by Jeremy Schoolfield
IF THE FIRST HALF OF THIS DECADE was defined by breaking coaster records, the second half of the aughts is populated by attractions that appeal to the whole family. We’re not talkin’ kiddie rides, though. The crop of new coasters this year aims to hit the sweet spot that will make teenagers holler without making their parents and younger siblings squeamish. Take a look at some of them:
IN 2007, HERSHEYPARK CELEBRATED ITS CENTENNIAL season by opening The Boardwalk, a sprawling, free-with-admission waterpark. The new addition led to tremendous success, as the Hershey, Pennsylvania, facility set an annual attendance record.
It would stand to reason, then, that Hersheypark would take that momentum and coast for a year or two. Park officials decided to build a $12 million roller coaster instead.
“The typical thing a lot of parks do is put in something major and then don’t do anything major for a year or two,” says Frank O’Connell, general manager of the Hershey Entertainment Complex. “We were going through all this effort in promoting our centennial and The Boardwalk to get people excited to come to Hershey, and we didn’t want to lose that momentum going into 2008. We figured if we can get our attendance up, we can keep it up. It was a bit of a change in the paradigm we see in this industry. The logic was we’d be able to hold the interest of the guests we gained in 2007. We’re pleased with how that strategy is working thus far.”
“Fahrenheit,” from IntaRide, is a cousin to 2007’s well-regarded “Maverick” at Cedar Point with its multiple inversions, tight turns, and quick, ground-hugging maneuvers. The “vertical-lift, inverted-loop coaster” opens with a lift that climbs 121 feet straight up to a top hat leading to a 97-degree beyond-vertical first drop that demands airtime. From there, the coaster is a twisting, twirling dervish that will keep riders guessing as to which way is up, as the 12-person trains hurtle along at 58 miles per hour. Inverted rolls start to bank one way and then snap into the opposite direction; elements are linked together seamlessly, providing a riding experience that feels like one long twist; and somewhere in there IntaRide manages to pack in two air-time hills along its 2,700-foot course.
O’Connell says “Fahrenheit” is meant as a more accessible, complementary relative of 2004’s highly successful “Storm Runner,” a 72-mph launch coaster, also from IntaRide. While the latter’s imposing speed and “punch” skew toward a younger demographic, O’Connell says “Fahrenheit” is less daunting, without sacrificing thrills or fun.
“We wanted something still in the thrill category like ‘Storm Runner,’ but have a bit broader age demographic,” O’Connell says.
ONE MAN’S LIFELONG DREAM CAME TRUE this summer, in the form of a roller coaster.
Paul Nelson took over as general manager of Waldameer Park in Erie, Pennsylvania, when he was 23. That was 51 years ago. In the intervening time, he’s always wanted to rebuild Waldameer’s original “Ravine Flyer,” which he had never seen, as it was torn down in 1938.
It took Nelson about 40 years to gather the capital needed to build the coaster, and it took another decade to overcome various political and legal hurdles. But on May 17, Nelson finally got his wish with the unveiling of “Ravine Flyer II,” a one-of-a-kind wooden coaster designed by The Gravity Group.
The signature element of the coaster is the 165-foot bridge that spans a four-lane highway, which “Ravine Flyer II” crosses twice. The 120-foot first hill offers a beautiful view of Lake Erie, but riders only get a fleeting glimpse before they begin the 60-mile-per-hour journey around 3,061 feet of track. Michael Graham, one of The Gravity Group’s managing partners, says “Flyer II’s” terrain-hugging layout makes it look smaller from afar than it actually is because it makes so many elevation changes; the out and back/twister combo coaster features 10 airtime hills, 10 crossovers, six tunnels, and a 105-foot double-down drop.
“This ride has an awful good pace to it—we wanted to make a coaster that doesn’t bang you up,” Nelson says. “It’s just a fabulous ride.”
“The variety is a big asset to the ride,” Graham says. “No one part of the track is similar to other parts, and there’s a sensation in every little spot.”
