Tuesday, December 26, 2017

YouTube Tuesday #24: Walt Disney World 25th Anniversary Vacation Planner (1996-1997)

Continuing from the 1993 Vacation Planner video, this high-budgeted 25th-Anniversary video updates you on all the (TONS OF) brand new stuff that opened at WDW since 1993. During this small span of time, WDW opened Blizzard Beach, the All-Star Resorts, the Boardwalk Inn & Villas, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Alien Encounter, Timekeeper, Innoventions, Mickey's Toontown Fair, Food Rocks, Circle of Life, Honey I Shrunk the Audience, Ellen's Energy Adventure, and major refurbishments for Living with the Land, Spaceship Earth, Carousel of Progress, Tomorrowland Transit Authority, and Astro-Orbiter. In accordance with Eisner-era Disney, the higher budget guaranteed a more polished presentation to get people to WDW for the 25th Anniversary, which was really the first of Disney's now-standard 18 month-long "what did they pull out of their ass to celebrate now" magical marathon celebrations. This was indeed the prototype for all the Years of Millions of Dreams to come. Don't know how to feel about that...

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Parkscope Bonus YouTube Video #5: 1987's Muppet Family Christmas

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas everyone! On this holiday season, we would like to share with you one of our all-time favorite Christmas specials. Watching Muppet Family Christmas is a Christmas Eve tradition for Parkscope Jeff.

Featuring special appearances by the Sesame Street and Fraggle Rock casts. Premiering in 1987, just a few years before Jim Henson's passing, Muppet Family Christmas is one of the many heartfelt and comedic gems of Jim Henson's Muppet clan. All of the major Muppeteers come together to present this Christmas special, from Jim Henson to Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Dave Goelz, and Richard Hunt.


--ParkScopeJeff (@ParkScopeJeff)

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Parkscope Unprofessional Podcast Hour #141 - Treasure Planet Live

Our holiday special, Joe and Jeff sit down to comment over and debate the start of Disney Aniation's decline: Treasure Planet. We talk about deep canvasing, lack of noses, fart jokes, what could have been, and we drink a lot.

Email us at parkscopeblog at gmail dot com or follow us at ParkscopeParkscopeJoeParkscopeNick,  ParkscopeLane, and Sean.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Regional Theme Park Industry 101, Part 4: Where and When?

The final part of the Regional Theme Park Industry 101 series is about the future and the new parks coming online one day soon and those ideas that will disappear into the void.


In the late 2010s, the story about building new parks isn't any different than it was in the 2000s, the 1990s, or even the 1980s. It costs a lot of money. A lot lot. And even though there's multiple markets with huge populations that seem like good places to develop one according to the raw numbers (Phoenix, Miami, Portland OR, Sacramento, Austin), almost no one in the industry wants to build new outside Orlando. And those outside the industry often look at the case studies of past new parks and shy away:

MGM Grand Adventures: 10 seasons attached to one of the largest hotels in the world in a place where it basically never snows; that was the fate of this long lost studio park which ran from 1993 to 2002.

Elitch Gardens: The current Elitch's opened in 1994 on a cleaned up toxic waste site. It was sold a whole two years later.

Wild Adventures: Kent Buescher spent a lot of money expanding the hell out of Wild Adventures (opened in 1996), and then expanding the hell out of Cypress Gardens after he picked it up in a fire sale. The parent company went bankrupt in 2006; Herschend owns it now.

Visionland: Opened for business outside Birmingham, Alabama in 1998, and went bankrupt by 2002.

Bonfante Gardens: Opened in June 2001, attendance never matched expectations, and Paramount came in to operate it in 2003. It was sold to the city of Gilroy, CA in 2008.

Jazzland: Gates were unlocked for the first time in 2000, and it was sold to Six Flags early in 2002 after attendance had dropped by half.

Wild West World: The Kansas themer lasted two months after opening in 2007 and the owner went to federal prison for fraud. Yikes.

Hard Rock Park: Hundreds of millions went into it and went nowhere. It closed early in its debut season of 2008, reopened in 2009 under the name "Freestyle Music Park", and then was shuttered forever.

Islands of Adventure: Wait, really? But IOA didn't change hands, did...oh, it kinda did, didn't it? Yes, IOA was started by MCA, opened by Seagram's, 50% stake purchased by Blackstone in 2000, then merged into French conglomerate Vivendi before winding up with Comcast making it whole again.

That's a whole lot of failures, and you can see why there's not many people rushing to try and replicate that kind of success. But still, all those failures required someone knowing that there were so many developments that ended in tears and still were able to acquire necessary funds. Undoubtedly, someone will manage to do this again. And some are.


Park at OWA (Foley, Alabama): Backed with Native American casino money and part of a large entertainment/sports development, OWA came out of nowhere when it was announced and opened in mid 2017. The park is full of Zamperla attractions; only Zamperla attractions, in fact. I hope you get a discount when you buy an entire park. According to them, season pass stock ran out way before they expected. Whether that's because they bought preposterously little or because the park is doing great business, you decide.

Legoland New York (Goshen, NY): Merlin managed to get a big chunk of land about an hour away from New York City, and chances are the native parks are chomping their fingernails. The Lego brand is hot and if the park can deliver on the promise for family entertainment, it should have no problem succeeding even as a seasonal venture. Who needs to be concerned are the facilities on the periphery of New York that depend on group sales: Quassy, New Roc City, Lake Compounce, Long Island Adventureland, and Great Escape, just to name a few.

American Dream (Meadowlands, NJ): Much closer than Goshen and indoors, American Dream is the completed vision of the Xanadu project. The same group behind West Edmonton Mall and Mall of America are in charge here, and there's a slate of rides already sold and getting ready for install ahead of a 2019 opening. Since the exterior is all done, this is a safe bet to open.


Grand Texas Theme Park
(New Caney, TX): A karting track and RV park have opened during the 7-8 years that have passed since the park was announced for metro Houston. It may be another 7-8 before we see a real theme park to go with it. Earth is moving again, potentially for a water park (so they claim), but Big Rivers Water Park has also been many years in the making with millions spent on roads, plumbing, and electrical line leading to nowhere...yet. Of the future projects, this is still the one with by far the most potential.

Adventure Pointe (Texas City, TX): Staying right in the greater Houston area, we've got Adventure Pointe. This is not going to be a big park by any stretch of the imagination: it will be similar to the only significant new themed developments of the last 20 years to succeed with the ownership group that built them. I'm talking about the Fertitta's properties in this market: Galveston Historic Pleasure Pier, Kemah Boardwalk, and Downtown Aquarium. There's some big ol' iron flat rides at these parks, an outstanding wooden roller coaster, and two of the most complex train attractions you'll ever see. Just look:

Adventure Pointe mixes retail, shopping, and rides. And unlike Grand Texas, there's actually stuff installed. Most notably, a one mile train loop that will go around the entire property. There's also concept art that is helpful for guidance:

In it, we can see a few flat rides like some form of a Polyp and an interactive Heege tower (riders pull themselves up on ropes and then descend: Dollywood and the Legoland parks have these). There's also what has been revealed to be a go-kart track as part of the complex. Zamperla is known to be supplying three rides, but it is still unknown precisely what all of them are. And of course the second piece of art clearly indicates that the train will have a "show scene" located under the "rapids ride." While updates post-hurricanes have been sparse, it is hoped that the facility may open in 2018 or 2019.


