Canada’s Wonderland Retires Iconic Stand-Up Roller Coaster SkyRider After 29 Years

By | August 6, 2014

Canadas WonderlandVAUGHAN, ON, — After almost 23 million riders, Canada’s Wonderland will be saying goodbye to the iconic stand-up looping roller coaster, SkyRider. Monday, September 1, 2014, will be the last chance for riders to experience one of the legends in the roller coaster collection at the park.

SkyRider opened for riders in May, 1985 and was instantly a hit for coaster enthusiasts across North America. It was the first stand-up coaster to be built in Canada, and second in the world with a loop.

“As the park evolves each year, we continue to focus on future park enhancements that will provide our guests with innovative entertainment and leisure experiences. To accommodate these enhancements, we need to make difficult decisions when considering redevelopment of the land for an improved guest experience in future years. After creating 29 years of memories for our guests, we wanted to make sure thrill seekers of all ages had advance notice of the SkyRider retirement, and an opportunity to enjoy one last ride before it closes at 8 p.m. on September 1,” Norm Pirtovshek, General Manager at Canada’s Wonderland.

AT Photo / Gary Slade

AT Photo / Gary Slade

Quassy going Frantic with new Visa ride for 2015

By | August 4, 2014

Quassy logoMIDDLEBURY, Conn. — A new spectacular ride will be screaming into town for the 2015 season at Quassy Amusement & Waterpark here, park officials announced on Aug. 4.

Frantic will provide 360 degrees of pure adrenalin rush when it makes its debut in April at the family-owned lakeside property. “We spent a great deal of time researching our options for a new thrill ride and this will certainly be an exceptional addition,” Quassy President Eric Anderson said.

Being constructed by VISA International (SBF/Visa Group), Montagnana, Italy, Frantic will lift and spin riders high above the midway in an area near the Grand Carousel, where the park’s ticket booth was located until 2008. In addition, the park will be adding a new kiddie bumper car ride for smaller children, also provided by Visa International.

Called the Twist ’N Swing 360 by the manufacturer, Quassy coined the name Frantic for its newest family thriller, which will have colorful theming along with a stunning light emitting diode (LED) lighting package.

Riders are seated on a circular platform, suspended on a giant pendulum, with locking over-the-shoulder restraints securing them in place.

The loading platform floor retracts and the pendulum starts to gently swing back and forth between its supporting towers. At the same time, the ring of seats begins to rotate as the ride reaches greater heights with every pass. As Frantic climbs to 80 degrees, then 120 degrees, the G and negative-G forces generated by the ride increase, as do the screams from thrilled patrons.
The swinging action continues until the ride finally does a series of complete 360-degree, topsy-turvy flips.

“We recently had the opportunity to see and ride one of the first units in the United States,” said Quassy’s George Frantzis II. “It was all and more than we expected. The experience really convinced us this was the right addition for the park.” Frantic is designed to accommodate children and adults and may be programmed for three different ride experiences: 80 or 120-degree swing only, or 360 degrees.

“The operator we visited told us everyone wants the full 360-degree ride and that’s what we will expect here,” Anderson alluded. “The unique action and thrill of the piece had guests lining up again and again. That, too, was another factor in convincing us this was the right choice.”

The new ride will be brightly themed and incorporate LED lighting on its façade.

Visa International is represented in the U.S. by Len Soled and Rides 4U of Somerville, N.J.

Courtesy of Quassy Amusement Park

Courtesy of Quassy Amusement Park

Iconic classic Motorama car ride bids farewell

By | August 1, 2014

Family favorite will cruise into history on August 10

Six Flags Fiesta TexasSAN ANTONIO, Texas — The Motorama car ride, an original family favorite since Six Flags Fiesta Texas opened in 1992, has been giving young children their very first experience behind the wheel for more than two decades, and creating lasting family memories in the process. Motorama captures a bygone era when cars were the ultimate luxury and cruising was cool – in such classics as a ’56 Ford Thunderbird, a ’57 Chevy Corvette or a ’59 Cadillac Deville.

Alas, today nothing stands in the way of progress, and Motorama’s final day to take guests for a spin down memory lane will be Sunday, August 10. Originally drivers and their passengers had the ability to listen to golden oldies selections from the radio as they followed the electric guided track throughout the ‘50s Rockville area, as their parents and grandparents recalled a simpler time. It’s a mellow-paced tour down a country turnpike, with real highways signs and two lanes of traffic as you honk your horn at passersby.

Motorama is closing as the first wave of a downtown Rockville urban renewal and renovation project begins. Guests may call Rockville Realty for road closure and project updates at 210.697.5478.

