Theme Park Change

5 04 2011

One thing that I really enjoy doing with a platform like this blog is letting people know about charities directly related to the amusement industry, because I think it is worth doing even if I only end up with one person learning about a given charitable cause. If you have followed me elsewhere around the Internet, you know that I especially enjoy trying to push out the word about Give Kids the World, and if you don’t know who they are and what they do, I highly recommend taking a moment to check them out and consider giving to that amazing cause. This post is for pretty new cause, though, so let’s move on to that.

Just today, I ran across a new cause that is taking place during the month of April, called Theme Park Change. If you also happen to be a Gleek you may have already heard about this, as Neil Patrick Harris, everyone’s favorite choir teacher, is championing it.* The simple explanation on the idea behind this cause is that you give up getting a food item, souvenir, or even visiting one park or one chain’s season pass this month and donate that corresponding amount to Theme Park Change. All of the proceeds generated will be going to Project Angel Food in Los Angeles, California.

While it is a regional charity in its finality, this is a great thing to push across the industry, as most major entertainment chains have locations in Southern California. Oh, and I almost forgot, you are eligible to win some pretty nice prizes if you donate $10 or more. So stop reading this and click on over to Theme Park Change and think about what you could give up from your next trip to the park and donate the money to Theme Park Change and Project Angel Food!

Links:
Theme Park Change
Project Angel Food
Give Kids the World

*Update: I have been informed by a Gleek (I am not one) rather close to me, that NPH is not the teacher, however she does not seem to remember his exact role. Regardless, one of the main stars of Glee is pushing this, so…yeah, that doesn’t really change anything.





Segway Madness Resolved

5 04 2011

There is one specific issue that can cause a lot of headaches for any business, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA from here on), which lays out ground rules for making businesses handicap accessible for both their employees and consumers. Now, I say headache not because of the sensible things that the ADA lays out, but because of some of the absolutely ridiculous things that have involved the ADA; such as lawsuits and rather interesting, if not concerning, rule revisions. One such revision was recently made to the ADA’s rules regarding what can be considered a wheelchair/assistive device, specifically about Segways and their use in theme parks.

For a quick bit of background on all of this and to save you from the tiresomely long essay that would be sure to follow on all the legal mumbo-jumbo involved, I will simply refer you to an excellent article on the DIS Unplugged Blog, which contains links to relevant cases and facts as well as a link to the ADA revision (which will also be directly linked at the end of this post). If you have not yet guessed how I feel about the revision and the idea of using Segways in parks such as Disney or Universal from the tone of the writing so far, I find the idea of using a Segway as an assistive device in crowded theme parks rather untenable. To explain a bit better why I feel that way, here is a post I have made elsewhere on the issue.

“From personal experience, I can tell you that properly controlling a Segway requires both very good driving skill-sets (alertness, quick reactions, good sight, etc.), and understanding of your body’s balance and solid control of your muscle movements. While controlling a Segway is not necessarily physically demanding (you won’t be sweating like you were doing a workout), it does require very good muscle control and some balance. The Segway does not do all the work for you, you have to understand how your movements affect its reactions. Also, just like a vehicle, it will not stop immediately. It can stop in a very short distance, but you will not stop in time to avoid someone not watching where they are walking that would step out less than 5ft. in front of you unless you are moving slower than you would walk on the Segway.

Simply put, these things are not intended for use, and should absolutely not be used by anyone, regardless of training and familiarity with it, in any kind of significant crowd. In addition, I find it very hard to believe that in all but a few very special cases, a Segway would be a suitable transportation option for a disabled person. That view comes from operational experience with Segways, not simply a general opinion based on what I’ve heard. Regardless, use of a Segway in any significant crowd is, in my view, a safety issue waiting to happen and irresponsible.*

*I have heard and partially recognize the validity of the whole psychological aspect of being forced to be at a lower height than everyone else as a disabled person. However, I consider the safety of many to be of greater concern than elevating someone so they can feel good about themselves. I will not accept that argument in the Segway discussion, or similar device discussions.”

