Theme Park Apprentice Rules & Schedule - Winter 2017

February 12, 2017, 11:20 PM

Every season we try to change up some rules hoping to make these competitions better. This shortened season is no different. So let’s start with the new rules.

1. Due to the shortened nature of this season, there will be no eliminations this time.

2. There will be two different contest going on at the same time. Please be mindful that the different competitions have a slight variation of the rules. The “Serious” competition is going to be a bit tougher with more strict regulations. The “For Fun” contest will use the same premise but have a relaxed standard in one way or another. Please make sure you are working under the rules for your particular contest. How this will probably work is we will post the “Serious” rules and at the end of the write-up we will have the loosened guidelines for the “For Fun” event.

3. The scoring system is all new this time around. Previous seasons ranked people from first to last and number you landed on was your score. This season we are going to score this like school grades, and may wind up giving everyone the equivalent of an A. The ramifications of this are that if in the first round you were in last place by a tenth of a percentage and the entire pack of competitors was only two percentage points from top to bottom, if you clobber everyone in the second round by more than three percentage points, then you are in first place, as opposed to previous years where you would be right in the middle of the pack for doing the same thing. I don’t know if this makes sense, but it punishes less for being with the rest of the pack and rewards more for destroying your competition.

3a. The time around there will be weighted scores. An example of this would be: 30% of your score will be based on _______ (whatever criteria we are using that week). Be sure to pay attention to what is weighted on a certain week, because if you freelance too much and don’t meet the criteria, you will have a huge hole to dig out of.

4. The schedule:
Feb.19th - First challenge posted
Feb.25th - First proposals due; second challenge posted
March 4th - Second proposals due; third challenge posted
March 11th - Third proposal due; final challenge posted BUT with the caveat that we will not post the names of the two finalists until Monday, March 13th to give us some time to make our decisions. Anyone can present a final proposal, but only the top two will be considered for the winner’s position.
March 25th - Final proposals due. This gives you two weeks to prepare…and you will probably need it.
March 29th - We announce the winner of the TOC Playoff and the For Fun competition.

Standard Rules…but glance at these later when you have a moment…
1. Grammar counts. If we can’t read what you have written, it becomes next to impossible to get a good idea of what the attraction is about. We all understand that misspelling crop up (I’m sure there are several in this introduction article) but please do your best to make it as readable as possible. It is a shame for a really good idea to be hidden under an avalanche of fragmented sentences, bad grammar, bad spelling, and fragmented ideas. Use a spell checker and a grammar checker.

2. Deadlines count. If you can’t get something in on time, please let us know and we will attempt to work with you. The extra time to work on each idea should make this less of an issue, but we all understand that nothing squeezes creativity out of a brain like a looming deadline. While the judges are allowed to make the determination of what kind of penalty is assessed based on circumstances, think of it as the old school model of losing a letter grade or more for late work.

3. Creativity counts. The challenges have been designed to give you a wide variety of directions to go with a challenge. If we get three attractions that use the same characters and one that doesn’t, the one odd duck will be much more memorable when it comes time to vote. If you come up with an idea so obvious that you think everyone else probably will too, you are probably correct. In such a case, it might be a good idea to see if you can come up with a second theme. Although we also understand that a spectacular attraction is going to be spectacular even if it uses the most obvious theme.

4. The judges' rulings are final, and since they make the determination of who moves on and who is dropped from the competition, it might not be a good idea to argue with or upset them. We are not total jerks, though, so if you feel that we have misinterpreted something you have presented we will listen to your explanations privately, not on-site. Explaining is one thing, arguing is another.

5. The judges will be casting all of the votes this season. We assure you that we are going to base our votes on the quality of the proposals, their originality, creativity, professional presentation, etc. and not on anything else. We will have a scoring matrix this time around so make sure you are paying attention to what we will be basing large parts of your score on.

6a. Add-Ons: Pictures. Pictures are a handy way of saving you a thousand words in your proposal. Pictures are not an official requirement, and one year a player made it to the finals without posting a single picture, but many competitors utilize them. We will be posting some documentation talking about the best way to go about posting pictures, so don’t worry too much about the mechanics of it. Most people don’t create the images themselves and merely find images on the internet through various search engines. I would ask people to not post stick figures or anything other than images of the highest quality as they may negatively impact the rest of your posting. There is a limit of 5 pictures per post. Pictures need to be limited down to a 550 width in order to keep it within the column structure of TPI.

