A New Place for Fun on Staten Island

Since opening last month for the 2017 season, Staten Island FunPark (SI FunPark) has quickly become a favored local (and destination) hot spot for Go Karts, Mini Golf, and Batting Cages and fun! The park is the seventh operation in Ride Entertainment’s Operations Division.

Formerly known as Staten Island Go Karts, SI FunPark is underway on property improvements and attraction upgrades, reshaping the park into what will soon become an impressive landscape of greatly improved infrastructure and an improved snack bar, the 19th Hole, featuring a fuller menu of fun snacks and beverages.

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Some examples of recent property improvements and attraction upgrades  include: new motors and traffic islands for Go Karts; new balls and netting cables for Batting Cages; repaired putting greens for Mini Golf; some landscaping upgrades with new plants with beautiful foliage, and new fountain finish; and, an exclusive, tented party area where guests can celebrate birthdays and other special events.

SI FunPark is just getting started with its goal of bringing more family friendly entertainment to the communities of Staten Island that will  grow the demographic into a park where guests of all ages and all sizes can play better with  exciting new attractions.

Continue to follow us @sifunpark or subscribe to our blog to receive park updates, including special offers!

-Eli Parawan- Director of Sales, Operations Division

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Job Opportunity: Sales Associate

Ride Entertainment is one of the amusement industry’s most diverse and fastest-growing companies.  Combining the disciplines of Sales, Operations, Financial Partnerships, and Installations; we work in every segment of the attractions industry.  We are a boutique firm that is large enough to have a worldwide presence, but small enough to be nimble and take on new areas of growth. Ride Entertainment has been involved with nearly half-a-billion dollars worth of sales throughout its existence. We take pride in being one of the attraction industry’s best sales groups.

We are looking for a new Sales Associate.  This entry-level position at the company entails the following:

Job Responsibilities

  • Ride Sales (beginning with sales assistance, transitioning to stand-alone position)
  • Work with U.S.-based amusement parks selling the Ride Entertainment portfolio (sales products and installation services)
  • Create Sales Presentations and Proposals
  • Run Sales E-Blast and Other Client Interaction
  • Trade show preparation

Minimum Qualifications

  • Proficient in Microsoft Office
  • Able to take direction and act as a self-starter
  • Bachelor’s degree (those without a degree but work experience can apply)

Preferred Qualifications

  • Speaks a language in addition to English
  • One year-plus working experience in the amusement industry
  • Working ability in the Adobe Suite

Job Details

  • $45,000 per-year plus sales commissions
  • Health Care
  • Travel around 6 weeks per-year (this will grow over time)
  • It is critical that the applicant is comfortable working and traveling alone. Working in a position like this is extremely different than working in a traditional theme park environment with team members.

The job will be based in our downtown office in Baltimore’s World Trade Center, located near the Inner Harbor. Team members live all around the area, the applicant could live in Baltimore, Washington D.C., Annapolis or the surrounding areas. Send a CV and more to Info@RideEntertainment.com (Subject Line: Sales Associate), or a hard copy to: Sales Associate Position, Ride Entertainment, Suite 2412, 401 E Pratt St, Baltimore, MD  21202.  While we thank you in advance for your interest and application, please be advised that we will only be responding to candidates selected for further consideration.

 

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Operations Division, Position Available: Group Sales Representative

 NY Carousel EntertainmentBrooklyn, NY
Full-time, Commission
fantasy-forest-flushing-meadows-carousel-queens-new-york-ride-entertainment-amusement-parkAs a Group Sales Representative with NY Carousel your role will be to successfully connect with the surrounding communities, businesses and organizations to drive group sales and to help inspire our operations team to operate by our core values while having FUN! At NY Carousel we encourage all team members to Have FUN! In fact it’s one of our core values along with work with integrity , exceed guest expectations , and embrace teamwork .
Summary
The Group Sales Representative performs the entire range of direct selling duties and processes including initiating, developing, and managing new group sales, encouraging repeat group sales, special events, and birthday party business.

