A 3D motion-base ride in the style of Universal's Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, Curse of DarKastle was the most ambitious attempt at that time by a regional park to create a multi-media dark ride attraction to rival those found at the Disney and Universal theme parks. Set in a frozen castle ruled by the mad King Ludwig, the ride took visitors on a tour of the castle in golden sleighs, during which they encounter the mad king and narrowly escape the traps he has set for them.
Busch Gardens today posted a ride video to its Facebook page, as a farewell to the attraction.
This is the first time that a park has closed a winner of our Theme Park Insider Award for Best New Attraction. Maintaining the complex (and expensive) ride and show systems that Curse of DarKastle required proved too much for Busch Gardens and its parent SeaWorld, which were spun off from former parent Anheuser-Busch (and its deep corporate pockets) in 2009. The attraction also was hampered by the dark tone of its narrative and its original storyline, which many visitors found incomprehensible, as it did not reference any familiar entertainment franchise. All that didn't help drive the attendance that might have allowed the park to justify the ride's operational expense.
But the ambitious original story that frustrated some Busch Gardens visitors also thrilled many theme park fans, who had been waiting for a regional park to take on an original dark ride project to challenge Disney and Universal. Now that cause rests with Six Flags' Justice League Battle for Metropolis rides, which won our Best New Attraction award a decade later, in 2015.
Busch Gardens will replace DarKastle with a special events venue. The park is asking fans to comment on its Facebook page to choose the name of the new venue, from the options Gartensburg Castle, NewKastle, and Oktoberfest Palaste.
Our opening review of Curse of DarKastle:
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Better attractions are. You know, like award winning attractions. Wait.
Busch/SeaWorld is in for a world of hurt if they keep chasing the coaster seekers who, outside of Florida, have cheaper and more thrilling options.
I'm really sorry that a ride that sounds so cool (and original!) has to go. That probably gets the park off my visiting wish list
I can understand that the attraction was expensive to operate and maintain, but Sea World has been making some serious missteps recently, putting dollars and cents ahead of experience and common sense. While they are revitalizing their other simulator experience, they're eliminating one of the few rides that had a broad audience and was accessible to entire families. Accountants and managers fail to understand why Busch Gardens has been a highly successful park as it is one of the few parks in the country that fills the gap between the Cedar Fairs/Six Flags of the world and the once-in-a-lifetime (or at least once every few years) experiences of Disney and Universal. Removing one of the few attractions that differentiates BGW from the regional coaster parks eliminates what made BGW different and unique in the landscape. This is a very sad day in the theme park world.
Also, the park noted that the attraction was going to be converted into an events space, going so far as to solicit votes for its future name, which means much of the interior of the attraction will likely be gutted. That would preclude any return of the attraction to the space without considerable cost. I wouldn't be surprised if much of the hardware gets shipped to Orlando to serve as spare parts for Antarctica (much like how hardware from Gwazi is being used on InvadR). While Antarctica is trackless, the vehicles still use many of the same internal electronic components and actuators.
I'm wondering if the conversion of DarKastle into an indoor events space will result in the closing of the Black Forest picnic area. That would fully open the space behind the FestHaus, which is reportedly one of the potential spots where the park is considering to expand to create a new country (with a giga-coaster serving as the new land's anchor). The other rumored location would be the backstage stable area behind Festa Italia.
All rides eventually reach this point, where parks have to do a cost benefit analysis. However, for an attraction like DarKastle, that analysis is not as simple as O&M costs versus line length/guest interest. By announcing this closure, the park has failed to recognize what makes it different than other regional theme parks. BGW had always succeeded because it was more than just a collection of thrill rides. It was a place where guests can escape for a few hours and enjoy life in another world. Rides like DarKastle are what set it apart from nearby parks like Six Flags America and Kings Dominion that cater almost exclusively to thrill seekers. Without those unique attractions, guests now no longer have that incentive to drive further or spend more to visit BGW (a park with a gate price almost 30% higher than those neighboring parks). There needs to be some serious soul searching within the management group, or this chain will decline even further. I know it's critical to stay in the black every year, but sometimes you need a "loss leader" that on the surface costs you more money than you make, but in the end will not only generate more revenue, but result in higher guest satisfaction and repeat visits.