Just yesterday there was some progress made on the issue, and thankfully it seems that someone in the courts actually understands the issue. As this new article on the DIS Unplugged Blog states:

“The Justice Department also had argued that Walt Disney World could not adhere to a “blanket ban on Segways at all Disney properties” because Disney’s safety concerns were “bland and unsupported.” Judge Presnell disagreed, saying: “Disney would likely be able to maintain its ban on Segways in light of its legitimate safety concerns. Specifically, the evidence at the fairness hearing supports Disney’s position that unrestricted Segway use poses significant safety risks because Segways cannot be operated in accordance with Disney’s legitimate safety requirements.”

So it seems that, at least for now, common sense and safety have prevailed in the consideration of this issue. For everyone’s safety, hopefully that continues to be the case, as I’m sure this will be brought up again/appealed and make its way up the court ladder.

Articles and Links:
ADA Revision
Initial DIS article
Followup DIS article





Launched Wooden Coaster FTW!

19 11 2008

Okay, now I really think I’ve seen it all in the world of roller coasters. Coming soon to a park near you, a launched wooden roller coaster! Okay, so maybe not next year, and I’m going to guess not even in 2010, but thanks to the Gravity Groups new Timberliner trains we could very well see launched wooden coasters in the future. Is anyone else skeptical? I sure am! I’ll come back to that point in a little bit though, as there is a lot to talk about when it comes to the new Timberliner trains which the Gravity Group announced yesterday.

The Timberliners have a lot of new and/or interesting features to take a look at, and one that I’m sure is going to have a lot of enthusiasts riding these new trains is the shock absorption that the trains are said to feature. While wooden coasters are traditionally a little on the rough side, Intamin’s prefab wooden coasters are said to have butter-smooth rides in comparison to most other wooden coasters, and even compared to Intamin’s steel coasters. That kind of smooth ride is almost scary to even think about, since I think the roughness adds to the ride experience of a ride that is supposed to be of an older style and not as refined. There are many out there, though, that will not ride wooden roller coasters because of how rough they are. Beyond the rider experience these new trains and the shock absorption should also decrease maintenance costs for the train and track. It would make sense that a smoother ride means less play and more consistent wear, instead of spots of increased wear, which could conceivably help with maintenance.

The idea of integrating sound into a wooden roller coaster train is something that is completely new to the best of my knowledge. It has been done on steel rides for at least 10 years or more now, but as far as I am aware, has not been done with a wooden coaster. More than likely this was because of how much noise wooden coasters usually produce, along with the trains not generally being design friendly to having speakers near to the riders’ head. I would guess that the smoother ride discussed above is a contributing factor to making these trains ready for on-board audio, as the new trains probably result in a quieter ride, allowing the audio to be heard at manageable levels for everyone.

There are evidently some new restraints on these trains as well, though you can’t really see anything in the “postcard” and press release from the Gravity Group. I’m hoping to get some images from the firm, but in the worst case scenario I’ll get them from a website that has a representative down at IAAPA. Apart from that, there isn’t much else in the release to talk about, but I did say I would return to the “launch capable” bit of the trains. Part of the new trains that in my mind goes hand in hand with launch capabilities is magnetic braking, which is also capable on the Timberliners. If you really think about it, both of these could be said about most PTC and Gerstlauer trains, though it would presumably take some heavy modification to pull off. The Timberliners, however, seem to be built with both launching and magnetic braking in mind. After having the chance to stare up at the underbody of Blue Streak’s trains as they rolled into the brake run when I was sitting at entrance, I am curious as to how high above the track the benches would be compared to traditional PTC trains, and how magnetic and launching hardware would affect the underbody construction. There are a whole lot of questions that are raised in my mind by the “launch capable” line in the announcement, but a few are reigned in by the thought of magnetic braking. After thinking about it some, I would guess that the “launch” we may see on future wooden coasters would be more like the LSM lift that is used on Maverick at Cedar Point, rather than a full out speed launch like on Intamin Impulse and hydraulic launch roller coasters. Still though, my mind is still balking at the idea of a launched wooden coaster, and for the time being I am lumping it in there with the looping wooden roller coaster idea.

Press Release PDF

Postcard

If you read the title and expected an announcement about a wooden coaster finally featuring a launch, sorry. You’ll probably be just as disappointed when I put up the headline that Cedar Point breaks 500 feet. Until some equally interesting news pops up, or I get a response from Gravity Group, happy reading. Remember, the cake (and title) is a lie.