Responsibilities

  • Drive sales through proactive business development in the community and to area businesses and organizations;
  • Book Corporate, School Groups, Camps, Birthday, and other special events (will require external site visits, cold calling, and appointment meetings)
  • Work in tandem with Operations Team to ensure flawless execution for ALL events
  • Achieve budgeted sales targets and revenue targets throughout the financial year
  • Develop complete and thorough sales plans and send timely status reports
  • Create and maintain a customer database
  • Ensuring all sales events are properly planned and executed
  • Manage the complete process for group reservations from booking within our system, communicate to appropriate site manager reservation details, and confirming all reservations with customers
  • Ensure customer evaluations/surveys are performed following each group event and present results to management
  • Develop relationships with external contractors to offer sales add-ons such as catering, music, and photography
  • Meet and greet groups upon arrival to enhance the relationship
  • Work directly with Marketing Team for group sales marketing initiatives and sales collateral
  • Other duties as assigned

Requirements
Successful Characteristics:

  • Experience in group sales
  • Agility and time-management skills
  • Strong work ethic and attention to detail
  • Sense of fun
  • Friendly, outgoing personality and ability to address guest and client concerns
  • Willingness to work in a high performance team environment
  • Articulate, speaks and modulates clearly
  • Prior use of CRM tools
  • Ability to speak conversational Spanish is a plus

The Must Haves:

  • 18 years old or older with a valid driver’s license
  • Willing to travel for sales calls and corporate training opportunities
  • Willing to work a flexible schedule, including evenings, weekends, and holidays
  • Able to meet the physical demands of the job, with or without reasonable accommodations, including walking long distances, standing for long periods of time, etc.
  • Able to successfully complete pre-employment background and drug screenings
  • Knowledgeable in Microsoft Suite
  • Excellent Phone Etiquette
  • Excellent Communication skills
  • Knowledge of sales philosophies and practices
  • Associate’s degree/Equivalent or higher

Compensation
Base salary plus commission fees based on sales achievements, benefits package, and paid vacation time.

Job Type: Full-time

Required education:

  • Associate

Required experience:

  • Sales: 1 year

Position Available: Installation Division

installations-six-flags-new-england-starflyer-funtime-skyscreamer-ride-entertainment-agawam-massachussetsRide Entertainment is one of the amusement industry’s most diverse and fastest-growing companies.  Combining the disciplines of Sales, Operations, Financial Partnerships, Installations, and Ride Manufacturing, the company works in every segment of the entertainment industry.  We are a boutique firm that is large enough to have a worldwide presence, but small enough to be nimble and take on new areas of growth.

We are looking for a new Associate in our Installation Division (http://www.rideentertainment.com/installations/home/) .  This position entails the following:

Job Responsibilities

  • Pricing installation division projects
  • Performing installation field work
  • Tracking payments and expenses, invoicing contractors and customers

Qualifications

  • 5 or more years in the attractions industry is preferred
  • Proficient in Word and Excel
  • General knowledge of a wide range of amusement rides, especially the electrical and mechanical systems

Notes

  • There is a potential for a significant amount of travel
  • Laptop and phone will be provided
  • Salary: To Be Discussed

Why Work at Ride Entertainment?

We have a passion for the amusement industry and hope you do to.  We want to add long-term team member that we can teach and grow, and we hope you bring a great set of tools so that we can learn from you.

The job will be based in Stevensville, Maryland.  Impress us- send a CV and more to Info@RideEntertainment.com (Subject Line: Installation Associate Position -Installations), or a hard copy to: Installation Associate Position- Installations, Ride Entertainment Group, 114 Log Canoe Circle, Stevensville, MD 21666, USA.  While we thank you in advance for your interest and application, please be advised that we will only be responding to candidates selected for further consideration.

 

Spain It Is: A Visit to EAS

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Tibidabo is beautiful at night.

Barcelona. Food, drinks and fun- the call of Spain was too much for us to resist as we packed our bags and headed to Europe’s sun-soaked coasts. Arriving on Sunday we enjoyed visiting Tibidabo, a historic municipally-run park set high in the hillside of Barcelona. It was quite a trek to get there, we had to take three different subway lines, an electric streetcar and a funicular. However the wait was worth it as the park offered some amazing views of the city. The property’s two star attractions- Avio, a unique twist on the classic airplane swing, and the 50-meter tall Sky Walk, which is most like a Gravity Works Skyscraper, but with a riveted structure and vehicles meant for enjoying the view- not flipping upside down.

