Six Flags Hurricane Harbor adding Wahoo Racer for 2014

By | February 12, 2014

ARLINGTON, Texas — Six Flags Hurricane Harbor, the largest water park in North Texas, is going to the races with the introduction of the all-new Wahoo Racer! The thrilling multi-lane water slide complex is the largest of its kind in the world and will complement the park’s already impressive line-up of more than 40 rides and attractions.

Standing nearly 60 feet tall, Wahoo Racer is a two-tiered slide mat racer that first sends riders on an intense, winding stretch through colorful tubes before shooting them out into six racing track-styled lanes. Riders then zoom down head first, at speeds of up to 40 feet per second, on aero-dynamically designed water toboggans for the final stretch. Each course is timed, allowing guests to challenge themselves, along with family and friends to reach the checkered flag for the win.

“This massive slide structure is a great addition to our park,” said Steve Martindale, Six Flags Hurricane Harbor park president. “No other water park in North Texas offers this much thrilling variety and we are committed to delivering a bigger, better and wetter experience to guests of all ages.”

Wahoo Racer is part of the second phase of Hurricane Harbor’s multi-year enhancement project which includes a new retail location, season pass processing facility and redesigned restrooms.

Wahoo Racer is scheduled to open Memorial Day weekend. Six Flags Hurricane Harbor opens for the 2014 season on Saturday, May 10. For more information about Wahoo Racer and the other exciting water rides and attractions, visit

Wahoo Racer Concept Slide ImageR

Hersheypark announces family is focus for 2014

By | February 10, 2014

Hershey-Entertainment-ResortsHERSHEY, Pa. — The roller coaster count at Hersheypark will increase in 2014 when the Park introduces a new coaster designed for families to ride together.

Cocoa Cruiser, a new coaster from Zamperla of Italy, will give more opportunities to for adults to ride with their children. Located in the park’s Music Box Way area, the compact oval layout will feature a midcourse helix. and the six-car train will hold up to 12 riders.

Two other family favorites will open at the park for the 2014 season — a Tea Cup ride and Sweet Swing, both rides are also from Zamperla.

“Everyone at Zamperla is excited to be adding these three new rides to Hersheypark,” said Sales Director Ramon Rosario. “Our rides are designed to attract and entertain the entire family, so they will be a perfect fit.

Long time Advertising Manager Bill Rea dies at 90

By | February 7, 2014

IMG_2015_croppedHEWITT, Texas — It is with heavy hearts that we announce the loss of a member of the Amusement Today family. Bill Rea was on hand at the very beginning as the Advertising Manager when Amusement Today was launched in 1997. He passed away Friday, February 7 at a hospice in Hewitt. He was 90.

Rea retired from Amusement Today at the end of 2008, but always kept in touch with staff members and Editor-in-Chief Gary Slade.

Before joining the AT staff Rea was long-time advertising salesman at the Dallas Morning News. He was born and raised in Pottsville, Texas, where he played Texas six-man football. He would go one to attend and graduate Texas Christian University where he would become a Horned Frog fan for life.

Bess Rea, his long-time wife and love of his life, preceded him in death. Funeral services are pending

Look for a complete obituary and tribute in the March issue of Amusement Today.

Banshee trains arrive at Kings Island

By | February 5, 2014

MASON, Ohio – The vehicles for the first of three trains for the new Banshee roller coaster at Kings Island were delivered to the 364-acre amusement and waterpark on Wednesday. Currently under construction, Banshee will be the world’s longest inverted roller coaster when the $24 million ride makes its highly-anticipated debut April 18. Riders will scream their way through 4,124 feet of track and seven inversions at speeds up to 68 mph.

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Workmen install lift chain on Banshee inverted roller coaser

By | February 1, 2014

MASON, Ohio – In this photo, a workman prepares for the installation of the chain for the lift hill of the new Banshee roller coaster at Kings Island. The $24 million ride will be the longest inverted roller coaster in the world when the ride debuts April 18. Riders will scream their way through 4,124 feet of track and seven inversions at speeds up to 68 mph.
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Up-close tour of vehicle assembly building at Kennedy Space Center

By | January 31, 2014

kennedyspacecenterCAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Visitors interested in receiving unprecedented access to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at Kennedy Space Center now have until only Feb. 11 to enjoy the KSC Up-Close Tour of the VAB.

