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.


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.


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.”

Back Camera

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


A Simple Plug


As an industry we often remember the big changes and improvements that parks make and shine the spotlight on them in order to show industry progress. But, the little things, creature comforts that extend length of stay and increase guest satisfaction, are just as critical, but often overlooked. During a visit to Silver Dollar City this year I noticed an amenity that was both well-themed and a great guest amenity- chargers. While technology has impacted our industry as a whole over the last decade, nothing has ushered in change quite like the cell phone. It does so much that it has (obviously) become a staple of life, but many places have been slow to adapt. While some airports have included charging stations in their upgrades, it is still common to see no outlets available or the hastily-installed “charging trees” with passengers hovering around them as their phones charge.

Silver Dollar City saw a need and responded to it in the best way possible. When they revamped an existing section of their park and re-themed it Fireman’s Landing, the park added charging stations around the area. But, they did not just toss together a bunch of power strips. The park and the Herschend Design Studio created a charging area that fit the area’s throwback firefighting theme. To do his, they purchased several antique fireman’s boxes and converted them into places for guests to charge.

silver-dollar-city-fireman's-landing-branson-missouri-2Brad Thomas, the President of Silver Dollar City Attractions, told me that, “One of our core values we always remember as we plan and operate: adapt ‘to our guests’ changing expectations’. We realize that our guests use their mobile devices constantly through their Silver Dollar City day including countless photos and videos. The usage means our guests need to charge their mobile devices. With assistance from Herschend Family Entertainment’s Design Studio, our construction team built themed charging stations that fit the 1880’s look of Fireman’s Landing. The complimentary stations have become an instant hit with our guests.”

When it comes to meeting the needs of guests some parks offer the service, some offer the theming, but it takes a unique property like Silver Dollar City to fulfill a critical need for their guests while doing it in a way that fits their track record of offering immersive environments. Of course, another great thing about this installation is that it is free. The park realized that in today’s world their customers can be their best advocates and want to facilitate them charging their phone to share pictures and videos. Herschend’s motto is “Creating memories worth repeating.” It is great that the Herschend team understands that the only cost to this great word-of-mouth marketing is a slightly higher power bill.


Photos courtesy of Silver Dollar City.


A Visit to Ocean Park (香港海洋公园)


It was certainly a different Ocean Park ( that I visited this year as part of the IAAPA Asian Expo. My last visit was in 2006 and things have changed, in the ten years since my last visit the venerable Asian park has undergone a metamorphosis. Upon entering Ocean Park one notices right away that the property looks fresher than it ever did. The main gate was moved to the front and offers beautiful fountains and animal exhibits. The new “old Hong Kong” area great and has a fantastic assortment of food, I had noodles at Chan’s Noodle. As guests relax and enjoy lunch they can take in the beautiful Wood Design carousel.

Tom Mehrmann, the Chief Executive at Ocean Park, told me, about the thought process behind the change, “[The] goals were to stay true to Ocean Park core values, to put more ‘Ocean’ into Ocean Park, to focus on differential values (location, animals, Hong Kong essence) offered by the Park, be culturally relevant to the markets we serve, work with the strength of our generational value (those who came as kids were now bringing their kids), and ensure we did not lose site of the fact that the difference is real and Ocean Park should remain focused on Conservation, Education and Entertainment.”

After lunch I wanted to head to the south end of the property. Park-goers now choose between two ways to get to the back of the park. One is a classic, the Cable Car, which offers unparalleled views of the park as it runs along 1.5 km (.93 mile) of cable. This lengthy sky ride attraction stretches over the hills and Deep Water Bay. The other is an amazing feet of engineering, the Ocean Express. This is a funicular that tunnels through the mountain, it is 1.3 km (.8 miles) long and 71,300 square meters (233,923 square feet) of earth were excavated in order to construct the ride. The time and expense that must have gone into this project is astounding.

Tom told me that engineering the Ocean Express was indeed a complicated process. He said, “We had to blast on the site, to remove large sections of rock each morning, then send the rock to an onsite rock crusher, which was then placed on a conveyor that went from the top of our site (122 meters [400 feet] above sea level) to the receiving barges waiting below to haul the soil and rock away for fill projects in China. Each morning when the blasting was done, the animals that were considered sensitive to ground vibration were trained to position in areas that would not be affected by the blasts to ensure their health and well-being. The animal keepers and curators did an outstanding job ensuring the development work did not impact the animals and introduced some innovative and meaningful operant conditioning to ensure the animals were not affected.” A picture of the breakthrough ceremony (below) shows just how large of endeavor this project was.


I know that a funicular is not as sexy as a roller coaster, but the Ocean Express truly is an amazing piece of engineering. On the back side of the park one sees the new Thrill Mountain area, which offers several new attractions. The best of these is a B&M floorless coaster, the Hair Raiser, which has a completely custom layout. The lift hill runs up along a cliff and the ride dives back down, through a uniquely-shaped loop. The biggest surprise of the layout is the bunny hop which generates a lot of airtime and the unique banked turn right before you twist back into the brakes. On the tamer side of things, the North and South Pole exhibits showcase a great collection of cold-weather animals and allow guests to watch the animals in a great habitat.