Dreamport Villages (Casa Grande, AZ): Way below most people's radar is this proposed and semi-approved to be developed park south of Phoenix. It's here in the "Long Shots" area as there are still hurdles related to construction of roads and the whole "It's a $4 billion dollar development" aspect. A 60+ acre indoor park and a 163 acre "coaster park" are slated as part of the development. One of the attractions discussed is a 400 mph hyperloop style people mover called the Velocitator intended as a proof of concept for its maker (president? actor Matthew Modine). That's pretty wild stuff.

Parkscope's crack investigation squad of one (me) took a look at the particulars to see what there was to be gleaned from the developers names. Ronald Segall is listed as the lead manager for the project and for Block Sports; he's listed as a manager on 20 corporations filed in the state of Florida in the last 20 years. Among the people he's shown to be working with are Phil Ruggieri of IDEAS and zip line operator innovator Karry Gemmell, as well as a rated "F" by the Better Business Bureau pool construction company and the company built around this children's book that has Paris Jackson (yes, Michael Jackson's kid) on the cover and supposedly contracted for multiple films which never happened. Mr. Segall passed the bar in the state of Florida and went to the University of Miami's Law School, before becoming part of what appears to be the family real estate development business now run by his brother (?), Sandy. They've developed some reasonably sized stuff, but I admit some concern about seeing Aulani and Disneyland Tokyo appearing in their slide shows as "experience".

Whirligig Woods (Saxapahaw, NC) Bob Baranick had a long run in the theme park industry doing design work: now he wants to give back and produce a park for rural North Carolina. Locals were outraged that he hadn't talked with them first so that he could be told he was a bad man for altering their small bubble, and he's a long way from obtaining necessary funding.

Dream Landing Adventure Park (Biloxi, MS? New Orleans, LA?): Danny Rogers made a name for himself with various schemes to rebuild Six Flags New Orleans, and by golly he's still at it, this time along with a plan to build an amusement park in Biloxi by next Spring. He's managed to get into it with people on various forums who question his methods and honesty, and I don't even know if there's a real audience still watching now in 2017. I don't know what if any applicable experience he actually has. Maybe none. But that's what theme park development in this era usually looks like: electronic panhandling by men with such obscure histories, they can't possibly be researched.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Regional Theme Park Industry 101, Part 3: Who?

The first and second parts of Regional Park 101 explained the history of the regional theme parks in the US and described how they came to be and why the way they are. This third part describes the owner and operators both big and small:



Six Flags

Market Cap (12/17/17): 5.6 Billion Dollars

Number of Properties: 20

Theme Parks owned/operated & Market Served:

Great Escape (NYC, CT), La Ronde (Montreal), Six Flags America (DC), Six Flags Discovery Kingdom (San Francisco), Six Flags Fiesta Texas (San Antonio), Six Flags Great Adventure (NYC/Philadelphia), Six Flags Great America (Chicago, Milwaukee), Six Flags Magic Mountain (Los Angeles), Six Flags México (Mexico City), Six Flags New England (Boston, Providence, CT), Six Flags Over Georgia (Atlanta), Six Flags Over Texas (Dallas), Six Flags St. Louis (St. Louis)

Even after bankruptcy, Six Flags is still the biggest regional operator based within the United States. It's hard to believe as big as they are that they were once twice as big as they are now, but that's what a shaky business plan and expanding too fast too soon does to you. The chain has retained a presence in 9 of the 10 largest media markets in America; that they aren't a perfect 10 for 10 is why we'll see Kieran Burke appear later on the list. The company has been doing gangbusters business since emerging from Chapter 11, more than doubling their stock price in the last 5 years and currently operating at an all time high of 66.90 as of Friday's market close.


Often when you see people try to describe what happened to Six Flags in the 2000s, one item brought up consistently is the low season pass pricing that "gave away the gate" - in order to drive return traffic and increase visitation to other parks, Story and Burke had super cheap season passes that were often similar or identical in price to one day admission. Those who point to this as a failing show that per capita spending decreased significantly over time and the parks became glorified day care centers for poor families, making them unappealing for anyone else. Ergo, they crashed and burned. In these darkest days, season passes accounted for roughly 1/3 of admissions to the Six Flags parks per press releases and SEC documentation.

Jim Reid-Anderson, corporate raider supreme, has retaken the mantle of CEO after a brief retirement. Historically, he's been incredibly successful with every business he's touched, and Six Flags has to date been no different. Successful businessmen often find things that their predecessors were right about, but go about them differently to achieve actual success. Season pass sales was exactly this thing: rather than increase the price dramatically to push people out of possessing them, Six Flags went the opposite route and kept them at similar or even lower price levels than before, then began to tag on a number of "pluses" which could be assumed as advance revenue. Parking passes had always existed, but Six Flags made them a cornerstone of early pass sale promotions which were often tied to new ride announcements. Then came Season Dining Plans. Then came Season Drink Plans. Then Season Photo Plans to record those special memories. Then Season QBot to skip the lines every time you go. By 2017, season pass holders now made up greater than 60% of visitation: double what it had in the olden days. And those pass holders in turn often spent more money than single day pass holders over the long run, so while they were spending less per visit, they spend more money overall.

To keep from returning to a heavy debt load, Six Flags put effort into a number of new revenue channels - heavy in park advertising is the most blatant and in your face at Six Flags of almost any facility around. Total capital expenditures for the chain has been capped to roughly 9% of gross revenue by management, meaning that all the parks combine for about $100-120 million in investment. That's rarely enough for gigantic coasters, but then, the parks are chock full of them already. Six Flags has found themselves investing in smaller footprint attractions like flat rides and "gimmick coasters" such as the S&S Free Spin and Larson Giant Loop, but their concerted market effort has generally made these smaller attractions into still being hits. They've also constructed several new dark rides with the Justice League series of attractions, which are shockingly good all around. The chain has also decided to go further into the season than ever before, expanding to Christmas time operation at parks outside of Texas and California, as far north even as Six Flags New England.


From a business perspective, Six Flags has one obvious issue - at some point, you can't keep growing the season pass holder base. Conversion to pass holders has slowed down over the years as they've reached maximum market penetration. Converting pass holders to some of their other products, particularly Season Q-Bot and Season Pictures, has been slower going than they'd like. One change made recently was to institute new flavors of their season pass which would come with exclusive benefits like pass holder ride times and exclusive souvenirs. The continued pursuit of new winter events will also demand more indoor attractions, and that may be where their biggest capital expenditures lie in the near future.

