Why ride a roller coaster when you could walk it, instead?
For your average theme park fan, that question is, of course, absurd. The whole point of a roller coaster is its speed and thrills, right? No one wants to experience a roller coaster at three miles per hour, trudging up and down track instead of flying across it, right?
Actually, many devoted coaster fans — the Theme Park Insiders of the world — would love that opportunity. Thousands of fans ride roller coasters daily. But only a select few get to travel the track outside the train for an up-close and extended view.
Warner Bros. Movie World in Australia is the latest theme park to offer such an opportunity to its fans. Up to eight people can book a morning climb up the park's DC Rivals Mack Rides hypercoaster, for a 282-step, 45-degree hike up the coaster's 200-foot lift.
We've written about similar experiences in American theme parks before: Experiencing Cedar Point's Sunrise Thrills VIP Tour and Taking the Coaster Insider Tour at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. The Australian climb costs AU$99.99 [US$72.78] and such tours have proven to be popular upsells among many roller coaster fans.
A lot of theme park fans want a chance to go behind the scenes and get a unique look at the operations behind their favorite attractions. That's why many frequent visitors actually enjoy when rides go down and they get to experience an evacuation, or "in-show exit," to use the official phrase.
When I worked Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom and was sent to escort people off the ride during an evacuation, I always offered to turn the walk back to the station into a behind the scenes tour, as a "turn lemons into lemonade" opportunity to make what could have been a day-ruining experience into an unexpected magic moment. People loved it.
Most cast members I knew did the same, so I guess it was inevitable that parks would decide to make money off this by offering coaster climbs and other backstage tours. But I wonder when some park will take the next step.
Since some people actually welcome the experience, could a theme park one-up the backstage tour by offering an upsell of... getting evacuated from a ride?
Now, you wouldn't want to send riders flying into a safety brake. But on many rides, you could stop the vehicles comfortably on a lift or at some designed exit point. So put the paying customers on board. Let 'em ride to the exit point. Stop the ride, then send the ops crew to evacuate them and walk them back to the station, giving them the behind the scenes tour along the way.
The fans get the in-show exit experience they have been chasing, and the ops crew gets extra evac training and experience. Wins all around, right? [By the way, I hope you're following the links in this post. Lots of fun — or at least, uh, "interesting" — stories behind them!]
Except that it's crazy to intentionally "break down" a ride while paying customers are riding it. And yet... given that there's a market of people out there who want that experience, I will not be surprised if, some day, a park just says "what the heck?" and offers this experience to fans, for a price.
Would you pay for a guaranteed evacuation from a theme park ride? If so, for which ones?
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