Sunday night I headed out to Port Aventura where I enjoyed dinner with the IAAPA Board of Directors and got to experience a few of the park’s attractions. The next morning I met with the great team of the IAAPA Hall of Fame Committee. Want to know who won? Be sure to attend the opening ceremonies at the IAAPA Conference in November!

The show was a good one this year as we got to share the Skywarp from Skyline Attractions (more details to come soon!) in our booth and enjoy spending time with our other partners, Lagotronics Projects, Gerstlauer Amusement Rides, Funtime and Valtiner & Partner.

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Tibidabo rolled out the red carpet for us.

Tuesday night Tibidabo put on an amazing celebration for us. There have been some fantastic IAAPA events, but this was beyond anything we have seen. Food from across Spain, fantastic wine, and a beautiful park situated high above the Barcelona and the Spanish coast. We enjoyed some rides on their attractions like the very fun Vekoma Family Coaster Muntanya Rusa. Mark put it best when he said that this coaster, which uses the park’s topography quite well, is a new take on the classic Lisebergbahn at Liseberg.

After the show ended we visited our friends at Port Aventura. This unique park feels like a combination of a U.S. and European theme park. This makes sense as Busch Entertainment and Universal Studios have had various ownership stakes and design influences over the years. The park does theming very well. Like most theme parks not in the U.S. it has a U.S.A. western area, complete with singing cowgirls in chaps and very well done old west theming. There are also Chinese, Indian, Polynesian, Italian and Indian areas in the park, with a children’s section anchored by Sesame Street.

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Shambhala is a fun B&M hyper coaster.

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This Arrow flume is a great family ride at the park.

 

 

 

 

 

Mark really seemed to enjoy the unique layout of Stampida, the CCI wooden coaster from 1997 that now sports trains from Kumak Engineering. I think my favorite ride at the park was actually the triple-drop Arrow log flume, which dates from the park’s opening. This was one of, if not the last, major flumes that Arrow installed. The other coasters included Shambhala, a B&M hyper with a very good first half, Dragon Kahn (Kumba plus a loop), a three-lift Arrow mine train, a Vekoma Roller Skater, Tomahawk, a CCI Junior Coaster with GCI trains and Furious Baco (an Intamin hydraulic launch wing coaster…no comment). Another stand-out was the Intamin Freefall named Hurakon Condor, which featured three sides sporting traditional sit-down seats and two that had stand-up (but no tilt) options. The stand-up seats were definitely a rush and made this tower, which stands approximately 250 feet, a favorite of ours. All-in-all Port Aventura is one of the most well-rounded parks in Europe that takes geographic theming to another level, Mark noted that most of the areas were themed with vegetation native to the theme.

This park was a fantastic foil to Tibidabo and made for a great way to close the week. I wrote this from 30,000 feet as we left Barcelona this morning, so I am going to take a nap so I can enjoy some quiet before getting home to my daughters (and yes, I did buy them something).

-AFS

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The Arrow mine train at the park featured 3 lift hills

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Hanging out at Port Aventura.

Gotta Get Myself Connected

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Top Thrill Dragster, a marquee coaster at Cedar Point.

Connectivity. It is a buzzword so overused that it now is probably as useless on some levels as corporate terms like synergy. The flip side of that is because it is no longer a novelty that we live in a connected manner, it is an expectation. A staple of good airports is now considered to be wife access and power plugs, the ones where you have to sit on filthy carpet propping up a loose cord as it falls out of a wall outlet are just considered embarrassing.

So, when I hear about amusement parks stepping up their game and recognizing that the level of expectations have changed I get excited. One of the best tech applications I have seen in 2016 is Cedar Point’s addition of Wi-Fi on the property and a great app for the park. I recently spoke with Tony Clark, the Director of Communications at Cedar Point. He told me that from their perspective things have definitely changed and while there was no specific tipping point, the Cedar Fair team recognized that there has been a shift in the way people enjoy their park. “As we’d walk through the park and see our guests on their mobile devices, it really told us something. Everywhere we looked, guests were taking selfies, posting on social media, playing games or using our mobile app in the park. I think this has been an ongoing evaluation process over the past few years, but we felt now was the time to jump on it. And with the new technology comes opportunity – how do we use it to not only make the guest experience better, but to also grow the business,” he noted.

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The new app ties you into the wait times at each major attraction at the park.