2017 saw some appreciable improvements in their operations. Sure, the parks can still be an assault on the senses with neon colored Taki's advertisements, and the food is still grossly overpriced and of middling quality, but it feels like they're becoming better spaces. Many of the most grievous eye sores have been taken care of, and there's real effort from management to take some of that annual reinvestment and plug it into the little things (paint, lights, etc).

Cedar Fair

Market Cap (12/17/17): 3.8 Billion Dollars

Number of Parks: 13

Theme Parks owned/operated & market served: California's Great America (San Francisco), Canada's Wonderland (Toronto), Carowinds (Charlotte), Cedar Point (Detroit, Cleveland, Columbus OH), Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom (Philadelphia), Gilroy Gardens (San Francisco), Kings Dominion (Richmond, DC) Kings Island (Cincinnati, Columbus OH), Knott's Berry Farm (Los Angeles), Michigan's Adventure (Grand Rapids, Chicago), Valleyfair (Minneapolis), Worlds of Fun (Kansas City)

Six Flags may beat Cedar Fair in valuation, but after 3 quarters of operations this year, it was Cedar Fair who actually lead in gross revenue. Markets like Cleveland and Grand Rapids may not excite Wall Street in the same way New York City does, but Cedar Fair's superiority in integrated resorts and plans to expand with hotel rooms elsewhere in the chain should. Richard Zimmerman is slated to become the new CEO of the company in 2018 while Matt Ouimet heads to do whatever else it is exactly he wants given that he's been a star in the role. Cedar Fair stock was as low as $6.00 a share in 2009 and has risen to greater than 11x that under his leadership. He's managed to do it without abandoning maintenance and capital expenditures either; all the big parks have seen tremendous investment.


Cedar Fair under Dick Kinzel was a pretty conservative company doing pretty conservative things; if it worked at Cedar Point, it should work anywhere. Knott's Berry Farm did recover some attendance during the Kinzel-era as coasters were plunked in, but purists were crying and complaining up a storm. The Paramount purchase put a huge debt load on Cedar Fair just as the economy slumped, and Kinzel's choices of capital investment during this time frame were, let's say, sub-optimal (a 10% drop in Cedar Point attendance matched its new for 2008 light show). Pursuing a sale to Apollo wound up getting him the hook, and things have been sweet as boysenberry pie ever since.

Now, I'm not saying that Kinzel was bad; just situationally bad. He didn't really get what Knott's could be as a Disney alternative for the locals, nor was he particularly forward thinking when it came to Cedar Point's resorts and the standards they met. Breakers was basically a dump which was perpetuated as such because practically speaking, hey, we can charge whatever for this, right? Ouimet, with his background at Disney's Parks and Cruise Lines as well as time on the Starwood board was going to have none of this. He sold unnecessary water park assets to tear down Hotel Breakers to the studs and rebuild it, creating a hotel that could charge $200 a night almost every night and still have high occupancy. Knott's classic attractions were rehabbed, and a dark ride reinstalled into a space built for such things. And attendance vaulted, with Cedar Point breaking 3.7 million visitors and Knott's being announced as having 5 million in 2016 on an earnings call.

The business model at Cedar Fair is quality with quantity: the classic all things to all people. Ticket schemes are similar to that of Six Flags, except with higher prices. A Gold Pass at Six Flags Great America which includes entry and parking to the rest of the chain can be had for somewhere in the $65 range. A comparable pass at Cedar Fair is more like $210. Individual visits are still the bulk of their entries. Also like Six Flags, Cedar Fair is full steam ahead on the "renovate things and call them new" bandwagon, as 2018 will see two Rocky Mountain coasters built on 90s era woodies take center stage.


It's hard to see the future at Cedar Fair overall as anything but bright: continuing on the same path right now will lead to resorts in Charlotte and Toronto, more winter events, more revenue, and more quality attractions. Like with Six Flags, there's a cap on the market for their pass products, especially at the prices they charge. Also like everyone in this market, they have challenges with staffing. Cedar Point and Valleyfair offer housing for out of area employees, but low wages make them largely noncompetitive for quality employees. Expanding and continuing to improve housing while also improving pay will go far in getting them domestic employees, and expanding the season at many parks in tandem with setting up agreements with other seasonal businesses to transition people into new jobs when the gates close would be enormous. For now, they're years away from that sort of trans-formative move, and you'll find closed rides or food booths at many parks even at the height of the season as a result.

SeaWorld Entertainment

Market Cap (12/17/17): 1.2 Billion Dollars

Theme Parks owned/operated & Market Served:

Busch Gardens Tampa (Tampa, Orlando), Busch Gardens Williamsburg (DC, Richmond), SeaWorld Orlando (Orlando), SeaWorld San Antonio (San Antonio), SeaWorld San Diego (San Diego), Sesame Place (Philadelphia)

If you're here, you know it's been a bad few years for SeaWorld. Here's the good news: they can survive. Their real issue is with a debt load that's been dumped on them by Blackstone. What's that debt? The money Blackstone borrowed to buy them! They still have a high enough attendance level to be sustainable without it, so Chapter 11 sometime in the future is coming. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.


SeaWorld is going low cost with capital expenditures and there's not much of a 5 year plan. CEO Joel Mamby came from Herschend with a wealth of experience, but he's come into a situation where the company is under seemingly endless federal investigation for all sorts of wrong doing. The initial plan by his predecessor to ignore the wave of anger and resentment towards the brand is all sorts of impossible to overcome. Joel Mamby probably wants you to pray for him, knowing Herschend.

In the meantime, they're looking to compete as "local's parks" rather than destinations and well, good luck to them given that the average household in Orlando's income per capita is actually lower than Detroit's.


Hope that Trump doesn't screw up the global economy so bad they can't get investment money from outside to float them while they figure out what to do or let someone else take a nose dive. In fairness, an aggressive strategy could pay off in markets like San Antonio or even San Diego over the long term, but there's no easy path out.

Herschend Family Entertainment

Market Cap (12/17/17): ????? - Herschend is not a public company

Number of Properties: 17 if you count the Harlem Globetrotters

Theme Parks owned/operated & Market Served:

Dollywood (Atlanta, Charlotte), Silver Dollar City (Anywhere in a 300 mile radius of Branson), Wild Adventures (Jacksonville, Tallahassee, Valdosta GA), Stone Mountain Park (Atlanta)

Herschend is all about increasingly integrated resorts in locations where lots of people travel as destinations. They're the Walt Disney World of their vacation lands. They build stuff with theming, they build wild stuff, they build stuff for kids, they have it all. SDC and Dollywood are awesome parks that you can visit darn near year round. I love them. They're so good. So so so good.


They're private, so they don't talk. They've been building some of the most unique and exciting themed attractions in North America for the last 15 years. Crowds are coming. They have employees that love working for them. They seem to be doing something right. Well, Wild Adventures isn't much but christ, have you ever been? It's in the middle of nowhere. At least they smartly stopped year round operation there. Now just get a new train for Cheetah.