The park still has a lot of charm in the older (lower) area of the park with classics like an early 1980’s Arrow looping coaster, a Huss Pirate, Huss Condor, and Huss Enterprise. With its sea life displays, shows, and collection of rides Ocean Park has certainly gone from a great local enterprise to a world-class amusement park. Many thought that with “the mouse” opening across town the park would suffer. However, nearly a decade later the property has reinvented itself by going back to its roots and offering a day that combines the best sea life displays with exciting rides, and provides its guests with a unique experience. Ocean Park truly is Hong Kong’s theme park.


A New Carowinds


When I went to Carowinds ( this year to check out our new Slingshot installation I not only enjoyed a thrilling experience, I saw a fresh take on some things make this industry great.  Not a big surprise, but I still feel that the Slingshot is one of the best thrills out there.  Going from ground level to nearly 300 feet in a matter of seconds is quite a rush.  It is amazing to see the world unfold in front of you.  Of course, when you ride the Slingshot the park now the world unfolds with something standing as tall as you- Fury 325.  Carowinds and B&M hit a home run with this ride.  It does everything a giga coaster should (and more).  I know there are many devotees of the silver and blue Millennium Force at Cedar Fair’s flagship property, but to me Fury just does everything better.

The “out” run showcases the ride’s speed as it flies over some wonderfully-shaped curves and rises into the treble clef. This element, shaped like the musical note, dives through a tunnel and here the airtime begins.  There are several great moments as-well-as a helix that threads the needle through the ride’s support structure.

But, Fury was not the only pleasant surprise.  The park also was showcasing their Taste of the Carolinas.  This food festival focused on regional food and beer.  Not only was it a great alternative to the burgers and hot dog fare I am used to, it tasted fantastic.  From main courses to dessert, everything was several steps above what I have come to expect from amusement park food.  In addition, it was served in reasonable amounts, so I could sample different things as opposed to being committed to one dish served the size of a table.

The final touch was the new front gate, which was totally rebuilt for the 2015 season.  Fury 325 wraps itself around and through the entrance plaza, offerings park-goers a tantalizing glimpse of the thrills that lie inside.

All-in-all our visit to Carowinds was a much different one than our last one in 2003.  It has certainly re-defined itself in the market and we look forward to seeing what is ahead for this unique property that straddles a state line.


Skycoastin’ in the U.K. (Blackpool & Oakwood)


One of the best perks of working for Ride Entertainment Group is all of the International Travel that our team gets to experience while working on various projects. In early April, our Skycoaster® team visited the two Skycoaster® Sites in the United Kingdom- South Pier in Blackpool, England; and Oakwood in Narberth, Wales. After landing at London Heathrow, we made the 4 hour drive north and west to Blackpool.

The City of Blackpool can best be described as the Coney Island of the UK. With a mile long promenade, three piers, an endless assortment of arcades and attractions (including the iconic Blackpool Tower), and of course Blackpool Pleasure Beach with its 42 acres of intertwined rides, shows, and attractions, there is quite a bit to do and see in this resort town on the Irish Sea. The Skycoaster® on South Pier has one of the all-time great locations, perched on the southern edge of the pier over 30 feet above the crashing surf. Flyers are winched up over the bustling Fun Fair below and then soar over the many onlookers and out over the edge of the pier simulating the flight of a seagull! The amazing tidal force in Blackpool adds to the mystique of the location as the beach goes from a width of ½ mile to crashing surf in less than 45 minutes. Pleasure Beach’s eclectic mix of modern and classic rides and attractions is unmatched. Here guests can enjoy rare/unique attractions like the Grand National (mobius-loop racing woodie), Steeplechase, Valhalla, The Big One, Ghost Train, and River Caves among many other crowd favorites. It has probably the closest feel to what Coney Island, NY was like in the 1950s in terms of attraction density/variety.

Meanwhile, near the small town of Narberth, Wales (which some say registers a greater population of Sheep than Humans), lies Oakwood- the largest theme park in the Southwestern United Kingdom. Among its impressive roster of attractions are Megafobia (the largest wooden coaster in the UK), Speed: No Limits (an impressive Gerstlauer Euro-Fighter), and Treetops (a Zierer Family Tivoli Coaster hidden deep in a grove of tall pine trees). Vertigo is the park’s 140’ Skycoaster® and was given a prominent location right in the center of the property. Guests can view flyers thrilling it up on Europe’s tallest Skycoaster® from many unique vantage points.

From Oakwood it was a quick trip south to the seaside town of Tenby for some amazing pub fare and wandering the streets before making the 4 hour drive back to London Heathrow.


When It Isn’t At Auto Zone

032315 - 15 Crank Arms 01
032715 - 30 New Carousel Horse for Vacant Spot

April 7, 2015

If you are looking for parts for an old car, you can look at Auto Zone, NAPA or a lot of specialty dealers online.  This is true for a lot of machines of various ages.  But, what if you need parts for a carousel?  You cannot exactly check out Target’s automotive section in hopes that you will come across a new center bearing and sweeps.

