Saturday, January 13, 2018

100 Roller Coasters for 2017 (A Year In Review)

I decided to do a sort of 2017 retrospective, and given that I was going on rides right up until the end of the year, I had to wait until the next calendar started. If that isn't suitably timely, I understand your concern but also must admit: I am ignoring it for the purposes of this piece.

As a hardened vet of the coaster wars (1994-2003) who's come out with minimal PTSD, I have to admit that yes, I do keep a track record. I count. I'm that guy. I typically don't bother to track coasters I've already been on, though when I did a conservative run of what I thought I had done in total this year, I wound up with 108 total roller coasters. Rather than subject you to absolutely everything, I rounded down some of the less exciting repeats and kept it to (A) new-to-me rides in 2017 (B) stuff that was at least sorta interesting that I re-experienced, cut down to 100 coasters because that's plenty. The Excel spreadsheet I've been keeping for two decades tells me that I completed the year with 64 new additions to my life list: that's a Whistle Punk Chaser or Typhoon away from tying my second best year of 2001. Yes, I've been doing this awhile. 2002 is at an untouchable-without-Megamillions-victory 140. As I'm sure you were interested in those sorts of details, 2017 was well above my average over the last 20 years of 40.55 new coasters per annum. For my next trick: counting the number of matches dropped on the ground the second they hit the floor.

That new-to-me list I'll be reviewing with you, the reader who's eyes have already glazed over, spans 7 countries, 3 continents, and 41 parks/facilities/fairs. I encountered seemingly everything from Middle Eastern shopping malls to Midwestern American race track/amusement park hybrids. There were both mountain top coasters in Tennessee and Barcelona. There were Legolands in Dubai and Deutchland. There was variety. Plenty of it. And a fair number of SBF kiddie spinning coasters too.

  1. Phobia Phear Coaster, Lake Compounce (Bristol, CT) 
    My first new coaster of 2017 actually didn't come until late May. Lake Compounce bought this Premier Sky Rocket for the 2016 season, meaning that they and Busch Gardens Williamsburg made the same exact capital expenditure for the same exact year, but only one of them actually bothered to announce it or advertise it (guess who?). They're fun rides, with a huge pop of airtime after the train manages to make its way up the first incline and some forceful inversions afterwards. All done without the horse collar over-the-shoulder restraints.

Friday, January 12, 2018

The Hidden Rides and Themed Attractions of....Nova Scotia

Yes, there were people settled here upwards of 11,000 years ago, but from the perspective of European exploration, Nova Scotia was probably run into by Vikings in the 11th century, and then rediscovered for white folks by a Venetian funded expedition about 500 years later. Portuguese people showed up, then the French, and finally the English appeared and took it all over. Want a great factoid? Acadians are from Nova Scotia. Acadians speak French. Acadian and Cajun sound similar phonetically. I probably already used this in a past piece because I love it so much. It blew my mind when I found out, OK?

Anyways, of the 4 Atlantic/Maritime provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia is the most populated. It's home to as many people as Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick combined. OK, that's still just under a million people, but really, Halifax is a delightful and cosmopolitan city. I saw the best Bathory cover band in Canada play there after eating a rather tremendous burger, acquired comic books at a very good shop downtown, and used the Dartmouth ferry as a scenic boat ride. It was at the height of Pokemon Go, and there were like 150 people crowded around one space at the pier in Dartmouth. Just nutty stuff. Halifax also has a bunch of tragedies in its history, like the largest non-nuclear human caused blast in history that wiped out thousands of people, being near where Swiss Air 111 went down, and the place where most of the Titanic recovery efforts were based out of (and where many victims are buried.

That's a lot of sadness, so I'd like to offer some feel good stories instead. Usually a facility the size of Windsor Playland Safari wouldn't merit inclusion in one of these, but it had nearly gone out of business after the 2016 season when it was for sale for a piddly $156,000 USD. The owner's son decided to step up and take it on along with his lobster fishing business, and renamed and rehabbed the facility for 2017. There's some go-karts and a water slide here; nothing too big.

Another park that's gone through some rough times and survived is Upper Clements Theme Park. Constructed with the expectation of hundreds of thousands of visitors, it has wound up attracting a consisted 70,000 or so each summer to Annapolis Royal. I very often love to point out that a park has something that's one of a kind. When that one of a kind thing is attached to a wooden roller coaster, that's even better! Except here. You see, when their roller coaster (originally the Tree Topper, now just "Roller Coaster") was built by Bill Cobb, it was at the time that PTC was excited to offer parks a new articulating train option to better take Cobb's infamously sharp and banked corners. Unlike every other park that got these trailered PTCs, Upper Clements has never been able to afford replacing them, so they still have the worst tracking trains in all of roller coaster history. So bad that Dave Althoff once wrote about why they are complete garbage.

That's not a fair full assessment of the park though. Along with the wood coaster that tracks poorly (but has good track on it, and a kinda interesting layout), they've got a wacky train that uses a turntable to turn around and go back the same way it came instead of a full circuit loop, ziplines, mini golf that's free with entry, a really dark walk through haunted house in an actual old house, and the log flume which operated at Vancouver's Expo '86. It's a quaint park that also sells fireworks and knives in its gift shop. 