Branson is hurting for tourists but SDC still packs em in for now. Of course Dollywood has been headed skyward for as long as I've been into this whole rides for kids nonsense, and they've got a year round hotel there and lord knows what else planned. They're gonna be fine, and more importantly, they aren't selling out to anyone any time soon. God would be pissed.


Merlin Entertainments

Market Cap (12/17/17): 3.7 Billion Dollars

Number of North American Properties: 30-ish?

Theme Parks owned/operated & Market Served:

Legoland California (San Diego, Los Angeles), Legoland Florida (Central Florida, Tampa), Legoland New York (New York City, opening in 2019)

Merlin made a play for the Busch Gardens parks from SeaWorld earlier this year but were told it was all or nothing. Smart move for SeaWorld, who Merlin honestly should buy and rebrand under the existing "Sea Life" moniker. They've got a lot of parks in Europe and facilities from here to Singapore. No one in North America runs more trackless dark rides, that uber exciting of technology, than Merlin and it isn't even close. Their biggest expansion comes in their "Midway Attraction" department, with acquisitions and operations of Ferris Wheels like the London Eye and the Madame Tussaud's brand.


They still haven't really made a global play with Merlin's brand as a whole and might never. In fact, they've never made really good regional plays in places like the UK where they could cross promote to engage tourists from their downtown sights into their theme parks (like Alton Towers and Thorpe). There's also some questions that are getting raised about their capacity for upkeep: Colossos is the premier attraction at Heide Park, and it hasn't moved in nearly two years due to maintenance costs that are seen as being prohibitively expensive. It's one thing at Busch Gardens Tampa for Gwazi to sit in the center of the park like a giant pair of wooden failsons. It's another when a chain that isn't struggling has something like that.


The kings of Retail Theme Parkery: Legoland, Dungeons, flying theaters, Shrek, and Aquariums are coming to somewhere near you soon if it isn't already. And they'll probably buy someone. Or someones. Multiple someone.

Parque Reunidos

Market Cap (12/17/17): 1.1 Billion Dollars

Number of North American Properties: 36

Theme Parks owned/operated & Market Served:

Kennywood (Pittsburgh), Idlewild Park (Pittsburgh), Lake Compounce (Hartford CT), Storyland (New Hampshire, Boston), Castle Park (Los Angeles/Riverside), Dutch Wonderland (Philadelphia)

Parque Reunidos' list of parks feels like the off brand Merlin to me. I don't know why. They kinda scrapped whatever IPs they had before, but now want to partner up with everyone from Ducati motorcycles to Nickelodeon after thinking harder about it. OK, sure. Just get Garfield out of the Kennywood Old Mill, please.


Kennywood used to give parks what they needed to get through the season and make improvements as it went along. The parks were great, always well run, and operations rocked. Parque Reunidos gives them a set budget and you better make it last. You can guess the rest of the story.

2018 looks like a year where they're throwing all the past ideas on admission pricing out the window and trying to copy Six Flags. There's many season pass flavors and they all come with different stuff. Expect further cuts in spending at the parks to try and generate a really nice revenue number. What they do with that number? I don't know, more stock offerings? Try to get sold to a Chinese shipping company?


They don't seem built for any big moves, and their stock price since 2012 hasn't moved all that much. I'd say they look like a great candidate for a takeover, but there's really only one buyer on the market today and they may be concerned with competing against themselves in some markets. I mean, that's stupid since Merlin owns 4 theme parks that draw from London, but whatever. I'm some jerk on his couch. It might also be that finding financing in the UK right now is tough what with the country on the verge of possibly eating a turd via Brexit.


Premier Parks Umbrella:

EPR Properties

Market Cap (12/17/17): Total Investments of 6.6 Billion Dollars

Number of Properties: Nearly 400

Theme Parks Owned & Market Served:

Darien Lake (Buffalo), Frontier City (Oklahoma City, Tulsa), Magic Springs (Little Rock), Pacific Park (Los Angeles), Wild Waves (Seattle) [Also owns Pacific Park at Santa Monica Pier, but that is not operated by Premier]

Stanley Kroenke 

Net Worth: $8.1 Billion

Theme Park Owned & Market Served:

Elitch Gardens (Denver)

Premier Parks LLC

Company Value: ??? Million

Theme Park Owned/Operated & Market Served:

Clementon Park (Philadelphia)

It would be easy for me to be hyper critical of Kieran Burke. He was a lawyer, not a park guy, he kinda stumbled into it because of connections that took him to Tierco and the success of Gary Story. Except now Burke is a park guy. I mean, he ran 40 theme parks at his peak. Not many other people have that level of experience. And he loves the business enough to not want to leave. He and Gary went back to Oklahoma and ultimately put a team back together under the old Premier name that would do park operations for CNL Lifestyle, a real estate trust. Gary Story died in 2013, and Burke is running the show and seeming to do a good job as all the CNL parks are still under his leadership even after being divested of.


CNL Lifestyle was often referred to as a dumpster fire. EPR, meanwhile is adding rides to the parks and generating revenue across the board from its Family Entertainment Center holdings, Ski resorts, and the development and expansion of their TopGolf brand. Premier then gets to manage fun new things at parks like Darien Lake and Magic Springs, the latter of which hadn't had a dry ride addition in something like a decade.


Premier has found its niche in the business running parks for just about everyone, even Six Flags (they're operating Waterworld Concord for Seis Banderas). Everything seems rosy right now, especially since their partners aren't averse to spending a little to get a little.

Hershey Entertainment and Resorts Company

Company Value: Billions and Billions and Billions

Theme Parks Owned/Operated & Market Served:

Hersheypark (Eastern Seaboard)

The biggest of all the independents, Hersheypark exceeds 3 million in attendance each year, had a Christmas event light years before anyone north of the Mason-Dixon, and operates a full service resort too (the outrageously nice Hotel Hershey). They're run as a bit of a strange duck as they are part of the Hershey Trust, and everything has to pass muster with the board. The Trust is majority owner of the Hershey chocolate brand, of which something like half the profits all go towards Milton Hershey's school for needy children. If you're thinking, "wow, that must be one helluva school," yes, it is one helluva school. Annually the trust spends $111,000 on each student's education. That board is conservative about expansions, which is probably why Hersheypark has a water park smack dab in the center of it included with admission rather than connected and charging a separate fee and making all the money ever.

Hershey Resorts, previously known as HERCO, has also owned and operated other parks than Hershey at various points. This includes Lake Compounce and Dutch Wonderland. Right now, they don't seem to be looking to making acquisitions, but when you have hundreds of millions at your disposal, things happen sometimes.