Anyone have $3.5 million lying around?

17 11 2008

If you have ever wanted to own an amusement park and just happen to have $35 million available – $3.5 million of that in cash – you can own Hard Rock Park! Though I doubt that anyone reading this really has that kind of money I’m guessing that you may still be interested in knowing who the future owner will be, and if there will be a Hard Rock Park at all. The bidding on HRP will begin on December 15, and I will be trying to follow the latest news on the auction as it is released, though I’m not going to make any promises. As most of you probably know, the park filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection back in September, and at the time claimed that the park would reopen in 2009. There was a lot of skepticism about the claim from enthusiasts, and it seems that they have been proven right with the announced auction. 

When the park opened back in April of this year there were a lot of high hopes for the park, especially from the local economy. Those hopes were not fulfilled, though, as the park opened in the midst of tough economic times that would only get tougher as the year went on. The park has said that a major reason for not being able to draw enough attendance and spending was the result of not having enough money left over after the initial investment for adequate marketing. This is a rather large and problematic blunder to make as a new company, though enthusiasts aren’t faulting the lack of marketing, they’re faulting the pricing. Evidently $50 and a fee for parking was “too much” for getting into the park, though I think it is right in line with most other major theme and amusement parks that have prices ranging from $40-60, as well as anywhere from $10-15 to park your car. I really think that along with their major oversight in not having enough money for marketing, the economy was a big deciding factor in what happened to the park.

In addition to being able to prove that you have the backing already for the $35 million price tag, including the 10% in cash, the buyer must also have enough experience to run the place. The article in the Sun News. And even if there is an approved change of hands there is no guarantee that Hard Rock International will continue to license the brand name to the new owner(s). This will be an interesting process to follow, as there are already a few names being tossed around in the enthusiast community in terms of potential buyers. Hopefully a buyer is found that can turn the new park into a profitable venture, even in these tough economic times.





Woman Sues Disney for not letting her ride

2 11 2008

So in my news search today across several websites, I ran across the following article. I found it very odd, somewhat interesting, and rather humorous. See what you think.

 

 

Ailing Woman Sues Disney For Kicking Her Off Ride

Monday, October 20, 2008 – updated: 5:43 pm EDT October 20, 2008

ORLANDO, Fla. — A Central Florida woman had a prescription for her chronic pain that included riding Disney’s Tower of Terror. She says it actually worked, but says Disney kicked her out for riding the ride too many times and now she’s suing.  

“I actually hold the record right now for the most rides of single riders which is 56 times,” said Denise Mooty. 

Every Saturday for the past three-and-a-half years, Mooty has visited Hollywood Studios to ride the attraction. She rode it over and over, as many as 20 times in a row. 

Mooty has adhesions in her abdomen, essentially, internal scarring. She needs four to six surgeries a year to get rid of the adhesions. 

Mooty’s doctor wrote a letter to Disney stating, “The benefit of riding the Tower of Terror breaks down these adhesions thus relieving her of so much pain.” 

“Every since I’ve been riding the Tower of Terror, I only have to have one surgery versus several. It really works, the G-force of going up and down,” said Mooty. 

Mooty had a guest assistance card and would either go through the Fast Pass lane or the back entrance. But then one day in August it all changed. 

“A different manager said she didn’t care what my card said, I’m only allowed to ride the ride four times,” said Mooty. 

Mooty said she was also told she could no longer use the back entrance. She spent the next couple of weeks arguing with Disney. In the end, she got booted out and was cited for trespassing and for using profanity. Mooty claims she did not do those things. 

For its part, Disney said there was never a restriction placed on the number of times Mooty could ride the Tower of Terror. The park said she used profanity in front of guests and that’s why she was ordered out. But the park did say it would listen to an appeal of her case. 

Mooty is suing to get back on the ride and also to collect damages.