"If the park was having trouble fitting the current operation and maintenance costs into the budget"
That's the key. The "current operation" with outdated equipment that just shouldn't be saved. It would be a big capital expense to retrofit a new ride system, but cheaper in the long run.
Even if they did leave the track and sets in place (making the announced events space a rather difficult and strange proposition), there has not been a single dark ride attraction that I'm aware of where shooting gallery technology has been retrofitted. Not only has such a retrofit never been done, but it is not nearly as simple or cheap as you suggest. Yes, Justice League uses similar Oceaneering motion base vehicles, but those were built from the ground up with the shooting gallery concept in mind. The DarKastle vehicles are 13 years old, and technology has changed a lot since then, meaning instead of trying to retrofit the technology onto the existing vehicles, the park would most likely have to buy a completely new fleet. If they're buying a completely new fleet of vehicles, that would require a completely new control system that can communicate with the new vehicles and integrated scoring system along with communicating with the projectors to simulate the gun blasts and hits. I don't think the shooting gallery concept is a bad one, but the park would essentially be building an entirely new attraction from the ground up trying to make your suggested "conversion".
"you're eliminating any chance of bringing the attraction back in ANY form."
This makes no sense. The original ride can't come back, but not necessarily since the screens are still there for the shooting attraction. If they wish to program the new ride with the original film, it would be difficult, time consuming, and expensive, but obviously possible.
"there has not been a single dark ride attraction that I'm aware of where shooting gallery technology has been retrofitted"
Seriously? Knott's Iron Reef where the original Dinosaur dark ride was kept dark for over 20 years. It was a complete retrofit.
"a completely new fleet"
Why am I talking in circles? That's what I said already.
Yes, it would still be called a conversion even if they gutted it and started over. It's a conversion and retrofit. Retrofit means taking out the old and putting in new. It's doesn't mean keeping outdated stuff by tinkering with it.
"All screens. Just add guns."
That to me means you're suggesting adding shooting gallery technology to the existing ride system, which is not very feasible for the reasons that I've already noted. However, if you want to build an entirely new ride from the ground up (brand new vehicles, brand new props, projectors, control system, and everything that goes along with it), put it in the old DarKastle building (and even give it a similar theme), that's certainly possible, but it would in no way be considered a "retrofit". A retrofit, by definition, is to "add a component or accessory to something that it did not have when manufactured", meaning that it still has most, if not all, of its original components. Putting VR on Kraken or Battle for Eyre is a "retrofit". Installing effects, sound, and new theming elements on X2 or Bizaro (SFGAdv) is a "retrofit". Installing Iron Reef into the old Kingdom of the Dinosaurs building is NOT a "retrofit", it's a completely new ride in an old building. There's nothing left of the old ride, and a similar conversion to a shooting dark ride in the DarKastle building would have little left of the original attraction aside from the building. What you're suggesting is that BGW build a new ride, not retrofit on convert an old one.
Iron Reef is a retrofit since they put the ride in the exact same building and using the same loading area and somewhat following the same track layout.
Whether you call it an entirely new ride has no bearing on whether it is a retrofit or not. The same building is salvaged for the new ride. Many rides are in fact overhauled over time. Disney does it all the time with their rides. I doubt the same rides exists anymore with decades of retrofits.
Converting DarKastle to a shooting attraction is a retrofit. The layout, screen, and pace will mimic what it was except they are using updated technology that's easier to maintain.
I agree with you that a new dark ride would be a great addition for Busch Gardens. However, it would need to be completely designed from scratch even if the building is reused. If operating costs were a major contributing factor, a cheaper and simpler ride system is probably more desirable.
No, this is called a overlay. The ride is pretty much there. Only the show is different.
"For Iron Reef, the only thing from Kingdom of the Dinosaurs that remains are the roof and four walls of the building."
Except you ignored the wait area, the loading platform, the track layout. The exit down to the first floor. There's more similarities than you care to acknowledge.