After a little more than two years, the tour is being halted to allow for modifications needed while Kennedy Space Center is changing into a multi-user Spaceport and preparing for the Space Launch System.

The VAB tour is part of the KSC Up-Close Mega Tour that also takes visitors to Launch Pad 39-A. The Mega-Tour will also end on Feb. 11, but the Launch Pad and Launch Control Center (LCC) up-close tours are continuing at this time, although both are also subject to potential Kennedy Space Center efforts for SLS and commercial space programs.

One of the largest buildings in the world, the VAB had been off limits to visitors for more than 30 years until the Up-Close tour was added in November 2011. For the first time since 1978, guests at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex have had the chance to disembark their tour buses and tour inside the VAB to see firsthand where monstrous vehicles were assembled for launch, from the very first Saturn V rocket in the late 1960s to the very last space shuttle, STS-135 Atlantis, in 2011.

“Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex has been honored to give our guests rare access to the VAB for the past two years, yet we knew that the day would come when preparations for the SLS would take precedent,” said Therrin Protze, chief operating officer for the Visitor Complex. “Kennedy Space Center is an operating space program facility, and preparations for the next chapter in space exploration are the utmost priority, and we are very excited about the future.”

Long-time entertainment industry veteran Ray Pilszak dies

By | January 29, 2014

CHICAGO, Ill. — Ray Pilszak, 82, a long-time employee of Amusement Business, died January 18, 2014, in the city of his birth, Chicago. He would have turned 83 years old on March 5, Pilzakphoto2014.

Known in the industry as a tenacious ad salesman, Pilszak had only one job his entire adult life and that was with Billboard Publications/Amusement Business.

Pilszak had put together a bio most likely when he was inducted into the International Entertainment Buyers Association’s Hall of Fame in 2012.

In it, he stated: “After eight years in the [United States] Marines, [I] joined Billboard Publications in Chicago as a trainee in the production department, then moved into advertising sales. [I] transferred to the New York office and was appointed Ad Manager for Amusement Business, publishers of Arena, Auditorium and Stadium Guide, Calvalcade of Acts & Attractions and Funspot Directory, in addition to weekly issues of Amusement Business (this was in the late 1960s).

“AB relocated to Nashville in 1970. I always serviced ad accounts for arenas, fairs, talent and carnivals. Weekly ad campaigns included Reba McEntire, George Strait, Randy Travis, Barbara Mandrell, Louise Mandrell, Alabama, Ricky Nelson. [I] served on the Board of Directors of Gospel Music Association and the Academy of Country Music. Received the Mae Boren Axton Award from the ACM. Received the Maynard L. Reuter Award from Billboard Publications.”

Pilszak remained in Nashville until he retired in 2001. He continued being a part of the industry and remained in Nashville until the last couple of years when family members’ health needed attention so he went to Chicago to help tend to them.

Pilszak was well-known in the industry and he excelled in the talent area of advertising.

Former AB employees have been remembering Pilszak this past week by relating numerous “Ray Pilszk stories” of how he never took no for an answer and never knew a deadline.
He also was known to do anything he could for his friends and, according to Beth Jenkins, who had known Pilszak since she began working in AB sales shortly after the magazine moved to Nashville, “he considered everyone he worked with and did business with his friends.”

Tom Powell, former AB editor who now writes for the Outdoor Amusement Business Association, worked with Pilzsak for more than 40 years. In OABA’s ShowTime Xtra, Powell writes: “We used to joke that he drove everybody nuts, but everybody eventually learned to love him. He had a good heart and, literally, would give you the shirt off his back.” Powell’s column is filled with affectionate humor for a friend he said he would deeply miss…a friend with which he spent much of his life.

Jenkins said: “Ray was a leader in the fields that AB covered. He was a valuable source in all industries and was one of the leaders in the country music industry at a time when its growth was taking off in Nashville.”

