Hersheypark's announcement of its 2020 hyper coaster this morning, many theme park fans no doubt are getting excited to hear more about what's coming to their favorite parks next year. But as readers have noted on our Discussion Board, not every park has room for seven-acre new developments. Sometimes, parks have to remove attractions to make room for new ones.With
Of course, this isn't always a bad thing. As much as some parks — and fans — might hate to admit it, some attractions just didn't work... or their time has passed. It's rare that an old attraction is so bad that its removal by itself improves a park. But many attractions are taking space that better could be used by a fresh experience.
Which attractions are the leading candidates for this type of addition by subtraction? Which attractions would create the most value for their parks not by continuing to operate but by going away and making space for something new?
I would like to kick off this discussion by nominating candidates from the top 10 most attended theme parks in the United States. These are not necessarily the "worst" attractions at these parks, in either my view of the collective judgment of Theme Park Insider readers. Poor perceived quality is just one criterion to consider here. Others include the amount of space that removing the attraction would free, as well as the current attraction's impact upon the park's skyline, its position within the park, its cohesiveness (or lack of it) with surrounding themes, plus the hassle and expense of maintaining and operating the attraction.
Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom: Tomorrowland Speedway
Many of us thought that Disney would close the Speedway to build the Magic Kingdom's new Tron roller coaster. But Imagineers found a way to shoehorn an installation of the Shanghai Disneyland hit between the Speedway and Space Mountain. I've dogged on the Speedway before as a relic from a dying era of transportation that doesn't measure up to Legoland's competing Driving School in fulfilling the grown-up wishes of young visitors. The world's most popular theme park simply cannot afford to waste this amount of space on a sub-par attraction. Especially one that doesn't promote any of Disney's IP, given Disney management's obsession with synergy.
Disneyland: Star Wars Launch Bay
Not just the Launch Bay, but the entire building that once housed the Carousel of Progress. Disneyland hasn't found a good use for this space since America Sings closed more than 30 years ago. But it is prime real estate in the park's Tomorrowland, which desperately needs another major overhaul. Now that Galaxy's Edge is open across the park, Disney simply has too much other great IP at its disposal not to use this space for something else.
Disney's Animal Kingdom: Dino-Rama
I get what Disney's Imagineers were going for here — a fun tribute to the kitsch of roadside Americana, tied to the Dinosaur ride next door. Frankly, I think they did an outstanding job of delivering that. But why is Disney trying to recreate the mediocre roadside attractions that its theme parks helped put out of business? Disney's Animal Kingdom is one of the world's great theme parks and deserves to have its weakest section brought up to the rest of the park. Use this space to knock us out with wonder, the way everything else in DAK does.
Epcot: Imagination pavilion
This one wins on a technicality, in that Disney has committed already to removing the previous leading candidate for "addition by subtraction" in Epcot — the Innoventions buildings. So let's look ahead to what the next step might be. Frankly, we're being greedy here, as the additions and changes that Disney has planned already for Epcot should do wonders for this park, including a new entrance, the Guardians of the Galaxy coaster, and the Ratatouille dark ride. But long-time fans remember how cool the Imagination pavilion was when it opened. After this round of improvements to the park, it will remain Epcot's weakest link.
Disney's Hollywood Studios: Studios in front of Commissary Place
Disney's ripped out so much from Hollywood Studios over the past decade that I loathe to suggest removing anything else. The building that originally housed SuperStar Television and the Monster Sound Show is the park's last remaining link to its days as a studio-themed park, before its transformation into a collection of IP-driven lands. Why not complete that transformation by redeveloping this space?
Universal Studios Florida: Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit
This might be the top candidate on my list that would improve its park simply with its removal. Painfully rough at times, Rip, Ride, Rockit looks worse with each new amazing coaster that Universal commissions. And the on-board music doesn't even work all the time anymore, either. USF deserves a better visual weenie at its entrance than a roller coaster track that could stand at any Six Flags or Cedar Fair park.
Disney California Adventure: The empty space in Hollywood Land
Okay, asking to remove empty space is a cop-out, but with A Bug's Land gone, there's no space in the park that's a more obvious choice for improvement that the under-utilized area around the Monsters Inc. ride in Hollywood Land. Disney has used the faux soundstage buildings here for a variety of pop-up experiences (Flynn's Arcade remains my favorite), but when nothing occupies them, this becomes the Disneyland Resort's saddest forgotten space. And Mickey's Philharmagic ain't exactly packing in the crowds, so why not make this whole area into Monstropolis?
Islands of Adventure: Poseidon's Fury
Heck, if Universal Creative just wanted to redevelop this walk-through adventure using modern theater technology, I'd endorse that 100 percent. A new Poseidon's Fury with projection mapping and maybe some escape room elements could amaze fans again. But if Universal isn't going to update the tired, cheesy animation, it would do better to close the last remaining attraction in The Lost Continent and redevelop its space. Of course, we're still waiting for Universal to do something with the old Sindbad theater next door, so perhaps this could become a package deal.
Universal Studios Hollywood: Animal Actors
Universal's done wonders with this park over the past decade, with a new Secret Life of Pets ride coming to the former Globe Theatre site next year, followed by Super Nintendo World on the Lower Lot after that. With those changes, WaterWorld and Animal Actors will remain the oldest attractions in the park, save the ever-changing Studio Tour. WaterWorld is a classic that ought to endure, but Animal Actors is not. Plus, removing the last live animals from the park should help streamline operations.
SeaWorld Orlando: Redo Antarctica
I'm taking all the park's marine mammal facilities off the table here, as they're part of a much larger discussion than one about redeveloping theme park attractions. (The animals have to live somewhere, and releasing animals born and raised in captivity into the wild is a death sentence.) So just looking at SeaWorld's existing rides and non-animal shows, my top candidate for redevelopment would be its much-maligned Antarctica. Penguins are a great draw, and the animal environment here offers much to educate and entertain guests. But the ride is a mess. Between this and the days-seem-to-be-numbered Wild Arctic, SeaWorld would do better by finding a way — any way — to improve its "polar" experiences.
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