Light A Fire

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March 28, 2014

2 launches. 1 chain lift. Airtime hills galore. A wild mouse turn off the lift. Where do we start? Fire Chaser Express at Dollywood is just awesome. This was one of our most-anticipated 2014 rides and it definitely lived up to the hype. It was also one of the most fun attractions we have been a part of. Herschend Family Entertainment, Dollywood’s parent company, is a great partner. When they buy a ride they theme it to the hilt and Fire Chaser was not different. The ride pays homage to fire fighters across the country and is designed for families to have fun together- what a great combination.

We love this ride for a lot of reasons, but the biggest one is the fact that it is just not like anything else out there. Is it a mine train? Is it a launch coaster? Is it a family coaster? Yes, it is a little bit of all three. My personal favorite part of the ride is the launch out of the station. Kids are gripping the restraints with trepidation, even their parents don’t quite know what to expect. All of the sudden, the fire lights spin red around the walls and in matter of seconds the tire drives accelerate the ride out of the station and onto the course. I really love the little figure-eight that precedes the lift. The rest of the layout is riddled with surprises and I don’t want to spoil them for you. Suffice it to say, Fire Chaser Express is an awesome family ride. If you are a ride junkie, nerd or enthusiast you need to book a ticket to Pigeon Forge. Now.

-AFS

The Only Ride With Its Own University

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January 23, 2014

A guest post from Mark Rosenzweig, Skycoaster’s® Managing Director.

The key to Skycoaster®’s success from a safety and operational perspective has always been the close relationship between Skycoaster® and their many sites located worldwide. As has been tradition since the attraction’s inception in 1992, representatives from Skycoaster® and Skycoaster® sites gather annually for the Skycoaster® Owners Conference and Safety Symposium, an event unique to the attractions industry.

This year’s conference was held on Wednesday and Thursday January 15th and 16th, in Orlando, FL. As has been done in years past, the event was held in conjunction with the AIMS (Amusement Industry Manufacturers and Suppliers Trade Association) Safety Seminar. Nearly 60 Skycoaster® site representatives from as far away as Oslo, Norway and Vancouver, B.C. were in attendance. The event was a huge success with presentations from Skycoaster® service parts suppliers, Skycoaster® staff, and even a special appearance from Skycoaster®’s original inventor, Bill Kitchen! Following the first day of speakers (and a game of Skycoaster® Jeopardy), attendees gathered for our evening reception where more socializing and bonding would ensue.

Thursday morning, attendees gathered once again to take their Site Controller tests before heading home or back to take their remaining AIMS classes.

Install Yourself a Merry Little Embed

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December 18, 2013

While it has gotten cold and snowy long the Eastern Seaboard we have been hard at work on 2014. While IAAPA and Thanksgiving created plenty of downtime we have been getting ready for next year’s exciting attractions. In Massachusetts Entertainment Management Group and Funtime team members were there setting the embed for the 403-foot StarFlyer (top picture). The ride obviously has a gigantic concrete foundation, but we actually place a large, steel piece into the foundation that acts as an anchor for the entire ride. The embed, which is “embedded” in the concrete, is the key piece that transfers the load of the rides into the surrounding concrete and earth, so obviously every dimension involving it is critical and we have tolerances in millimeters. The piece weighs 23,000 pounds, so obviously assembling and concreting a piece this large is no small task. Over in Gurnee (halfway between Chicago and Milwaukee, not a warm winter spot) we took apart the Zamperla/Reverchon Spinning Coaster in less than a week. The ride should be arriving in Maryland as we speak. Because it was pinned the ride came down very quickly and the only jack hammering required were for a few columns embedded in the concrete in the station area.

Our parks and carousels have been doing great. We just wrapped up running the Greenway Carousel in Boston for the year and in Baltimore the Charm City Carousel has been open weekends as the weather permits. The great German-style Christmas village has been open in the Inner Harbor along with a photo spot for kids to get their pictures taken with Santa, so there has been plenty of family activity in Baltimore.

I spoke with David Galst, who runs Ride Operations Group, the REG operations team. He said, “For the 2nd year in a row, we are bringing in Todd Goings (world-renowned carousel expert from Carousels and Carvings) to do an annual check-up on the Forest Park Carousel. We feel it is good to have an outside pair of eyes give the carousel a once over to make sure all mechanical components are functioning properly and that all proper maintenance has been done to keep the carousel spinning for the upcoming season. Also, we have repainted the center of the carousel’s floor.

Over at Fantasy Forest at the Flushing Meadows Carousel, we have removed the Corona Choo-Choo from its tracks and covered all vehicles of the Queens Himalaya (bottom picture), Fantasy Frog Hopper, and Corona Cobra Coaster. The games have been winterized and the VIP Party Tents have been taken down. As part of our maintenance plan, we are preparing to remove the rollercoaster train of the Corona Cobra to disassemble the undercarriage of each vehicle and have certain parts undergo NDT testing (non-destructive testing). This annual maintenance procedure will allow us to find things that the naked eye can’t find during our normal daily inspections. Finally, we are bringing in Todd Goings to review the Flushing Meadows Carousel, also so he can make recommendations as to keeping this ride running in top-notch shape.”