THE NEW STEEL COASTER AT CANADA’S WONDERLAND is aptly named: “Behemoth” enters the fray as the country’s tallest, fastest attraction at 230 feet high and reaching a top speed of 77 miles per hour.
Though it is similar in style to Bolliger& Mabillard’s previous hyper coasters (2006’s “Goliath” at Six Flags Over Georgia, for example) with a series of massive airtime hills and highbanked turns, “Behemoth” features a new style of train car. This prototype design still makes use of the pedestal seating the hypers are known for, but instead of one row of four per car, the seats are split into two rows. The car itself is longer than usual, with two seats close together at the front and the two remaining seats split wide apart in the back. Park officials say the intent of this unusual layout is to allow everyone in the car to see the same sweeping views typical of the outer seats on previous models.
“Behemoth” is monstrously long at 5,318 feet and is projected—at max capacity of three 32-person trains—to cycle approximately 1,500 guests per hour. It is Wonderland’s 15th coaster and largest investment to date at approximately $26 million.
HARD AS IT MAY SEEM TO BELIEVE, until this year, the state of Indiana didn’t have a steel coaster. It does now. “Steel Hawg,” from Utah’s S&S Worldwide Inc., is a steel looper that still manages to be family friendly at a top speed of 41 mph. The ride also features a 120-degree, 96-foot first drop.
THE TWISTED-COASTER EXPERTS at Great Coasters International Inc. were back at it again this summer with their latest wooden maelstrom, “Evel Knievel,” at Six Flags St. Louis, which features 14 crossovers over the course of a 2,700-foot track. “Knievel” begins with an 80-foot drop that takes a sharp 90-degree left turn midcourse leading to 16 hills, including a 55-foot double-down drop. The coaster tops out at 50 mph and came in at approximately $7 million.
ITALIAN MANUFACTURER ZAMPERLA INC. unveiled a new family coaster design in 2008, where riders sit on seats that make them feel as if they’re riding a motorcycle—or a horse, as the case may be. The rides top out at 44 feet tall and 38 mph, and begin with a launch leading to a low-riding layout of camelbacks and tight turns.
Knott’s Berry Farm’s version, dubbed “Pony Express,” themes the individual seats to look like horses (each train features 16 seats). Darien Lake’s version is themed to motorcycles and called “Orange County Choppers MotoCoaster,” in conjunction with the popular television show (for more on Darien Lake, see the Industry Notes section in FUNWORLD’s July 2008 issue).
by Lim Hui Sin
IN ASIA, WHERE THE APPETITE FOR FUN IS INCREASING as incomes rise, the amusement industry is growing at a rate far ahead of most of the rest of the world. According to a report titled “Global Entertainment and Media Outlook: 2008-2012—Theme Parks and Amusement Parks” by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Asia will be the second-fastest growing market with an annual expansion of 5.7 percent for the next four years.
Many new parks are currently in the pipeline across the region, with China leading the pack. The country already has more than 2,000 parks, but new additions will be coming online in the next two years. The PwC report states revenues at theme parks in mainland China were expected to grow at an annual rate of more than 6.8 percent to reach US$2.1 billion by 2012.
Shanghai alone is set to add three more theme parks. Two of these will be located in Sheshan in the Songjiang dis-trict—about 50 minutes’ drive from downtown. One park is being developed by Shanghai-based Shimao Group, and another by the Shenzhen-based Overseas Chinese Town (OCT) Group. Construction work has begun on both Shimao Wonderland and Happy Valley (the OCT project), and both parks are slated to come online next year.
The planning authorities in China’s commercial capital of Shanghai are also very keen on recruiting a version of Disneyland to the country and have already put in an application to the top decision-making body in the nation. A statement of intent to build a Disney theme park in Shanghai was originally signed in 2002; plans were then shelved but appear to have been revived by the Shanghai authorities. “We have applied to the National Development and Reform Commission, but so far we haven’t received any document of approval,” Shanghai mayor Han Zheng told reporters on the sidelines at the 11th National People’s Congress in March. State media reported transportation links have been planned and relocation of residents living on the proposed site has already begun. However, The Walt Disney Company has said there is currently no deal or announcement.