For the ultimate nostalgic experience while you’re here, be sure to stop by Rockin’ at Rockville High, a favorite ‘50s show experience that makes a terrific complement to your visit. If you’re in the mood for a snack, you can even top your ride off with a soda and burger ‘50s style at Pete’s Eats Diner, just down the road.

Don’t forget, your last chance to enjoy this Fiesta Texas classic before it retires is August 10!

Photo by Michael Murphy / Six Flags Fiesta Texas

Photo by Michael Murphy / Six Flags Fiesta Texas

Carowinds announces key changes to its executive team

By | July 31, 2014

New general manager named to lead multi-year expansion

Mike Fehnel

Mike Fehnel

Charlotte, N.C. — Carowinds, the premiere entertainment destination of the Carolinas, is in the midst of a significant multi-year expansion. As previously announced, Cedar Fair will invest more than $50 million at Carowinds for new rides and attractions, new and upgraded food locations and general infrastructure improvements. The cornerstone of these exciting expansion plans will be announced by the park on Thursday, August 21.

In anticipation of these long-term plans, Carowinds has also announced changes in its executive team. Mike Fehnel has been appointed to the position of vice president and general manager of Carowinds and will oversee all aspects of Carowinds operations and its planned expansion. Fehnel replaces Bart Kinzel, who resigned earlier this month. In addition, Gary Chadwick has been promoted to the position of vice president, resale. He will report to Fehnel and oversee all aspects of in-park revenue.

“We’ve made a strong commitment to the Charlotte market,” says Richard Zimmerman, Cedar Fair chief operating officer “these changes position Carowinds to meet and exceed the expectations that accompany the investment Cedar Fair is making in the park and provide our guests with a ‘Best Day of Summer’ experience each and every time they visit.”

Fehnel comes to Carowinds with more than 20 years of experience at its sister property, Dorney Park in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where he most recently held the position of Vice President and General Manager. Over the years, Fehnel served in a variety of leadership roles throughout games, merchandise, and food and Beverage. Chadwick was promoted to his position after serving for many years as director of merchandise and games at Carowinds.

Penn State senior wins PGAV Destinations scholarship

By | July 30, 2014

Imaginative waterpark design lands winner in Busch Gardens Williamsburg

PGAVST. LOUIS, Mo. – Senior Andrew Reiff of Penn State’s School of Visual Arts is 2014’s winner of PGAV Destinations’ Spot Experiential Scholarship.

The first-of-its-kind scholarship was launched in early spring 2013 and challenged college students from US universities to design a destination based upon one of seven unique environmental concepts, from a solar-powered research station in the Antarctic to a new home for Anheuser-Busch’s Clydesdales.

Andrew’s submission, amongst numerous entries from across the country, envisioned an immersive waterpark called “Appalachian Creeks.” In his narrative, Andrew described a town founded by visionaries to bring fresh water to those without access, and which was eventually converted into an exciting and engaging attraction. His multiple renderings depicted individual rides, entire park lay-outs, and a sophisticated demonstration of the kind of thinking that goes into exceptional destination design. His focus was bridging the gap between spectators and the participating riders.

“Andrew went above and beyond just envisioning a wild water ride,” said Ned Diestelkamp, PGAV VP and head of the scholarship review panel. “He showed a deep level of thinking about the guest experience from all angles, considered park signage, based it on creative storytelling, and demonstrated really impressive technical sophistication.”

For being awarded the Experiential Scholarship, Andrew has chosen an all-expenses paid trip for him and his family to visit PGAV Destinations-designed Busch Gardens Williamsburg. Scholarship recipients have the choice of visiting PGAV-designed Discovery Cove, Space Shuttle Atlantis, Table Rock at Niagara Falls, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, or the Georgia Aquarium.

Andrew will be graduating from Penn State School of Visual Arts in May 2015 with a Bachelor of Design in Interdisciplinary Digital Studio. A Dean’s List scholar and previous teammate of Cru and Walt Disney World, Andrew is a member of the TEA, IAAPA, and is a self-proclaimed theme park enthusiast, most notably a roller coaster junkie. He loves video games like Kirby and TV series like Doctor Who, and is looking to begin his career in the themed entertainment industry as a 3D visualization artist after graduation.

“It’s such an honor to be the scholarship recipient this year!” said Andrew. “As an artist and as a future creative individual in the themed entertainment industry, I’m so honored and I appreciate it so much!”

