Themed Areas, Coasters In Parks’ Capital Plans

BY Tim O’Brien
January 11, 1999

’99 CONSTRUCTION UNDERWAY

It appears 1999 will be a record year worldwide for capital investments in existing parks as well as the parks slated to open this year. Roller coasters are still the one addition that can almost guarantee an increase in attendance.

Judging by the capital projects reported, owners of amusement parks and theme parks in all corners of the world are more optimistic than ever about the future.

The star spender for 1999 is the Six Flags/Premier Parks chain. It will spend approximately $200 million in its 25 U.S. parks. There are 12 major coaster installations by four different coaster companies among its projects for the upcoming season. There are also several water rides, and four Vekoma Magic Houses in line for the parks.

Approximately $80 million will be spent at the five newest Six Flags properties: Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom, Louisville; Six Flags Darien Lake, Darien Center, N.Y.; Six Flags America, Largo, Md.; Six Flags Elitch Gardens, Denver; and Six Flags Marine World, Vallejo, Calif.

Nearly $120 million will be spent to fund expansion and additions at its other 20 parks across the country.

The biggest recipient of corporate generosity is Six Flags Fiesta Texas, San Antonio, with a $30 million program in place. The park will open its seventh season in spring 1999 with 15 more rides, a waterpark twice in size, and nearly double the ride capacity for the 200-acre park.

The 15 rides will include Poltergeist, a Premier Rides LIM Catapult coaster; The Boomerang Super Coaster, a Vekoma Boomerang; The Scream, a 164-foot tall tower drop from Huss; and a Vekoma Magic House, the first of its kind in the U.S. The ride, which is based on the old spinning room illusion, will also appear at three other Six Flags/Premier Parks properties: Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson, N.J.; Riverside Park, Agawam, Mass.; and the chain’s Walibi Bellewaerde, in Belgium.

A Chance Rides Chaos and a Wisdom Tornado will also be installed at Fiesta Texas. The park’s Ol’ Waterin Hole waterpark will be doubled in size and renamed the Lone Star Lagoon. Officials say the largest wave pool in Texas will be built in the shape of the state and will be capable of creating four-foot high waves. A five-acre SCS Interactive play area, known there as the Texas Treehouse, will have a dump bucket at the top in the shape of a cowboy hat. “It looks like the traditional 10-gallon cowboy hat but in this case it’s a 1,000 gallon hat,” an official said.

Six Flags America, formerly Adventure World, will receive a $27 million capital package, which includes the Joker’s Jinx, a Premier Rides LIM Catapult coaster similar to the Poltergeist at Six Flags Fiesta Texas. In addition, a Vekoma Invertigo will be installed. This park, as well as the other “new” Six Flags properties, will be featuring the Looney Tunes and DC Comics characters in shows, meet and greets, and as walk-around characters.

The Batman Thrill Spectacular stunt show will open here and the park will be receiving a new front entrance and a retail-oriented Main Street plaza area. Since acquiring the park in 1991, the company has invested more than $50 million in the property.

Six Flags Darien Lake will receive a $20 million upgrade from its parents, which will include a hyper steel coaster to be known as Superman — Ride of Steel. The $12 million mega coaster from Intamin will have a top height of 208 feet and will reach speeds of 70 mph. A new theater will house the Batman/Robin Thrill Show, and “What’s Up Rock?” is a new child-oriented Looney Tunes production.

Six Flags Marine World will be receiving a $17 million package that includes a new wooden roller coaster, several animal attractions, and a themed Looney Tunes Seaport area for the kids, with rides and shows.

Six Flags Over Texas, Arlington, will get $14 million, which includes two rides and six new shows. The park is the last of the original Six Flags properties to get Batman The Ride, an inverted Bolliger & Mabillard coaster. It will be the centerpiece of a new two-acre site known as Gotham City. The “Escape From Dino Island 3-D,” a simulated theater attraction from Iwerks, is replacing the old Right Stuff simulation theater.

 

THE COASTERS

More facilities announced their 1999 roller coaster plans earlier in the year than they ever have, and for awhile it appeared next season would be a runaway year for coaster installations. The pace has slowed down a bit, but it does look like the 1999 count could approach the 1998 worldwide new coaster count of approximately 65 roller coasters.