 

http://www.wftv.com/news/17764696/detail.html

 

Now when I first read that, I was a little confused, so I had to read it again. Had a doctor seriously prescribed riding Tower of Terror for this woman’s medical issue!? I thought doctors always told people with major medical issues to NOT ride thrill rides? So I paused and thought about it for a second, thinking that maybe it would somehow it would all make sense…but it didn’t. That only made me laugh more. If the doctor seriously prescribed riding the ride for this woman, I would imagine the doctor would have contacted the park to let them know of this very, very odd situation. Had there been contact, I somehow find it hard to believe that one manager was somehow out of the loop, knowing how things like this worked at Cedar Point. If we had a certain guest that feel into a crack in our disability program, or there was something very different about the situation, every ride, every supervisor, and every manager in the operations office knew about the situation within about 10 minutes. Of course, there’s always the chance that this Disney manager was new, and that someone had simply left out this slightly important detail.

This whole situation just seems extremely bizarre, and I’m still confused, but still laughing at it. So what do you think; sad, stupid, confusing, hilarious, or mixture of some of the options? Whatever the case may be, there’s a lot we don’t know, and frankly, I don’t care. I got my interesting and slightly humorous read of the day in.





Terminator: The Coaster…or just another wooden coaster?

22 10 2008

Six Flags Magic Mountain announced their latest addition to the park, Terminator: The Coaster, in a rather undramatic fashion today. To try and save you some clicking, I’m going to attempt to provide you with everything that the park released today right here in this post.

SIX FLAGS MAGIC MOUNTAIN TO ADD 16TH COASTER TO ITS WORLD RENOWNED COLLECTION 

TERMINATOR®: THE COASTER To Debut in 2009 

Valencia, CA, October 22, 2008 /PRNewswire/ — Six Flags Magic Mountain announced today the addition in 2009 of a new wooden roller coaster to its world renowned coaster collection. Developed by the same team that produced the new X2 experience, TERMINATOR®: THE COASTER will combine innovative thrill ride technology with the signature science fiction punch of the Terminator brand. The debut is scheduled to coincide with the release of the McG directed film Terminator Salvation™ next year, and will introduce fans to an entirely new universe inspired by the film’s post apocalyptic setting. 

“Our mission at Six Flags Magic Mountain is to provide entertainment that appeals to a wide range of tastes and this specially designed wooden coaster will be a proven winner among guests of all ages,” said Jay Thomas, Six Flags Magic Mountain’s Park President. “Designed around the theme of the successful Terminator movie brand, this ride will draw thrill seekers from around the world.” 

Derek Anderson and Victor Kubicek, co-CEO’s of The Halcyon Company, credit Six Flags with taking the ride to the next level in adventure. “The combination of the universe created by the film and the setting of this ride will provide fans with an adventure that keeps the spirit of the story,” said Kubicek and Anderson jointly. 

The $10 million coaster, engineered exclusively for the Valencia theme park by Great Coasters International Inc. (GCII), TERMINATOR®: THE COASTER will feature a loading station “fly-thru,” a state-of-the-art sight and sound package, and unique queue line and on-board entertainment elements. The GCII-designed Millennium Flyer coaster trains will zip through five belly-flopping hills and six high speed banked turns over 2,850 feet of track to create a ride that delivers the acrobatic thrills of a modern roller coaster while retaining the nostalgic look and feel of a classic “woodie.” 

The Terminator franchise is a highly-successful series of science fiction films centered around battles between Skynet’s artificially intelligent machine network and John Connor’s Tech-Com forces and the rest of the human race. Since the debut of the first film in 1984, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and written and directed by Academy Award winner James Cameron, the Terminator films have grossed over one billion dollars worldwide. Terminator Salvation™ is the upcoming fourth installment to the series and is scheduled for a spring 2009 theatrical release. The Halcyon Company owns all rights to the entire Terminator franchise. As producers, Kubicek and Anderson recently wrapped production on the film, starring Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Moon Bloodgood, Bryce Dallas Howard and Helena Bonham Carter. 

