Friday, April 14, 2017

North American 2017 Regional Park Preview

Across much of the nation, snow is beginning to melt. Temperatures are rising. Plants are beginning to bloom. While Orlando and Southern California (and a couple of other outposts) keep their rides running all year long, most of the nation's needs for amusements are met by seasonal amusement and theme parks. The seasonal nature of those parks has changed significantly in the last 20 years with the addition of Halloween events and now expansion of the Spring season and Christmas events. Even though we're just in the first week of April, a goodly number of parks are already open for business in the south and eastern seaboard, with most being open by Mother's Day. So what better time to tell you about what's new or different than now?


The biggest loss from the 2016 "offseason" in a historic sense was the announcement that Lakemont Park in Altoona, PA would not reopen for the summer season in 2017 pending significant changes. On my last visit to the park 2 years ago, it was in frankly horrible condition. Many rides will be removed, but the two wooden roller coasters (including the last true side friction coaster in existence, Leap-The-Dips) will supposedly reopen in 2018. Still, any pause in operation, even with the suggestion of renovation and reopening, is worth significant concern.

Another historical oddball lost was the Cool-Off Water Chute in Branson. An early concrete waterslide that predated River Country or Wet N' Wild Orlando, the attraction was bulldozed for the construction of a new alpine coaster for the Branson market. Speaking of Wet N'Wild Orlando: It's gone too. And along with that, Wildwater Kingdom in Aurora, OH. That park was the last vestiges of the binary system that once encircled Geauga Lake and was tragically cut down over a period of years due to abjectly poor planning and over spending. Little to nothing of Sea World Ohio or Geauga Lake Amusement Park now remain. 

Mean Streak, the one time tallest wood coaster in the world, closed last September at Cedar Point. As has been well documented, plenty of new supports are being installed and there's track now on sections of the old ride as it is converted into a Rocky Mountain Coaster hybrid.

Hersheypark's Huss Condor is no more. Neither is the Huss Enterprise at Valleyfair or the Huss Top Spin (RipTide) at Knotts. Knotts is also saying goodbye to its Vekoma Boomerang coaster in April of 2017 to the delight of most and sadness of virtually nobody. 


The harshest of truths entering the 2017 season is that the regional scene really isn't getting a lot of big, life changing stuff. Things are different now than they were in the late 90s during the "coaster wars": 

-Six Flags went through Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and emerged with their books mostly wiped clean. Their business model has shifted back to low cost season passes and advance sales (read: annual passholder plans for everything not nailed down), but unlike the time when they did that and were forced to sell off 2/3rds of their acquisitions, they aren't overspending. Only 9% of their revenue reinvested into capital expenditures, meaning the entire chain usually has $110-120 million to work with. There are 13 Six Flags theme parks plus some stand-alone water parks. $9-10 million dollars for all improvements per park in any given year is not very much to the average Disney fan used to huge budgets, and it shows.

-Cedar Fair has a lot of debt dating back to the acquisition of the Paramount parks its still paying off, and is looking at the mature market situations with an eye to expanding the season and resort offerings first, building more giant rides a far second. 

-SeaWorld is SeaWorld.

-Everyone else barely has two nickles, much less $20 million for a new ride

With that laid out and looking kinda stark, it probably shouldn't be a surprise that there are no giant new steel coasters for the 2017 season anywhere in the US. But there's actually some dark rides. And a trio of original wood coasters too. Maybe it isn't so bad?

In fact, let's focus in first on something exciting: a new theme park. Owa is being constructed as part of a casino resort in Foley, Alabama, and will come with a full package of Zamperla rides. This includes three coasters, one of which is a multi-inversion, vertical dropping ride called Rollin' Thunder which will essentially be a copy of Coney Island New York's New Thunderbolt. 


Having a basic design that can be replicated and reproduced quickly benefits anyone in the industry. For fans of dark rides, this is especially true since 4 of them are opening at regional theme parks in 2017. 3 of these are versions of the Justice League: Battle for Metropolis ride that first appeared back in 2012 at Warner Brothers Movie World in Australia. Six Flags liked the ride so much that they decided to buy a bunch of them, with installations in 2015 and 2016 at their Chicago, Dallas, St. Louis, and Mexico City parks. This year sees the additions going into Great Adventure in Jackson, NJ, Magic Mountain in Valencia, CA, and Over Georgia in Austell. They've gotten generally rave reviews for good reason: they are shooting dark rides, but unlike most of the Sally rides produced, there's a good mix of practical effects and 3D projections, along with ride action that is highly reminiscent of Spiderman at Islands of Adventure/Universal Studios Osaka. The other dark ride is Ninjago at Legoland Florida. Unlike most of the interactive dark rides produced thus far, Triotech ditched guns for a movement sensing pad that picks up hand motions from riders. Why pull a trigger when you can throw a fireball? They've expanded across the Legoland chain like wildfire with a bunch of European parks getting them too. 