Apex Parks Group

Company Value: ??? Million

Theme Parks Owned/Operated & Markets Served:

Fantasy Island (Buffalo), Indiana Beach (Indianapolis, Chicago)

Looking to become the newest conglomerate is Apex Parks; Founded by former Six Flags Great America GM Al Weber, the company is now in the hands of another Six Flags GM, John Fitzgerald following Mr. Weber's sudden and untimely death in 2016. Backed by private capital, Apex is actively looking to make acquisitions in the Family Entertainment Center, Water Park, and Amusement Park space. Their biggest purchase to date was Indiana Beach; once a beloved wacky boardwalk park plunked in the Midwest, life after sale from its family owners was harsh. Apex swooped in and grabbed it, giving the park new lease on life. Martin's Fantasy Island followed last year, and it's very likely that it's only just the start.

The Koch Family

Net Worth: Honestly, they probably don't talk to one another, don't even think of combining it

Theme Parks Owned/Operated & Markets Served:

Holiday World - Koch Development Corporation (Louisville, Evansville, Indianapolis) / Alabama Splash Adventure  - Pat, Dan, Natalie Koch (Birmingham AL)

Until June 16, 2010, the Koch Family appeared as the model of normalcy for a family run operation. Will Koch ran Holiday World, taking over from his parents Pat and Bill who had founded it in the 1950s. Will was a beloved figure with a penchant for aggressive roller coasters and clean parks; both won him many awards and international acclaim, and a park in the middle of nowhere Indiana wound up beating Six Flags into submission and exceeding 1 million attendees annually. Will Koch died that day while swimming, presumably the result of diabetic shock and everything changed. His brother and sister attempted to regain the park from Will's wife via legal means and were turned back at the courts. An attempt to take over Kentucky Kingdom and reduce it to a water park as a backup plan for them also flopped. Refusing to leave the industry, the matriarch of the family made some phone calls, and soon Dan, Natalie, and a host of managers from Holiday World made their way to Alabama to run the constantly floundering Alabama Splash Adventure. Holiday World, meanwhile, seems to be trucking along just fine with Will's children working in the park and preparing to take it over for the next generation.

Fun Spot

Theme Parks Owned/Operated & Markets Served:

Fun Spot Orlando & Kissimmee (Central Florida), Fun Junction USA (Atlanta)

Another FEC gone big and looking to make purchases is Fun Spot, who bought out Fun Junction USA this year and is planning big expansions in the Florida market. Comments made at IAAPA suggest that they purchased wood coasters from GCI and Gravity Group to see which they liked best, and they seem to think it is a situational sort of thing.

Triple 5 Group

Theme Parks Owned/Operated & Markets Served

Nickelodeon Universe (Minneapolis), Galaxyland (Edmonton), Nickelodeon Universe @ American Dream (New York City/Newark)

The Ghermezian family has billions in assets built around gigantic malls. Of course they were the folks who were able to actually finish Xanadu in the Meadowlands. Of course they already own and run the two most significant indoor theme parks in the hemisphere. In fairness, just saying they own malls doesn't totally describe the variation in what they develop (there's sections about biotechnology and nuclear energy on their site) but for what we're talking about, sure. They do malls. American Dream will open with a full theme park and some gnarly Gerstlauer built coasters as well as a Legoland Discovery Center, indoor ski hill, and Sea Life Aquarium.

And the fully independents:

Knoebel Family (Knoebels Grove, Pennsylvania)

Lagoon Corporation (Lagoon, Salt Lake City)

Nick Laskaris (Mt. Olympus, Wisconsin Dells, WI)

Santa Cruz Seaside Company (Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, California)

Jack and Will Morey (Morey's Piers, NJ)

Landry's Inc./Fertitta Family (Kemah Boardwalk, Downtown Aquarium, and Historic Galveston Pleasure Pier, TX)

Standard Amusements (Operator of Rye Playland, NY)

Central Amusements (Operator of Luna Park and Victorian Gardens, NYC. A subsidiary of Italian ride manufacturer Zamperla)

Gary Norton (Silverwood, Idaho)

Maritime Fun Group (Burlington Amusement Park, Shining Waters, Sandspit; all in Prince Edward Island, Canada)


Part 4 will complete the series with a look to the future; What projects are in the works in the regional park scene? More importantly: will any of them actually come to fruition?

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Parkscope Bonus YouTube Video #4: Nickelodeon's Mega Mess-A-Mania Stage Show (Paramount's Kings Island 1995)

Nickelodeon invaded the Paramount Parks in the mid-1990s and brought with it this theme park version of Nick's hit shows Family Double Dare and What Would You Do?

At Paramount's Kings Island, the Nickelodeon characters expanded beyond the then-Hanna-Barbera land and created a new mini-land called Nickelodeon Central. With it came smaller kids rides themed to Nick characters like the Rugrats and Wild Thornberries, a huge water maze called the Green Slime Zone Definery, and this 30-minute stage show.

For you Nick fans, this show looks like something you would expect to see at Nickelodeon Studios at Universal Studios Florida. A takeoff of Family Double Dare and What Would You Do, the idea of course for this show would be "now you are the star!"

The tagline for Mega Mess-A-Mania in the park guidebook was as follows: "Watch as the Gakmeister guides the audience through the History of Mess and, in the process, through some of the messiest, slimiest, sloppiest physical challenges ever seen! Who will triumph? The Red Team or the Blue Team? Prepare yourself for mess hysteria!"

Since the show offered so much audience participation, a videocasette was offered of each unique show to those who were included as a souvenir. Enjoy the the mess hysteria!

--ParkScopeJeff (@ParkScopeJeff)

Parkscope Bonus YouTube Video #3: Euclid Beach: Gone Too Soon II

Euclid Beach Park was a very popular amusement pier in Cleveland, OH. Built in 1895, Euclid Beach Park lasted until 1969 when it was torn down. Euclid Beach Park was one of the most famous amusement piers in the country in the 1950s and 60s, with original wooden Flying Turns coasters, wooden bobsled coasters, racing coasters, and the famous Euclid Beach popcorn balls. The memories of Euclid Beach Park is a haven for old amusement park fans. This video was created by an especially avid Euclid Beach fan in 1993, who had taken two decades of home movies and assembled them into this presentation, combining old footage with a documentary history of the park and several interviews from former employees and guests. It's certainly a treasure for those of you who are fans of the old amusement parks. Enjoy!

--ParkScopeJeff (@ParkScopeJeff)

Parkscope Bonus YouTube Video #2: Disneyland Paris 1994 Souvenir Video

Officially titled "Memories of an Unforgettable Adventure," this god-awful souvenir video is great when you want to partake in a pretty extreme drinking game or want to have a higher opinion of American production values.

This souvenir video was created as part of the new marketing campaign to re-energize the resort after its first few disappointing years. The marketing campaign also changed the name of the resort from Euro Disney to Disneyland Paris, and the executives greenlit the Space Mountain addition to Tomorrowland (which you can see a preview for on this video).

So if you enjoy bad dubbing, questionable adult choices, and a haphazard touring plan, I'm sure you will enjoy this example of how not to do a souvenir video!

