Tuesday, December 31, 2013

NPN's Look Back at the Stories of 2013

Another year gone by, and another year older!  2013 was a good one for park and ride fans, filled with plenty of new attractions, developments and other fun.  There were some surprises along the way, too - let's take a look back at some of the highlights as we head into 2014, shall we?

January brought us news that Knott's was refurbishing the Timber Mountain Log Ride - an important sign in the changes we're seeing from Cedar Fair - good changes that is.  Among other new ride announcements, we found out that Kentucky Kingdom had received a new lease on life, something that we will see play out in 2014.

California's Great America reached the high point on Gold Striker in February, and while freezing in my neck of the woods the park raced onward with construction after that.  The park's new wooden coaster was an important sign of the future of that park.  Other projects that we didn't seen open in 2013 made large announcements, too, including a moved Miracle Strip and proposed changes for Rye Playland.

By March Gold Striker was making mega-progress as seen in this update, and a retiring General Manager at Six Flags Over Georgia was honored.  A newly rebranded water park, Aquatica San Diego, also showed off what guests could expect when visiting the tropically themed park.  Outlaw Run at Silver Dollar City opened to the public for the first time, though we would see that ride in depth the next month.

April is a month when we see plenty of construction wrapping up, and this was no exception:  Full Throttle at Six Flags Magic Mountain,  Iron Rattler at Six Flags Fiesta Texas, Boomerang at Six Flags St. Louis, and the Texas SkyScreamer at Six Flags Over Texas reached new heights.  NPN converged on Silver Dollar City to experience Outlaw Run (and what an experience it was!) and Kings Island started a mystery project.

Ride openings always dominate May.  GateKeeper at Cedar Point was huge news, but we can't forget others like Hades 360 at Mt. Olympus, Antarctica at SeaWorld Orlando, the Texas SkyScreamer, and backwards Batman at Six Flags Great America.  A development that spans multiple years, Universal Studios Florida also announced a second Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  We also went exploring and checked out a new park to moi, Worlds of Fun.

The coaster with the most inversions in the world?  Yep, the Smiler opened in June.  Scott and Carol also continued checking out new attractions, including Boomerang at Six Flags St. Louis and igNight at Six Flags Great America.  Full Throttle opened at Six Flags Magic Mountain, and the official reopening date of Kentucky Kingdom was announced for 2014.

The heat of July didn't both us here at NPN, we kept on keepin' on and headed to my home park, Dorney Park, to see what their Summer Celebration was all about.  The ever changing plans for Rye Playland hit the news again this month, this time calling for rides to be a bigger part of the park's future, and one monster of a water slide was topped out at Schlitterbahn Kansas City.  The month closed with rumors that Knoebels' Flying Turns may open this year... something we all had been anticipating for what seemed like ages (and quite literally was!).

August has turned into one of the most action packed months for park fans, and we loved every minute of it!  A special tribute to the Blue Streak at Conneaut Lake was held, an important nod to a struggling park and its past.  We also got to take a look at the hard work that goes into building the Haunt at Dorney Park and the early work underway at Kentucky Kingdom.  And then, BOOM, mega-announcements for 2014:  Dollywood's new coaster and future hotel, Kings Island's giant Banshee coaster, family rides for Cedar Point, a water slide tower for Dorney Park, Six Flags Great America's Goliath, Zumanjaro at Six Flags Great Adventure, Medusa Steel Coaster at Six Flags Mexico, Guardian at Canada's Wonderland, and, phew, SteelHawk at Worlds of Fun - and that's among tons of others, too!

I love the cool days of September, and parks seem to love to keep announcing new things during them.  I'm quite fond of Kings Dominion's 40th anniversary plans, as well as those of Valleyfair - both represent a large change of pace by their operator, Cedar Fair.  Halloween festivities also got underway for the 2013 season with an early look at Great Adventure's Fright Fest, and Kings Island quickly topped out their new for 2014 coaster!

We got a great look at the details of Dollywood's FireChaser Express in October, a ride we're all looking forward to.  On the scary-front Scott got turned into a zombie at Cedar Point's Halloweekends, and Dorney Park's Haunt VI creeped us out as well.  The biggest story of the month though had to the end of the 7 year wait for Flying Turns at Knoebels to open!  Really, it wasn't your imagination, it honestly did open!

November brought us a look at the new Thunderbolt coaster opening next year at Coney Island, and we also got up close and personal with El Loco at the Adventuredome in Las Vegas.  Kentucky Kingdom did a full reveal of what's new when the park reopens in 2014, including a cool new coaster, Lightning Run - a first of its kind.  Scott and Carol attended the annual IAAPA expo in Orlando and reported back plenty of awesome updates of all the exciting news!

