Trip Report: Opening Day at Six Flags America

Six Flags America: A review of a less-than-smoothly-running opening day at Six Flags America.

From Jen Magee
Posted April 10, 2005 at 4:33 PM

This was my first trip to Six Flags America, but I'd heard good things. Enough good things to go ahead and get a season pass without having once set foot in the park. Anyway, two fellow passholders and myself headed over on opening day (the park being about 10 minutes from their house). We arrived around 10, and the park would open at 10:30. They had a cheesy little opening ceremony involving a big wooden painted key and a "Big Switch", and then began admitting people.

I thought about subtitling this trip report as "Amateur Hour", and the multiple reasons for that begin right here. It seemed like the entry staffers responsible for scanning the various tickets either hadn't been instructed about the different kinds of tickets they'd be seeing, or they had completely forgotten that training. There was a great deal of confusion; one line would stop for a couple of minutes while the attendant tried to figure out how to scan the ticket, then that line would move and another line would stop... in the case of some people, the attendants were taking their season pass vouchers instead of their tickets (more on that later).

20 minutes after park opening, we finally entered the park (we had only been about 30 people back in line, if that helps clear up exactly how slow these lines were). The three of us headed for Season Pass Processing, which was well-marked only if you already knew where it was. Most people seemed to be heading into the Guest Relations office, which is located right inside the gates, and seemed like a logical location for pass processing. Of course, the ACTUAL Pass Processing office was about 40 feet further down the main entrance street, around the back of one of the buildings. The entrance to the office queue was blocked, meaning that everyone trying to get into the queue had to duck under a metal divider.

Pass processing itself went smoothly for 2/3rd of my group; the other 1/3 got to wait for about half an hour after his voucher being scanned caused a system crash (they weren't exactly using state-of-the-art database software). This was also where we learned that the gate attendants has been mistakenly taking some people's season pass vouchers instead of taking their entry tickets; one very vocal and incredibly rude gentleman took it upon himself to raise holy heck about the fact that pass processing had told him to wait because he didn't have the correct paperwork with him. He was loudly telling everyone who walked by him that this was ridiculous because it was the person at the gate who had screwed up, not him, so he shouldn't have to wait. We heard a couple of other people with the same problem, and it wasn't like the gate attendants had made a mistake by rushing people through too quickly.

After getting out of pass processing, we decided to go ride some stuff. This brought up a new problem: finding rides that were open. At this point (about noon), ALL of the steel coasters were down -- Batwing, Superman Ride of Steel, Joker's Jinx, Mind Eraser, and Two Face. The only things running were the smaller carnival-type rides (and even some of them weren't running) and the wooden coasters, so we headed for Roar. The line didn't look bad at first, but then we discovered that the ride operators were taking about 3-5 minutes to load up each train, and one operator didn't know how to release the lap restraints, so he had to call someone to help if he had one that wouldn't release. Even so, the wait wasn't bad, but was easily twice what it should have been. The coaster itself is great; probably the smoothest and fastest wooden coaster I've ever ridden.

We then headed down to the Gotham City area to see if anything was running -- no such luck. So much so that they had a blockade of employees and dividers set up so that you couldn't even GET to the loading areas for Batwing and Superman. This being the case... lunchtime.

We stopped off at Gotham City Snacks, a basic counter service place with hot dogs, funnel cakes, etc. There seemed to be about 10 people working there, yet once again, things moved incredibly slowly. They lost track of people's orders, i.e. what had already been given to the customers vs. what they still needed to make. They repeatedly asked another group of three if they had all of the funnel cakes they were supposed to have, and even when the girls said yes, they started making another funnel cake for them. All in all, our order of a corn dog, a hot dog, a soft pretzel, two sodas, and a bottled water took 10 minutes, and this was with NO LINE.

After briefly walking around to digest, and we ended up at the Wild One. This one loaded a little bit faster than Roar, but not much faster. Definitely not as smooth a ride as Roar, but the helix section towards the end is great, and there's a lot of airtime.