--ParkScopeJeff (@ParkScopeJeff)

The Hidden Rides and Themed Attractions of....North Carolina

North Carolina is a state seeing double digit population growth as families move from the Midwest and Northeast seeking fairer weather and better economic opportunity. Home to the research triangle (Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill) and the city of Charlotte, the state is booming. So the amusement scene must be too, right?

Well, kinda. Cedar Fair obtained tax credits here when they didn't in Virginia, and shifted a ton of development to Carowinds. This included its new 300+ foot tall B&M Giga coaster, Fury 325, and a winter event. Unfortunately, pretty much every family entertainment center with a coaster has closed. Most small parks in the state have also been shuttering their gates as residential and commercial real estate swallows them whole. It isn't so much a "boom" as an increase in density.

Tweetsie Railroad is among the most significant of the lesser known attractions. It is, as advertised, primarily based around a scenic railroad. However, there's a mix of vintage and newer rides throughout the park's 3 sections. Most intriguingly is a dark ride/train hybrid known as the Mouse Mine Train which intends to take you deep into a cheese mine. There's an old car ride here with no center rail (impossibly rare), Eli Wheel, Round-Up, and more.

North Carolina likes its theme parks on the verge of nonexistence with themes that would fall into the first half of the 20th century. Land Of Oz kinda sorta exists for a few days of the year and I guess you can get a tour of it sometimes if you pay enough. It is the best preserved theme park in the world dedicated to the classic Judy Garland film and book by that guy who's name no one remembers because he really didn't do anything else; there's another one that's a total train wreck of abandonment and you can enjoy that on Youtube. Wild West themes survive at Deadwood in Williamston, a small amusement park that's attached to a BBQ restaurant. It doesn't survive so well at Ghost Town In The Sky, which has flashed in and out of operation for much of the last 20 years and can currently be yours for a few million more than its worth. The owner's name is Alaska, she's one million years old, and she tried to tear the whole thing down after buying it and build a giant cross because she's clearly of strong mind. Santa's Land in Cherokee is a good side stop from Pigeon Forge during the summer time and is your typical classic storybook/Santa park from the 1960s kept alive in the modern day. It's cute and full of rides built to survive a nuclear holocaust (minus the Zamperla Dragon) with lots of spares available, so hopefully it doesn't go anywhere.

North Carolina does have some water parks, and it's here that the only recent development in the state has taken place. Jungle Rapids and H2OBX are newer facilities that have funnels, trap doors, half pipes, and all the other things good modern water parks have. This is in addition to the state's biggest such water park, Wet N' Wild Emerald Pointe, which has shown flashes of innovation before like having a rapid lazy river, themed slides, and at one point a Setpoint junior suspended coaster. These are all traditional facilities though, and if you're here, you know that I revel in the non-traditional. Green Springs Waterworld is as nontraditional as it gets: built in 1965, it consists of a number of wooden platforms which you may swing or dive off of. 4 people have died there since it opened; there's real risks if you do really stupid things. But there's also real benefits to having somewhere that you can do 40 foot back flips still in existence or used a rope swing suspended from over 20 feet in the air. When the owner is gone, probably so will it be.

Traditional water parks as we know them really got cookin' in the south, and one of these early water parks is still around for you to enjoy with opening day concrete slides intact. Those who carefully read my piece on Water Parks in 2016 might recall the name of Water Boggin, a chain of water parks built by Dwight Myers starting in Myrtle Beach and expanded throughout the south using Richard Croul's water slide invention. The original in Myrtle Beach is long gone, but his Emerald Isle location is still going strong under the name Salty Pirate Water Park.

Salty Pirate is one of a few attractions worth noting along the barrier islands of North Carolina - there's several family entertainment centers featuring mini golf, go karts, and batting cages, but there are standouts. Carolina Beach Boardwalk Amusement Park is the only real amusement park in the region, though calling it an amusement park might be a stretch. It appears to consist of primarily portable rides camped out in a small location for the summer months, then trucked out. There does seem to be a coaster present though, and I've contacted their Facebook page for more info. There's even been a Skywheel some years, which, hey, who doesn't love a Skywheel? You should really love a Skywheel. Also, a special shout out to Patio Playground in Top Sail Beach, who still have a classic 1950s era course to play (AKA the best kind).

NCA's census shows a number of wood carousels throughout the state, but the one at White Lake Family Fun Park is most compelling to me simply because it is a largely uncharted small amusement center. Pictures exist from 2017 showing bumper cars and a scrambler. There's videos on Youtube, but none in years to confirm if there's still a Music Express or Eli Wheel to go with them. No website. No Facebook.

As we come to the conclusion of the North Carolina leg of the Hidden Rides search, we'll highlight two small family facilities with very different origins serving the same community. Pullen Park opened way back in 1887, and is the 4th oldest amusement park in the United States. The park has never operated a full size wood coaster or great dark ride, but has been home to a fine Dentzel carousel for about a century, and visitors today can find a Chance CP Huntington train, paddle boats, and some kiddie rides to go along with it. It's a fine example of a community owned facility. Frankie's of Raleigh is more along the lines of a mega-FEC that I imagine will find its way to RCDB sometime soon. All the extreme miniature flat rides you could ever want bolster its go kart and arcade fun.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Regional Theme Park Industry 101, Part 2: How?

In Part One, we detailed what the regional theme park industry was and how it got started. In Part Two, we look at the development of the business to the present day to see how companies evolved, grew, and shrunk.

By the 1990s, regional park consolidation had created four significant players; Time Warner's Six Flags, Paramount Parks, Anheuser Busch, and lowly Cedar Fair. Six Flags was bought and sold multiple times at this point, being a subsidiary of Bally's and Penn Central at various points. Time Warner saw the potential in using the theme park chain to promote their IPs and made a steal of the chain, acquiring it in full by 1993 and investing heavily into the facilities with real success. Paramount had wound up with Taft Broadcasting's parks after the company was the target of a hostile takeover from, what else, a guy with no actual entertainment experience but plenty in the realm of convenience stores (he ran it into the ground and lost $560 million in the process). Paramount similarly saw the same opportunity Walt had to promote offerings in the 1950s drop into their laps across a multitude of markets. AB hadn't really planned on running a theme park empire, but when HBJ Inc. sold them the SeaWorld chain in 1989, they had some of the most beloved facilities in the country. And then there was Cedar Fair: they were the little guys. Dick Kinzel was a mere popcorn salesman when he started there in the 1970s, and he rose through the ranks to CEO, masterminding the takeovers of Worlds of Fun (70s themer) and Dorney Park (traditional amusement park).

There were still, however, a number of smaller operators throughout the United States. While most major markets had been consumed, a number of smaller or developing markets were still run outside the chains: Denver, Buffalo, Seattle, and Boston, just to name a few. As the 80s and 90s progressed, real estate development had driven the cost of real estate in these markets higher, while skilled unionized labor to build the parks had equally kept creeping up. There were no great changes to make acquisition and construction more efficient than it had been in the 50s; there still aren't any either. New construction was largely impractical, and when it was being attempted, was failing even harder than it had in the 70s. Alfa Smartparks development of Jazzland and Visionland was a total flop. Only Elitch Gardens, which had been given land by the city of Denver and a package of incentives to relocate downtown, built a "new" park, even then mostly with used rides from their prior location. There were opportunities there for someone with deep pockets.

