Introducing the 2010 Best Attraction Tournament

March 29, 2009, 3:22 PM · "What?" I can hear you asking. "We're not yet finished with this year's tournament, and already you're writing about next year's?"

You're right. I am jumping the gun. But once you've read what I have planned for next year, I think you will agree that an early start is necessary.

Let me back up and explain why we're doing this tournament in the first place. I envisioned the tournament as a fun way to get regular Theme Park Insider readers more involved with the site, to attract new readers, and to get everyone fired up at the beginning of the traditional theme park season. And if we throw some attention toward a really great ride, all the better.

The trick with the tournament always has been to create match-ups that were engaging and entertaining. No one cares about a 90%-10% blowout. Nor can readers get into debating the merits of a $80 million 4D dark ride versus a $50K off-the-shelf carny spinner. Rides matched up against each other need to have some common points of reference, so that readers can compare and contrast them.

The past two tournaments have exposed some frustrations that I wanted to address. (And I want to thank everyone who's offered suggestions on improving the tournament during that time.)

First, to help preserve meaningful match-ups, I limited the tournament to rides, and this year, to rides aimed at older kids and grown-ups. That excluded many great shows from the tournament, preventing many fans and readers from getting to debate their favorite attractions.

Also, the Great Cedar Point Invasion illuminated one of the continuing rifts that divides some theme and amusement park fans. Theme Park Insider's long been "neutral ground" in this space. We're not a Disney site nor a coaster site. We include readers who love parks from a variety of companies, and who are willing to consider rides and shows from just about anyone.

But we should be even more open and accommodating, to give coaster fans and themed entertainment fans plenty of opportunity to boast about their favorites. Therefore, next year, instead of running one tournament, we're going to run four!

The 2010 "Best Attraction" tournament will feature four 16-attraction tournaments, each of which will function as a separate bracket in an overall tournament to select the best overall attraction in either North America or the world.

The four brackets will be:

Best Themed Ride
This will feature rides that include significant storytelling, as well as a unique themed setting. Potential nominees in this category include The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, Pirates of the Caribbean, Men in Black Alien Attack and Revenge of the Mummy.

Best Roller Coaster
This category is for the best in non-narrative coasters. If a coaster includes an elaborate themed setting, such as Mummy, it will go in the above category instead. Potential candidates here include Millennium Force, Griffon, Thunderhead and El Toro.

Best Live Show
This category honors shows where the majority of the action is presented by live performers. Notice that I didn't say live "people." Animal shows go into this category, allowing the many SeaWorld shows finally to join the tournament. Potential nominees include Festival of the Lion King, Finding Nemo - The Musical, Believe and Blue Horizons.

Best Multimedia Show
The final category is for shows where the majority of action is prerecorded or mechanically or digitally animated. Potential nominees include IllumiNations, Terminator 2: 3D, Impressions de France and Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor.

Once voters have selected the best in class for each bracket, the two rides will square off to determine the best ride, and the two shows will go against each other to determine the best show.

Then, the best ride and the best show will match up as readers select the best overall attraction.

Voting in the tournament will kick off next year at its traditional time in mid-March, and will continue to be open to all Theme Park Insider readers and visitors. But the build-up to next year's tournament will begin long before that.

The selection of the 16 nominated attractions in each class will continue to be determined primarily by Theme Park Insider's reader ratings. So, please, be sure to visit TPI after each park visit, to rate and review every attraction you experienced. Those ratings are essential in helping us pick the very best 16 attractions in each class.

(And please, don't bother rating attractions either "10" or "0", with nothing in between. To be honest, I've set up the site's publishing system to erase those votes, anyway. Let's not forget that I was a math major and can sniff out and purge bogus voting patterns. Most attractions should be in the 4-7 range, with a few outstanding attractions getting exceptional ratings.)