Six Flags has made it a habit to build lots of production model attractions and copy them endlessly. In addition to the Justice League rides, 3 S&S Free Spin coasters are being constructed (New England, Great America, Over Texas) and 2 Zamperla Giant Discovery flat rides (La Ronde, Discovery Kingdom). There's also a Funtime Starflyer going in at Six Flags America; Cedar Fair finally jumped on the bandwagon with these as well, purchasing one for Valleyfair. Elitch Gardens, now owned by Stan Kroenke (possessor of an insane number of sports teams and a dude who married a Walton) also picked up a Starflyer for a 2017 new attraction.

In what may be seen as an odd move, Cedar Fair has actually looked to buy used rides of late, opting for heavy duty 70s/80s era rides known for their longevity. Carowinds, Dorney, and Worlds Of Fun are all getting these rides, including a smattering of Huss Troikas, Condors, Wave Swingers, and even a Mondial Top Scan. Similar slide platforms also will make their way to Cedar Point and Canada's Wonderland from the folks at Whitewater West. The drop slides themselves are quite similar to ones Kings Island and Carowinds have already received.


The two most substantial new coasters of the year are both from the same company...and they're both wood. The opening for Busch Gardens Williamsburg's new Scandic themed wood coaster InvadR is a terrain-hugging mid-size wood coaster that seems to be getting generally positive reviews on Day 1. The more aspirational layout (and mysterious themed brake/transfer area) of Kings Island's new Mystic Timbers ride has yet to be fully revealed or understood, though first rides will take place at the end of the month. That ride, with a total of 16 expected drops, should be among the top coasters in the US built by Great Coasters International. GCI, as they're often better known in coaster circles, has had some very large rides constructed in China over the last 5 years, but far less in terms of big attractions stateside (White Lightning at Fun Spot Orlando being a rare bright spot). Gravity Group also got some work too, with the highly anticipated Mine Blower at Fun Spot Kissimmee.

Soaring Timbers at Canada's Wonderland is not a wood coaster, but it still has timbers in the name. And it's actually an interesting flat ride - this is the first park install for a Mondial Inferno anywhere in the world. The Eberhard-owned Airwolf touring Europe is by far the most well known example of this rare attraction...just don't expect it to run the same in Canada.

With all that said, how about a list of all new attractions?


Edaville Family Theme Park (Carver, MA): Pirate Adventure. What the hell is it? I have no idea. They also won't say.

Lake Compounce (Bristol/Southington, CT): Heavy refurb to Wildcat by GCI, includes new Millennium Flyer trains to replace prior 3 bench PTCs. Retracking/reprofiling of Boulder Dash. New targeting/gun system for Ghost Hunt from Lagotronics.

Quassy Amusement Park (Middlebury, CT): Two kiddie rides and new waterslides from ProSlide

Six Flags New England (Agawam, MA): The Joker, a S&S Free Spin coaster.

Water Country (Portsmouth, NH): New water play area for kids.


Bushkill Park (Easton, PA): Honestly have no idea what is happening here, but they promise to be back in some fashion for the 2017 season. Their roller rink reopened for the first time on over a decade this past January. Who can say?

Casino Pier (Seaside Heights, NJ): Hydrus, a Gerstlauer Eurofighter coaster with vertical lift and 3 inversions. This will be the first inverting coaster on the Seaside Heights boardwalk since the destruction of the Funtown Pier by Hurricane Sandy.

Dorney Park (Allentown, PA): After many moons without Bumper Cars, the Dodgems are coming back to Dorney Park. In addition they're being joined by a Huss Troika flat ride called the Kaleidoscope, a new catering facility, and a Cirque Imagine show in the main theater.

Dutch Wonderland (Lancaster, PA): Merlin's Mayhem, an S&S suspended coaster. There are no inversions, and seating is floorless, much like similar coasters from Fabbri or Vekoma.