So now guests not only visit the Point, they use their phone as a way to enhance the business. Obviously sharing coaster pics and videos across social media platforms is essentially free advertising for Cedar Point. The park added 200 access points over 364 acres so the goal is that everyone on property can easily get online. Overall the addition was a process that took around two months. In 2015 the chain used Kings Island in Cincinnati as the “test park” for both the Wi-Fi and the app, which Cedar Point rolled out this year. Tony said that the app release coincided with the premier of Valravn, the company’s new-for-2016 B&M dive coaster. “It include new features like ride wait times, embedded Season Pass ability so you can simply use your phone at our entrances, in-app purchases, the new FunPix photo program and more,” he told me.

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The Corkscrew is a classic Arrow coaster along the midway.

Like sporting events and other activities that require a full-day commitment for families, amusement parks need to continue to create ways to enhance guests’ stay while on property. The process that Cedar Fair has taken at Cedar Point and other properties is certainly a huge step in the right direction. Be sure to check out the park’s app and wifi next time you visit and use them to get into line on two thrilling Ride Entertainment attractions- the Skycoaster® and Slingshot.

-AFS

Part Steel Coaster, Part Virtual Reality: All Thrills

This spring it was exciting to see Dare Devil Dive, a Gerstlauer project we were involved in during the 2011 season, transformed into a new experience. With the addition of a personalized VR system for each rider the coaster was updated and rebranded The New Revolution.

3SFOG_TheNewRevolution_KeyArtFinalI spoke with Gene Petriello, Communications Manager at Six Flags over Georgia about the ride’s transformation. He said, “It was a very unique project for us and we were excited to create the first VR Coaster in North America. We tested the demo during the IAAPA Convention in November and felt that the technology would be great to roll out across the Six Flags chain. Six Flags over Georgia was chosen to open the first of these VR experiences.”

The technology comes from VR Coasters, a sister company to MACK Rides. It uses a Samsung Galaxy with an Oculus headset and each train has a box that monitors the vehicle’s location along the track so that the system always knows where the vehicle is and keeps the VR video in sync with the coaster’s location. This is important because the guests sees actions in the video that mimic the experience they feel from the physics of the ride. For instance, as Dare Devil Dive speeds down the first drop riders see their plane flying down the side of a skyscraper.

SFOG_DareDevilDive (2)Gene said that the guest response was phenomenal. “People love it because the technology is original and new. We have found that 8 or 9 guests out of 10 want to try it,” he noted.

This summer Six Flags rolled out VR experiences at nearly every property. From Larson Giant Loops to Intamin Hyper Coasters where you can fly with Superman, this theme park chain has dipped their toes into what will become even more immersive technology. Want to go for a spin? Check out the coaster at Six Flags over Georgia and Six Flags parks nationwide: www.SixFlags.com .

-AFS

Thrills Have a New Competitor- Interactivity

Buzzwords exist for a reason. While “thrill” is certainly part of our lexicon in the attractions industry, we continue to see a demand and response for all things “interactive”. Several things have changed that have altered park-goer’s demand for interactive rides, but the go-to that makes the most sense is the cost and quality of tech. This is two-fold, because in our guest’s hands is a device even more powerful than we envisioned as we were preparing for Y2K, and it also means that the quality of what parks can afford to buy has changed.

We currently have parents that grew up as Atari, Nintendo and Sega kids. Many of them are still X-Box and computer game players, and their children are, too. In addition, many of these family units use the phone for gaming and life has a whole. There are high expectations when it comes to tech and leisure and amusement parks need to continue to fill those guest requirements. In-ride technology has also changed, making the shoot ‘em up experience a competitor to home and phone entertainment. We used to see rides like Men in Black at Universal Studios and Toy Story Mania and Disney’s California Adventure and believe that these attractions were the pervue of a handful of properties. But, companies like Lagotronics Projects and Triotech have certainly altered that construct. Now regional players like Knott’s Berry Farm debuted The Reef from Triotech and Journey to the West at Wuhan in China from Lagotronics Projects. In addition, to the media looking better due to lowering costs, companies like Lagotronics Projects are making them better for guests by developing more accurate shooting technology through their Interactive Ride Tech. Thirty years ago it was fine to put out a ride where the guns hit their targets 50% of the time- that’s just not acceptable now. This only helps to drive re-ridership and enjoyment of the overall experience. Other new rides like the Strike-U-Up are a combination of ride and game- children and tweens gravitate towards attractions like this that could not be found ten years ago.

