What would you do? Building a new roller coaster at Holiday World

March 31, 2010, 9:51 AM · If you didn't see the debut of this series last week, take a look at that piece to see what we're doing here.

Holiday World's The Voyage will compete tomorrow at 11am Eastern for the Best Roller Coaster in America title. When you think about it, that's a pretty impressive position for a ride at a theme park which hasn't cracked the annual Top 20 in attendance, and stands on a county road in rural southern Indiana.

But Holiday World draws a crowd from far beyond its humble Hoosier home. With two other award-winning coasters (The Raven and The Legend), as well as family-friendly service and free parking and soft drinks for all, Holiday World has elicited powerful loyalty from a growing collection of fans.

So how do we repay Holiday World for all it's provided?

Hey, we're theme fans - we get greedy and ask for even more! :-)

Since Holiday World's three-for-three on its roller coasters, why not make it four-for-four? When I lived in Indianapolis, the park was known as "Santa Claus Land," owning to its location in Santa Claus, Indiana. Visitors enter the original "Christmas" section of the park first when they enter, reaffirming that Christmas remains the original holiday in this world.

And yet... there's no signature, world-class ride in the Christmas section of the park. Wouldn't a "Santa's Sleigh" roller coaster make a delightful addition to Holiday World?

Of course!

So... now where should they put it?

(Sound of record screeching.) Ohhh.

Welcome to the ongoing challenge facing any theme park manager: Site placement. Where do you fit a new attraction within the park? Can you squeeze it between existing facilities? Do you replace existing rides? If so, would they provide an adequate "footprint" for the new attraction? Is there any room for expansion beyond the current park boundaries? If so, can you obtain that land, and will the local authorities allow you to use it for your park?

Site placement challenges have affected design decisions at many of the industry's iconic attractions. Remember the stretch room in Disneyland's Haunted Mansion (which is competing in the Best Themed Ride bracket later today)?

Disney's Imagineers didn't put that in there simply because they thought it a cool effect. They didn't have the space for a haunted house attraction on its site in the park's New Orleans Square, but they did have room for a show building behind the earthen berm which surrounded the park. But they needed a way to get people from the park, under the berm and into the building.

Enter the stretch room, an elevator which allows guests to descend to an underground passage, through which they walk under the berm to the Mansion show building.

Here's a somewhat out-of-date Google Maps aerial view of Holiday World. (The view lacks The Voyage and the Thanksgiving expansion. Click for a full-screen view.)

And here's a close=up of Holiday World's official park map (click to see the full version, on Holiday World's website):

Not a whole lot of room there in Christmas, eh?

So this brings us to this week's "What would you do?" What would you do about building a new world-class attraction at Holiday World?

Is "Santa's Sleigh" feasible? Could it be shoe-horned in the space along the southern edge of the park, wrapping around the edge of Holidog's Funtown? That would require placing the entrance somewhere along the currently wooded slope just past Kringle's Banquet Hall. A very tight fit. And what about those support buildings north of the County Road? (You can see those on the Google Map.) Those very likely are not expendable. What do you do with them?

Create underground facilities? Maybe if you have Disney's annual budget. Remember that we're dealing with a privately owned, family-run park here. I imagine that the Koch family doesn't have the Blackstone Group's multi-billion-dollar capital reserves. Creating an underground tunnel system to service all of Holiday World ain't gonna happen, so don't bother proposing it.

What about pushing Christmas forward? Not on the calendar (I wish), but by moving the front gate west into the parking, allowing additional space for a new coaster, or maybe a dark ride "Santa's Sleigh" attraction?

Interesting, but where do you park those cars on a busy day? Remember, Holiday World doesn't charge for parking, and I don't see it building a multi-level garage with that money, even if it did.

Ah, but all that space south of the road? What about that? I'm assuming that if it were easy for Holiday World to obtain that land, and permission to use it, it would have already. Maybe I'm wrong, but until someone tells me otherwise, I'm calling that land off-limits.

Or do you just say forget it, and take my daughter's less expensive suggestion: Create a "Hanukkah" section and throw in a spinner ride called "The Dreidel"? (My daughter, like her father, is a bit, uh, silly at times.)