Gary Story was a theme park lifer who wound up in charge of a small facility in Oklahoma known as Frontier City. He wasn't intended to run it forever; just long enough to get through a season before it could be sold off and dismantled for residential real estate. Instead, he managed to balloon attendance. The owners, a company called Tierco, was primarily in the oil business, but Story's unexpected success opened their minds to the potential in theme parks. Behind Story and a young Harvard Law grad named Kieran Burke, Tierco changed names to Premier Parks and decided to make a go of the thing themselves. Their strategy for expansion was bold: acquire parks, make significant upgrades to the facilities, watch money roll in. In 1995, Premier made its first big move, acquiring Funtime Parks Inc. and with it four parks with "Lake" in the name: Geauga, Compounce, Wyandot, and Darien. Not much is remembered about Funtime, but they had been birthed of ex-Cedar Point management and investors, and had brought such innovations as season pass acceptance across a chain to the US theme park industry. With Premier's purchase of Funtime, they immediately became a real player. But this was only a prelude of things to come.

In 1996 and 1997, Premier Parks spread like wildfire, assuming debt in return for purchases of Riverside Park, Marine World, Kentucky Kingdom, Great Escape, Waterworld USA, and Elitch Gardens. In three years, Premier Parks had grown into the second largest regional park operator behind only Six Flags. Burke and Story's plans had been working too - capital investment continuously resulted in double digit attendance growth. Return on investment for new attractions went from half a decade to just a single season. Looking for a park that could be a centerpiece for their growing empire, Story and Burke approached Time Warner with the possibility of taking over operations of Six Flags over Texas in 1997 and buying into its independent ownership group. At some point, the question came up: "What if we wanted the whole chain?" On April 1, 1998, David bought Goliath, and Premier Parks became the undisputed king of the regional theme park world. The expansion continued on into 2002, with the acquisition of Europe's Walibi Parks chain, Jazzland, Wild Waves in Washington, La Ronde in Montreal, Fiesta Texas, SeaWorld Ohio, and Mexico City's Reino Aventura.

Capital expenditure came hot and heavy at their new parks; Geauga Lake alone was subject to well over $100 million dollars of investment overall between 1999 and 2002. And in the short term, things looked great: Geauga's attendance in 2000 was up 42% year over year. Creating debt is not necessarily an issue if one knows that they can pay it off - think of the average mortgage, for example. But repaying the loans quickly became an issue for Story and Burke, as attendance plateaued in 2001 and began to falter in 2002. By 2003, attendance chain wide was in free fall. The huge initial gains driven by the ride construction proved incapable of retaining guests. But why?

General orthodoxy in the theme park world is that Six Flags' rapid decline was the result not of poor attraction choices, but perhaps of too many and too soon. Revolutionizing the industry to create a new fleet of super parks required far too many managers, maintenance crews, and operations staff with experience, as well as too many new front line employees too quickly for the chain's human resources and recruiting departments to possibly catch up. Six Flags Great Adventure's 1999 expansion was called "The War on Lines," featuring twenty-seven new rides. Without proper staff to run or maintain them, rides like the Evolution sometimes went literally years between days of operation. Today, 14 of the 27 rides remain at the park, with most of the adult attractions having been removed and the kiddie rides being shuffled around and re-skinned multiple times.

The events at Great Adventure were not a unique occurrence: Six Flags Magic Mountain's 2001 headliner X never opened that year. Six Flags Ohio opened 4 roller coasters for the 2000 season, but found the park largely incapable of operating more than one train on their coasters at any given time while their attendance crested 2 million. Physical infrastructure also had not been upgraded to deal with the crowds: bathroom and water fountains were either not built to accommodate the throngs or outright removed as part of expansion efforts. Six Flags America to this day suffers from a lack of bathroom or food facilities in half the park as the Premier regime simply never considered it important to run plumbing back to its most popular attractions and themed areas. The volume of work done also meant much of it was unfinished at opening: one trip report on rec.roller-coaster speaking on Six Flags America's opening day stated the blacktop sidewalks caught fire due to not properly curing.

A perfect storm was brewing for Six Flags; meanwhile, Viacom was in the mood to split itself up and send a new IPO into the world (CBS Corporation). As part of the restructuring, lots of non-core assets had to get shuttled off to make way for revenue that would please the shareholders holding onto Viacom stock. Paramount's theme parks were just such a asset. The only problem for Viacom is that they were selling the asset into a buyer's market. Six Flags divested itself first of its European parks, followed by its Ohio properties in early 2004 to Cedar Fair to raise cash for debt service, taking a huge loss in the process. They were in no position whatsoever to make the acquisition of a successful park brand, and had eliminated most of the other market players during their rise. Anheuser-Busch was out there, but to call AB poorly run in 2004/2005 would be a vast understatement, and they passed. Private capital aside (Blackstone owned controlling interest in Universal Orlando meant they were busy; Apollo and Vanguard seemingly passed the opportunity up), there was just one other player available. Cedar Fair had somehow managed itself competently enough to have a reasonable debt load and a fine history of operating amusement and theme parks. Competent enough that they could borrow the $1.25 billion dollars necessary.

America's Great Recession only worsened things for Six Flags, shuttering Astroworld for a cash infusion and seeing a shareholder revolt as a result. Mark Shapiro came in to run the company on behalf of Washington Racial Slurs owner Dan Snyder, and attempted to perform a family friendly facelift on Six Flags. To fund this, Shapiro ditched many of its smaller market parks to rot (Kentucky Kingdom, New Orleans) or private capital (the properties like Darien Lake which wound up with CNL), and sought to reinforce their largest key markets with more extensively themed attractions. The gambit bore some fruit: per capita spending increased, but attendance continued to stay static or drop, with new attractions built often not meeting the expectations of the general public. Six Flags' Dark Knight indoor mouse coasters were a prime example of this - the ride's preshow elements and theming were some of the best attempted by the chain in over a decade, but the ride itself (a production model Mack mouse housed indoors) didn't meet the expectations of those waiting long periods of time.

In 2009, Six Flags filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. That same year, Cedar Fair announced plans after multiple years of poor stock performance to be acquired by Apollo Management. InBev had taken over in St. Louis and divested of the Busch parks to pay back the debt to Blackstone; Blackstone's intent was to spin the parks off into public offering and fill the new corporation with debt. Kennywood Corporation too, a proud family business, was consumed by foreign money as it was integrated into Parque Reunidos' Palace Entertainment arm in 2007. The period between 1997 and 2001 had become known in enthusiast circles as "The Coaster Wars"; now clearly over, it seemed that no one had really won.