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But, interactivity doesn’t stop with great-looking, immersive technology. There is still a need for pure physical interaction. Our partners like Clip ‘n Climb ® and Ropes Courses, Inc. offer products that are innovative takes on classic attractions. CNC allows owners to choose from a catalogue of elements to create the guest experience they want to provide. These different challenges are combined to create modern-day climbing wall experience that is highly repeatable. The CNC technology can get found everywhere- from amusement parks to F.E.C.’s to trampoline parks. Ropes Courses, Inc. continues to up their game by taking their classic Sky Trail ropes course design and adding to it. Now parks and attractions can add the SkyRail® zip line, which turns the experience from a ropes course into an experience that engages in many different ways.

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One of the best combinations of old and new tech I have seen was our recent project at Canada’s Wonderland. We sold a Gerstlauer Skyroller to the Cedar Fair and watched as they worked with Gerstlauer to turn what was an interactive thrill ride into something more. The Skyroller allows guest to control their wings and do barrel rolls if they choose. Some riders do a handful, others do over 60, but the unique thing about this rider experience is the fact that the park did a great job of introducing technology into an existing ride experience. During every ride cycle each vehicle counts the number of flips the rider performs and the winner is announced as the cycle ends and they can start to track the “high roller” for the day, week, month and season. In addition, the park is planning on making social media integration easy by creating a photo op so that older riders can show the crazy number of flips they managed on Snapchat while creating a way for parents of younger kids to share the experience of their child enjoying their “first big thrill ride” on Facebook.

This is not to say that roller coasters don’t still have drawing power- they do. But it does say that they certainly do not continue to have the hold on repeatability. While interactive attractions have a different thrill level, their features are working to draw guests back to the ride time and time again.

-AFS

A Tale of Two Slides

Will Koch had a vision for Holiday World, and it involved an array of exciting things. But, the legacy he left is centered around great customer service, world-class wooden coasters, and some of the most unique water slides ever created. On a trip to Holiday World last summer our team rode Wildebeest several times and experienced Mammoth. Both were the first of their kind and remain a dynamic duo unlike anything else in the industry.

I reached out to PR extraordinaire Paule Werne Holiday World so the park could share some of the background information on these rides with me. Matt Eckert, Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari’s President and CEO, told me some information on the attractions, “We always try to name our Splashin’ Safari attraction in a way that keeps to our theme. When I think of ‘safari,’ my mind automatically goes to animals. We also have turned to the Swahili language for names (Bakuli and Bahari, for example). For YEEEEEARS, our Communications Director, Paula Werne, would throw out the name ‘Wildebeest’ every time we would have a dreaded ‘name game’ (as Will Koch dubbed them) meeting. Every year, she got a ‘this is not the right name’ for ‘this attraction.’ Her perseverance finally paid off. When we set down to name this attraction, Paula, of course, offered up the name. This time it stuck. It was a brilliant name for this attraction and fits it so well (we see this every morning of operation as our Guests stampede to be the first to ride). Although the water coaster was not named for Will, since it was his last ride project before his untimely passing, we like that his name is a part of Wildebeest.”

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Adam and Mark experience Wildebeest in street clothes when the Golden Ticket Awards were held at Holiday World.

Holiday World, which has become in many ways a Proslide show park, sports a lot of innovative water attractions. Wildebeest opened in 2010 as the world’s first HYDROMAGNETIC Rocket, Proslide’s LIM (linear induction motor) launch water coaster. It has a length of 521 meters (1,710 feet) and sends up to 4 riders in a raft around the course. The LIM motor system, which has been in use on roller coasters since 1996, is essentially an electric motor unrolled. Instead of the changing polarity following a circular path it follows a linear one, and the ride vehicle is forced forward. While LIM and LSM motors have been in use on coasters for some time, they saw a very different application on water slides. Instead of providing one initial boost, like on a roller coaster, here they allow for the water coaster to maintain momentum, or even accelerate, while going uphill. This had previously been accomplished by NBGS/Schlitterbahn, who created the Master Blaster concept (which is now licensed by White Water). In this system troughs bleed off slower moving water and add a jet of spray to keep the vehicles moving. While Proslide’s water coaster system is just as complex, it has less moving parts than the Master Blaster System. Here, the LIM motors accelerate the rafts, which have thin reaction plates in the bottom of them.