New competition in the region is leading industry stalwarts such as Hong Kong’s Ocean Park to up the ante. The 30-year-old theme park is undergoing a redevelopment plan that will see the launch of a series of new attractions—rides, animal exhibits, and a new funicular—and the addition of new hotels within the park (for more on Ocean Park, see the July 2008 issue of FUNWORLD).
“Asians are becoming more affluent and have more leisure time than ever,” says Jenny Dam, senior public affairs officer at Ocean Park Hong Kong. “They are looking for new parks, new attractions, new innovations all the time—the concept of ‘new’ is very important [for the market].”
Here is a look at just a few new and forthcoming attractions in Southeast Asia and China:
LAUNCHED IN JANUARY, the “Diving Roller Coaster,” is the first of its kind in China. Designed by Bolliger & Mabillard, the coaster is located in Chimelong Paradise in Guangzhou in southern China, and cost more than $27 million. The coaster features the tallest dive in the world—a 90-degree vertical drop of 80 meters (262 feet)—and the floorless vehicle has three cars each with a capacity of 10 riders.
CURRENTLY THE WORLD’S LARGEST observation wheel at 165 meters (541 feet) tall and 150 meters (492 feet) across, the “Singapore Flyer”—developed by the Great Wheel Corporation—was officially launched in April. There are 28 air-conditioned capsules the size of buses that each hold 28 passengers during the 30-minute revolution. The 360-degree views take in all of Singapore as well as parts of Malaysia and Indonesia. Construction on the wheel took more than five years and cost approximately $174 million.
GROUNDBREAKING ON WONDERLAND took place late last year and will occupy a land area of 428,200 square meters (106 acres). When finished, Wonderland will include a luxury hotel built partially on the cliffs of a man-made quarry and feature 480 rooms, 400 of which will be underground, as well as a 100-meter (328-foot) waterfall, among other attractions. The theme park is slated for completion by phases starting in 2009.
DEVELOPED BY THE OVERSEAS CHINESE TOWN (OCT) Group at a cost of more than $187 million, Happy Valley Shanghai is currently under construction and will open next year. The park features China’s first wooden roller coaster, engineered by The Gravity Group and built by Martin & Vleminckx. Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters provided the two six-car trains that seat four per car. Standing at 33 meters (108 feet), the coaster will feature a drop of 31.5 meters (103.5 feet) and runs through 1,164 meters (3,819 feet) of track while reaching a top speed of 90 kilometers per hour (56 miles per hour).
SLATED FOR COMPLETION IN 2009, the “Beijing Great Wheel”—also from Great Wheel Corporation—is set to be the world’s biggest observation wheel at 208 meters (683 feet) tall. The wheel will be located downtown in Chaoyang Park in the eastern part of China’s capital city and will have 48 capsules holding up to 40 passengers each.
ASIAN AMUSEMENT INDUSTRY STALWART Ocean Park is introducing a series of new attractions next year as part of its larger master redevelopment plan. The Funicular Train will complement the existing cable car in transporting visitors between the two sectors within the park. Also to be launched next year, the “Amazing Asian Animals” attraction will feature a new giant panda habitat, a goldfish exhibit that will showcase the fish as works of art, and enclosures for otters and alligators.
Lim Hui Sin is a writer based in China. Originally from Singapore, she has been living in Shanghai for six years. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Watch for more on Asia in future issues of FUNWORLD, including an update on the Indian amusement industry.