Christmas events at parks have been growing in the past few years, and this year Busch Gardens Tampa and Cliff's Amusement Park were some who celebrated the season.  A fan favorite, Hersheypark announced some new family rides for 2014, Falcon's Fury started to head toward the sky in Tampa, and Cedar Fair gave an interesting update to investors which was filled with goodies for park fans.  Our From the Vault series continued to look back at the past of various parks, including this relic from Dorney Park's history.

That's just a snippit, of course, since there was a lot more in the 579 posts we drafted during the course of 2013.  Now as we move forward into 2014 there are plenty of new projects to keep up with, and plenty more history to explore.  Thank you to all of our readers for stopping by this past year, and we wish you a happy and healthy 2014 - we'll see you then!

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Dollywood Releases New FireChaser Express Construction Shots

© Dollywood
Dollywood has released a large update of photos from the construction site of their new dual launch family roller coaster, FireChaser Express.

Above is the start of the backwards section of the coaster - the train will be launched out of the building on the right over the bunny hill and into the turns after.  The ride's final turns are out of view in the shot but would take place on the lower right.

© Dollywood
Here is a closer view of the building the train will enter forwards, but leave backwards.  The crews appear to just be starting to enclose the track section, around which special effects involving a significant amount of fireworks will take place.  In the foreground you can also see the switch track element that will allow the train to reverse direction and continue onward.

© Dollywood
The ride's lift hill, which takes place after the first forward launch, is climbing toward the camera in this view - not yet complete at that point.  The helices that can be seen at the base of the hill immediately follow the first launch.  I do believe that eventually a part of FireChaser Express' track will glide right through that existing tower structure on the right.

© Dollywood
One last shot, this is of the coaster's station starting to take shape.  You can really start to get a feel for how the structure will look like a Fire Station when complete!  The theming on this ride looks like it will be really neat when done, fun yet adventurous at the same time - perfect for a family ride!

For more photos (over 40!) head over to Dollywood's Facebook page.

Knott's Windseeker Garden Stump

© Knott's Network
Well, you have to give credit to the landscaping team at Knott's Berry Farm!  The park recently finished up removal of Windseeker so that it could be transported to Worlds of Fun and become SteelHawk... but that left a big open area with an awkward spot where the base of the ride was.

No need to let that eyesore sit uncovered - the park took to decorating the area and made a pretty little planter out of the ride's stump!  Seen above, the little garden area even got decked out for the holidays with plenty of Poinsettias. 

Knott's now has a ride pad that's perfect for redevelopment, perhaps we will see something take Windseeker's place in the coming years.  The park has kept the queue for the ride, so even that is a step ahead. 

You can check out more photos of the former home of Windseeker from Knott's Network.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

From The Vault: Frontier City 1998 Brochure

From being the small park who's owner eventually grew into one of the largest theme park chains in the world, to eventually being sold to CNL Properties and managed once more by the same folks, Frontier City has really come full circle in the last twenty years.

This brochure is from 1998, when Premier Parks purchased Six Flags - meaning there was a lot of hope that the park may one day become Six Flags Frontier City... but that was never meant to be.

The Tomahawk, an inverting flat ride, was new for the park's 1998 season.  The attraction lasted at Frontier City until 2007 when it was replaced the next year by a new family roller coaster.  It had a pretty cool logo, and it was nice to see the park adding new rides during this era.

Frontier City isn't a large theme park, and its roots are firmly planted in its Western theming.  This brochure caries along that theme as well - you'll notice plenty of Western slang and references throughout.  The park offered several coasters at the time, including an Arrow shuttle loop that's still there today, DiamondBack and Nightmare, an indoor coaster.  The classic Wildcat (wooden ride) and Silver Bullet (Schwarzkopf looper) are also still giving thrills today.

As seen by the special logo, the park was also celebrating their 40th anniversary in 1998.  Tomahawk wasn't the only new ride that year, this brochure also lists a Round-Up as an "upside-down scream machine!"

I've written enough of these posts to expect for at least one panel of any brochure to feature kids' attractions, and here that is.  Worth noting though is that they show that the kids area was "newly expanded" - that's one thing Premier Parks did often, totally renovating the children's areas of purchased parks.

Finally, and also like most other brochures we've seen, there's information on live entertainment at the park (Gunfight Stunt Show - cool!) and plenty of special events and concerts as well.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Aerial Antics: Family Kingdom

I'm still dreaming of a warm getaway, so here's an aerial look at a great beach spot!

