IAAPA is Future Minded in Utah
Attendees of IAAPA Presents: Lagoon had the opportunity to explore the family owned and operated Lagoon Amusement Park in Farmington, Utah. IAAPA Presents is a full-day event giving IAAPA members an opportunity to hear from a facility’s leadership team, engage in behind-the-scenes tours, and make connections with like-minded industry professionals.
In July, Lagoon was a fitting site for an IAAPA Presents event, with the park celebrating 104 years of IAAPA membership and boasting three IAAPA chairmen throughout its history.
The volunteerism to IAAPA extends to present day with those organizing and presenting the event: David Gray, current chair of IAAPA’s Human Resources Committee; Terry Capener, previously serving on IAAPA’s Food and Beverage Committee; and André Meacham, currently serving on IAAPA’s North America Safety Committee. The event began with a breakfast and opening address from the Lagoon team inclusive of Julie Freed, part of the ownership at Lagoon Amusement Park.
During a lunch and learn session, Dustin Allen, director of engineering, addressed participants sharing Lagoon’s mantra of “Collaborative Coasters” that highlights Lagoon’s unique, do-it-yourself attitude while working alongside trusted partners. The approach to design their own attractions was born out Lagoon’s commissioning of Wicked in 2007, with the Lagoon team working closely alongside German manufacturer Zierer.
After a successful debut of Wicked, the Lagoon team built up their confidence and took a more hands-on approach to their next project, this time working with ART Engineering on 2011’s Bombora, an exciting family coaster.
With the Lagoon team again encouraged by positive results, park leaders felt the time was right take it to the next level—208 feet, to be exact.
In 2015, Cannibal created a monumental shift in the skyline of the park. Approaching the park from the highway, it is impossible to miss the massive tower encapsulating Cannibal’s elevator lift and the twisting, red track that sends riders into four inversions through a stunning canyon and waterfall feature. The ambience within the park is heightened by the delighted screams of riders as they plunge down the 208-foot, beyond vertical drop.
With the steel track produced by Utah’s Intermountain Lift and the columns by Utah's Petersen Inc., the majority of the components of Cannibal were manufactured within the state of Utah. Another successful collaboration between Art Engineering and Cemrock Landscapes—who created the rockwork that provides the backdrop of the finale—led to Cannibal cementing itself as a landmark attraction.
Allen, director of engineering, concluded his talk by giving a preview of the attraction set to follow in Cannibal’s footsteps, Primordial. Set to debut later this year, Primordial is again shifting the skyline of the park with Lagoon adding a mountain of their own to the park’s Wasatch Mountains backdrop.
Working again with the same partners from Cannibal, along with a newcomer to the Lagoon team, IAAPA member Triotech, Primordial is set to be a compelling, interactive family attraction with a mysterious storyline that plays out as the roller coaster navigates the newly manufactured mountain.
Cleverly intertwined with tours showcasing the new attraction, IAAPA Presents: Lagoon attendees had the opportunity to connect with Lagoon’s leadership team and fellow attendees. André Meacham, the park’s director of safety and security, highlighted the new attraction’s maintenance bay while sharing Lagoon’s longstanding commitment to safety, continuing a legacy established by David Freed, who led Lagoon until his passing last year.
Jimmy Sunlight and Jessica Platt from the operations department gave attendees a tour of the attraction’s loading platform, along with a showcase of the state-of-the-art trains outfitted with scorekeeping capabilities. General Manager Terry Capener previewed the attraction's retail area for attendees, discussing Lagoon’s revenue operation efforts.
David Gray, human resources director, highlighted Lagoon’s team culture and many of its recognition programs. He emphasized the Team Member Tuesday program held within guest view that celebrates and thanks team members.
Lagoon’s E.L.I.T.E. program (Excellence in Leadership, Improving through Education) identifies frontline team members demonstrating strong abilities who are ready for growth within the leadership team.
The program meets six times throughout the season, focusing on Lagoon’s core values. Participants are given the ability to learn from different departments within Lagoon’s operation and the opportunity to connect with likeminded peers across the company.
The day following IAAPA Presents: Lagoon, David invited me to address the E.L.I.T.E. Leadership participants in a discussion about IAAPA and the attractions industry. It was a joy to experience role reversal from being a conference organizer to presenter on stage. It was also a great opportunity for me to recount my first steps of the attractions industry and share some of my learnings. I recall my time at the University of Central Florida, participating in the student-led Future Theme Park Leaders Association. I was always blown away by the willingness of established attractions industry professionals to come in and address our group or produce a tour of their local attraction. Having benefited from those opportunities, I’ve made it a point to say yes to any opportunity to support young professionals within our industry.
Before a late afternoon flight back to IAAPA headquarters in Orlando, I took a short trip up to S&S Worldwide’s headquarters in Logan, Utah. Chatting with Jason Mons, president and COO of S&S Worldwide at the closing reception of IAAPA Presents: Lagoon the day prior, I gave a quick yes to his invitation to visit their headquarters.
Entering S&S Wordwide’s lobby, I found it fantastic to review their slew of IAAPA Best New Product awards throughout the years. As a former ride operator of Loch Ness Monster at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, I enjoyed seeing their archives that are inclusive of Arrow Dynamics' classic attractions.
Just outside the S&S office sits the prototype for their new product, the Axis Coaster. Building on their 4D rotating vehicle, the AXIS Coaster allows the roller coaster to rotate and swing in a unique way. The S&S team was gracious enough to power up the attraction and give me an opportunity to ride.
Jason noted that the attraction allows for both a traditional chain lift or launch. For the prototype, the attraction leverages a launch to begin its course. The experience started with the audible filling of the air tank you may be accustomed to hearing on S&S’s Tower Rides and Screamin’ Swings. Aside from a few beeps, nothing else signals the powerful launch sending your vehicle into the course of the track. The ride experience was remarkably smooth, and navigating around the axis and seeing its interaction with the track was a one-of-a-kind ride experience. While awaiting an encore ride, Jason explained that even in the prototype, S&S ensured safety was at the forefront during construction, putting all the typical safety procedures in place.
As the adrenaline from the second ride on the Axis Coaster subsided on my drive back to Salt Lake City, I felt a great sense of accomplishment with this trip. I revisited one of the recent goals of our IAAPA North America team: to hold more regional events throughout the year as additional opportunities outside of IAAPA Expo, meeting members where they are.
It felt rewarding to engage with Utah’s flourishing segment of the attractions industry, especially acknowledging Lagoon's deep history with IAAPA. With rave reviews from attendees, it only encourages our team to remain on course and continue these regional offerings for the remainder of 2023 and into 2024. We hope to see you at one of our upcoming events.