So... what would you do? Develop one of these ideas and order Santa's Sleigh? Build a new coaster with a different theme elsewhere in the park? Tell us your idea, in the comments, with as much detail as to make your idea so compelling that park president Will Koch will jump away from his computer and yell "We've *got* to do this!" :-)

Replies (25)

March 31, 2010 at 10:12 AM · Hey Robert, I'm reasonably sure that Holiday World has a ton of room for expansion beyond The Voyage and Pilgrims Plunge. And I understand that the Kochs have aggressive plans to expand.
March 31, 2010 at 10:18 AM · I'm going for move the front entrance West and build "Santa's Sleigh" coaster in it's place. They still have the entire Legend parking lot (across the highway) which I would imagine would provide enough parking (several thousand cars) because it has to be at least 20 acres itself. Since it would make the front lot smaller they would no longer need a tram as it would not be as long to walk and then could allow them to start running the tram service in the Legend lot from cars to the walkway under the road.

No matter what really happens I just hope the next coaster no matter the idea is steal!!!

March 31, 2010 at 10:31 AM · To the anonymous comment, it's clear that the park is moving in that direction, and there does appear to be room to grow back there.

But that doesn't address the Christmas issue, which I still find interesting. Your comment did get me thinking of another option, though: Build a new "Christmas" after Thanksgiving (hey, that works!) at the back of the park. Then the entry plaza could become a multi-holiday welcoming area.

March 31, 2010 at 11:13 AM · I don't think the Christmas idea would work unless you wiped out the front parking area and moved the entrance, entering the park under the Raven.

My thoughts would be to utilize another holiday and build out past Thanksgiving. Deep down, I would like to see Memorial Day or Veterans day and then get the giant Intamin or B&M steel beastie that I think the park lacks.

March 31, 2010 at 11:27 AM · Holiday World has this thing about keeping as many trees as possible. Not a bad practice, but it's one that leaves undeveloped space within the park. Unless they move the Christmas section altogether, there really isn't room to put much of a coaster. If they want to expand the Christmas themed area, they should move it to another part of the park first. Doing that would also give them the chance to expand the Halloween section. The Santa's Sleigh concept is a good idea.

When talking about rides and expansion for this park, one has to keep in mind the kind of operation Holiday World is. There is no deep pocketed corporate backing for them and they don't charge anything for parking or soft drinks, two things that are heavily marked up in most other parks. Their revenue is actually not as much as one may think because of those practices, despite being able to build world class coaster. They've never seemed interested in going into a bunch of debt to grow the park, rather they've grown it slowly over recent years and are finally getting well deserved attention from the community outside the tri-state area. Their attendance isn't much of an indicator of their quality (yet). Rather it's the steady (sometimes sharp) increase over the last 10 years or so that indicate the growth of this park and where it's headed.

I'm pulling hard for the Voyage to win this tournament. Small and well loved family owned amusement park defeats big bad Disney on a theme park site...I love it.

March 31, 2010 at 5:09 PM · The anonymous comment above is mine. Used to being logged in all the time.
March 31, 2010 at 1:15 PM · to compliment the wooden ride selection - a compact such as Balder at Liseburg (Intamin wooden coaster with polyurethane wheels!) Rides likes a steel coaster, but adds a different dynamic to the wooden family you have at Holiday World.


March 31, 2010 at 1:16 PM · It's my understanding that Holiday World has a TON of room to expand (more than 200 acres?? Someone step in here)...And they DO...every single year they bring in a new attraction. This year will bring the world's longest water coaster.

And, by the way, those are Indiana state highways on both sides, not County Roads.

March 31, 2010 at 1:29 PM · If it was up to me, I'd do something very unique, something worthy of Holiday Worlds Reputation.

I'd build a steel coaster that has many unique elements.

My coaster would load somewhere behind the spider and bumper boat rides, it would climb toward the howler and take a diving right turn running parallel to the 162/245 toward the water tower. where it would totally encircle the water tower in a slanted loop with the highest part of that loop being on the park side of the tower. exiting the loop a tunnel along 162\245 toward the entrance plaza flying up into a 1/2 loop or cobra roll just to the right of the main entrance gate. exiting the cobra roll directly next to the entrance booths the ride would head back toward the station running behind the perimeter buildings and rabbit hopping over the theatre then dropping again into a 2nd tunnel that would have trick track in the dark, then fly up into a double heartline spin in the air exiting into an immediate helix and a few more rabbit hops and then the brakes.

The name? Rockets Red Glare...

Sam Marks

March 31, 2010 at 1:30 PM · What I would do is buy the coasters from Hard Rock/Freestyle Music park. This would quickly add some much needed steel including a B&M looper, an awesome mine train and a suspended water coaster for Splashin' Safari. The Hang Ten junior coaster would be a nice step up from Howler.

With the issues they are having down there, my bet it they will be for sale in the next few months if not weeks.