Ahh, to be at a beach right now as nice looking as the one above, in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  That amusement and water park you see weaved among the hotels and other attractions is Family Kingdom, which has been in operation since 1966.  It goes without saying that the park has a fantastic location!

The big attraction at Family Kingdom is the Swamp Fox, a classic wooden roller coaster that dates back to the park's opening.  It was badly damaged during Hurricane Hugo (1989) and had to stay closed for a season or two, but was repaired and has been operating since.  The coaster featured a 'traditional' layout, a large figure eight.

Family Kingdom has a nice selection of other rides and attractions, including this log flume that's located over by the park's go-karts.  I must say... it looks like it might benefit from a little landscaping!

Immediately adjacent to the ocean is the small water park that is a part of Family Kingdom, named Splashes.  You can see that it has a number of slides, and also a small area that looks like it is meant for little kids.

Family Kingdom has a dark ride, named The Great Pistolero Roundup, seen above.  Sally created the ride, in which riders are equipped with guns and score points throughout the ride.  Seems like a pretty unique attraction, and most of it in located in a former restaurant!

Family Kingdom is currently advertising four new rides, including a Twist 'n Shout coaster (from Magic Springs) and a couple kiddie rides they just picked up from the former Hard Rock Park.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Great New Diagon Alley Aerial Photos

Orlando Attractions Magazine has shared some neat new aerial photos of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley on their website.  With so much of the new land shrouded behind some gigantic London facades, the air is pretty much the only way to see what's currently going on.

The photos show that much progress has been made on the expansion, with facades coming together quickly.  Paint and details have started to be applied on the tight streets of Diagon Alley, with store names even beginning to show up.  Overall the area looks really cramped from above, however, with the indoor spaces designed to handle the crush of crowds guests should be fairly spread out.

The update also shows off the Hogwarts Express on the tracks, and the progress of the stations in both London and Hogsmeade.  As a bonus, there's also some photos of the new resort at Universal Orlando, the Cabana Bay Beach Resort - which is looking rather finished in parts! 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Shanghai Disneyland Tops Out First Building

© Shanghai Disneyland
Reaching the highest point on the first building that will be a part of the Shanghai Disney Resort may not be the most spectacular thing to see, but it marks an important step in the construction progress.

The Shanghai Disney Resort finished building one of the main structures for the dining, shopping and entertainment area located outside the theme park's gates.  The building will offer views of the adjacent lake and the theme park's Storybook Castle.

"Retail, dining and entertainment areas are key features of Disney resorts around the world, ensuring Guests will enjoy an integrated resort experience, together with world-class hotels and theme parks. Shanghai Disney Resort's retail, dining and entertainment district will initially be comprised of a 46,000 square meter pedestrian-access area and will be located next to Shanghai Disneyland, Shanghai Disney Resort's Magic Kingdom-style theme park."

With buildings starting to go up around the entire property, we should soon start to see even more updates.  Now we just need the park to release some fun details and art for all those rides and attractions!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays and a very Merry Christmas to our readers from all of us at NewsPlusNotes.  We hope you all have a wonderful day, filled with family, friends and plenty of good memories.  We'll see you all again soon after we recover from our present and food coma!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Time to Vote for the Best Wooden Coaster!

The end of the year is upon us (crazy, I know!) and that means it is time to vote in the Wood Roller Coaster Poll, the enthusiast's best friend when it comes to accurate polls.

Last year El Toro at Six Flags Great Adventure took the number one spot - will it hold onto the title for 2013 or will another ride take over?  Even if you've only ridden 5 wood coasters, or perhaps 200, everyone should vote in this one - the more votes the more accurate the results are.

Click over to the poll's website and make sure you participate!  You have until January 24th, but don't delay, vote today! 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Kings Dominion's 12 Days of 2014 Treats

Kings Dominion is continuing to release details of their 40th anniversary celebration via a fun 12 Days of Christmas countdown over on their Facebook account.  They've released 11 improvements or changes thus far, some of which are pretty cool.

• First, the park's floral clock (the original is seen above) will be rebuilt near the park's Carousel, and will look just like the original.

• A new retail event, the 40th Celebration Collector Pin Trading Program, will take place.  Special commemorative pins will be released throughout the year for purchasing and trading.

• Gold and Platinum season pass holders will receive free visits to Dinosaurs Alive! all season long.

• Ruby, a specially painted Carousel horse will be added to the park's main Carousel in celebration of the anniversary.