I would only agree that the amount of renovation for Iron Reef was more than a simple retrofit. On other hand, changing DarKastle is very straightforward.
Let's use another analogy. Would you call a car and airplane renovation a retrofit? In these cases, you're pretty much gutting the car and airplane and usually put in all new equipment, seats, and interior. The shell of the car and airplane are intact. After the retrofit, it mostly still rides the same, but sometimes better.
Get rid of dark rides. Bring on the live orchestras and live performers! It's also better for the local economy, as it will create a lot more jobs than a dark ride that just needs someone to check your seatbelt, and another person to press a button.
As for Iron Reef, the only thing that is somewhat intact is the boarding area, though the platform itself is entirely new. The old queue and exit paths were completely torn out, with a significant portion of the current queue occupying what used to be part of the ride. The old queue was a gently rising ramp that wound its way up to the station area, and the old exit was also a gently winding ramp down into the arcade. Both of these have been replaced by staircases.
In my mind, a retrofit means that enough is preserved that the old attraction is functionally identical to the new one. If the track remains in place and new vehicles are placed on it, it's a retrofit. If the ride system stays the same but the scenes change, it's a retrofit. If the control or propulsion systems are upgraded but it still operates in a similar manner, it's a retrofit. If nothing mechanical remains of the previous attraction, it's a new ride. The conversion of Mantis to Rougarou was a retrofit, as it was simply the addition of new trains. However, Steel Vengeance is an entirely new ride despite reusing the structure of Mean Streak, as there are no mechanical components remaining.
As for your car example, the difference there is that the car never ceases to be a car, and the new components are functionally identical to the old ones. A better example is this: If you remove everything in a bedroom and turn it into a home office, is that a retrofit or a conversion?
A shooting gallery ride would be a great addition to BGW following the loss of DarKastle, but the simple fact that they determined that a standard dark ride was too onerous and expensive to operate and maintain would suggest that the park has no plans to dip their toe into this realm again for the foreseeable future. I don't think your suggestion is without merit, but it's a bit far-fetched for this specific application and not very feasible given the circumstances.
Whether Busch wants to do it, they don't have to make an immediate decision. They can make it a special events center for decades. The structure is still there ready for conversion or retrofit at any time when they get the money or new management that can see the benefit.
That paragraph on screens is not a case against the retrofit. Of course they would want to install real screens. They may even want to go with LCD screens. It may cost lots of money. But a retrofit doesn't mean they have to start from scratch because breaking ground and building the structure is always a significant expense.
This definition could be true, but it's one definition of many. Using the same building as a dark ride is one as well. The ride is shoehorned into an existing structure and there's not much deviation. DarKastle will have to use it's existing screens and ride layout and there's no deviation from it. Everything from the exterior, to queue, to loading and unloading will have to be in the exact same spots. No deviation. It's exactly like the Matterhorn that not only was upgraded with new tracks, new animatronics, new scenes, new special effects, and new cars. You can almost call it a new ride except the Matterhorn follows the exact same roller coaster track layout... exactly like DarKastle.
That was your very first statement on this thread. Maybe I'm completely misinterpreting what you meant, but when someone says a park should take a recently closed attraction and "turn it into" something else, that means taking some or all of what is present, and retrofitting or converting it into a new attraction, and doing so in the not so distant future. Yes, the walls and the roof of the building will remain, so a significant expense involved with designing and building a dark ride attraction could be avoided. However, what you've suggested is so far out of left field that it's simply not feasible or plausible, and despite my best efforts to explain why this idea makes very little sense given the conditions and history of this specific attraction, you persist in perpetuating this absurd notion.
Is it possible? Sure, anything is possible. Heck, BGW could hear all the backlash surrounding this decision and announce tomorrow that DarKastle will reopen in March in its former glory, they could announce that they are going to move all the hardware to a new theme park they're building on Yaz Island, or they could announce that they're gutting the FestHaus to install your mythical shooting gallery attraction there. I just don't think your insistence that a theme park is going to suddenly turn tail and reinstall a dark ride into a building they're getting ready to gut of all ride mechanics and interior theming doesn't make any reasonable sense and doesn't further the discussion regarding the dynamics and impacts of this announcement.
