Busch Gardens gives up on its award-winning Curse of DarKastle

January 23, 2018, 9:13 PM · Busch Gardens Williamsburg has announced that it has closed Curse of DarKastle, the 2005 winner of the Theme Park Insider Award for Best New Attraction.

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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Replies (57)

January 23, 2018 at 9:49 PM · Budget cuts like this are why Merlin should purchase the Busch Gardens parks (and most likely their respective water parks, too).
January 23, 2018 at 9:53 PM · Getting rid of attractions is not how to bring in more customers.

Better attractions are. You know, like award winning attractions. Wait.

January 23, 2018 at 11:53 PM · I'm sadden and disappointed that Busch Gardens has decided to close Dark Castle. My grandkids and I visit quite often and they enjoy riding this attraction. There are limited rides for kids with height 42-54 inches. You remove this ride and that is one less ride for them. I'm at a loss Busch Gardens. I truly hope you made the right decision.
January 23, 2018 at 11:58 PM · No like
January 24, 2018 at 12:33 AM · This does not bode well for those of us hoping that not every new ride at Disney and Universal will be based on their IP. I wasn't very optimistic about any of them coming up with something original before.
January 24, 2018 at 12:35 AM · Utterly terrible. Busch Gardens Williamsburg was a park I used to dream of visiting. Now it's turning into another coaster park. In that case, I'd rather just visit Cedar Point (at least they have more than a day's worth of rides).

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.

January 24, 2018 at 1:12 AM · It was always fun to take a break from the Heat and go into the Dark Castle and ride it
January 24, 2018 at 4:15 AM · Jorge Arnoldson actually Merlin is having a bad time at some of its parks, especially Alton Towers, and it has been closing some rides (Charlie and the chocolate factory) and reducing park hours (next year).
So I'm not sure Merlin would save BGW.

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

January 24, 2018 at 4:29 AM · The writing has been on the wall for some time now. Outside Fridays and Saturdays, there was never more than a 10 minute wait. The graphics and imaging are so out of date, and again patrons just didn't care for it.
January 24, 2018 at 5:04 AM · That's unfortunate, the attraction looks really cool (never been on it). I actually like it when an attraction has its own storyline, makes you step into a new world and not into something you already know. Also makes me wonder how lazy(?) some people can be, the story seems pretty clear to me from the video after all.
January 24, 2018 at 5:33 AM · I thought the narrative was hard to follow. It was hard to hear the characters talk. Also, the ride made me and others sick to their stomach.
January 24, 2018 at 5:47 AM · Amazing, every time I visit the park, lines are 45 minutes to an hour. Should have realized something was up when they put in another event in the castle for Christmas town. We will see with the new Fairy ride coming this spring, but it appears the park is going down hill.
January 24, 2018 at 6:02 AM · I will miss that ride. It was the only one that I could ride.
January 24, 2018 at 6:04 AM · It's sad. The ride and queue had really amazing theming. I remember standing in line forever to ride. But in years past, the queue house was almost always empty. The original story made no sense and was hard to understand .... and i can enjoy a good narrative. The one in the video above is the one they changed to in its second season. It was fun but hokey. Im eager to see what they do with the space. Hope they keep the theming!
January 24, 2018 at 7:02 AM · This is very sad, as a pass member holder for over 12 years, it makes me think why. As this ride seem to be the one that always had a waiting line compared to the coasters. Then the concerns of Christmas town children area being closed to the little ones. I may give up my passes and do so thing else worth the money I pay for 6 passes.
January 24, 2018 at 7:43 AM · It's really a shame to lose Curse of DarKastle. We've been BG pass members for years and we always made time to go on this ride. The story didn't really matter; the special effects were cool. I had a bad feeling about the future of DarKastle when they turned it into a Santa meet-and-greet during Christmas Town. I just wish BG would have given us one more season to ride before closing it.
January 24, 2018 at 8:03 AM · This had been rumored after the attraction was converted for a Howl-O-Scream maze in the fall. I was hoping it was just speculation, but the reality of this announcement is extremely disappointing. I'm personally very connected to this attraction since it was the first major media event I covered on behalf of Theme Park Insider. Nothing I've covered since has come close to matching the excitement or anticipation that was palpable when DarKastle opened. No North American park outside of Orlando or SoCal had attempted such an ambitious project, and while the final product was not without flaws, it was still a landmark for theme park fans searching for immersion outside of the Disney and Universal parks.