Great Escape (Lake George, NY): More water park stuff with Bonzai Pipelines

Hersheypark (Hershey, PA): Triple Towers, a trio of differently sized S&S Drop towers ranging from a 80 foot Double Shot to a 189 foot freefall tower, aligned in a row. I have no idea why they did this. None. By the way, they also have two S&S Frog Hoppers side-by-side elsewhere in the park.

Kennywood (West Mifflin, PA): Virtual Reality headsets for Sky Rocket (Premier Launched coaster) and Lego Movie 4D experience at their 4-D theater.

Knoebels (Elysburg, PA): SBF Wave Rider flat ride called "Over The Top". Will roughly be themed to the "Flying Cages" ride removed from the park in 1986. Fun fact: Only Flying Cages in a permanent US facility can be found in Brainerd, Minnesota at Paul Bunyan Land.

Legoland Discovery Center (Plymouth Meeting, PA): Imagination Express Dark Ride. This is a change from the usual Kingdom Quest attractions the other Legoland Discovery Centers have received.

Morey's Piers (Wildwood, NJ): Great Nor'Easter is basically a brand new ride, having a near total track replacement.

Playland's Castaway Cove (Ocean City, NJ): Two new coasters are finally set to open. Galeforce, a wild and giant S&S multi-launch coaster was so heavily delayed by track fit issues that the park threatened to open it in the dead of winter just to say it was a 2016 ride. It still didn't quite happen, and they're now shooting for a May opening date to go with the Miler family coaster "Wild Waves". This is all in addition to the SBF spinning kiddie coaster that did open in 2016.

Seabreeze (Rochester, NY): Time Machine, a Steampunk themed spinning attraction. To be specific, the most incredibly named Technical Park Super Miami.

Six Flags Great Adventure (Jackson, NJ): Justice League: Battle for Metropolis Interactive dark ride.

Storybook Land (Egg Harbor, NJ): Zip Zap Racers, another ride that apparently so defies description, there are no promo photos of it!

Waldameer Park (Erie, Pennsylvania): Battle of Lake Erie, a Splash play area for kids with slides and climbing junk, will be the newest water park addition.

-MID-ATLANTIC (Maryland/Delaware/Virginia/West Virginia/DC)-

Busch Gardens Williamsburg (Williamsburg, VA): Invadr, a GCI Wooden Terrain coaster.

Kings Dominion (Doswell, VA): Three new kiddie rides for the Peanuts Section. As was the case in 2016, the one time Wayne's World themed wood coaster Hurler is closed. Except this year, stuff is happening to it....

Six Flags America (Largo, MD): Wonder Woman: Lasso of Truth - Funtyme Starflyer.

-DEEP SOUTH (Alabama/Carolinas/Florida/Georgia/Louisiana/Mississippi/Tennessee/Kentucky)-

Anakeesta (Gatlinburg, TN): New mountain coaster from Wiegand. This will be the area's 6th.

Carowinds (Fort Mill, SC/Charlotte, NC): Pile of used rides refurbed and installed in the new County Fair section. Headlining the set is a Mondial Top Scan, along with a Huss Troika, Mack Music Express, and Zierer Wave Swinger.

Cool River Tubing (Helen, GA): New mountain coaster currently under construction.

Dollywood (Pigeon Forge, TN): Zamperla kiddie coaster Whistle Punk Chaser will replace the Veggie Tales-less Sideshow Spin. More significant is the addition of Drop Line, a Funtime Drop Tower (first install in the Americas).

Fun Spot Kissimmee (Kissimmee, FL): MINE BLOWER~! As an Orlando attraction, it gets a bit more attention than it would elsewhere, but this Gravity Group wood coaster with its inversion and twister layout could easily be the top new coaster anywhere in 2017.

Kentucky Kingdom (Louisville, KY): Larson Fireball attraction called "Eye of the Storm".

Lake Winnepesaukah (Rossville, GA): New for 2017 at Lake Winnie will be a water park addition.

Owa Theme Park (Foley, AL): A whole theme park. A WHOLE THEME PARK.

Six Flags Over Georgia (Austell, Georgia): Justice League: Battle for Metropolis dark ride.

Wild Adventures (Valdosta, GA): Expansion to the biggest park you've never heard of in the form of a water park add-on called "Ohana Bay."

ZooMiami: Florida: Mission Everglades features a scenic boat ride themed to airboats.

