amusement park

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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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

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

A Simple Plug

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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.

-AFS

Photos courtesy of Silver Dollar City.

 

A Visit to Ocean Park (香港海洋公园)

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It was certainly a different Ocean Park (www.OceanPark.hk) 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.

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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.

-AFS

A New Carowinds

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When I went to Carowinds (www.carowinds.com) 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.

-AFS