By this point, Mind Eraser had opened, so that was our next stop. On a good day, this particular line would have meant a 30-40 minute wait. However, as you've probably guessed, this was far from a good day. Only one train was running, 2 seats had been roped off on that train, and each load took five minutes. So, the ride throughput was maxing out at 14 people every 7-8 minutes. Fantastic. Mind Eraser is a very rough ride, and I had my head banged around quite a lot. We were in the middle of the train; I'd hate to think about how bad the back seats are.

We walked back around to Gotham City to see what the situation was on the coasters over there. This was around 3:00, and with no sign that they'd be open any time soon, we decided to call it a day and come back in a few weeks.

I know that opening day is going to have some glitches. However, it seemed like the employees and attendants had barely been trained. Most of the coasters were closed. Most of the park hadn't yet been completely repainted for the season (and according to dates on some graffiti, hadn't been repainted since at least the opening of the 2002 season). There was an air of confusion everywhere, and almost everything seemed to take 2 to 3 times longer than it should have. I'm holding out hope that this was all just because it was opening day, and that once everyone settles into a groove, things will run smoothly.

From Chuck Campbell
Posted April 10, 2005 at 7:11 PM
I was thinking about checking this place out this summer, mainly because I have a discount card for it. But with one great theme park in my backyard (BGW) and a steadily improving one an hour up the road (PKD), maybe I won't bother.

From Derek Potter
Posted April 10, 2005 at 8:10 PM
I can imagine opening day at Six Flags being a giant fustercluck. All parks who have "opening days" still have some ride maintenance to finish, bugs to iron out, and employees to train. If the best parks have bugs, than I can imagine how many the not so good ones have left. I wouldn't write the park off just yet. Now if it's the middle of July and this crap happens (which it often does), than it's time to start writing off. I'm really pulling for Six Flags to wake up, but this isn't the best start.

From Jeffery Beal
Posted April 10, 2005 at 8:10 PM

I live pretty close to Six Flags America and visit it only because it is close. It is pretty much a hit or miss park. This park's primary attractions are it's roller coasters and with most of them down, there really is not much to recommend.

I agree with you about the wooden roller coaster Roar. This is a great GCI creation, the makers of such great twister roller coasters such as Wildcat and Lightening Racer at nearby Hersheypark. It is after Superman the Ride, the best attraction at Six Flags America.

Posted April 11, 2005 at 5:43 AM
I live in the area and visit SFA often. I usually have a good time. I love the superman coaster and have ridden it 50+ times. I blame these kinds of mistakes on management. Please, TRAIN YOUR EMPLOYEES BETTER AND LET YOUR GUESTS KNOW WHAT IS GOING ON WITH YOUR RIDES! The success of your park depends on it!

From JR Walker
Posted April 5, 2006 at 7:03 PM
this is unbelievable. Everything about Six Flags are complaints. What a horrible park if they have nothing open on their season opening day. That is the most crazy thing i've ever heard. Six Flags parks will be closed down in a few years.

From Derek Potter
Posted April 9, 2006 at 9:08 PM
I can understand a few "bugs in the system" on opening day. Not that many though. Once again, Six Flags fumbles the ball. The sad part is that opening day bugs seem to last all season long with them.

From Russell Meyer
Posted April 10, 2006 at 10:07 AM
I'm glad I avoided SFA Saturday. I was considering stopping by for a few hours, but the rain kept me away. In previous years, I have noticed that opening day always seems to be a mess at this park. Two years ago they did a big promotion with Coke, and the park was not even close to ready to take the guests that were attracted to the park by the promotion. Six Flags should take a cue from other parks that hold passholder days early in the season to bring a smaller crowd to the park to work out operational glitches.

You would think with nothing new in the park, everything would be the same as last year, but I guess this is Six Flags we're talking about here. Dan Snyder should be ashamed!!

From daniel sears
Posted April 13, 2006 at 1:12 PM
that is just disapointing.

yes okay, not everything is going to be perfict but that's going a bit OTT don't you think?

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