-TEXARHOMA (Arkansas/Oklahoma/Texas)-

Frontier City (Oklahoma City, OK): Water slide construction in the form of "Gully Washer", a tiple body slide complex.

Morgan's Wonderland (San Antonio, TX): Inspiration Island opens this year at one of America's most unique theme parks. The park was developed by home builder Gordon Hartman as a one-of-a-kind facility constructed specifically with special needs children of all types in mind, as inspired by its namesake (his daughter). As such, all attractions are accessible, including the upcoming water park. It promises to be the first "ultra-accessible" splash park ever built. This new section will include a scenic boat ride in addition to other water park fare.

SeaWorld of Texas (San Antonio, TX): Intamin has a reputation for being low priced, and SeaWorld has a reputation of not having a ton of money, and so we get something kinda interesting in Wave Breaker: The Rescue Coaster, an Intamin launched coaster with "Motorbike" style seating akin to Knott's Pony Express or Tron at Disney Shanghai.

Six Flags Fiesta Texas (San Antonio, TX): The upcoming Thunder Rapids Water Coaster is a pretty interesting attraction from Proslide - 6 drops and some tight turns with linear induction motor launches.

Six Flags Over Texas (Arlington, TX):  The Joker, a S&S Free Spin coaster.

Traders Village (Grand Prairie, TX): This amusement park/swap meet combo is receiving a Chance Yo-Yo, Chance Wipeout, and a Larson Giant Loop.

Wonderland (Amarillo, TX): Flat ride called "Route 66." Said to be an "ATV ride". This is just the beginning of a long term expansion plan.

-GREAT LAKES (Ohio/Michigan/Indiana/Illinois/Wisconsin)-

Cedar Point (Sandusky, OH): Cedar Point Shores is the new name for the redesigned Soak City USA, the attached water park, and there's some new slides coming along with it (trap door speed slides). The bigger story is the 2018 ride coming along....

Cedar Valley's Wild Frontier Fun Park (Comins, MI): This park, located 3 hours north of Detroit attached to a  roller coaster, dodgems, giant slide

Coney Island (Cincinnati, OH): The Pool is receiving a new tiki bar and bath house. That's something!

Holiday World (Santa Claus, IN) Firecracker opens for 2017; its actually a used Calypso ride, having been pulled from the defunct Fun Spot amusement park in Angola, Indiana and refurbished.

Kalahari (Sandusky, OH): Expansion of the outdoor portion of their offerings continues with 5 new slides from the folks at ProSlide. This is in addition to a massive indoor water park (one of the largest in the Americas) and an array of dry and wet attractions already existing.

Kings Island (Mason, OH): Mystic Timbers is easily the biggest coaster being built in the United States for the 2017 season. Your likely Golden Ticket winner.

Michigan's Adventure (Muskegon, MI): The park is getting a whole mess of new kiddie slides. Look, it's something. They'll take anything there. Anything.

Santa's Village AZoosment Park (Dundee, IL): When I was a young buck, this park was often referred to as "Satan's Village," and they had a heinous roller coaster built by Italian firm Top Fun that now tragically still exists, replacing fun rides at the Washington State Fairgrounds. After being closed and abandoned for awhile, the park has returned in a smaller, more petting zoo-ish format. They have, however, managed to get some rides from the deceased Fun Spot in Indiana, and have constructed a brand new Interpark Zyklon coaster (named Super Cyclone) for the 2017 season.

-GREAT PLAINS (Dakotas/Iowa/Kansas/Minnesota/Missouri/Nebraska)-

Branson Coaster: It is literally called "The Branson Coaster". Wiegland Alpine Coaster located on the site of what was the Cool Off Water Chute.

Six Flags St. Louis (Eureka, MO): Spinsanity, a Zamperla Disko, is a reasonable flat ride addition to the park. Definitely miles better than just a VR setup on something.

Valleyfair (Shakopee, MN): North Star, a Funtime Starflyer, is the first such ride purchased by Cedar Fair. This is in contrast to the higher capacity but consistently inconsistent Mondial Windseekers.

-MOUNTAINZ~! (Colorado/Montana/Utah/Wyoming)-

Copper Mountain (Frisco, CO): Mountain Coaster, this one from the folks at Aquatic Development. At 5,800 feet long, it will be one of the nation's longest.

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park (Glenwood Springs, CO): Haunted Mine Drop is a largely underground 120 foot drop tower that no one really knows anything about at the moment. Stan Checketts is somehow behind the attraction, so you know it'll be absurd.

