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Park Hoppin’ with Paul Ruben


Become the Swarm


Over the years I've received many invitations to media events where new rides are introduced. Sometimes the invitations are modest and straightforward, occasionally they are very clever and innovative. Those from Walt Disney World are always very creative, elaborate and thematically perfect. Invitations usually arrive in letters, small boxes, or e-mail, and I try to attend whenever possible.


You can imagine the intrigue when a


large 3 by 4 feet thin package arrived by express delivery. It was from Carowinds in Charlotte, North Carolina. Inside was an even larger 4 by 6 foot (1.2 by 1.8m) cardboard stand-up poster, an invitation to "Become part of the swarm." The swarm is a trainload of hornet-headed riders with a hole for me to poke my head through, as pictured here. This is the largest invitation I've ever received, but it was appropriate because it was inviting me to ride Fury 325, the largest (325ft/99m tall) non-launch rollercoaster ever built. It's the tallest coaster yet built by B&M. See our full report starting on page 36. Media day was scheduled for March 25. Numerically that date is 3-25 (geddit?). That scheduling is just too clever. Just think if they had measured the


height of the coaster metrically. They would have to schedule the media day for September 9 and the season would be just about over. Alas, another reason America will never go metric. Carowinds' marketing team went into overdrive with the "become part of


the swarm" analogy. They promised I would "feel the sting" of the twists and turns of the ride. If that much thought went into the invitation and subsequent launch date for Fury 325, I could not resist. It was worth the visit to Carowinds. The last time I visited was in 2010 when the park introduced Intimidator, a 232ft-tall (71m) B&M coaster. Fury 325 is 40% taller. Becoming part of the swarm, or infestation of hornets, implies you are a bug. Riding a coaster this large makes you feel very small and bug-like. Before entering the park I got my first inkling of just how special Fury 325


would be. Guests walk over a small bridge to reach the front gate. Just as I was crossing the bridge a Fury 325 train came roaring beneath the bridge. That'll get the adrenaline pumping. I went directly over to the loading station and within a few minutes climbed aboard. It's just what I expected, a giant, very smooth, fast-paced and incredibly thrilling rollercoaster. When it opened five years ago, Intimidator was immediately a top 10 coaster. Fury 325 is taller, faster (95 mph or 153 kmh), longer (6,602ft or just over 2km) and better. But the "become part of the swarm" tag line had implications that


Carowind's marketing team could not have imagined. Climbing the lift hill gave me a spectacular view of the park and surrounding area. I was in the front seat, so as the train crested the peak I enjoyed an extended moment looking down the 81° drop before we picked up speed and plunged towards earth. Mouth agape, the wind whistled by and... I swallowed a bug. Not the whole swarm, but a bug. I didn't became part of the swarm; the swarm became part of me!


6


Thomas Land 2.0 Drayton Manor expands kids area


Launched over the Easter holidays, England’s Drayton Manor has unveiled a £2.5 million ($3.8/€3.5m) extension to Thomas Land, increasing the size of the children’s area by 40%. An additional three new attractions from Zamperla provide an increased ride capacity of 23% to (5,130 people per hour), while the extra 3,200 square metres provides more space for visitors to move around freely. Now about more than just trains, the expanded area features a two-storey Sodor Airport complex, the upper level of which offers ‘travellers’ not-to-be-missed views over to Thomas Land and beyond, including Jeremy Jet’s Flying Academy, which has been moved to this area of the park in keeping with the new theming. The ground level of the building features a café with both indoor and outdoor seating, while five themed rooms are available upstairs to hire for events and parties or large family groups The three new rides are Captain’s Sea Adventure (Watermania), Flynn’s Fire


Rescue and Toby’s Tram Express (Barnyard). As well as supplying many of the existing family attractions in Thomas Land, Zamperla last season installed Drayton Manor’s latest thrill, Air Race. The rides were installed by the park’s in-house team of engineers and local


builders, principally Tamworth-based Beniston Contractors. All other sub- contractors came from within a 30 mile radius of Drayton Manor Theme Park. Theming was developed by Pope Creative, another local company. “We knew that Thomas Land needed to be expanded due to its huge popularity,” notes the park’s general manager of operations, David Bromilow, The addition of the new rides and attractions will offer even more Thomas & Friends themed fun to the young and young at heart.” Also new for 2015 are some Victorian fairground games, as well as a Fat


Controller statue and garden, new toilet facilities and a bandstand to accommodate live performances. The season runs until November 1.


Toby’s Tram Express


Jeremy Jet’s Flying Academy


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