-AFS

Forest Park Fun

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November 1, 2013

This Monday we were thrilled to see the a great honor bestowed upon one of New York City’s jewels- the Forest Park Carousel.  On this day it was officially designated a New York City landmark and we could not be happier- we feel like proud parents.  The Forest Park Carousel is the third amusement ride (after Coney Island’s “Cyclone” and “Wonder Wheel” ) to be named a city landmark, and the first carousel.  It is also one of two Mueller Carousels left in existence, with the second still running at Cedar Point.

We currently operate the Forest Park Carousel through a long-term lease with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.  2013 marks our second year operating the carousel, before that it had sat dormant for several years.  The community support we have had since opening for Memorial Day Weekend, 2012 has been overwhelming and we cannot thank the surrounding communities enough.  If you are around this weekend we invite you to stop by and go for a ride.  Between the beautiful weather and the great news this truly is a reason to celebrate the Forest Park Carousel.  You can read more about this week’s event in this Queen’s Chronicle article: http://www.qchron.com/editions/south/presenting-our-borough-s-newest-landmark/article_01929c9e-425f-11e3-89aa-0019bb2963f4.html

-AFS

Yeah, We Do That

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October 10, 2013

Shortly before IAAPA we will open the website of our newest company, Ride Operations Group (ROG), which has been growing for several years. It will be at www.RideOperationsGroup.com. This company is the one that brought two classic carousels back to life.  At Forest Park and Flushing Meadows, both in Queens, we were the partner chosen by the New York Parks Department to operate their classic machines, both of which were shuttered at the time.

Not only did we operate them, we hit a home run with families throughout the borough.  Things went so well in Flushing we expanded the Flushing Meadows Carousel into Fantasy Forest (www.FantasyForestNYC.com), a family amusement park with 5 rides.  At Forest Park (www.ForestParkCarousel.com) the carousel was named a landmark by the city of New York and named the “#2 Most Beautiful Carousel” by Fox News and “One of the 10-Best Carousels in the Country” by USA Today.

In 2014 we also expanded into two new Eastern Seaboard cities, Boston and Baltimore.  In Boston we operate the Greenway Carousel, one of the most beautiful custom carousels to be built in the United States in the past decade.  Further south in Baltimore we run the Charm City Carousel, a ride set adjacent to the city’s Inner Harbor.  Both rides have been extremely popular and run under ROG’s philosophy that combines safety and family fun.

We look forward to sharing new properties we own or manage.  In a few years the next park you visit just might be ours!

-AFS

What a Summer

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August 28, 2013

These past few weeks we have seen some of Gerstlauer’s recent installations around the globe. It has been fun seeing some of the new projects and concepts; we hope to be opening some of these here in the states soon.

We begin at Erlebnispark Tripsdrill. “Karacho”, a launch coaster that uses the Infinity Trains, is an exciting ride. It accelerates past 60 mph in 1.6 seconds, but the launch is actually not the best part. The second act, if you will, of the Top Hat and Giant Corkscrew are amazing. They offer guests both on and off-ride great visuals and the ride really ends with a punch as the last two inversions are right before the brakes- a Diving loop that heads below grade and a corkscrew.

Then it was off to Japan to ride “Takabisha”. This Launched Euro-Fighter joined an already exciting line up of thrill rides at Fuji-Q Highlands: the classic TOGO hyper coaster “Fujiyama”, the coaster with the world’s fastest rate of acceleration, S&S’s “Dodonpa”, and “Eejenka”, an S&S 4th Dimension. Like Tripsdrill, “Takabisha” starts with a heartline roll in the dark that leads into a launch. From there the ride kicks into high gear and the LSM’s get it up to speed. The real winner in the first half is the third inversion, which is essentially a compressed Cobra Roll. Visually and dynamically it is a great element.

You complete the first half, and it feels like you have already been on a full coaster. But “Takabisha” has a trick up its sleeve. Guests are taken up the vertical lift and roll over the top. Instead of plunging right over the Euro-Fighter is held at 45-degrees and everyone screams. The ride dives to the ground at 121 degrees and flies through three more inversions. Whoo!

The last interesting coaster was the “Veil of Dark” at Tokyo’s Joyopolis. This combination attraction is part dark ride, part coaster and all fun. The 4-person Spinning vehicles all face forward, a first for Gerstlauer. From here, the ride moves through a dark ride section that features interactive shooting elements, projection screens, and gory zombie theming. The ride then moves into coaster mode and moves up a 15-foot chain lift. The car rounds the corner, unlocks, and is accelerated out a tire-drive launch into the open. It navigates a first for a Spinning Coaster, an inversion, and then tucks back out of the audience’s view. In the dark it does some back-to-back helices before coming to a rest in the station. Surprisingly, I won the battle, beating the other two people riding with me and came away with the highest score. Huzzah!