• Located along the park's main entryway, the Border Cafe will be renovated and feature Mexican fare.

• The Clown Band, a traveling group of musical clown performers, will return to the park.  Famous in the 1980s, visitors to the park will surely remember the act and welcome their return.

• The Walk of Memories, featuring decorative signs like the example above, will be set up around the Eiffel Tower.  Featuring facts and photos from the park from the 1970's through the 2000s, visitors will get to revisit the history of the park.

• Featuring retro themed merchandise, the Starlight Gift Shop will be a hub of fun souvenirs themed to the history of Kings Dominion.

• Tower Pizza no more, the building at the end of International Street will return to the Coca-Cola Pizza Parlor.  Featuring an expanded indoor eating area, the restaurant will be a throwback to 1976.

• Changes to Volcano: The Blast Coaster's queue and exits will be redone, improving the popular coaster's capacity.  The park will also start to rebuild and renovate the ride's iconic mountain.

• New paint will go onto Anaconda, Kings Dominion's classic Arrow multi-looper.  The colors will be similar to the current ones, with green supports, red track and yellow running rails.

Tomorrow, Christmas Eve, the final surprise will be revealed - be sure to check out the park's Facebook to find out what it is!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

From The Vault: Clementon Amusement Park 1999 Brochure

This week's Vault will take a look at an undated brochure from Clementon Amusement Park and Splash World.  It was sent to me in 1999 so we're going to say it was from around then!

The park is located in Southern New Jersey, not too far from Philadelphia.  There's a lot of people in that area, obviously, so the park has a great local market to tap into.  While the brochure was probably used for several years, it points out quite a few new rides and attractions - much like the Chaos flat ride featured on the front cover.

The park is split into part amusement and part water park, the latter is known as Splash World.  It has been heavily expanded over the past five or so years, but when this brochure was created it still had a decent selection of slides and attractions.

While on a smaller scale that a lot of giant water parks, Splash World offered the slides you can see above, several play areas, and a lazy river as well.  There were slides for both adult and kids, meaning the whole family could have fun!  The park did not have a wave pool until just a couple years ago when one was added.

Dating back to the early 1900s, Clementon Amusement Park has a long history of entertaining the masses.  This panel shows off the hardware the park had, much of which is still offered today.  The park's log flume travels out and over the adjacent Clementon Lake and is quite impressive in appearance.  In 1999 guests could still queue up for the Jack Rabbit, a classic coaster that first opened in 1919.  Unfortunately the ride has since been torn down, but the park now offers a much larger wooden coaster, Hell Cat.

Here the park is showing off those new rides I mentioned at the start of this post - including a new "Classic" Carousel, C.P. Huntington Train ride, Giant Ferris Wheel and Yo-Yo.  The park shifted around several rides to make room for the recent wave pool addition, but still offer a nice selection of flat rides - many of which are listed above.

Live entertainment was also a big part of the offerings at the time.  The "Big Cat Encounter" seems pretty intense!  Just looking at the photos makes me wonder if that is something we'd see at any park today - I'm not sure I want to see that trainer put her head in a tiger's mouth as the description says!  The park's kiddieland was put under a pavilion so that kids could ride and play without the sun beating down on them, a smart move for sure.

Clementon Amusement Park is now owned by Premier Attractions Management, which took over for the 2012 season.  Hopefully the recent management change means good things for the park, though no new attractions were added in 2013 and nothing had been announced yet for next year.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Stitch to Invade Tokyo Disneyland in 2015

Another new attraction for Tokyo Disneyland has been announced, this time around the lovable yet mischievous Stitch will make Tomorrowland his new home with an interactive experience.  Similar to the Stitch Encounter and Stitch Live attractions in Hong Kong and Paris, respectively, guests will be able to interact with Stitch in real time via a large screen.  The technology behind this style of experience has been popular in its previous installations due to the personal nature of it; it's not just a movie to watch but an interactive production.

Each encounter will take place in a theater that can seat up to 160 visitors at a time, and the show will last approximately 12 minutes.  Set in Tomorrowland, this new Stitch attraction will replace Captain EO which will close on June 30, 2014.  The Tokyo Disneyland Resort will spend 2 billion yen to bring Stitch to life (over $19 million).

This news comes after the resort's previously announced plans to totally revamp the Jungle Cruise for fall 2014, bring a new castle nighttime show to the Kingdom in the spring, and an all new Little Mermaid production at DisneySea in 2015.