6b. Add-Ons: Title Logo and Footer. This is not an official requirement, much like putting any pictures into your post is not a requirement, but it is something that many contestants like to do to further fill out their idea. You are allowed a title picture before your posting and a footer picture after your posting in addition to the 5 pictures in the middle of the post. All pictures need to be limited down to a 550 width to keep in the column structure of TPI.

6c. Add-Ons: Music cannot be added onto a proposal. No background music, please!

6d. Add-on pictures are NOT a requirement, and a competitor should feel free to present their proposal with no added visual enhancement if they so choose. A poor picture can do as much harm to a proposal as a good one can benefit it.

7. If you need help, please ask for it. The judges should be able to respond very quickly to any inquiries, issues, problems, or calls for assistance. If you need help with creating logos or posting pictures, please ask.

8. Under no circumstances will we tolerate criticism, attacks, bad mouthing, or chaos in general. If any behavior is deemed detrimental to the game or the spirit of the game, such people will be dismissed from the competition without reason or recourse. We hate to have to include a rule like this, but trust us, this protects you as much as it protects us and the integrity of the game.

9. There have been situations come where a competitor was unable to post due to circumstances beyond their control (power failure, death in the family, etc.) but they wished to continue in the competition. We hope that nothing like this happens again, but if it does, contact any of the judges as soon as possible and we will do all we can to be fair to all competitors, including the person dealing with the situation. But we have to be informed about it- we can't help if we don't know.

10. These rules are subject to change. If something is not working we are going to fix so it does.

11a. The schedule. All challenge proposals will be due on Saturday night at midnight website time. Anyone not posting by that time will be automatically eliminated unless they have either contacted the judges with their excuse- and it better be a good one- or if unable to contact a judge by the deadline, contact a judge as soon as possible and they will decide how to proceed (see rule #9).

11b. The judges will try to post their decision about who will advance by Monday night at midnight website time. You will already have the next challenge, so it wouldn’t hurt to work ahead a bit.

11c. The week’s proposals will need to be posted after the week’s challenge thread has been started by one of the judges. Please do not post your proposal until you know that you have made the new round. We have no problems with a secondary thread going up where all of the unused proposals can be posted and get commented on by everyone, but let’s try to keep the threads somewhat cleanish. Only post your correct week’s proposal on the appropriate week’s thread.

11d. If you have a conflict and won’t be able to post your proposal in the window that the thread is open, please let the judges know so they can post it for you.

Any violations that we may see of these rules will result in a strong warning sent to the competitor in a confidential email. If the violations continue, the judges reserve the right to expel the competitor from the competition and possibly from any future Theme Park Apprentice competitions.

For further research, please take the time to do a TPI search and read some of the past posts and cross-reference them with who won a particular round. Reading the comments is also extremely helpful as well as getting to know the judges and what they look for.

Replies (18)

February 12, 2017, 11:27 PM

Here is who we currently have registered to play.

Let us know if we are missing anyone.

Jay R.
Keith Schneider
Anthony Murphy
Andy Milito

Kenny Cook
Oscar Marquez

February 13, 2017, 2:23 AM

Matt R. had also expressed interest in the fun competition. Matt? Still with us?

February 13, 2017, 5:45 AM

I'm so excited to participate in this season! I love the new scoring system, and I look forward to seeing it in action! Perhaps it could be used in regular seasons in the future.

February 13, 2017, 6:29 AM

@James Koehl- You know I am! :)

February 13, 2017, 9:16 AM

>>> Under no circumstances will we tolerate criticism, attacks, bad mouthing, or chaos in general.

Can I suggest rewording this? By Definition the Judge's critique is well, criticism. Hopefully constructive criticism (as is technically this I suppose). I would suggest rewording it as "Under no circumstances will we tolerate personal attacks, bad mouthing, or chaos in general."

February 13, 2017, 10:13 AM

Chad, are you criticizing us? Actually, I understand what you mean and knowing Jeff he's already working on it. Good point.

February 13, 2017, 10:24 AM

Matt, you're in!

February 15, 2017, 1:31 PM

Excited to participate!

February 16, 2017, 12:26 PM

The clock is ticking.....not long now...

February 16, 2017, 10:42 PM

With only a few days before we begin, it’s time to pop in and say howdy.


I will be co-judging the “For Fun” competition. That makes me the 2nd judge (of 2), helping out AJ. This is my first time be forgiving! I’ve won the past two regular seasons of Theme Park Apprentice (somehow), so it’s really my fault that we’re having this playoff round at all. The “For Fun” event – which I’m totally stoked for – is open to anyone, anyone. Just pop in and post!

