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Park News

Park Hoppin’ with Paul Ruben

Bringing sunshine to a rainy day

Monday of IAAPA Attractions Expo week I made a quick trip to Busch Gardens Tampa to ride the park's spectacular new drop tower from Intamin, Falcon's Fury. While there I made some new friends, pictured here.

That's Christine on the left,

Kathryn behind me, and Jackie is on the right. They are three of the Duma Belly Dancers at the Mystical Mirage in the Pantopia Grill, across from Falcon's Fury. It rained that day, so I went into the Pantopia to stay dry. That's where I met the girls, and there was an immediate connection. But more on that later. I'm wondering about some of what I learned during IAAPA.

For example, why are the major operators such as Disney and Universal so reluctant to tell us who made their attractions? In fact, they ask their suppliers to sign non-disclosure agreements. We like to credit suppliers for their fine work, but they can't confirm their efforts, even sometimes when it's common knowledge within the industry. Why make my job difficult? Two new attractions at the Expo caught my eye, a tribute to thinking outside the box. Coasters, flat rides and waterslides can turn riders upside-down, and now bumper cars, too. On Laser Fury 360 by Amusement Products (see page 16), riders bump into other riders while shooting lasers as they spin and flip. Then there are games that you can ride from Skyline Attractions. In Strike-U-Up, one player races to the top of a high striker tower while another strikes a target. What's next? Replacing those furry little creatures with humans on Whac-A-Mole? The Skyscraper, the first Polercoaster from US Thrill Rides, is soon to become the world's tallest coaster. One of the selling points of the Polercoaster was that it was a giant ride in a small footprint, essentially the diameter of the tower. Well, that footprint just got a lot larger (see facing page). At the base of the ride the Skyscraper track sprawls out to the street, then back again. A bit like a Chance Toboggan Coaster on steroids. I like that it makes the ride longer. All coasters should be longer. But so much for compactness. At the Gravity Group's booth they announced the first modern era Switchback wood coaster (see page 10), to open in 2015 at ZDT's Amusement Park in Texas. This coaster will run in both directions on a single track, like a shuttle coaster. I asked if they will increase capacity by running two trains; I was being facetious. I was shocked when they said, "Yes." Turns out they have a side track to divert the returning train so the next train can depart. Imagine that. A shuttle coaster with two train operation. I'll take their word that it will work. Belly dancing is not one of my best skills, but the dancers were terrific. We all need a little eye candy before the start of IAAPA. Talking with the girls I first thought they really liked me, but then I realised they just wanted their photo in Park World. When the rain stopped I said goodbye and walked over to ride Falcon's Fury. No line. Face first. Straight down. It was so much fun I rode twice. Even better than dancing girls!



New attractions to tower over Orlando’s International Drive

At the recent IAAPA Attractions Expo, Merlin Entertainments Group revealed a Lego model showing what its new Orlando Eye observation wheel on International Drive (I-Drive) will look like. But Expo attendees didn't have to venture far from the exhibition halls to see the real ride taking shape. The 400ft (120m) attraction is one of several new sky-scraping attractions coming soon to this major artery in the “theme park capital of the world”. Set to open in 2017 alongside the new Mango’s Tropical Café Orlando at the junction of International Drive and Sand Lake Road, The Skyscraper is billed as the world’s tallest rollercoaster. From US Thrill Rides (USTR), and fabricated by S&S, this first-of-its-kind thrill ride will be the anchor attraction for the Skyplex indoor entertainment complex, and the tallest structure in Central Florida.

Marketed by USTR as the Polercoaster, it will stand 570ft (173m) tall and offer “all the thrilling mayhem of a great coaster experience, but in a very small footprint,” according to company president Michael Kitchen. Included here is one of the first accurate drawings of what the ride will look like. The $250 million mixed use development of which it will form an integral part is touted as “bringing a new dining and nightlife vibe to the International Drive district” and will open ahead of the coaster in 2016. The Orlando Eye will also form part of a larger entertainment complex, I-Drive 360. Appearing here alongside the wheel will be a Madame Tussauds celebrity wax museum and Sea Life aquarium from Merlin, together with various retail and dining options. All are set to open this coming spring (2015), exact date/month to be confirmed. The Lego model of the Eye displayed at

IAAPA, together wiht a plastic brick replica Madame Tussauds of Sea Life, is set to go on permanent display as part of Miniland USA at Legoland Florida in Winter Haven. Merlin has already started running shuttle buses from the I-Drive 360 site to the Lego theme park, providing convenient access to tourists staying in and around the International Drive area.

This Lego model of the Orlando Eye will soon go on show at Legoland Florida

ABOVE: The real ride during construction in November


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