Florida’s first wooden dueling coaster, Gwazi, is set to open in spring at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, and when it does, it will make history. It’s the first woodie at any of the nine Anheuser-Busch Adventure Parks. Named after a fabled lion with a tiger’s head, each of Gwazi’s two tracks has 3,400 feet of track where each train will hit speeds of 50 mph. It has a 90-foot lift hill, a ride time of two minutes, 20-seconds, and an hourly capacity of 1,440. Great Coasters International is building it.

Another dueling coaster, an inverted steel one this time, will open at the new Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando sometime in the spring.

To be known as the Dueling Dragons, the Bolliger & Mabillard coasters are highly themed, reach speeds of 60 mph, and “attack” each other three times during the two minute, 25-second ride. The two intertwined tracks each have five inversions.

The Incredible Hulk Coaster will also premier at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. Also built by Bolliger & Mabillard, the LIM catapult coaster is thrust out of the station at an incline, through a 150-foot long tunnel and reaches speeds of 40 mph in less than three seconds. The track layout includes seven inversions and two subterranean trenches. The top drop is 105 feet, and the ride lasts two minutes and 15 seconds.

Six Flags Marine World will be receiving a clone of the popular Roar, a giant coaster built by Great Coasters International at Adventure World (now Six Flags America) in Largo, Md. The Michael Boodley-designed coaster will be the park’s first woodie. The park will also be installing a Zierer family Tivoli Coaster.

The unique ride experience of Mr. Twister, the wooden classic at the old Elitch Gardens in Denver, will come back to life at Knoebels Amusement Resort, Elysburg, Pa., in 1999. The Twister will be built using plans from the original ride, built in 1964 by the Philadelphia Toboggan Co. and designed by the famous John Allen. While the new ride will be built in-house using the original plans, several minor modifications will be made due to site restrictions, but owner Dick Knoebel promises the goal is to preserve the original ride experience.

Martin’s Fantasy Island, Grand Island, N.Y., will be adding a $3 million wooden coaster, the largest single investment in the park’s 37-year history.

Park president Martin DiPietro told AB he thinks the new coaster will take his park to a new plateau and expects it to help increase park revenues by at least 20% the first year of operation. To be built by Custom Coasters International, the ride will have a first hill drop of 100 feet, will have 3,000 feet of track and will reach speeds of 65 mph.

Intamin and Atlanta-based Roller Coaster Corp. of America have teamed up to build four wooden roller coasters for 1999. Two of them have been made public, while two others in Japan have not been formally announced by the parks.

The Intamin-RCCA “Wild, Wild West” woodie at Warner Bros. Movie World Germany, Bottrop, will be the country’s first wooden coaster. It will be 100 feet tall, reach speeds of 40 mph, and will run seven or eight cars per train, with a hypothetical capacity of 1,482-1,690. The $9 million (U.S.) price tag includes the coaster, extensive theming, the supporting infrastructure, the support buildings, and food, beverage and retail facilities. It’s the largest expansion since the park opened in 1996.

The other announced Intamin-RCCA coaster will be built at the new Terra Mitica themer, set to open in 1999 in Benidorm, Spain.

Other coasters of distinction for 1999 include the Tennessee Tornado at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. The Arrow Dynamics looper goes through a mountainside and through several loops and sharp curves. Park co-owner Dolly Parton promises the ride will have “big features and curves, just like me.”

SeaWorld Texas, San Antonio, will be featuring its second coaster in the spring when The Steel Eel opens. The Morgan Mfg. hyper coaster will have no loops, just speed, height and a lot of airtime. By definition, a “hyper” coaster is a steel ride that has no loops or inversions and depends on speed, sharp drops and height to provide the thrills. Most are more than 200 feet tall.

Six Flags Great America, Gurnee, Ill., will debut the world’s first Bolliger & Mabillard hyper-twister. This hybrid has all the speed, height and airtime expected of a hyper coaster, and the intense and twisting turns most common to a wooden cyclone-style coaster. The Raging Bull will feature a 202-foot tall first hill and speeds of more than 70 mph.

Six Flags Over Georgia will be showing off The Georgia Scorcher, a Bolliger & Mabillard stand-up coaster, in May. The three-minute ride will feature a first drop of 101 feet at 54 mph, and will run over 3,000 feet of purple and gold track.