What do you get if you cross two Mammoths, King Kong, Julius Caesar, and Thomas the Tank Engine? A whole lot of fun, judging by the 2008 crop of new attractions in Europe by Juliana Gilling
ONE OF TWO COASTERS CHRISTENED “MAMMUT” (“Mammoth” in English) is appearing at Italy’s Gardaland. Park visitors picked it as their favorite backstory for this themed Vekoma mine train coaster. “Mammut” offers guests the chance to board a 1940s train bound for the North Pole, where scientists have uncovered a perfectly preserved frozen mammoth. The twist is that the slumbering beast starts to wake up.
The Gardaland ride features three trains, each carrying 32 riders. These make 16 sudden changes of direction along a 1,000-meter (3,281-foot) track, reaching top speeds of 50 kilometers per hour (31 miles per hour). “Originally, the layout was based on two lifts only, but adding a third section and lift hill has increased the thrill level of this ride,” says park spokesperson Bruno Lancetti.
ANOTHER “MAMMUT” IS ON THE RAMPAGE at Erlebnispark Tripsdrill in Cleebronn, Germany. This wooden coaster, influenced by Tripsdrill’s countryside surroundings, joins more than 100 existing attractions at the park. Tripsdrill’s project is a team effort. It draws on the expertise of theme park planner Emmanuel Mongon of Imaginvest, Stengel Engineering, and the Dietz engineering consultancy. Gerstlauer Amusement Rides provided the technology and used magnetic brakes on this wooden coaster. Cordes Timber Construction handled the track.
Tripsdrill’s “Mammut” is designed to blend seamlessly into the park and captures the spirit of a local timber mill, according to the park’s managing director, Helmut Fischer. Its two trains—with four carriages each—provide 900 riders every hour with alternating views of the park and nearby Michaelsberg. It takes 24 riders on an 860-meter (2,822-foot) run and reaches a maximum height of 30 meters (98 feet). On the first downward plunge, riders reach speeds of more than 80 kph (50 mph). Vertical curves, camel humps, tunnels, junctions, and fog banks ensure a varied ride.
LINNANMÄKI’S NEW “SALAMA” STEEL COASTER represented another complex construction challenge, according to Nick Farmer of Farmer Attraction Development. He was brought in to advise on the ride’s story and theming. Due to space constraints, this city center park in Helsinki, Finland, chose to build a compact spinning coaster from Maurer Soehne over the top of an existing rapids ride. Farmer based the ride’s theme on a Finnish saga; in the story, a witch assumes the form of an eagle (the coaster) to attack the heroes traveling across the sea on a boat (the rapids ride). “Salama” tops out at 17 meters (56 feet) and incorporates six four-seater gondolas. The coaster’s cars spin horizontally while reaching top speeds of 60 kph (37 mph).
“LIGHTNING” HAS STRUCK DENMARK’S FÅRUP Sommerland in the shape of “FårupLynet,” a Gerstlauer Launch Coaster. “We wanted to create a roller coaster ride that was the only one of its kind in Denmark. ‘FårupLynet’ is our biggest single investment at no less than Dkr35 million [US$7.3 million],” says the park’s managing director, Søren Kragelund. After accelerating from 0 to 80 kph (50 mph) in two seconds, riders are sent 20 meters (66 feet) above the ground into a top hat and floating airtime hill. There are a 180-degree twisted drop and a camel hump leading into an Immelman loop and a final helix.
DENMARK’S DJURS SOMMER-LAND HAS OPTED for a buccaneer adventure with its new Intamin Mega-Lite coaster, “Piraten.” Riders rise 32 meters (105 feet) before going into a 70-degree first drop, hitting a top speed of 90 kph (56 mph). An estimated 810 passengers an hour will travel in two trains along the 755-meter (2,477-foot) track.
THE KING KONG RIDE CONCEPT, which was unveiled at last year’s IAAPA Asian Expo, will become a reality at Belgium’s Bobbejaanland this summer. Created by HUSS Park Attractions, in conjunction with Heimo animated attractions Mordelt, the ride consists of a single gondola designed for 24 passengers. A giant King Kong figure appears to grab the vehicle and stand upright before slowly shaking it.