Elitch Gardens (Denver, CO): Starflyer is, uhh, a Starflyer. In fact, it is used, coming from the European carnival circuit.

Lagoon (Farmington, UT): No new rides, but there are some updates to coming to their classic dark ride Terroride in the form of new animations and some control changes.

-GREAT NORTHWEST (Idaho/Oregon/Washington)-

Hot nothing. Sorry. Better luck next year.

-SOUTHWESTERN US (Arizona/Nevada/New Mexico)-

Circus Circus (Las Vegas, NV): Looks like a new coaster is at least designed for the Adventuredome by Chance thanks to some sleuthing that found the video being publicly available in February, but whether or not this is fabricated and installed in 2017 is unknown as of now.

Wet N' Wild (Phoenix, AZ): Kids play area being opened up called Barefootin' Bay. Nothing too grandiose.

Wild Island Family Adventure Park (Sparks, NV): Located up by Reno, they'll be receiving a new water slide called "G-Force". Nothing else is known at this point.


California's Great America (Santa Clara, CA): Vortex, the park's early B&M Standup, gets itself new floorless trains, fresh pain, and a shiny moniker: Patriot. Since almost anything is better than a B&M Standup, we have to assume this will be an improvement.

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk (Santa Cruz, CA): The most venerable of historic seaside parks this continent has to offer is constructing two flat rides: ARM Highflyer (think Huss Ranger/Fabbri Kamikaze but with floorless seats and American know-how) and a Zamperla Giant Dis'ko. These are part of a $14 million dollar new front gate and update program in the park itself.

Sea World San Diego (San Diego, CA): SeaWorld has a strange habit of announcing two years out for their parks this decade. That was the case with Antarctica and Turtle Trek, and is again the case in San Diego where we know a Premier Sky Rocket is on deck for 2018, while the Ocean Explorer Dark Ride and its submarine cars is being assembled for a Summer 2017 opening.

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom (Vallejo, CA): Yet another ride with the Wonder Woman: Lasso of Truth moniker is going in, and it's another Zamperla Giant Discovery.

Six Flags Magic Mountain (Valencia, CA): Justice League #3 for Six Flags is opening up on the site of what was a fetid pool that had previously been the stunt show arena. RIP Stunt Show arena, hello best interactive dark ride in Southern California!


Calaway Park (Calgary, AB): The last remaining Flintstones themed amusement park by virtue of not really being Flintstones themed any more will have a new Cinemagic 3D film and promises a ride called Dizzy Dragons; if I had to bet, I'd bet on it being a Sellner carnival-spinner.

Canada's Wonderland (Vaughan, ON): Trap door slides (Muskoka Plunge) and a Mondial Inferno (Soaring Timbers) round out another really solid year for the highest attended seasonal park on the continent.

Cultus Lake Adventure Park (Cultus Lake, BC): New rides and attractions are promised for the fairly new build park, but with opening day not until Mid-June, no rush to describe what they are.

La Ronde (Montreal, QC) Titan is another Zamperla Giant Discovery ride. It will be interesting to see how this, the worst amusement park in the hemisphere, screws it up!

PNE Playland (Vancouver, BC): Vancouver's spot for rides is getting and SBF Kiddie Spinning coaster and a couple of kiddie flats.


Selva Magica (Guadalajara, Jal): Titan is a strange duck; the only operating Sansei coaster in the Americas, it was purchased by Boblo Island way back in the 1970s. It is an inversion-free experience and its most notable element was a section of flat, low track in between airtime hills. Of course, now Sansei bought S&S Worldwide, and Titan is running in Mexico, and to give it a new wrinkle, they've added VR helmets for the 2017 season.

Six Flags Hurricane Harbor (Oaxtepec, Mor): The Mexican government begged Six Flags to take over this abandoned water park and they obliged for whatever reason. Money traded hands somewhere and hopefully most of it was legal. It reopens in 2017 after some time being closed under the Six Flags banner with new slides (as of yet unannounced).

Six Flags Mexico (Mexico, DF): After a few choice years involving multiple attractions with laser guns and a RMC classic, Six Flags Mexico has a somewhat middling year with New Revolution (VR on Medusa).

1 comment:

  1. Awesome list! I'll likely use this as a reference throughout the season. While we were waiting for Mystic Timbers we noted that there really aren't many major coasters opening this year in the U.S.