PGAV Destinations is a global leader in the planning and design of unique destinations. Now in its fifth decade, the practice has evolved to become the ideal destination-consulting partner, skilled at developing growth-oriented master plans and translating those plans into successful projects. No other firm offers such an integrated approach to destination planning.
PGAV’s key clients include industry leaders such as Delaware North Companies, SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, the Biltmore Companies, Bass Pro Shops, Ameristar Casinos, Universal Studios, The Gettysburg Foundation, the St. Louis Zoo, and many others. Recent assignments include planning and design at many of the world’s “must see” destinations, including the Grand Canyon, Biltmore Estate, Space Shuttle Atlantis, Chimelong Ocean Kingdom, the Georgia Aquarium, the Hoover Dam, and SeaWorld Adventure Parks.

Holiday World announces Thunderbird: Nation’s first launched Wing Coaster

By | July 25, 2014

Thunderbird-logoSANTA CLAUS, Ind. — The nation’s first launched wing coaster will take flight over Holiday World in 2015.

Named Thunderbird, Holiday World’s first major steel roller coaster will feature a zero-to-60 miles-per-hour launch in 3.5 seconds, followed by multiple inversions — including a 14-story Immelmann loop, Zero-g roll, barrel roll, and a loop soaring 125 feet in the air.

Continuing Holiday World’s tradition of sending roller coasters through its thickly wooded and hilly terrain, Thunderbird will at first soar and loop high in the air and then hug the ground, surprising riders with rapid-fire “near misses” such as keyholes, themed elements, other rides, trees, and even the ground.

“A wing coaster creates a feeling of incredible freedom – you ride beside the coaster track with nothing above or below you,” says Holiday World’s president, Matt Eckert. “Thunderbird is the first launched wing coaster in the nation – we can’t wait to ride it!”

Eckert calls Thunderbird’s manufacturer, Bolliger & Mabillard, the “Cadillac of roller coasters, known for their safety, quality and reliability. We’ve dreamed of adding a B&M steel coaster for many years and are excited that Thunderbird will be B&M’s first launched coaster.”

Thunderbird’s $22 million price tag is more than twice the amount of any other single-ride investment at Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari in the park’s 68-year history.

Thunderbird will be located in the park’s Thanksgiving section. Construction is already underway and may be viewed live on Holiday World’s ConstructionCam. Thunderbird will open next spring.
Thunderbird_Aerial_11x17_300dpi

Walter Larson, Larson International founder passes away in Texas

By | July 21, 2014

Walter LarsonPLAINVIEW, Texas — Walter F. Larson, a native Texan and lifelong citizen of Plainview, passed away peacefully on July 18, 2014.

Walter was born on Sept. 26, 1930 to Walter W. Larson and Anita Jarvis Larson. Upon graduation from Plainview High School, he attended American Flyers pilot training school in Fort Worth. He married his high school sweetheart Sharon Turner in 1950. He worked for Claude Hutcherson as a charter pilot and held special fond memories of the medical charter flights he flew.

Later, he opened a Ferguson tractor dealership in Plainview that became known as Larson-Turner Massey-Ferguson. After selling the dealership to the James Brothers, he ventured into manufacturing high clearance tractors. He possessed a unique and uncanny ability to take what was good and improve it. These tractors were customized for a number of unique applications that included being used on tomato plantations, harvesting grapes and corn de-tasseling. He also manufactured Versa-trac highway sweepers.

In the early 1970s, he began manufacturing amusement rides and is best known for the Super Loops portable carnival ride, known today as The Ring of Fire. He retired from this business in 2007.

Throughout the years he continued to have a tremendous passion for planes, trains and cars. He flew his own private planes for business and pleasure. He loved machinery and how it worked. He was fascinated by motors of all sizes and shape. He spent endless happy hours listening to music of all genres. He especially loved gospel music. He truly felt the music in his heart.

Jeff Novotny, who purchased the company from Walter in 2006 told Amusement Today, “Walter was always a mentor to me and the opportunities he provided my family will never be forgotten. We continue to keep the company name, Larson International, Inc. in honor of Walter and his lifelong achievements.”

Novotny continued, “One of my fondest memories with Walter was meeting him at his downtown, toy store. This is where he kept his antique cars and motor coach and we would have a few drinks and play cards or talk about business. When my wife would call to see where I was, I would always respond, I am in ‘liquid conference’ with Walter and she knew exactly where I was and what we were doing.”

OABA’s Bob Johnson remembered Walter Larson saying, “We have lost another wonderful pioneer and great engineer in the amusement industry with Walter Larson’s passing. His Ring of Fire and Super Loops rides continue to help many showmen provide an entertaining, exciting and safe midway experience for hundreds of million riders. The OABA board extends our deepest sympathy to his family.”

He was preceded in death by a daughter, Melinda. He is survived by his wife of more than 64 years, Sharon Larson; sister Sally Hale; daughters, Sarah Larson, Loretta Haynes and Alice Kofahl; six grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.