The first opportunity for a guest to turn upside down on a ride at Walt Disney World, Lake Buena Vista, Fla., will occur during summer 1999, when the park opens its indoor Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, a Vekoma linear synchronous motor catapult coaster. Riders will listen to a rock and roll soundtrack coming from the speakers mounted in each vehicle.

The Top Gun inverted coaster, from Bolliger & Mabillard, will debut in spring at Paramount’s Carowinds. The highest point is 113 feet, maximum speed is 63 mph, ride time is two minutes and 47 seconds, and length of track is 2,956.

 

NEW AREAS

While dozens of parks are adding new rides, shows and attractions throughout their facilities, several are developing entirely new areas to hold their new additions.

Hersheypark, Hershey, Pa., is building The Hersheypark Fair, an area officials are calling an old time county fair that lasts all summer. In addition to the changing exhibitions, shows and events, the area will house five new rides: a Chance Rides Chaos; Musik Express from Moser; an S&S Sports Frog Hopper; a Frederiksen Giant Slide; and a Mack Wild Mouse.

Holiday World in Santa Claus, Ind., will open a new three-acre children’s area named after the park’s mascot. Holidog’s Fun Town will feature The Howler, a family coaster from Zamperla; the three-story tall Holidog’s Treehouse with 150 ways to play; the Doggone Trail, a Jeep-style auto ride; a water playground; and Holidog’s All Star Theater. Hot Diggity Dogs is a food outlet featuring hot dogs and other snacks.

Woody Woodpecker’s Kidzone will be built adjacent to the other children’s areas of Universal Studios Florida, Orlando, and will feature a Vekoma family steel coaster to be known as the Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster. Another large element of the area is the Curious George Goes to Town play area featuring tires to swing on and an iceberg to slide on. A waterplay area and a toy factory-themed playground with foam balls will also be created.

Tipton Rapids, the largest single-year expansion project in the history of Bland’s Park, Tipton, Pa., is now under construction. The waterpark will initially include two large towers with five NBGS slides. Pepsi has been signed as a corporate host for the new area.

At Paramount’s Kings Island near Cincinnati, the new Paramount Action Zone will be made to look and feel like a movie studio backlot, according to Tim Fischer, general manager. America’s first and the world’s tallest (315 feet) Intamin Gyro-Drop free-fall tower will be located at the park and will be known as the Drop Zone. A Vekoma Invertigo roller coaster will also be located in the new area and will be known as the Face/Off. The park also plans a season-long 20th anniversary party for The Beast wooden roller coaster, the country’s longest wooden coaster and second longest in the world.

Up on Lake Erie, Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio, is adding Camp Snoopy, a multi-million dollar family playland based on the comic strip, “Peanuts.” The new six-acre area will feature eight new rides, including the park’s 13th roller coaster, a family coaster by Vekoma. Zamperla will supply five of the rides: Red Baron, Crazy Bus, Lolli-Swing, Speedway, and the Samba Balloon. A Tilt-A-Whirl will be coming from Sellner, and the eighth ride hasn’t been fully decided upon yet.

A Caribbean-themed, $20 million, 25-acre Hurricane Harbor water adventure park is being built at Six Flags St. Louis. It will be included as part of the park’s one-price admission. Designed by Aquatic Development, Cohoes, N.Y., most of the manufacturers for specific rides and attractions have not been chosen.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom, which opened in April 1998, will open Asia, a new land, in spring 1999. Among its offerings will be a white water rafting expedition that will take riders through the lush home of myriad animal and bird species.

 

THIS & THAT, HERE & THERE

Disneyland Paris, Marne La Vallee, France, will be getting the popular 4-D attraction, Honey, I Shrunk The Audience, by the end of March. The show has been running at Florida’s Walt Disney World for several years.

Parc Asterix, Plailly, France, a suburb of Paris, will be the home of the world’s first Spinning Rapids Ride, a product of Vancouver, B.C.-based Whitewater. The Jules Verne-themed ride takes riders up a hill and through the woods. Farmer Studios of the U.K. created the overall theme. “Imagine a 19th century French Luna Park, lovingly re- created in all its glory,” said Nick Farmer. A conveyor belt will carry guests, seated in six-passenger vehicles, up a themed corridor to a height of 65 feet, where they are “launched into a fanciful flight, floating and spinning back to a river below,” Farmer added. The ride will last three minutes and 30 seconds, with an hourly capacity of 1,080.