March 31, 2010 at 1:32 PM · I live about 10 mins north of the park and I used to go there all the time when I was little. I'm also a former employee from the rides department. We also took care of the tram service. I know from experience that the current and somewhat expanding Legend parking lot will NOT hold all of the vehicles that guests bring! So doing away with the Raven lot will not be heard of until they can expand the Legend lot by more than what the Raven lot can hold. But my vote is for some kind of 'adult' ride in the Christmas section. I would really like to see a dark ride...maybe even one of those big screen ones where you sit in individual chairs and the chairs move up and down and side to side. Maybe something where the video played is santa's sleigh ride on christmas eve/christmas morning....oh i know it could even be 3D!!! That would be completely awesome!!!

And for those of you wishing for a steel coaster...keep dreaming! I think it's going to be many years before Holiday World...a family friendly park...sees a steel coaster!

March 31, 2010 at 1:43 PM · I would say put it either by the 4th of July Land or take out a piece of the parking lot. Is the lots always packed?

I think they could put it starting in Christmas Land and have it in the area behind straddling 4th of July like you said. Great America's American Eagle does this by almost going the length of the park on one side.

Then again, what kind of roller coaster would Santa's Sleigh be? Another Voyage? A smaller roller coaster? Thats a bigger question IMO

March 31, 2010 at 1:43 PM · I made a comment once about the possibility of them expanding across the street there, and build a walkway (or tunnel) leading to the other side. Although, I do enjoy the calm state that the Christmas area provides. :)
March 31, 2010 at 1:58 PM · Hmm.... This is a certainly a challenge. My vote goes for a compact GCI woodie but it would nice to see HW to start building steel coasters like a compact power launching Maurer Sohne.
March 31, 2010 at 2:04 PM · I love walking into the Christmas section of Holiday World - for kind of weird nostalgia reasons. I am only 25, but I know the history of Santa Claus Land - I like that the Christmas section remains very similar to what it used to be when my parents went - and I like how it's kind of the 'relaxing', 'old-time' entry to the park, before things start getting too busy and loud.

Also, 'Santa's Sleigh' sounds lame - doesn't have the same ring to it as the 'legend' or the 'raven' or 'voyage'. Anything else christmas related, would probably be a lame name for a roller coaster as well. I think this section should remain mainly kids rides - where lame names and lame concepts for rides are ok. maybe a kids roller coaster 'santa's sleigh', would be a hit.

But, if it must be done, change the name of this section to 'Christmas Eve' - have a chair lift that carries guests to a new 'Christmas' section that is located on the far side of Thanksgiving. The chair lift could be called 'Santa's sleigh' - a corny name, for a relaxing, but cool, ride to see the park from up high.

In other suggestions, I also have been really hoping for a 3-D or 4-D ride (whatever those rides are called - the Back to the Future or, even better, Spiderman type rides that Universal is so good at) at Holiday World. I realize that the story line may not be as cool as Spiderman's (hopefully, wouldn't be as silly as the turkey gathering ride) but maybe a thanksgiving story line on a 4d ride could still be exciting for adults if done correctly.

Michelle, Newburgh, IN

March 31, 2010 at 2:47 PM · How about Santa's Slay?

Ok, thats a really bad B movie (IMDB it if you don't believe me)

March 31, 2010 at 3:00 PM · Well since we are talking about the Christmas section, "...Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse."

I think a wild mouse would be a perfect family addition to the park, and if it were to be a spinning wild mouse, it could be themed as that ornament that keeps falling off the Christmas Tree every year.

March 31, 2010 at 3:17 PM · I agree that they should move the entrance west. The Legend Lot is pretty big and I've never seen it full. I've gone mid-afternoon and was still able to park in the main lot due to cars leaving. They could cut that lot in half and expand the Legend lot and add a 2nd tunnel under the highway. As for the ride itself, if going by the Christmas/Santa's Sleigh theme, I'd like to see something along the lines of Cedar Point's Disaster Transport -- an indoor tobaggon ride incorporating visual elements and gravity as the only means of propulsion. Seriously, I thought that ride would be terrible and was pleasantly surprised at how exciting it was. And it also works with the whole "sleigh" aspect...make each "car" Santa's sleigh. Yeah, that's what I'd do.
March 31, 2010 at 6:52 PM · Freestyle Music Park's Max RPM for whatever could be an AWESOME thing to bring to the park!!! (Forth of July section)
March 31, 2010 at 7:57 PM · Santa's Sleigh would make a great name and a great theme for an older kids/ tween coaster themed around the elves. Keep it kid friendly but add a little modernness to it (think of some kid friendly variants along the concept of the old Elf Bowling game online).

