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Park News/Comment

ParkHoppin’ with Paul Ruben

Done yet?

I had scheduled this trip to California months earlier, for the first week in June. It was before airfares rose, before hotels raised their rates for summer, and before children were out of school and families were travelling. It would be when all the California parks would have their new attractions finished and ready to go. I was soooo wrong! First stop was Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo near San

Francisco, home of the new Premier Rides looping launch coaster, Superman Ultimate Flight. I arrived about the same time cranes were hoisting the last two sections of track into place. It would open about three weeks later, but they gave me a hard hat so I could go on-site and take a photo in front of the still-unfinished loading station. Made me feel like a construction worker, not a reporter.

A little further south, Six Flags Magic Mountain, Valencia, was adding a new 400ft drop by Intamin to the side of its Superman ride, Lex Luthor: Drop of Doom. They were actively working on it when I arrived, four weeks before it would open. For consolation I rode Apocalypse, their recently-added wood coaster, which was fun. Universal Studios Hollywood had opened

Transformers: The Ride-3D. It’s a breakthrough thrill-ride propels that guests in 12-person vehicles along 2,000ft of ride track, where they are surrounded by 14 gigantic screens to immerse them in the

action-packed world of Transformers. Disney’s California Adventure in Anaheim was preparing to open

Cars Land, part of a $1 billion renovation. That's not a misprint, billion with a “b”. I got a peek at it, and it would open just seven days after my visit. Finally I visited SeaWorld San Diego, where their thrilling new Manta launch coaster by Mack Rides had opened. I got to enjoy it and write about it.

So that’s two out of five new attractions that were ready when I was ready, or when I mistakenly assumed they would be ready. One of my greatest virtues, you see, is my impatience. Next time I’ll check first. I had forgotten the wisdom of two of my favourite park operators, Dick Knoebel of Knoebel’s Amusement Resort and Marineland of Canada’s John Holer. Each has told me, on more than one occasion when I asked when their new ride would open, “It will be ready when it’s ready.”

Finally, a heads-up. Have you noticed that your revenue from on-ride photo sales is dropping?

During the trip detailed above, I noticed a number of on-ride photo sites in which guests, rather than buying the photo, are now armed with mobile phones with camera capabilities. They were snapping pictures of their on-ride photos directly from the TV monitors at the end of the rides. Apparently these photos are good enough to send to friends. I would never stoop to such a stunt, taking an on-ride photo from the monitor with a mobile phone. I was shocked by this, especially the dismal quality of their photos. I carry a real camera, not a mobile phone. Much better image.



in London Winter Wonderland returns

Entertaining over 1.5 million guests each Christmas, Winter Wonderland does the same sort of attendance in six weeks that many British amusement parks probably wish they did in a year. The event returns to London’s Hyde Park next month. Now in its sixth year, Winter Wonderland is essentially a German-style fun fair and Christmas market, featuring a selection of festive-themed attractions, most transformed specially for the occasion. So what makes it so popular? The central London location – a tourist hot spot at the best of times – surely helps, as does free entry.

The organiser, PWR Events, has also recognised that the eating, drinking and meeting your friends are as an important a part of the proceedings as enjoying the rides and attractions, which is why food and drink outlets, themed bars and live entertainment feature heavily in the line-up, and will do even more so this year. Who doesn’t enjoy a warming glass of Glühwein at this time of year? New for 2012/13, the Magical Ice Kingdom promises over 500 ice and snow sculptures. The 40m x 25m Ice Kingdom building will be chilled to -8°C in order to keep the sculptures frozen throughout the Winter Wonderland run. Other attractions at this year’s event will include the world’s largest travelling

Wild Mouse coaster (from Germany), a 60-metre tall observation wheel, Zippo’s Circus, the UK’s largest outdoor ice rink and, just for the kids, Santa Land, packed full of kid-sized rides and attractions. Winter Wonderland runs from November 23 until January 6, open every day except Christmas Day. If you’re in the British capital, be sure to swing by for a Glühwein and amusement ride.

IAAPA announces McReynolds as third vice-chairman

The board of directors of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) has elected John McReynolds as its new third vice-chairman. Senior vice-president of external affairs for Universal

Parks and Resorts, he officially takes up the IAAPA position in November, and will move through the positions of third, second, and first vice chairmen before leading the association as chairman in 2016. “John has been an industry leader and active IAAPA volunteer for more than 10 years,” notes Darrell Metzger, chairman of the IAAPA nominating committee and chairman of Themed Attractions and Destinations Resorts in Malaysia. “His extensive experience, understanding of the key issues and opportunities facing the worldwide industry, and his leadership acumen will play a key role in moving the association forward for the next five years.” McReynolds started his career in the theme park industry in 1995 when he joined the Universal Orlando team as manager of government relations. He was named vice president in 1999, and in 2001 assumed oversight responsibility for political, regulatory and legislative matters for Universal’s parks and resorts in both Orlando and Hollywood. He was promoted to senior vice president in 2007 and is responsible for government and community relations for the company. Prior to joining Universal, he served for eight years on the staff of United States senator Conie Mack.

John McReynolds OCTOBER 2012

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