I will reveal the 16 nominees in each class in early January 2010. Then, for 64 days leading up to the tournament, we will run one feature a day profiling a nominated attraction. These profiles will include descriptions and photos and as well as videos and interviews with attraction designers or performers. With all this information available, no one will be able to use the excuse that he or she doesn't have enough information about an attraction to vote!

Obviously, this is going to be a huge reporting project. So, I'll ask for help right now. If you are or have been involved in the design or production of any attraction - ride or show - that you think ought to be in the top 16 in its category, and want to talk about it, e-mail me at themeparkinsider - at - I'll be starting the work of reporting on potential nominees right away. I won't save all that reporting for next year, either, but will be weaving much of it into the blog here on TPI throughout the summer and fall, as well.

If we can get enough TPI readers to rate and review attractions from listed parks around the world, and if I can enlist support from the designers and producers of those attractions, we will make this a "World's Best Attraction" tournament, instead of simply a "Best in America" one.

With all these previews, not to mention the voting itself, we'll have theme park fans covered with fun tournament coverage from New Year's week up until the regional parks open in the spring. No need to fear the dark days of winter next year.

I'm excited about these changes, and all the great content we'll have on the site, and hope that you will be, too!

Replies (13)

March 29, 2009 at 4:17 PM · Sounds fun and fair!
March 29, 2009 at 6:19 PM · I guess the Disney Mountains will be themed rides. That makes sense; they can't compete with other coasters for thrills. But, can they compete based solely on theming? That will be interesting to see.

I find it funny that people are so bent out of shape about Cedar Point fans jumping in and "skewing" the vote! After I looked around at past posts on this site it looks like everyone had already assumed Disney fans would pull the same stunt and folks were okay with that. But, if the fans are from Cedar Point, oh no!!! :)

March 29, 2009 at 5:13 PM · This brings a whole new level of fairness to the tournament. Now, the debate will no longer be Cedar Fair vs. Disney, etc., but rather attraction versus attraction. Also, by profiling each attraction hopefully people will make more informed choices. I'm already excited for next year!
March 29, 2009 at 6:02 PM · That is an absolutely superb idea! I was really put off by how negative people had become toward those of us who enjoy and give deserved merits to well-designed coasters even when they are up against a well-themed dark ride. This should solve that problem. (Although I must say that I did enjoy arguing with myself during those especially tough match-ups such as Tower and Maverick or Hulk and DarKastle)
March 29, 2009 at 6:56 PM · Sounds like a fantastic idea! I can't wait for next year's tournament..
March 29, 2009 at 7:06 PM · I concur with everyone here...great ideas, and the fact that we will have all off-season to contemplate things will make the cold months warmer somehow.

And in the new format, the final four will prove to be four of the most special attractions in the world.

Now, if we could just figure out how to wrangle in a few really cool water coasters...

March 29, 2009 at 9:54 PM · I'm predicting it now...

Best Multimedia show will beat best Live Show
Best Themed Ride will beat Best Roller Coaster
Best Themed Ride will beat best Multimedia Show

I'm interested in seeing how best roller coaster will match up with all the other coaster polls out there.

March 29, 2009 at 10:01 PM · Once you get to the final four, you stop. There is no apples and oranges contest. Once you get to the final four you post those as the Theme Park Insider Favorites. Only way to be completely fair.
March 29, 2009 at 11:02 PM · James is correct. There is no reason to pit actors against technology or thrills versus theming. They are pretty exclusive categories. In that scenario, someone is bound to be upset. The result won't be based on an accurate assessment of what is the best, but on who can mobilize the most backers.
March 30, 2009 at 8:52 AM · Sounds perfect Robert! Count me in!
March 30, 2009 at 9:21 AM · Sounds great. Good call.
March 30, 2009 at 10:52 AM · I will put persistent links to all four class winners on the site for the year following the tournament. So they will be promoted as winners, not simply as semi-finalists.
March 30, 2009 at 1:05 PM · I am looking forward to what should be a more evenly matched tournament

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