Either feed in from SantaClause Land on west side and continue south of Raven OR on the west side, tunneling under the train, and south of Fourth of July in what currently appears to be a service area.

Okay not the 8+ rated coaster I would want but that does not work in the proposed area. This targets the tween audience which which is a better fit for this part of the park and the overall audience. Put next big name coaster further back in the park where they can take advantage of the terrain and trees a little better. Possibly integrated with the edges of the water park.

Big name coasters aren't a good fit at the front entrance as this draws people to the front of the park where they are more likely to leave. Also re-orients the park more towards large coasters rather than the family audience they very successfully target. First impressions are invaluable and this could be a negative as it would draw teenagers to the front entrance and possibly cause crowd control and enforcement problems.

For Santa Claus Land, I would spend the money on a great dark ride taking advantage of the Christmas theme. Holiday World dark rides are currently their weakness. A dark ride around Santa's workshop possibly themed on the last week before Christmas toy build-out rush. Or perhaps on Santa's visit to actually deliver the toys with some quick drops and take offs between scenes for the flight and landing at the next stop. Last stop is Santa's big return home to the North pole. Space is available south of Fourth of July and designed right the construction could actually support a couple of dark rides fitting both lands separately with separate entrances. Maybe a premier boat ride for Christmas (Christmas Small World) and a car ride for July 4 (American History). In the big picture, these two dark rides done very well would be cost effective and ride count effective supporting the family target market. It has to be better than the Thanksgiving shoot em up dark ride which is really weak


March 31, 2010 at 8:31 PM · A ton of great ideas here and in the comments of the Holiday World Facebook page. Best approach is probably to move the rides in the Christmas section altogether and somehow combine them with the rest of the kiddie rides back in Holidog's Fun Town. Now you have the room for the Christmas Eve section someone mentioned earlier, where your family-style Wild Mouse coaster (previously mentioned) could fit. Then you expand into those 200 acres of room (as rumored in a earlier post) or into the parking lot (also previously mentioned) to build a brand new Christmas section, which really should be the gem of the park. You then build your uber Santa's Sleigh flying coaster, your 4D Spider-Man/DarKastle style themed "Polar Express" experience, your "Night Before Christmas" whole family dark ride, and your Christmas extravaganza show stage in this new section.

Or, if no other room exists, just expand Christmas into the 4th of July area since most of those carnival style midway rides are fairly lame anyway, and have your ode to 4th of July being a nighttime fireworks show instead of a section of the park.

Either way, there are limitless possibilities for Holiday World as the theme is wide open and ripe for exploration. I would love to see more Disney-style themed attractions hit the park, but as long as the Voyage is operating, that's really all I truly care about. After all, it alone is worth the price of admission.

March 31, 2010 at 9:49 PM · I think Santa's Sleigh is a great idea... and it could easily be HW's first steel coaster. It could also be... indoors. An indoor spaghetti bowl coaster wouldn't take up too much space. It could fit behind the Howler or across 1600 easily, and be heavily themed... when Rudolph's nose goes out, something could go HORRIBLY WRONG. Even living in FL, HW is certainly my favorite park. At any rate, whatever Will decides to do next after opening the Wildebeest will be inventive, thrilling, and world-class.
April 1, 2010 at 7:28 AM · Santa's sleigh could work as an indoor coaster or perhaps a small steel coaster similar to the tony hawk coaster at six flags st. louis. but the idea of a steel coaster in the 4th of July park I think is a much better idea i like the name rockets red glare
April 1, 2010 at 7:54 AM · The fourth of July Section would be a great spot for a new coaster. The christmas section would be nice but it is a little crowded in there already
April 2, 2010 at 8:19 AM · Earlier it was mentioned that Holiday World is a "family park" so we wouldn't be seeing steel coasters there. Why? Is Disneyland not considered a family park? All of their coasters are steel. There's no reason at all why Holiday World could not build a steel coaster. In fact, I'd love to see a Mine Train ride. It would theme well with the Rapids ride and could be woven around the area.

And I echo the earlier post mentioning dark rides. Holiday World is sorely lacking in these and the theming potential for a dark ride are many. Santa's Workshop? Awesome. A Haunted dark ride in the Halloween section? A natural.

I also like the idea of the parking lot being made into park land. There isn't enough room for Christmas and the other holidays are overshadowing it because of this. Would definitely like to see that land expanded and have the different lands more balanced ride wise.

There's a lot of possibilities!

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