BGW had one of the best and highest rated motion based dark rides not located in a Disney or Universal park (until Justice League came along), and the park, in an obvious cost-cutting measure that has affected virtually every park in this once proud and successful chain, has signaled that it no longer wants to compete in the space it once occupied between regional amusement parks and destination theme parks. That is the story here, not whether they're going to install another costly dark ride at some indeterminate time down the road, or how much of the old ride would remain in an alternate universe mystery shooting gallery attraction. I'm all for thinking outside the box, but what you've suggested Anton is pure folly at least in the near term (3-5 years), and not really relevant or practical to the announcement made to close this ride, which should be the focus of this discussion. Perhaps you could share your memories of the attraction and what you liked or disliked about it. You did ride it, right??
You dug a hole for yourself and declared it impossible because you're dug in. You can't allow it because you have to take back your thesis.
I just saw the ride twice yesterday on Youtube. It was a mess of a ride. It can't be saved. They did the right thing to close it since it's outdated and completely incomprehensible. The pre-show was terrible. It can't be followed. The ride itself has some good moments, but the projections have poor resolution and the sound was very poor quality.
"I'm all for thinking outside the box, but what you've suggested Anton is pure folly at least in the near term (3-5 years), and not really relevant or practical to the announcement made to close this ride, which should be the focus of this discussion."
I made an one line throwaway comment and you decided to attack it with all the vigor of a Russell rebuttal. What is wrong with you?
I already said nothing needs to be done near term and you decided to ignore that. They can keep the building a special events center for decades and I won't notice because I never visited the park and unlikely to ever.
"I just saw the ride twice yesterday on Youtube. It was a mess of a ride. It can't be saved."
You just said it all there. Thank you for your honesty and admission of complete ignorance.
And was the ride saved? No it's gone. It's dead.
I didn't know that if you rode it once, you're considered an experienced Engineer to change the attraction. Russell is a theme park engineer. How wonderful. Be sure to clear your ideas with Russell the experienced theme park engineer.
"I just saw the ride twice yesterday on Youtube. It was a mess of a ride. It can't be saved. They did the right thing to close it since it's outdated and completely incomprehensible. The pre-show was terrible. It can't be followed. The ride itself has some good moments, but the projections have poor resolution and the sound was very poor quality."
Really? You judge the quality of the pre-show, sound, and video resolution based on a YouTube video. You deem an attraction worthy of closure based on watching it (not actually riding it) twice, yet I'm the one who's misguided? I mean how much more idiotic do you need to be?
I do have a background in engineering, but currently practice geology for one of the largest engineering and consulting firms in the world (a firm that happens to be very involved with the theme park industry on many levels, though the work I currently do for a living does not directly touch this industry). However, my expertise here lies in the specifics of this attraction and this park, and I have a strong passion towards both. Perhaps you failed to note the writer who composed the original Theme Park Insider report on The Curse of DarKastle, or the reference in my initial post here. I was at the media event for this attraction in 2005, and followed the construction of the ride from concept to reality and through a major rework on the story and animation a few years after it opened. I interviewed many of the contractors, designers, and engineers involved with bringing Curse of DarKastle to life from the ride vehicle designers at Oceaneering to the stucco artists at Nassal to the CG artists at Super78 to the Busch Gardens in-house designers and engineers. I know this park and attraction better than probably any other person regularly contributing to this website, so yes, I do come at this with some level of expertise, which you seem to cast off like it's some night-school diploma. I still have hundreds of photos and videos from the media day in addition to pages of interview notes and other information about this attraction, so if you'd like to know more about it, I'd be glad to pull those out of archive and give you a history lesson.
