ome thoughts from our team on IAAPA Expo 2017. We had a fantastic week and wanted to share a few memories.
Hulk Hogan pictures courtesy of IAAPA.
Over 25 years ago when Skycoaster® was introduced to the attractions industry, it was a fresh new ride experience that had never before been seen or experienced. Combining elements of Skydiving, Bungee Jumping, and Hang Gliding in one signature thrill ride, this iconic attraction took the industry by storm and had dozens of new installations in just the first several years of its existence ranging from standalone resort sites to fully established gated amusement parks.
Beyond the ride presence and experience itself was a new business model that had never before been attempted. As an extreme thrill up-charge ride, many were skeptical that the $15-$40 per flyer price-point would not work or sustain itself (especially in gated parks where a guest pays prior to entering for use of all general admission rides and attractions).Â 25 years and 138 installations later, that skepticism is but a faint memory as these signature rides continue to thrill millions of guests every year.
Another new aspect that Skycoaster® introduced was its unique and comprehensive operator training programs which contribute greatly to the ride’s impeccable safety record. In order to be certified in any position on the flight crew, one must complete eight (8) hours of training in that position. Once a person has completed their training hours in each of the four positions on the crew, they are eligible to be tested for Site Controller Certification. A Site Controller must pass a practical exam on the Flightline with a Skycoaster® Representative observing and then also pass a fifty (50) question written exam with material coming straight out the ride’s incredibly comprehensive manual. The phrase “if it were easy everyone would be doing it” may have been created for this certification as those who pass are typically among the best of that park’s respective operations team. Besides the knowledge gained and requirement that a Site Controller must be present at a Skycoaster® for any operations to take place is the added responsibility that Site Controllers are normally placed in charge of training future Site Controller Candidates. It is very much a subculture within the already amazing subculture of working seasonally (or full time) at an amusement park.
Matt Clarke of Canada’s Wonderland in Vaughan, ON, stated, “Site Controller Certification is something that our team looks forward to each season. It provides a goal and a challenge to our new and returning associates who are working towards their certification while strengthening and reassessing the knowledge of our existing Site Controllers. When I first became a Site Controller as a seasonal associate back in 2010, the training and certification built my confidence and understanding of all of the safety practices at the Skycoaster.” Roger Brookes of Kings Dominion in Doswell, VA added, “Xtreme SkyFlyer at Kings Dominion was one of the most fun and detailed trainings I experienced. The level of detail and quality of training that must be attained truly does provide a great experience and an ability to feel very comfortable about performing the job safely. It was one of the more rewarding experiences for me personally in my 17 years in the Amusement Park industry!”
So the next time you fly the friendly skies on a Skycoaster®, take note of the amazing Flight Crews that love operating the attraction so much. They are very much the front line and pulse of the Skycoaster® Flight Experience.
-Mark Rosenzweig, Managing Director- Skycoaster & Financial Partnerships
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.
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
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:
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.
|As 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 .
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.
The Must Haves:
Job Type: Full-time
Ride 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:
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
I 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.
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 .
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.
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.
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.