-AFS

For Thrillseekers, It Feels Like Christmas in May

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May 24, 2013

Having had the pleasure to run down to Texas and enjoy the newest thrills the Lone Star state has to offer, I can say it will be an exciting summer down there. We had two projects that were both a blast.

Due to Six Flags’ great marketing efforts you have probably heard of them, but if you have been living under the social media rock let me drop some knowledge on you. First, we head to Dallas where things are big. Very big. 400-feet big. The Texas StarFlyer, the tallest attraction in the park is a tower that never seems to stop. Visible from over ten miles away this vertical swing is amazing. 24 guests board tiny seats held only by chains that seem too small to be secure. The ride whisks riders to well over 30 stories in the air so they can see forever. One thing that separates this StarFlyer from others is the chain attachment method. All of the other Six Flags StarFlyer seats sit in between sweeps and have one set of chains attach to the sweep in front of them and one in back of them. In Arlington, everything attaches to one sweep directly above the seat. This single connection point means that the seats pivot side-to-side- a lot.

A few hours from Dallas, San Antonio to be exact, there is the Iron Rattler. This year we were lucky enough to work with the park on two projects, a Funtime Slingshot that opened in March and the Gerstlauer “Iron Rattler” trains that debuted in May. These new trains look fantastic and are some of the most comfortable rolling stock around (the coaster isn’t that shabby, either). Diving over and through the quarry walls that surround Six Flags Fiesta Texas the “Iron Rattler” trains really make a fiberglass statement. Each train is adorned with a detailed snake head in the front and a rattle in the back. They are hands-down some of the best roller coaster trains I have been on. While I am a bit biased, I feel if you look the Rattler in the eye you will feel the same.

-AFS

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“Wheel in the Sky Keeps on Turnin’”

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April 10, 2013

I feel a bit jaded.  It seems like sometimes I am not impressed as easily having seen in the inner-workings of our industry.  Or perhaps it is because it is now a job for me and there is no mystery to it anymore (hint: the booth meeting rooms at IAAPA are not as alluring as I imagined when I visited my first trade show over a decade ago).

But, sometimes I feel like we can still build a bit of magic, no matter where that may be. Last Friday I was in in the Dirty South at Six Flags over Georgia, checking out their StarFlyer.  It is the third 242-footer we have built for Six Flags.  Although still awesome, and in a beautiful location, it felt a bit like old hat because we have done so many with them.  Yesterday I dropped by Six Flags over Texas to see the Texas SkyScreamer, a 400-foot StarFlyer that we sold and are installing.

Wow.  Everything on it just makes the other StarFlyers look, dare I say it, a bit puny.  Here the tower seems nearly fifty percent wider and the star is larger by a third- it is just massive.  Our team, led Bill Wright, a seasoned amusement industry veteran who is the MacGyver of our industry, is working hand-in-hand with Funtime putting this monster together.  As of today we had 8 of the 9 tower sections built and we needed to dress out (steel worker talk for fully assemble) the star.  The last (bottom) tower section we will stick build (more jargon for assemble piece by piece instead of in a template) and then we will start stacking the tower out.

Looking around I was a bit in awe at the scale of the ride.  The only thing that impressed me more was Austrians from the Alpine foothills working hand-in-hand with steelworkers from all over the United States.  It is one of those things that should not work- but somehow it does.

-AFS

“You’ve Got to be Handy With the Steel If You Know What I Mean, Earn Your Keep”

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February 4, 2013

Wintertime is here and that means only one thing- we are out on the road.  Or, more appropriately, we are up in the air.  This is when the boys from EMG (www.entertainmentmanagementgroup.com) can be found climbing around and installing steel structures.  Our most recent endeavor was installing the Gerstlauer Spinning Coaster at Six Flags Mexico.  Here, we were engaged to install all of the steel and mechanical systems.  As usual, our guys were ahead of schedule and had the ride up in a matter of weeks.  Being a base frame ride we expected it to go fast, but even we were pleased with how quickly this went.  Don’t be surprised to see us on other job sites this spring.  However, with the speed at which we work, we will be long gone by the time the ride opens.

-AFS

Riders on the Storm

October 30, 2012

We rode out the storm ok here.  Needless to say, we were very lucky and with a turn of a few degrees things could have been much worse for us here in Baltimore and on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  Our thoughts go out to everyone north of us who was affected.  We have seen some amazing images from north of us in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York.  Our thoughts especially go out to everyone who has a shore park; we hope you made it through ok.  The linked picture below (URL here: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=4880549730578&set=a.2172304346136.202296.1202581745&type=1&theateras ) was shared by Coney Island photographer when he visited Coney Island Tuesday morning.  The sand and debris shows the high water mark.  We have also seen that Seaside Heights (Funtown Pier and Casino Pier) was hit heavily, it looks like a lot of damage there.

While this has had us preoccupied we will dive back into IAAPA shortly.  There is a lot left to do and the trucks leave next week!

-AFS