Matt told me, “For the longest time, Will talked about wanting to add a water coaster to our park, but he was waiting to see if new technology would increase capacity. We have a longstanding and wonderful relationship with ProSlide and the technology was developed and we had the opportunity to build an attraction that would be the best in the industry. The decision at that point was simple. Wildebeest remains a Guest and Industry favorite, with six Golden Tickets in its six seasons.”

Wildebeest and Mammoth at Holiday World & Splashin' Safari

Wildebeest and Mammoth at Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari

After riding a long lift hill to the top, Wildebeest splashes through its course, offering airtime just like a roller coaster. Its bigger cousin, Mammoth, does many of the same things, but in a crazier manner. With Mammoth, you do not know which way you are going because it features circular rafts that spin depending upon the weight distribution in each vehicle as the LIM motors accelerate them. No two rides are ever the same and it is a crazy sensation, one minute you head uphill looking forwards, the next you fly around a turn in the dark, spin and are tossed down a hill backwards. It is a pinnacle of waterpark attractions.

While both rides are significant investments, they offer some good capacity, Matt let me know that the two attractions combined can put through around 900 pph. But, they make an excellent repeat attraction because guests come back again and again to ride them, “Water coasters are different from your typical water slide. Indiana summers are very hot and humid and our Guest love being in the water park. To be able to offer two award-winning attractions that provide such a unique experience to our Guests is rewarding not only to us, but more importantly to the many Guests who visit us every year!” he said.

If you’re out in southern Indiana pull off the highway and take these two beasts for a spin. But before, they are popular, and even with great capacity expect to wait a while to experience some of the most unique water slides in the world.

Photos courtesy of Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari.

-AFS

Keep Climbing

Keep looking ahead. Look out, not down. Those words kept rang through head as I climbed each rung of ladder that ran up the 242-foot Star Flyer ride, dubbed the “SkyScreamer” at Six Flags St. Louis. What exactly is the Star Flyer? Think of the swing ride you grew up on at your hometown amusement park or fair, grow it by a few hundred feet, and you get the idea. I sell these attractions and other rides, but this was my first time climbing one. I had wanted to scale one for some time, but my inherent fear of heights, which had gotten better over time, had held me back. Add in the fact that I that my wife was seven months pregnant with our daughter and I was not sure if I should be scampering up steel towers. Being stationed at the park as the teams put their final touches on the ride I had grown bored and wanted a new adventure, so I said I wanted to go to the top. Now, half-way up the tower, I was regretting that decision.

I have always been obsessed with amusement parks and roller coasters. Growing up most teenage boys had pictures of bands, women, sports figures- or a combination of all three. Not me, I had amusement park brochures encircling the top walls of my room and pictures of long-dead coaster designers like Harry Traver and John Miller on my door. To be fair, I also did have a few “Rush” albums hanging on the wall. But, this only proves the point that the ladies were not knocking down my teenage door to get to know me better. I was so obsessed with amusement parks that at twelve I wrote Six Flags and asked if I could volunteer there and pick up trash. While their response letter indicated a happiness at the prospect of free labor, they could not get around the child labor law issues and I was told that I was welcome to re-apply at age sixteen.

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Fast forward twenty years and the amusement park-obsessed kid is an adult and with a problem. This particular installation was our Austrian manufacturer’s first StarFlyer sale in the U.S. The most significant issue was that the project, which should have lasted two months, was being stretched out in a major way. The biggest issue was shipping. A job like this usually sees all of the containers arrive in one foul swoop. A shipping delay had caused all of these projects to be shipped by rail from the East Coast, and CSX was slowly delivering the seven containers, one at a time. They also had a difficult time telling us where exactly all of the containers were. I wishfully called CSX, and asked what they could do to accelerate our shipments. We were quite possibly their smallest cargo shipment at the in the U.S., but I had to ask. I was met with little more than stupefied silence at first, and then a simple “the containers will be there when they arrive.” Initially I had told Mark who runs Skycoaster®, “They’re simple tower rides, nothing major can go wrong.”