PARC ASTÉRIX’S TEAM HAS SPENT nearly two years and more than 11 million euros (US$17 million) on devising “Le Défi de César” to test its guests. This quirky Gallic attraction combines a series of walkthrough rooms—complete with theming, 3-D projection, and special effects—and an 80-seat Mack Rides Revolving House. The result is an immersive experience lasting 20 minutes.
To create the attraction, Parc Astérix called on the talents of theatrical director Alain Sachs. Guests are invited to become spies for Caesar; they complete four challenges, including a sea crossing to infiltrate a Gallic village. “With 1,000 people an hour going through, it’s adding great capacity for Parc Astérix,” says Alain Trouvé, international relations director at Compagnie Des Alpes, which owns Parc Astérix.
THE “TWILIGHT ZONE TOWER OF TERROR,” already a hit at Disney parks in Orlando, Tokyo, and California, has opened its forbidding doors at the Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris. While the storyline is based on its sister attractions, there are some distinctly European elements to this experience, from the décor and props sourced from European countries to the French/English introduction. “The over-arching theme is the paranormal and mystical legends that have been part of European culture since the Dark Ages,” says Theron Skees, show producer for Walt Disney Imagineering.
THEMED LANDS CONTINUE TO BE POPULAR in Europe. Thomas Land is the star attraction this year at Drayton Manor Theme Park in the UK. This three-acre children’s attraction stems from a partnership with HIT Entertainment, producers and rights owners of the “Thomas and Friends” books. Designed and themed by RMA, Thomas Land offers 12 distinctive rides including a “Thomas the Tank Engine” train ride, “Troublesome Trucks” coaster, and rides from Zamperla.
Themed lands popped up elsewhere in Europe this year, as well. Alton Towers has a £6 million (US$11.7 million) Mutiny Bay where the flagship attraction is a Battle Galleons water ride from Mack, together with interactive and scenic elements from UK Loco. Other Merlin Entertainments-owned parks, Legolands Windsor and Billund, boast a Land of the Vikings and Pirate Lagoon, respectively.
Juliana Gilling is an attractions journalist and commentator. She is the former editor of Attractions Management magazine and has reported on the industry for more than 13 years. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Steven Knipp
THE REALITY OF LIFE TODAY IN THE MIDDLE EAST is vastly different from some of the more unflattering and distorted imagery often portrayed in the media. Thanks to the untold billions of oil dollars wisely invested in the region over the past decade—especially in the compact emirates of the Persian Gulf (collectively known as the UAE)—the United Arab Emirates)this part of the planet is in the midst of a massive building boom.
Looking ahead to the day when oil may not be enough to sustain its current super-charged economies, leaders in the Gulf region have targeted two key industries: financial services and tourism. After a generation of focusing strictly on work, the Gulf now feels it can kick back a bit and have some fun. So along with sparkling new airports and gorgeous hotel resorts come some of the most ambitious amusement park projects on the planet. While the appeal of parks is universal, there are a number of key differences between building them in the Middle East and in the rest of the world.
The first is physical. Because of heat extremes, far larger areas of amusement parks in the Middle East are built indoors or under cover, and this greatly increases both capital construction costs and operating expenses to keep both equipment and customers cool. Less observable but equally important are the cultural differences, which range from food and beverage menus to religious considerations. Outside of hotels, alcohol is largely prohibited in the Middle East, while, according to strict Islamic culinary rules, most food must be prepared by halal chefs. Private prayer rooms are also a standard feature of recreational parks.
But there is another key difference between theme parks in the Gulf and in the rest of the world, a peculiarity rarely mentioned in the media. In the West, theme park operators see their venture in strict economic terms; the Gulf states are as capitalistic as any place on earth, but here two other concerns are factors: national prestige and social stability. And the arrival of new attractions and amusement parks play a part in both.