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.

January 24, 2018 at 9:00 AM · It's hard to imagine BG without Dark Kastle. The story was part of the adventure. Must everything be for the faint of heart? Many of us "Boomers" still enjoy the thrill of the ride.
January 24, 2018 at 9:54 AM · big mistake! That ride was awesome!!! It also gave visitors who don't like to ride coasters something else to go on. Very sad. I hope they re think this!!
January 24, 2018 at 10:29 AM · This is really, really terrible. BUSCH GARDENS . . . WHAT IN THE WORLD ARE YOU THINKING?? Why not just close the whole park. . . this really stinks to high heaven. . .
January 24, 2018 at 10:52 AM · They can still turn it into a shooting attraction. Maybe the attraction is much less popular and people aren't riding it much.
January 24, 2018 at 11:15 AM · I don't think that's a possibility at this point Anton. Converting an attraction like DarKastle into a shooting-gallery attraction ala Men in Black or Justice League would not only require retrofitting all of the rooms with targets, but a complete revamping of the ride vehicles to including the guns and scoring systems. If the park was having trouble fitting the current operation and maintenance costs into the budget (the rumored reason as to why it needed to close), then where in the world would they find the money to not only perform the conversion but to also maintain an even more complicated attraction? The ride, while not drawing massive lines anymore, was still relatively popular, so I doubt simply refreshing it would achieve the desired affect from park bean counters.

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.

January 24, 2018 at 11:38 AM · You broke my heart when you said that guests being confused by the story line was a reason they are removing this attraction. I can understand how expense of maintenance, or lack of popularity could be a drivers to remove an attraction. I don't think many would argue that one reason Jaws "bit" the big one was the high cost of keeping that attraction going. I just think it is so sad that presumed ignorance of the audience should be a reason to remove or change an attraction.
The same thing happened to *Poseidon's Furry* at Islands of Adventure. The original version of the show was drastically changed, a new character, Taylor, was added and new video was filmed to modify the story line. Did it improve the show? Not in my opinion - it dumbed it down. Pity.
January 24, 2018 at 11:53 AM · I don't think Robert cited the story line as one of the reasons why the ride is being closed, just that it was one of the common minor complaints cited on an otherwise highly-rated attraction. Every attraction has its warts, and unfortunately DarKastle suffered from a difficult to understand story arc (so much so that some of the scenes were modified to simplify the narrative after the attraction's 2nd season), but also lack of accessibility to characters and locations not widely known through a popular IP. Ultimately DarKastle is being shut down because it was costly to operate and maintain, and the park managers did not see the value in keeping it open. They were spending more running the ride than it was theoretically bringing in revenue (i.e. attendance and in-park spending), so it had to go. However, what looks like simple math on a balance sheet is not so simple in the eyes of guests, and what may seem like a minor attraction with a major cost was drawing far more interest than was reflected at the turnstiles or register tapes.
January 24, 2018 at 11:56 AM · Another one bites the dust to corporate greed. Added to the list of greats gone; The Big Bad Wolf, and Drachen Fire. If the story-line was to hard to follow maybe the pre-show or narrative should have been added. Soon The Sea World Parks will be EventSpaceLand. Sad story to say the least. The same thing is happening at Busch Gardens in Tampa. What was once a great park is now a midway with slight themeing in Tampa, I hope the same does not happen in Williamsburg.
January 24, 2018 at 12:22 PM · Let's not compare this to BBW or Drachen Fire. As much as I loved it, Drachen Fire was not popular, and was a liability to operate with several guests attempting to sue the park for neck and back injuries supposedly caused by the Arrow coaster. Big Bad Wolf is a better comp, but that coaster had not only fallen out of favor, but was growing exceedingly expensive to maintain, exacerbated by Arrow's bankruptcy. The park was having to custom machine parts to maintain the suspended coaster, and was one of only a handful still in operation in the world. DarKastle had not reached the point BBW had gotten to in terms of O&M, but the park appears to just be looking to cut back on overall costs, and DarKastle was a big ticket item that was probably viewed as easy fat to trim.