You, on the other hand, haven't provided one shred of credibility to your concept nor one plausible reason why such an idea would even be considered by BGW. You also seem to dismiss the knowledge and experience of AJ, who clearly noted some of your misconceptions surrounding Iron Reef, yet you continue to twist and contort statements to make yourself seem like a knowledgeable poster, which you've since demonstrated is completely inaccurate. You make it seem as though converting a shell of a building into a shooting gallery dark ride is just a drop in the bucket, all the while completely ignorant having never ridden Curse of DarKastle or ever having visited Busch Gardens Williamsburg, basing your opinion of the ride on a YouTube video (of a 3-D motion-base attraction no less). You talk about me "digging in", yet it's you who asserts authority as to what's possible to accomplish on a ride you've never ridden at a park you've never been to. When someone who does have experience and knowledge tries to explain how impractical and far-fetched your idea is, you backtrack with generalizations, vagaries, and now sarcasm. When you don't know what you're talking about, just admit it and move on. Certainly there are very few limits as to what theme park designers can come up with and execute with unlimited budgets and resources, but at some point you have to understand what is plausible and feasible, and what is complete fantasy and folly. Your concept is soundly in that latter category. Simply saying that it might not happen now, but is possible in the future is a weak cop out. Of course, anything is possible in the future - Disney could go bankrupt, Oprah could be President, and we could send a person out of the galaxy 3 years from now, but we live in a world of reality and likelihoods, and simply kicking your absurd idea down the road a few years doesn't mean it's any more plausible or valid today.
Thus, the only argument you have is cost. Costs change. Circumstances change.
The only person "double, triple, and quadruple down" with another hundred words of rebuttal is you.
You're no more an expert to advise on the attraction than me just because you went to a media event. It's only until you do the work that you know what goes into it. That ride is outdated to today's technology and probably that's why it contributed to the cost. They are unwilling to make the upgrades since updating it today is not what they have in mind. So "perhaps" this has everything to do with the fact that they came to the conclusion that keeping it going requires a complete overhaul that costs just as much as a new attraction, but it is still cheaper than starting from scratch. It is only absurd if they are unwilling to spend the money.
You practice geology. This doesn't make you an engineer. You're getting ridiculous again.
"Many shooting gallery rides have nothing to do with physical targets. Just use the screen, yet that didn't occur to you."
Wow..How profound, yet so wrong. You are so completely deluded and wound up in yourself that you don't even know how inaccurate and off-base your statements are. Come back here when you've learned how dark rides like these (Iron Reef, Wonder Mountain, Ninjago, TSMM, Justice League, Men In Black, and all of the other shooting gallery-style rides that are too numerous to mention) really work. You do realize that even screen-based shooting gallery dark rides have "targets" and sensors right? Some have "virtual targets" created by sensors embedded in the vehicles (like Ninjago and TSMM), while others have physical target sensors or sensor arrays located in front of or behind the screens (like Iron Reef, Wonder Mountain, and Justice League, which is predominantly screen-based BTW, maybe you didn't catch that in your YouTube experience of that attraction since you clearly haven't ridden that one either).
While you're out there educating yourself on how dark rides work, I'd also draw your attention to an interview from earlier this year between Robert and Rich Hill from Sally Corp, who helped to develop the Justice League Battle for Metropolis attractions. I'll draw your limited attention span to the comments regarding the improvement from their first generation attractions, housed predominantly in pre-existing buildings, to the second generation of attraction that Sally was able to get designed into custom-built enclosures. Perhaps that will enlighten you as to the advantages of building from scratch versus constructing a complicated shooting gallery dark ride like this in an already existing building, even ones that housed older shooting gallery dark rides.
I read that article before. I re-read it again at your behest. It doesn't change the argument at all. They most certainly are capable of shoehorning in an existing building.
"That meant one of our top priorities was to design it to be as maintenance-friendly as possible, giving Six Flags the best chance for success. "
That's from the article. So what's wrong with putting in an new attraction that has better maintenance? Busch will certainly be helped.
I can't tell if you are for or against targets. Your argument in best light suggests it's negligible. It doesn't matter. Even if you want to reduce cost by eliminating physical effects, Sally would find the best mix to make it happen.
I can't tell where you're going with on the sensors. It was your argument against shooting gallery attraction because sensors and physical targets adds complexity. Sally makes a good case that both are necessary. "Overall, a balanced mix of practical and virtual elements is a great way to keep guests on the edge of their seats."
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