Friday, December 20, 2013

A View From the Top: Verruckt at Schlitterbahn Kansas City

It seems that these helicam movies are all the rage right now - not that I'm complaining!  Schlitterbahn Kansas City just released the one embedded above, which shows off the dizzying heights of Verruckt.  Set to open this coming Summer, it will be the tallest raft water slide in the world.

I think this still from the movie is really telling at just how tall Verruckt is.  Granted the park hasn't released a firm number on that front, but just check out the view from the same level as the launch tower!  Not only is the thought of sliding down a steep drop from that height intimidating, but just imagine climbing up those tiny stairs!

Schlitterbahn Kansas City is definitely going to be on the map next year when this one opens!

Liseberg's Helix Aerial Progress Update

Looks like Liseberg, located in Sweden, got out the helicam to take some great footage of Helix being constructed.  The giant (to the tune of 4,530 feet of track) new roller coaster is slowly starting to dominate the large hill that part of the classic amusement park is built on.

When complete Helix will utilize two separate LMS launches to keep the trains moving around the course.  The video shows one of those launches already in place, and is followed immediately by a large corkscrew element.  The track uses the hillside to its advantage with many large inversions towering over the bottom of the area.  As impressive as the shots in the video are, this Mack designed ride is sure to be even more so when complete. 

Also worth noting is the number of interactions with other rides that Helix will have, though you can see some of those already in the movie.  Fans can also keep up to date with the ride's progress via Liseberg's official website, especially the Blog section.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Close Look at Kentucky Kingdom's New Coaster

Chance Rides has provided us a really good look at Lightning Run, the new coaster being built at Kentucky Kingdom for the 2014 season.  The manufacturer has updated their promotional page for their line of Hyper GT-X coasters, the first of which is Lightning Run, and included some great images and video of the premier model.

When Kentucky Kingdom announced the coaster a video was shown, giving a general idea of the ride's layout and specifics, however this really lets us see all the details.  Lightning Run starts with a 100 foot tall lift and a first drop at 80 degrees, getting the the 20 passenger trains moving at 55 miles per hour.

After a sharp curve at the bottom of the drop a large airtime hill takes place, followed by a dive into an elevated overbank turn.  The 2,500 feet of track then does a series of highly banked curves mixed with pops of airtime as it traces under itself.  There's two extreme S-curves before the finale which includes three traditional airtime hills.  The ride's being marketed for its "extreme banked turns and negative G-force camel-back hills," which is pretty much music to coaster fans' ears.

Along with the close view of the layout, Chance also released this movie which includes off-ride and point-of-view sections:

Looks pretty good, no?  I like the fast pacing of the ride, and hope that element remains in true life.  A smaller, yet still wild, coaster experience is one that many seek out, so Kentucky Kingdom could have a big winner on their hands with Lightning Run.  Now we just need to get the ride built and the fans will take it from there!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Resort World Malaysia Creating 20th Century Fox World Theme Park

Some time ago it was announced that the outdoor theme park area of Resort World Malaysia, known around town as one of the least desirable parks to visit, would undergo a massive transformation.  Once a partnership with 20th Century Fox was announced, hope sprung that the new development might be top quality.

Now the partners have released more information, including the park's full name:  20th Century Fox World.  Not very creative, but from what has been revealed it looks pretty interesting.  Plus, unlike many new parks that are announced I'd say the odds of this one actually opening are extremely good - the Genting Group has many resorts and casinos around the world, and hence plenty of cash.  They also developed Resort World Sentosa in Singapore, which includes a Universal Studios theme park.

The outdoor theme park will cover some 25 acres, but it appears as though quite a bit will be packed into that small area.  Plans call for $300 million to be spent on new rides and attractions, including "media based rides, thrill rides, dark rides, to children’s rides and water rides."  The layout above shows the entrance in the lower left - after that you can see the park's curved layout sprawl out.  For a much larger version with great detail, click over to this Pinterest post.

Having the brands owned by 20th Century Fox behind the park will help bring a lot of popular movies to life.  According to the official release, "rides and attractions based on Twentieth Century Fox blockbuster titles like ICE AGE, RIO, ALIEN VS. PREDATOR, PLANET OF THE APES and NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM" will be included, with other properties to be announced later.

Above is concept art for a family roller coaster themed to Ice Age - while probably a Wild Mouse in reality it still looks like it could be neat.  I'll be interested to see how Alien Vs. Predator works in a theme park!  Night at the Museum sounds like a great dark ride premise if you ask me.

The current plans call for 20th Century Fox World to open to guests sometime in 2016.