Explains an expatriate tourism official who has lived in the Gulf for five years (and requested anonymity): “Having world-class theme parks and attractions is more than a mere economic investment. It’s a physical manifestation that your nation has arrived as a fully developed society, where your people have both the excess income and the free time to indulge in leisure activities. So these projects are a matter of national pride as much as for revenue generation.”
Finally, no discussion of amusement parks in the Middle East can be complete without mentioning security. One senior construction manager building a theme park in the Gulf says: “Our security standards include extensive CCTV, nonuniform security staff, and airport-style checks at entry points; but these days, it’s really nothing more than you would see in Florida, California, or Tokyo.”
Here’s a look at some of the exciting amusement park project development occurring in the region:
Home to the single largest recreational development in the Middle East, Dubai is a booming enclave the size of Rhode Island with 2.2 million people. Here expat women wear bikinis on beaches and some restaurants serve alcohol. The Dubai government’s goal is to double tourist arrival figures to 15 million by 2010. The city-state already boasts glitzy seven-star resorts, including the Hydropolis, a luxury underwater hotel, but the cornerstone of its new attractions will be Dubailand, a spec-tacular $64 billion entertainment and leisure park, scheduled to open in 2010.
Recently, nearly a dozen of the biggest names in the entertainment industry have signed license agreement deals to be a part of Dubailand, allowing their brands to be applied to parks built by private investors. These include a $2.2 billion Universal Studios park, as well as a new DreamWorks Animation theme park. Other anchor tenants within Dubailand include Viacom Inc.’s Paramount Pictures, Six Flags Inc., Anheuser-Busch, and Marvel Entertainment Inc. The 4.5 million-square-foot Marvel Entertainment project will focus on rides and attractions related to such popular superhero figures as Spider-Man, Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, and the Fantastic Four. Speaking recently about the mega project, Marvel Studios chairman David Maisel said: “We are privileged to be a part of Dubailand, a unique entertainment experience that captures the world’s best creative concepts. The launch of the Marvel Super Heroes theme park in Dubai will mark our entry into a region that promises tremendous growth potential for our brands.” A 3-million-square-foot Legoland park will open in Dubailand in 2011 with a mix of rides, Lego models, and some 40 interactive attractions, all aimed toward families with young children.
In addition to the theme parks, Dubailand is expected to host approximately 50 hotels, the world’s largest shopping mall, and the “Great Dubai Wheel,” one of the largest in the world, comparable in size to those in London, Singapore, and Beijing.
The most astonishing news about the recreational industry in the Middle East is that a Los Angeles-based holding company for private equity firms called C3 has secured a 50-year lease from the Iraqi government for a 50-acre swatch of land next to the United States-controlled “Green Zone,” which the company hopes to convert into an American-style amusement park. The Baghdad Zoo and Entertainment Experience will feature rides, a concert hall, museum, and renovated national zoo at a price topping $500 million.
The development‘s first phase, a $1 million skateboard park, is expected to open in September. Some 200,000 skate-boards are being imported from the United States and distributed free to local children, together with helmets and kneepads.
The park will be managed entirely by Iraqis, but the core attractions will be designed by Ride and Show Engineering Inc., whose founders were formerly senior engineers for Walt Disney Imagineering.
North of Jerusalem, the 13-acre Mini Israel amusement park is a theme park with miniature versions of major sites around Israel. Mini Israel CEO Haim Rogatka says the park currently boasts 360 models and can accommodate nearly a hundred more.
Israel’s newest amusement offering may soon be a fixed hot-air balloon called “The Eye of Jerusalem.” If approved by Israel’s Civil Aviation Authority, the balloon will be anchored near Jerusalem‘s Old City (and managed by Mini Israel) and is expected to be in operation by October. After boarding a large basket on the ground, passengers will slowly rise to several hundred feet for a spectacular 360-degree view of one of the world’s most picturesque cities. Prices are not yet set, according to Rogatka, but are expected to range from $20 to $45.