Graveside services were held July 20 at the Plainview Cemetery. Memorial contributions may be made to: St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 710 Joliet St., Plainview, Texas 79072 or Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch, 600 SW 11th Ave., Amarillo, Texas 79101 or to one’s favorite charity.

Cyclone Storms out of Six Flags New England this Sunday

By | July 18, 2014

Park Recognizes State Employees and ACE Members for Final Ceremonial Ride

CycloneLogoAGAWAM, Mass. — Six Flags New England will be retiring the infamous wooden rollercoaster Cyclone on Sunday, July 20. To commemorate this special day, the property will host state employees and American Coaster Enthusiasts to take one of the final rides on Cyclone at 12:00pm. The park will be celebrating the fine efforts of the state’s local heroes along with the biggest coaster fans on the planet to commemorate such a special ride.

Cyclone opened at Six Flags New England on June 24, 1983, and has inspired generations of coaster lovers. The concept of the attraction was based off of a popular ride at Coney Island that provided high impact thrills in a small footprint. While the current frame is different than the old attraction, Cyclone at Six Flags New England quickly established its fan base and has remained a popular and beloved coaster over the last thirty years.

The amazing wooden architecture, designed by William Cobb, unfurls over 3,400 feet of track. State employees and American Coaster Enthusiasts will board Cyclone and climb 109 feet to the top to then plummet down at speeds of over 50 miles per hour. These riders will also experience twist and turns around every corner as they face a variety of hills and weightlessness. Like any wooden coaster, the clicks and rattles from the frame only enhance the element of thrill. Cyclone currently is one of the two wooden coasters housed at Six Flags New England.

“We are so pleased to be celebrating the retirement of Cyclone with some of our biggest fans from throughout New England”. Said John Winkler, Six Flags New England’s Park President. “As the Thrill Capital of New England, we are proud to continuously support state employees along with the American Coaster Enthusiasts.”

2014 Golden Ticket Awards registration, itinerary and hotel information now available

By | July 10, 2014

2014_golden_ticket_new_logoGet your ticket … it’s a “don’t miss” industry event, and registration and the complete itinerary for Amusement Today’s coveted Golden Ticket Awards are now available at www.goldenticketawards.com.   The event will be hosted this year by the beautiful SeaWorld San Diego in California, where the staff is hard at work preparing to roll out the red carpet for the industry on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 5-6.

Nearby Belmont Park will host an Opening Reception on Friday, Sept. 5, while the San Diego Zoo is extending an extra play day on Sunday, Sept. 7.

Special behind-the-scenes tours, receptions, dinners, and of course the much-anticipated awards show are all part of what’s being planned for this year’s event.

To check out the itinerary and hotel information for the Golden Ticket Awards, as well as to register, please log on to www.goldenticketawards.com.  This event is reserved for working professionals in the amusement industry.  Representatives from parks and attractions, manufacturers, suppliers, consultants and more will come together to celebrate another industry season – all in the name of fun.

The Hyatt Regency Mission Bay in San Diego will serve as the host hotel for the event.  The deadline to make reservations is Aug. 22.  Please refer to www.goldenticketawards.com for specific information and rates.

This is the 17th annual year for the Golden Ticket Awards; they are presented to the “Best of the Best” in the amusement industry and are calculated from an international poll conducted by Amusement Today.

Great Coasters International, Skyline design team up for wooden coaster projects

By | July 7, 2014

logo_gcii_150SUNBURY, Pa.—Clair Hain Jr., President and co-founder of Great Coasters International, Inc., has announced that Jeff Pike, Evan Souliere and Chris Gray will be departing to form their own company and pursue additional interests. At the same time, Hain also announced that the two companies have agreed to cooperate closely on wood coaster design and engineering for the foreseeable future.

“These guys have been great for GCI for a long time and are leaving to follow some separate  dreams in addition to the wood coaster work we will be doing together ” said Hain.  “Jeff, Evan and Chris have echoed our desire to keep working closely together supporting Adam House, Adam Yerdon and Anya Lehrner in our engineering offices in Cincinnati, as well as our assembly and construction efforts based in Sunbury.

“Jeff was trained by Michael Boodley and has for years he has been passing more and more of GCI’s knowledge and responsibilities to our hand-picked engineering team in Cincinnati,” added Hain. “Even so, these guys are friends, they are great at what they do, I wish them the very best and we are all very happy we will continue to work together.”

Great Coasters traditional wood coasters and Millennium Flyer trains are widely considered the finest in the world. Operating since 1995, GCI is owned and operated by Clair Hain Jr. based in Sunbury, PA. GCI has constructed twenty-three (23) wood coasters since then as well as assisted in the improvement and revitalization of dozens of wood coasters designed and constructed by others.