TERMINATOR®: THE COASTER will be located in the northwest corner of the park, next to Déjà Vu and is slated for a spring 2009 opening. With the addition of TERMINATOR®: THE COASTER, Six Flags Magic Mountain will be home to 16 world class coasters. 


http://www.sixflags.com/magicMountai…hecoaster.aspx

 

So there you have it, the press release and official image of the ride. Sure does look like the Terminator, doesn’t it? What’s that, no, not really? Terminator? Where? Yeah, that was my reaction as well. I am, quite frankly, very puzzled. The only thing that says “Terminator” is the logo, and thank goodness they got that right at least! But really, where is Terminator? Where is the desolation, where is the robotic warfare? Where is the Terminator Theme!? I’m not even going to bother putting the video into this post and make you wait longer for it to load, because quite frankly it doesn’t show anything new or exciting from what you can see in that image right there above this paragraph. I watched it twice, hoping maybe the second time at least one thing that made me think “Terminator” would show up…but no, it was no different than the first time I watched it, nothing stuck out. 

I will, however, say that it does look like a great roller coaster that definitely has potential to be very fun and entertaining on its own. The drop looks wonderfully wicked, and I wish I could get out there to ride it. Terminator it is most certainly not, though, and they did a horrible job of showing any kind of theme in the announcement visuals. That is not something that I would consider good, or anywhere close to it. In fact, I’m going to use the ever popular EPIC FAIL for the announcement because of just how badly they did in getting the theme across.

Sorry Six Flags, but you just earned a big EPIC FAIL for your announcement. Hopefully the ride is enough to save you when it opens.





OSHA Cites Cedar Point and Castaway Bay *UPDATED*

13 10 2008

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued three willful citations against Cedar Fair, and has proposed fines of $185,000. This specifically deals with violations at Cedar Point and Castaway Bay, the park’s indoor water park resort. The reasons given are inadequate fall protection at two roller coasters, not offering employees Hepatitis B vaccination, and not properly training lifeguards in how to handle bloodborne pathogens. 

 

Original report from WKYC

Details of violations from the Sandusky Register

 

After reading the available details of the citations in the Register article I can only come to the conclusion that a) the claims are rather ridiculous, and b) they were most likely given to OSHA by a former disgruntled employee. I honestly laughed in slight disgust at the sheer stupidity of the fall protection claim with Blue Streak, having worked there last summer (2007). If you need extra fall protection beyond the ubiquitous plank and railings present on every wooden coaster in existence, then I’m sorry, but you probably aren’t smart enough to be working a multi-million dollar machine that carries the lives of about 8,000 riders each day. By the end of last summer I was practically running up and down the lift every time we had to stop it for some idiot with a camera or cell phone out, and I was never in any greater danger because I wasn’t wearing a fall arrest (a harness-like device). Every coaster in the park with a lift hill has a required lift walk for you to be fully trained there, and a harness is not used on any of them during a lift walk, and there is absolutely no reasonable need for anything beyond the normal hand rails. 

The situations regarding Top Thrill Dragster and Millennium Force are more than likely perfect examples of what the maintenance department seems to do best, follow their own rules. There isn’t a catwalk all of the way down the launch track of Top Thrill, and its obviously time consuming and a bit of a hassle to go up a ladder at one point, then come back down, move it, stabilize and repeat as many times as needed. There is a lot of pressure to get the major rides back up and running as quickly as possible, so why not cut out the ladder moving to speed things up and make things a little easier? As for Millennium, well, I really don’t know why someone wasn’t wearing a harness while resetting the ride in the morning, or what would possess them to do so in the first place. I know very well that harnesses are readily available for any climbing job, so you would have to actually choose not to wear one. I have watched that ride be reset many times over the past several years, and I have never seen it done without proper safety measures like a harness.

I don’t have much comment on the lifeguard issue and training about blood-borne pathogens, except to say that in talking to someone who has been a lifeguard at an area park and knows several others, this kind of extensive training that OSHA describes isn’t given to any lifeguards at any surrounding water park. 

So in conclusion, I guess this means we’ll be seeing every single park with a wooden coaster get cited for inadequate fall protection…oh, wait, there wasn’t a single mention of Mean Streak! Does anyone else find that odd? A park with two wooden coasters, whose provided safeguards out on the track don’t differ at all, only has one of them cited…anyone else see something a little suspect? Call me paranoid, but I think its worth a look. Anyway, take it any way you wish, but my conclusion is that something seems fishy, and overall ridiculous regarding this.