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.

January 24, 2018 at 12:57 PM · Russell: I was thinking more like the Knott’s Iron Reef or Legoland’s Ninjago screen based shooting attractions. All screens. Just add guns.
January 24, 2018 at 1:08 PM · I am sad to hear this news, as DarKastle has been one of our favorite attractions since it opened. I sort of thought maybe something was up when the haunted maze went through the actual ride path during my visit in October but I didn't think they were removing it! Such a shame as it is a unique ride and it made an impression from the midway. I love the themed queue. This is a total disappointment to me.
January 24, 2018 at 1:10 PM · Anton - Those screens still have sensors behind them (or sensors in the vehicles that communicate back to the projectors for a shooter like Ninjago), and the guns in the vehicles still require on-board controls to manage the scoring. You're suggesting BGW add something (and maintenance costs) to an attraction they already cannot afford to operate for a minimal bump that a shooting-gallery gimmick has to make up for. Not only would it be a huge cost to retrofit the systems to accommodate the shooting elements, but you're adding to the complexity of maintenance to an attraction the park has already deemed too costly to run without shooting elements.
January 24, 2018 at 1:20 PM · It would be obvious it is too costly because it is no longer the draw it used to be. If they can attract new customers, the cost to add the equipment would be worth the expense as it has been proven in other amusement parks. Plus, the expense to retrofit a proven technology is much less than it used to be. I would expect Busch to just wait and see, but it would be foolhardy to rule it out entirely.

"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.

January 24, 2018 at 1:46 PM · The problem is that there's zero chance of a retrofit now. The park has already announced that they will be using the attraction as an events space, which means they will likely be pulling all of the track and sets down to create a usable space (had already pulled some of the track out for the seasonal attractions, which I thought at the time was just temporary). Once that track comes up and you take all of the original artwork and sculpture down, you're eliminating any chance of bringing the attraction back in ANY form.

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".

January 24, 2018 at 2:29 PM · Since I said putting in new equipment is the retrofit, of course replacing the track with new vehicles is what's required. So if they removed the track and décor, nothing's been lost that would have been kept except for the castle exterior, show buildings, and signage.

"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.

January 24, 2018 at 2:39 PM · It seems that Disney and Universal are the only ones who can really compete in the category of heavily themed rides. They cost a fortune to build and maintain.
January 24, 2018 at 2:59 PM · Anton - What you're suggesting is not a retrofit or a conversion, it's a completely new attraction. Iron Reef is a completely new system in an old building, not what I would call a retrofit/conversion. The same could be said for a few of the Justice League installations where Six Flags re-purposed old dark ride buildings or queue buildings to house the new attraction.

"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.

January 24, 2018 at 3:08 PM · I'm disappointed that I won't get to ride DarKastle again when I visit the park in a couple months, but I'm probably more disappointed that SeaWorld Parks as a chain has fallen this far. Ten years ago, they were the leaders among regional parks, with offerings far superior to what could be found at Cedar Fair and Six Flags properties. Now, the parks offer little that can't be experienced elsewhere, and given the price point it's probably going to be difficult to increase their visitor count with fewer attractions than regional thrill parks. I really hope the chain can figure out how to make the parks work, but when major attractions continue to close with no planned replacement it is not a good sign.
January 24, 2018 at 3:33 PM · It's a retrofit since you're putting the new ride system into the old DarKastle building and using the same screens in the exact same locations.