At Linnanmaki, in Helsinki, Finland, a 180-foot tall S&S Sports Space Shot will premier. The park had to get a special seven-year permit to build above existing height limitations. At Phantasialand, Bruhl, Germany, the Colorado Adventure roller coaster will become an indoor ride. Owners told AB the neighbors were complaining about the screams of the people, not the noise from the coaster. Other capital investments will include a new 3-D Theater, continued renovation, and a new main entrance.

Mirabilandia, Savio, Italy, will be installing the largest wheel in Europe, said the owner. Russian builder Pax Parc will build the 264-foot tall ride. The park will also be receiving a shoot-the-chute from O.D. Hopkins and a monorail from Severn Lamb. In addition to its new coaster, Warner Bros. Movie World Germany, Bottrop, will open a Huss Top Spin themed as The Riddler’s Revenge, and a Looney Tunes-themed Tea Cup ride from Mack, in April.

Drayton Manor Park, Tamworth, Staffordshire, England, will celebrate its 50th season in 1999 with a new white water rapids ride, complete with a reverse drop. The $4.5 million (U.S.) ride will be known as Storm Force — The Ride! and will be built by Bear Rides, a Swiss manufacturer.

 

FUN EXPANSIONS

VisionLand Theme Park, which opened in 1998 near Birmingham, Ala., selected Luxembourg-based FAB to design and construct its new rapid river ride, to be known as Hurricane Rapids. The 1,500-foot long journey will take approximately three minutes and 20 seconds. Capacity will be 1,200 per hour.

Valleyfair Family Amusement Park, Shakopee, Minn., will install an Arrow Dynamics Mad Mouse family roller coaster and will build a second dormitory to house seasonal employees. Wild Adventures, Valdosta, Ga., continues to grow as it adds a Chance Big Dipper roller coaster and an inverted coaster from Vekoma.

Michigan’s Adventure, Muske-gon, will be adding a Chance Big Dipper and an Arrow Mad Mouse.

Riverside Park, Agawam, Mass., will be getting three Chance rides: a jungle-themed Alpine Bobs; a Wipe Out; and a Double Inverter. Geauga Lake, Aurora, Ohio, and Six Flags Great Adventure, Jackson, N.J., will both be getting Chance’s Double Inverter. Frontier City, Oklahoma City, Okla., and the Adventuredome at Circus Circus in Las Vegas will each get a single Chance Inverter. Gillian’s Wonderland Pier in Ocean City, N.J., will be getting a Chance Wipe Out, and Keansburg (N.J.) Amusement Park is taking delivery of a Chance Chaos.

North America’s oldest continuously operated amusement park, Lake Compounce, Bristol, Conn., will premier the $2 million Ghost Hunt, an interactive family dark ride with a haunted house theme, from Sally Corp. Meanwhile, under the ownership of Kennywood Entertainment Corp., Lake Compounce continues to be upgraded and will be open for the entire summer season in 1999.

Six Flags WaterWorld, Houston, will receive a $5 million expansion that will include two new major attractions: Hook’s Lagoon, a multi-level treehouse attraction; and Big Kahuna, a four passenger family raft ride. WaterWorld’s sister park in Arlington, Texas, Six Flags Hurricane Harbor, has plans for a $3 million investment including a new daily show schedule and an interactive family treehouse play area.

Several manufacturers are represented at the new Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando. Mack is building Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls, water flume, and Morgan Mfg. has created a custom carousel with the whimsical characters of Dr. Seuss. It’s being called the Caro-Seuss-el. Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges rapids ride is a joint venture with Barr of Minnesota. Vekoma is creating Jurassic Park — The Ride, a river adventure complete with an 84-foot drop at the end, and S&S Sports will be providing Dr. Doom’s Fear Fall.

Perhaps the most ambitious of the new rides at the new park is The Adventures of Spider Man. It’s the first ride to assimilate 3-D film, live-action, and a roving motion base simulator. All the elements combine to engage guests in Spider Man’s epic battle against the forces of evil. Companies contributing to these specific ride included Birket Engineering, Moog, Sound Deluxe, Kleizer Walczak, and Rinehart Mfg.