This was the crux of the issue that our Operations Team faced when refurbishing the Forest Park Carousel this winter. They found out last year that the carousel, which dates from 1890 (frame) and 1903 (horses), had several parts that needed updating.  But, these parts were hand-cast over a century ago and had to be custom-created for the carousel.  They called Todd Goings of Carousels and Carvings, a carousel refurbishment company from Ohio, and worked with him to have the specialty parts made.

One difficulty in repairing a carousel is that the machine is a living, breathing thing.  You remember that children’s song, “The leg bone’s connected to the ankle bone,” etc?  A carousel is a lot like that.  EVERYTHING interconnected and hung off of the center pole.  This means that when David, Daeshawn and our team needed to get to pieces at the center of the ride, everything had to come off.

Therefore, our team was charged with taking apart the entire Forest Park Carousel, carefully storing and securing the horses, each a piece of invaluable artwork by themselves, and painstakingly tearing down the ride structure.  Once the ride was apart our team got at the guts of the carousel.  Parts like the top bearing, cranks, sweeps, and commutator were repaired or replaced in order to give the ride proper TLC.  It was one of the single-largest investments that the Forest Park Carousel has seen since it was moved to Queens in 1973, and it has never run better.  You can see more of the refurbishment in Ed Wendell’s video, embedded below.

David Galst, the head of the Ride Entertainment Operations Division, said, “By performing this major rehabilitation, this timeless piece of magical art and master craftsmanship should be able to spin for decades to come.”  The impressive thing is that our team not only refurbished the carousel this winter, they were also simultaneously working to get all of our other parks and attractions ready to open.

We could not be prouder because this refurbishment really symbolizes where the Ride Entertainment Operations Division has come in only three years.  In the spring of 2012 we were readying the Forest Park Carousel to open for the first time in years and the Flushing Meadow’s Carousel to spin once more.  In just a few years we have created an amusement park around the Flushing Meadows Carousel, the Forest Park Carousel has received national recognition and become a New York City Historic Landmark, we opened a carousel in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, begun operating the Greenway Carousel in Boston, and opened the first amusement park that Staten Island has seen in decades.  All-in-all our operations team is filled with people who have become stars and I certainly expect great things of them in the coming years.


Globe Trotting to India


February 23, 2015

It was a great week in India at the IAAPI show in Mumbai. We saw several old industry friends and met a lot of potential customers from all around the country. Much like when we started working in China nearly 15 years ago, there is a feeling of excitement and potential for the amusement industry to grow here. The most famous park to outsiders is probably the Adlabs property, which opened in 2013 with a large collection of rides, including their signature attraction Nitro, a looping coaster from B&M. Visiting India is certainly an interesting experience and like nothing I had ever been a part of before. Horns blare everywhere you go, the roads are clogged with a combination of motorcycles, scooters, Tuk Tuks (the 3-wheeled, open-air carriages), small taxis and other vehicles of all sizes. The range of wealth in the city, one of 22 million, is staggering, and is not like anything I have ever really come across. With the country’s burgeoning middle class we hope that a rising tide will float boats from all classes of people and that Ride Entertainment will be there as the amusement industry becomes a part of the fabric of their entertainment culture.


Learning to Fly


December 4, 2014

It is November 28, one week after IAAPA and I am traveling on what feels like my second car, a Southwest Airlines 737. Instead of just having my laptop out I am trying to juggle my sleeping daughter and my computer on my lap, I think I somehow found room for each. It was a very exciting show for Ride Entertainment as we got to show off our newest ride, the AirSurfer ( But, we also had a ton of interest in tried and true amusement rides like Gerstlauer coasters and Funtime StarFlyers.

It is an interesting time to be in the industry. I feel like we are seeing some amazing traditional attractions popping up. Some roller coasters, like Wicked Cyclone at Six Flags New England and Fury 325 at Carowinds are classic coaster designs, others like FireChaser Express at Dollywood and the new Baron 1898 at Efteling are great themed attractions, while still others like Guardian at Canada’s Wonderland has brought technology into its rightful place in the guest experience. Some of you may be old enough to remember the first generation of in-park technology in the late 80’s and early 90’s where computer-generated experiences were going to replace coasters, but somehow never did. In some of those rides the idea was ahead of the technology, but as Spiderman at IOA showed us many years ago, there can be a perfect experience at the confluence of technology and thrills.

I guess this is why we are so excited about the AirSurfer. It will utilize technology to offer a zipline experience that no one else can do. Standing, turning, going uphill, we feel we have the best combination of amusement rides and ziplines. We look forward to seeing on of the AirSurfers up and running in 2015 or 2016, we have a ton of interest and are excited to make it happen.

Stepping back to look at the big picture, we want to say “thank you”. To our manufacturing partners, to our sale and revenue share clients, and to the customers at our parks- we appreciate all of you trusting us to sell you fun in one way or another. We always say that our best asset is our customers and we appreciate you each and every day.