accelerated, seemingly out of control in the woods. And as our train was thundering through its course, I honestly felt like we were goners. It was the most amazing experience, unlike anything I have ever felt on a coaster before. And, as any Coaster Boy would say, it was totally awesome!!!

We returned to the station, drenched but jubilant. And as the rain continued to pour we raced to the park entrance declaring excitedly to any and all who would listen that our ride on The Beast was the greatest coaster experience imaginable. It was like a perfect storm of natural and manmade elements. Just simply a euphoric journey...and the perfect exclamation point on a perfect theme park night.

After Beast

We are now back at the hotel and getting ready for bed. We’ve been on the go since 5 AM and I am exhausted, physically and mentally. While everyone gets cleaned up, I am typing these notes and trying to figure out how in the world I will be able to wake this bunch up at 6:45 AM in time to shower, eat breakfast, and get back to the park in time for Early Ride Time at 9:30. Ah, it will all work out, I am sure. Good night.

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