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.

January 24, 2018 at 4:22 PM · Anton, what you're describing is definitely more along the lines of a brand new attraction. A retrofit would be something more along the lines of the Tower of Terror to Guardians of the Galaxy conversion, where some new hardware is added but the majority of what was there before is still used. For Iron Reef, the only thing from Kingdom of the Dinosaurs that remains are the roof and four walls of the building. Everything inside was completely removed, new hardware was installed, and the current layout of the attraction is actually very different from what it used to be. It would be like calling USH's Revenge of the Mummy a retrofit of E.T. Adventure...they're completely different rides that occupied the same space.

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.

January 24, 2018 at 4:56 PM · "A retrofit would be something more along the lines of the Tower of Terror to Guardians of the Galaxy conversion"

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.

January 24, 2018 at 8:19 PM · Sticking by my previous statement that Sea World will be apartments and condos in 10 years (BG parks will still be around).
January 24, 2018 at 9:30 PM · Good riddance! If Busch Gardens wants to compete with the big boys, then they should consider a live orchestra to accompany a broadway-style spectacular in their new (and probably awesome) event space. One big advantage is that there would be no age restriction or height limitation. 2-year olds who are 18 inches tall could participate, making it a true family attraction, unlike these dark rides that scare the little ones and tear families apart.

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.

January 25, 2018 at 12:43 AM · Anton, perhaps a better example would have been the conversion of Superstar Limo to Monsters, Inc or the addition of new trains to the Matterhorn Bobsleds. There may be a little too much of Tower of Terror remaining to truly call it a retrofit.

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?

January 25, 2018 at 5:39 AM · I think it’s no coincidence that this closure comes right before the opening of the new VR attraction at BGW. That one will be costly and complicated to maintain and operate.
January 25, 2018 at 9:55 AM · @Anton - You seem to misunderstand the term "retrofit". You also seem to think that they can in some way use the existing screens, and by that token makes a replacement attraction a retrofit. Screens are just pieces of fabric or painted walls/surfaces to allow for projected images to be seen by the riders. In the case of a standard dark ride versus a shooting dark ride, the latter actually requires a lot more technology and ofttimes a completely different design in terms of how screens and projectors are placed (many shooting gallery attractions have rear-projected images - projector placed behind the screen, while all of DarKastle's images are front-projected). They most likely wouldn't even be able to keep the fabric or wall-pained screens because they would have to be replaced with a different material to allow for sensors to be placed behind them to facilitate the shooting technology. Having been behind the scenes of DarKastle before, I know that at least 4 of the screens have no space behind them or are just paint on walls, which would require significant modification to reuse in a shooting gallery attraction (either by pulling the screens away from the wall to facilitate sensor placement or removing the wall behind the screen - which in turn would affect the acoustics of a given room requiring additional modifications). Also, the entire projection system would need to be replaced to allow for the system to communicate with the vehicles and shooting equipment to provide feedback to riders (not to mention the new ride vehicles that would also be needed to facilitate your concept). So, what you describe as a simple retrofit or conversion would actually be a brand new attraction that would have to be designed and built from the ground up. Certainly, they may be able to use the existing building and may be able to salvage a few parts here and there to save a few bucks along they way, but what you're describing is a full turnkey attraction, and would likely have a significant budget to boot.

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.

January 25, 2018 at 7:57 AM · I like the orchestra idea, but Busch Gardens used to have a live marching band, belly dancers, and snake charmers. The budget cuts laid them off and never replaced them so I doubt they will create more jobs even to help the local economy with an orchestra.
January 25, 2018 at 9:51 AM · Russell: Did you know you introduced the word Retrofit into the discussion? You said "retrofit" several times before you changed your tune and call it an "all new attraction" and not retrofit. For all the denial, you're make a pretty good case of it. Whatever term you rather use like retrofit or all new attraction, it will still be an ALL NEW ATTRACTION because it's a "shooting gallery ride".