So there I was, a grown-up coaster geek who had just put on a climbing harness for the first time, trying to catch his breath around the 100-foot mark on a never-ending ladder. I still had trouble believing I was here. I had grown up going to this park as a child and now the Star Flyer was my second ride installed at the property. As it also happened my first major roller coaster, the venerable wooden Screamin’ Eagle, stood just over my shoulder. It had taken me many years of watching this ride in order to get up the courage to get in line. This classic coaster, built in 1976, had always looked much taller than the one hundred-plus feet the first hill stood. For a boy who was so scared of heights that he went up the spiral stairs of the Statue of Liberty on his hands and knees out of fear, one hundred feet might as well have been one thousand.

Like most large machines of industry, the Star Flyer is designed to function first and thoughts about how people interface with the ride happen later. On this ride the ladder is fit snugly onto one portion of the six-sided steel framework tower. It runs straight up. About 18 inches behind the ladder is the hoisting cable that raises the star, this star is strung with seats and where the riders sit. The cable then runs all the way to the top of the tower, around the sheaves at the top, and back down to the counterweight. This means that a tower which stands nearly 250-feet tall offers those climbing inside a rather snug fit.

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After enjoying the sites I kept moving upward. If you have never climbed with a safety line before it is certainly a daunting experience where you learn to put your faith in the equipment. A steel cable runs the length of the tower and climbers attach their harness to a runner, which fits on the cable. It will follow you up the tower without stopping, but if you make any sudden downward movements the runner locks up and does not allow you to fall. I had tested the reliability of the system several times at 5 feet and it worked fine, albeit extremely tightly in an area where I would not have minded a little breathing room. But, that was not as reassuring as I passed the 200-foot mark. Bill, who heads our Installation division, had once told me that if you fell from 10, 100, or 1,000 feet you were dead regardless and that the key was “not to do anything stupid.” This was easy for Bill to say. He had spent his entire life climbing and installing rides. When a prototype Japanese roller coaster was blowing hydraulic system Bill helped design and install a replacement electrical system. When the Stratosphere Tower wanted to put an American flag atop the Big Shot ride 1,100 feet in the air after 9/11 they called Bill. When we installed a Guinness World Record 403-foot StarFlyer in Texas, Bill led the job. Part steelworker, part journeyman, an expert with the workings of almost any amusement ride, Bill is a ride encyclopedia and a tool kit wrapped into one. However, he was not here.

Once I got to the top of the tower I transitioned from the ladder to the star. This is a little more difficult than it sounds as one has to straddle the space between the ladder and the star, unhook one of your safety lines, hook it to the star, and then repeat. I could not help but look down as my legs straddled the abyss. I froze up for a second as the lifting cables moved slowly back and forth in the breeze. 240 feet had never looked so high. I snapped out of it and transitioned over to the star.

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Pulling myself up I was treated to sight and sounds that few get to experience. The first thing I noticed was the deafening silence. With the park closed there were no roaring roller coasters, no screaming riders. All I really heard was the breeze whipping by. While it was quiet on the ground at this height the gusts ebbed and flowed. Standing on the second-tallest ride in the park I felt like I could see forever. I could also feel the tower sway. While it might not look like it, steel structures are designed to move- if they do not have give they will snap. Growing up in St. Louis I went up in the Gateway Arch many times and had felt it sway. However, by the time I was standing on top of the StarFlyer I was being reminded that a vertical steel structures have plenty of movement with the wind swirling around them. Looking around I pinched myself, it was an amazing moment for a kid obsessed with amusement parks and petrified of heights to be standing on time of the world.

After enjoying some time by myself I climbed back down, which seemed to take longer than the climb up. Every step was carefully placed, I didn’t feel like slipping and trying out my safety line. Once I reached the bottom I remembered that there were still a few problems to take care of. In the ensuing weeks shipments came in, our CEO Ed made some phone calls and our site manager Thom rallied everyone to get the finishing touches complete. Six Flags ended up being so happy with the ride that they purchased 8 additional towers from us and Funtime. I have climbed a lot of attractions since then, Slingshots, roller coasters, and other Starflyers, but this climb remains one of my favorites. There is no better view of an amusement park than from the top of one of its iconic rides, I just recommend that you get a comfortable harness.

-AFS