As a Fun Judge, I hope to offer purely constructive criticism. There are no bad theme park ideas (except for Walt Disney Studios Paris), so go nuts! While there will be a For Fun winner, we will have no eliminations and no penalties.

To all Super Serious competitors, y’all are stuck with Jeff, James and Scott.

Any questions, any judge will be happy to answer, I’m sure. As a resource, this links to our archives of all past TPA competitions. And this here links to some slightly-outdated-but-still-helpful game rules and HTML hints. (All this information I’ve found invaluable myself when playing.)

To all who play in this happy competition, welcome. Theme Park Apprentice is your game. Here, Armchair Imagineers relive fond memories of the past, and here players may savor the challenge and promise of proposing new theme park ideas. TPA is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created all theme parks, with the hope that your proposals will be a source of joy and inspiration to all our readers.

February 17, 2017, 5:13 AM

Douglas welcome to the dark, sinister world of "judging"! You'll do fine. To all competitors in the Fun competition, welcome to what is a great opportunity for you. I've looked back at my early proposals and it amazes me how much I've learned about writing, grammar, but most importantly, about creativity. Use this opportunity to help yourselves grow and develop your talents. AJ and Douglas are both Theme Park Apprentice winners, so they know what to look for and comment on when judging your proposals. They will give you good, solid constructive criticism, telling you what you did right and what (in their opinion) you could have done better. Use their criticism to learn, so that when you participate in a full-out TPA competition you are the person that everyone watches out for, because YOU will be the person to beat! I've met them both in real life, and they are terrific people who love TPA and love to help others do their best in it. If you have questions, be they on what is allowed in a competition or how to do something technical in your presentation, contact them and they will help you. If you don't already have their emails, contact me at and I'll put them in contact with you so you can talk in private.

Get your keyboards warmed up, your brains in gear, and get ready for a great time!!

February 17, 2017, 7:23 PM

Hello, everyone! Many of you probably know me (or at least have seen me on this site), but for those that don't I'm AJ and I will be judging the "For Fun" division of this Theme Park Apprentice competition along with Douglas. In the past five years of Theme Park Apprentice, I've competed twice (one of which I won), hosted twice, and judged three past seasons (including the two I hosted), so I've definitely got quite a bit of history with this game. In the real world, I've visited over 70 amusement/theme parks (including a vast majority of the notable North American parks, though I'm still missing Florida & Texas), during which I've seen and experienced all manner of attractions.

The fun competition is going to be a little different than previous competitions, as it will be less about trying to dominate your opponents and more about learning how to come up with an idea and pitch it effectively. Douglas and I will be there to tell you what you did well, what you need to work on, and how you can improve your proposals in the future. We're not there to tear your proposal apart looking for every flaw to criticize, but we want to make sure you learn while having fun and will try to provide as much constructive criticism as we can. Yes, we will be keeping score, and there may be a prize for the winner, but think of it more as a competitive workshop than a fight to the death.

If you've ever considered participating in a Theme Park Apprentice competition, are looking for a way to improve on past attempts, or just want to show off some of your ideas, I highly recommend joining the fun division of the competition. Even if you can't participate in the whole thing, if you've got an excellent idea for a particular challenge go ahead and submit it. While it is a competition, the fun aspect is really what this game is about, so if you enjoy Armchair Imagineering we want to see what you can do. And should you have any questions, just ask...we're all here to help you.

For those in the Tournament of Champions Qualifier, I look forward to reading your work and getting a chance to compete against one of you soon. You've all proven that you know what it takes to be a champion, now you have to show that you can perform at that level. The challenges in this season are going to test you, so be prepared to pull out all the stops. Good luck to all of you!

February 17, 2017, 8:23 PM

Very excited!

February 19, 2017, 8:32 AM

Waiting for the challange!

February 19, 2017, 3:26 PM

Do we have an estimate on what time the challenge is coming out?

February 19, 2017, 4:41 PM

I just talked to Jeff. Expect it to be posted around 5pm site time, but don't panic if it's a bit late. He's had some issues to take care of, and he's got all the write-ups!

February 19, 2017, 5:05 PM

About now is when it will be posted.....sorry had an event I just got back from......from now on we'll post these much earlier in the day.

My fault. Sorry!

February 22, 2017, 11:50 AM

New plan.....I'm going to post the next week's challenge on Saturday evening, that way everyone has it when the previous deadline hits.

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