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.

January 25, 2018 at 9:59 AM · AJ: "In my mind, a retrofit means that enough is preserved that the old attraction is functionally identical to the new one."

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.

January 25, 2018 at 10:29 AM · "They can still turn it into a shooting attraction."

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??

January 25, 2018 at 11:16 AM · It's not absurd. It's completely possible.

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.

January 25, 2018 at 11:18 AM · "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.

January 25, 2018 at 11:39 AM · I was honest and you somehow found it worthy of writing hundreds of words to show your ignorance of how it can't be done. That's a laugh.

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.

January 25, 2018 at 12:57 PM · Those hundreds of words were to try to explain in a reasonable and logical way how outlandish and impractical your initial statement was, that you continued to double, triple, and quadruple down on. I noted that anything was possible, but you fail to recognize the lack of plausibility or feasibility in your suggestion, the way you presented it, and continued to delude yourself into thinking was worthy of defending despite numerous lines of evidence to counter it. I merely retorted to the absurdity of your suggestion, backed up with facts and experiential evidence, yet you chose to drag the discussion down the rabbit hole because of your now obvious ignorance. You had the audacity to post..

"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.

January 25, 2018 at 1:21 PM · Russell: Your arguments are lost in a bunch of ridiculing and snark. You immediately jump on my throwaway comments with "Men in Black or Justice League", which is a ridiculous leap of incoherence as if you don't even know what DarKastle was, which is a screen based ride. I know more than you just from your rebuttal. Many shooting gallery rides have nothing to do with physical targets. Just use the screen, yet that didn't occur to you.

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.

January 25, 2018 at 2:01 PM · All of this from someone who forms an opinion of a 3-D motion based simulator attraction from a twice-viewed YouTube video. Please. You've demonstrated your stupidity on more than one occasion, and can't help but proclaim your ignorance over and over for all to read.

"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.


January 25, 2018 at 2:15 PM · Adding to my previous comment on this thread, I was basing it off the fact that Merlin is making bank here in the States from their rapid expansion. Maybe buying or building a non-Legoland park would help bolster the bottom line.
January 25, 2018 at 2:36 PM · Once you form a coherent thought, try again. You'll take another hundred words. Even with your lamest response yet, it is quite illuminating that any such technology wouldn't be difficult to put into an existing building unless if Russell has decided to rule it out for you.

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."

January 26, 2018 at 3:42 PM · I've always wondered why they never thought about routinely changing the story (and animation) every two years or so. It is a ride that was fun the first five or so times. But then, it's just the same old same old. If they could change out the story but keep the mechanics... that would give everyone a reason to go back and ride it every two years or so.
They also probably got rid of the ride because they believed that the new "Battle for Eyre" attraction (coming out this year) was more or less in the same genre of ride.
Busch Gardens Williamsburg is changing but it hasn't lost its charm yet. Its still my go-to park in Virginia.
January 29, 2018 at 7:00 AM · They did make a pretty significant story change 2 years in, tightening the plot, and fleshing out the Mother character. It's really not as simple as it seems. While changes to the animated sequences could be made remotely, the changes to the motion bases and had to be made on-site, and getting the motion synchronized with the visuals can be a difficult task. There's also the complexities involved with keeping the transitions between the screens smooth (the last 3 screens are all integrated, requiring tight tolerances between the 3 different projections). Note that not even a park with significantly more resources like Universal has made changes to their motion base rides since their inceptions. Transformers is identical to when it debuted (both coasts), and Spiderman, while getting upgraded projection systems a couple of years ago, hasn't changed its story and sequences a lick since 1999, granted Spiderman has a number of practical effects that would have to require some serious reworking to change the story significantly. It seems like a pretty simple task, one that could be marketed as a new attraction on a seemingly lesser budget, but it's far more difficult, and billing a revamped motion base ride doesn't carry the same draw as an all new attraction - plus it sets up an expectation from guests that it get revamped every few years.

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