In 2017, Atlantic Playland's Rockin' Roller Coaster was changed to "SBNO" by - that stands for "Standing But Not Operating", leaving only one permanent coaster in the province at Upper Clements. There are still bumper cars, a steel carousel, walk through haunt, and some kiddie rides here. However, as a testament to the park's struggles, there's also several rides which are racked and covered in shrubs, as well as a whole abandoned go kart track. Things were better here once, but I suppose rides and slides (it has water slides I guess too) are inspected and thus should theoretically be safe. Less safe are the rides and slides at the abandoned Magic Valley Fun Park by New Glasgow. Closed prior to the 2016 season, an acrimonious relationship between the locality and owner wound up with the park closing its gates in relative silence.

For those seeking a historic sort of time, Fortress Louisbourg on the southern coast of Cape Breton Island (the more sparsely populated eastern half of the province) has a historic village, period costume, and all the blank gun fire and cannons you could ever desire from a national park. 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Parkscope Unprofessional Podcast Hour #142 - New Year New Us

Alan, Joe, and Nick cover The Beach Boys with John Stamos, pay for FastPass, monorails, Nick's trip to Orlando, Alan's trip to Gatlinburg, Joe's trip to a Krampus haunted house, theme park employment, and our 2018 theme park resolutions.

Email us at parkscopeblog at gmail dot com or follow us at Parkscope, AlanParkscopeJoeParkscopeNick, and ParkscopeLane.

List of All Parkscope YouTube Features

YouTube Tuesday will be going on hiatus for awhile. We hope you've enjoyed watching our videos, and will continue to watch them again and again on YouTube. So far, we've created a solid 25 features and 6 bonus videos for you to enjoy. To commemorate this occasion, we've created a full list of our YouTube videos below. We hope you fully enjoy!

YouTube Tuesday

#25: A Day at EPCOT Center (1991) and A Day at the Magic Kingdom (1991)

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Parkscope Bonus YouTube Video #6: Three Interviews with Michael Eisner (1997-2001)

This is a compilation of several interviews with former Disney CEO Michael Eisner from 1997-2001. Throughout these conversations, Eisner talks at length concerning the death of Frank Wells, his 1998 autobiography "Work in Progress," the purchase of ABC by Disney, the opening of Disney's Animal Kingdom and Disney's California Adventure, his near-fatal bypass operation, the (mistaken?) hiring of Jaimie Tarses at ABC, the 2001 economic recession, the creation of, and his philosophies on running the television, movie, and theme park divisions of Disney.

It's an incredibly interesting exploration of Michael Eisner's public persona, with the obvious ego, his defiance of what certain people try to tell him to do, and his justifications for certain terrible business decisions (DCA,, etc.). Besides reading "Work in Progress" or "Disney War," there is probably no better insight into the high-level business decisions of late-1990s Disney.

-ParkScopeJeff (@ParkScopeJeff)

YouTube Tuesday #25: A Day at EPCOT Center (1991) and A Day at the Magic Kingdom (1991)

For our last YouTube Tuesday feature (for quite a while), we bring you a double feature of the final elements of our early-1990s nostalgia trip of the Disney theme parks. Feast on some primo footage of Old Tomorrowland, Kitchen Kabaret, World of Motion, Journey Into Imagination, Horizons, and much much more! From all of us in the Disney family, we hope you enjoy your visit to EPCOT Center, and the Magic Kingdom!

--ParkScopeJeff (@ParkScopeJeff)

Monday, January 8, 2018

How Is Theme Park Labor Market Formed? How Park Get People?

For the last few months, news stories of a different sort than usual have hit the theme park blogosphere: employees demanding more pay, and parks making overt gestures to try and find new paths for hiring. Six Flags Magic Mountain averted a strike at the last moment; meanwhile Disney World and the union representing their cast members are still in talks. Cedar Point, meanwhile, is for the first time advertising more flexible hours for locals, something they've stayed away from for decades. All of this comes in the midst of a national push behind increasing minimum wage that was exemplified by Bernie Sanders' campaign promise of a federal jump to $15/hour and multiple cities going a similar route. What exactly then is going on? Aren't theme park jobs just for high school and college kids? To better understand the challenges facing the theme park world in hiring, it's time to do something that most people will find intensely boring. We have to talk about economics. Most people have a basic understanding that at the heart of all transactions is the concept of "supply and demand". Here's a basic supply curve I stole from
You might have heard of this, but not seen one since an Econ 100 level course or maybe even never. Basically the concept is that as price increases, the quantity rises to match because more money can be made. As the quantity begins to exceed the demand, then the price falls to match. Demand curves are imperfect because demand is imperfect as is the capacity of the market to meet the demand. People buy useless or bad things instead of better items because of cultural reasons and information asymmetry (the idea that consumers know less than providers, e.g. health care). The market can't provide based on demand because there is inherent lag (housing) or market/natural restrictions (import restrictions, lack of base materials). And sometimes it is inherently in a company's best interest to keep supply low to drive cost of their good as a luxury item (Ferraris, Rolex watches, designer clothing). Supply and demand is simple to fundamentally grasp but requires some nuance to actually understand and apply.