Quietly during 2007, Herschend Family Entertainment began to make a series of acquisition. First was Wild Adventures in Valdosta, GA, a theme park which opened in the 1990s and never found its legs in spite of expanding quickly to have ten roller coasters and safari attraction. They also purchased two large aquariums in the Cincinnati and Philadelphia metro areas. Herschend had been steadily increasing their overall portfolio for some time, building water parks to complement their theme parks in Branson and Pigeon Forge while eliminating their competition in Branson via acquisition and closure. Expansions became much more aggressive with bigger themed areas, intellectual property rights, and the kind of large roller coasters the chain had never before built. Their success was such that many of the temporary entrants in the industry sought their assistance: CNL placed many of their parks under their management during the late 2000s.

Another recent entrant to the North American market was Merlin Entertainments; in fairness, they're recent to exist. Merlin was a small time player until Blackstone acquired them in 2005 and ramped up investment, merging a number of European companies into them. LEGO's theme park division was one of these acquisitions, and Merlin began its movement into the US market first in California at the existing Legoland park, followed by the acquisition of Cypress Gardens and its rebranding to the nation's second such facility in 2011. Merlin had other ideas though beyond just building big new theme parks: expanding existing brands like The Dungeon and Madame Tussauds was certainly one, but they went back to the idea of an arcade-amusement facility hybrid experimented with since the 1970s under the LEGO branding. 12 Legoland Discovery Centers have popped up in retail areas around the US and Canada, each offering things like 4D cinemas and trackless dark rides.

The early part of the 2010s saw an economic recovery, and with it a new clarity in the theme park landscape. Cedar Fair's leadership was changed and the shareholders retained control, successfully managing to prevent Apollo from taking over. Six Flags emerged from bankruptcy with some adjusted strategies and much, much less debt. Others were on shakier foundations: SeaWorld was healthy and turning fine profits until the emergence of the film Blackfish, and began to make appeals for foreign investment that led to Chinese minority ownership in 2017. Hard Rock Park came and went. Parque Reunidos was traded between private equity firms, as were most of the CNL Lifestyle Properties.

Experimentation over the lean years had led to the return of some old ideas and the institution of some new ones. In the early 20th century, rides were frequently rethemed or added on to in order to create budget conscious new attractions annually. Six Flags' gamble with a thorough redevelopment of the Texas Giant at it's Arlington, TX park brought Rocky Mountain Coasters to the forefront of innovation in the industry, but also proved that a significant re-imagining of a ride beyond a mere name change or re-theme could seriously improve attendance and pass sales. Lodging was renovated (Hotel Breakers at Cedar Point) or constructed (Great Escape in NY, Lake Compounce in CT). Seasonal parks, starting with Herschend and Six Flags Over Texas, expanded their seasons from summer operation to many running March or April to New Years. Virtually all have also followed the "festival" blueprint of EPCOT and SeaWorld as well to increase return visitation. Dark rides have started to find their way back in with Sally's Justice League and Triotech's Iron Reef and Wonder Mountain attractions, and extended seasons may further push the need for more indoor attractions yet such as flying theaters.


In Part Three, we look at the "who" of the industry with the major and minor players, operators, owners, and more.

Parkscope Bonus YouTube Video #1: Universal Studios Florida 1994 Souvenir Video

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas everyone! As a special holiday gift to our Parkscope readers, over the next few days we will be releasing some bonus videos of old theme park shows and documentaries as an an extra bonus from our YouTube Tuesday column!

Our first video is the 1994 USF souvenir video. Catch all of the original USF movie-based attractions in action, from Back to the Future to Jaws, Ghostbusters, Nickelodeon Studios, Earthquake, Kongfrontation, Hitchcock, Murder She Wrote, and all of the original rides at Universal Orlando! Get ready to Ride the Movies (Copyright all rights reserved patent pending)!

--ParkScopeJeff (@ParkScopeJeff)

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Parkscope Unprofessional Podcast Hour #140 - So You Want To Go To The Middle East

Grab yourself a beverage or listen on your plane trip to the UAE, here it is. Joe is joined by Andrew Hyde and Alan to talk about Alan's massive, 16 day trip to the Middle East. They cover Dubai Parks and Resorts, IMG Worlds of Adventure, Ferrari World, HubZero, Global Village, Trader Vic's pants, being buzzed by a helicoper, quarter tanks of gas, and much much more.

NOTE: In the podcast we note providers of interactive dark ride to UAE parks. W were corrected, Alterface provided Ghostbusters at MotionGate, Resident Evil at HubZero, Gears of War at HubZero,  Gumball at IMG, and Benno's Great Race at Ferrari World. We apologize for the error.

Email us at parkscopeblog at gmail dot com or follow us at ParkscopeParkscopeJoeParkscopeNick,  ParkscopeLane, and Sean.

YouTube Tuesday #23: ORIGINAL 1992 DVC Sales Video AND Disneyland Fun (1990 Disney Sing-Along #7)

That’s right folks, this week you get a double-dose of YouTube magic! And if you call in the next 5 minutes, you’ll get 100% more videos absolutely free! So what are you waiting for? Don’t miss out on a chance of a lifetime!

In actuality, the DVC Sales video was short enough that we felt two videos were warranted this week. Enter one of our all-time favorites to the rescue, Disney Sing-Along #7, that’s right, Disneyland Fun! Nostalgia romp month continues!

Some highlights from our two videos this week:

·       Member Berries Moments: Member when Old Key West used to be The DVC Resort? Member when DVC pretended that “the magic starts with flexibility?” (Oh wait they still pretend that? Nevermind) Member Top of the World (footage within!)? Member when Disney used to pretend that transportation from Old Key West was “convenient?” (Oh wait they still pretend that? Bloody hell)
·       Goofy singing songs from Snow White never ceases to amuse
·       Member the old park strollers? I think they took some of the queue chains and steel posts and fashioned them into a serviceable model
·       Is it clever or coincidental that Disney set the music for the Park Open Morning Mini Marathon to Step In Time?
·       Member Roger Rabbit? Wait, member Roger Rabbit again? Now he’s…wait…there he is again…member ROGER RABBIT WAS FREAKING EVERYWHERE BUY OUR MERCHANDISE
·       Note THE definitive version of Makin’ Memories. An all-time classic
·       I think everyone who was young in the early-1990s will recall the nightmares forever of the Grim Grinnin’ Ghosts segment. The foggy Mansion. The spooky tree people. The menacing Disney villains. The Witch, Captain Hook, Big Bad Wolf, Maleficent…and Donald with a white sheet over his head. I’m not making that up

Line up at the curb
Come on everyone
Hear the excitement
The fun has just begun!

As your Disney friends
Come dancing down the street
This sure is a show
That can’t be beat

For music and color
And laughter it brings
Toes’ll be tapping
When everybody sings

You’ll hear shouts of joy
As all your troubles fade
At the wonderful
Disneyland Parade!

And of course the beautiful rendition of “When You Wish…” at the end, transposing a moment of heaven that every child wished they had in 1990. Could anything be more celestial?