Tim O’Brien, a senior editor for AB for 18 years and who afterwards worked for Ripley’s for 10 years, worked closely with Pilszak during his years at AB. Upon hearing about Pilzak’s passing, O’Brien said: “Ray was loved by everyone, but no one could really figure him out. As a salesman, he was great because he really knew how to work the room, and he loved to drop names of celebrities! He knew a lot them and would often invite them to come into the AB offices to impress us.

“He kept his personal life close to his vest, but he could talk about the industry and its history for hours,” O’Brien said. “I always felt that he had an issue with how the publication was run and he was always quick to point out how it could be improved, but he hung in there and did his best because he loved the industry, especially the talent side. When I close my eyes now, I think of the kind smile he had, the annoying whistle that always seemed to emanate from his mouth, and how he could nurse one bottle of beer during an entire event. He was quite the man. “

At Pilszak’s request, no funeral services were planned. Survivors include his wife, of 56 years, Georgia, and a daughter, Krisa Pilszak, a dance instructor.

Please see an extended obit in Amusement Today’s March print issue where more former AB employees share their friendships about Ray Pilszak. This author also worked closely with Ray. Our offices were immediately next door to each in the offices on Music Row in Nashville. His enthusiasm for his work was unmatched…well was maybe matched by his buddy and partner in crime, Tom Powell. Almost daily I would hear someone yelling Ray’s name and going after him as he would head swifty, with that soft smile on his lips, directly into his office where he would close his door quickly. And, more likely than not, Ray had just sold a full page ad to someone days, a week or perhaps two weeks after deadline, depending on the publication. Sales, editorial and production would be quickly on his heels. But, he was never denied. We ALWAYS found a way to take Ray’s advertising dollars.

— Pam Sherborne

Universal Orlando Resort reveals details for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley

By | January 24, 2014

2014′s Most Anticipated New Theme Park Experience Opens This Summer and Brings More of Harry Potter’s Adventures to Life

ORLANDO, Fla. — Never before has a theme park created a guest experience like this: you climb aboard the Hogwarts Express in Hogsmeade and moments later arrive at King’s Cross Station — where the wonders of London and Diagon Alley unfold before you. And it is all real.

With this summer’s opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley, Universal Orlando Resort and Warner Bros. Entertainment will bring even more of Harry Potter’s adventures to life inside a new, magnificently themed area that includes a revolutionary attraction experience, as well as all-new themed shops and dining.

The two companies today revealed first-ever details about the new area and the one-of-a-kind adventures it will offer the whole family. The spectacularly themed environment will double the size of the sweeping area already dedicated to Harry Potter’s adventures at Universal Orlando, expanding it across both Universal theme parks.

And — just like in the books and films — guests will be able to travel between the two areas aboard the iconic Hogwarts Express.

Universal Orlando launched a global phenomenon when it opened The Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Hogsmeade at its Islands of Adventure theme park in 2010. That area includes the iconic Hogwarts castle — which houses the groundbreaking Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey attraction — and the village of Hogsmeade. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley will be located within Universal Orlando’s second theme park, Universal Studios, and will create new experiences based on the signature areas of London, Diagon Alley and Knockturn Alley.

Universal’s creative team has been working closely with Stuart Craig and the production team from the Harry Potter films to make the new area as authentic and spectacular as possible — just as it did with The Wizarding World of Harry Potter —Hogsmeade.

The vision for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley is unprecedented, with Universal Orlando creating the world’s first centrally themed, multi-park experience.

After arriving at King’s Cross Station aboard the Hogwarts Express, guests will pass through London and the iconic brick wall archway from the films into Diagon Alley — a bustling, wizarding hub within a Muggle city. There will be shops, dining experiences, and a new ride called Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts — a multi-sensory, multi-dimensional journey that will take theme park attractions to a new level.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley will give visitors the exciting opportunity to:

  • Board the Hogwarts Express and journey between London’s King’s Cross Station (located in Universal Studios Florida) and Hogsmeade Station (located in Universal’s Islands of Adventure). The journey will be filled with views of London and the British countryside — as well as a few surprises. Park-to-park admission is required.
  • Experience a groundbreaking new, multi-dimensional thrill ride, Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, which will place riders in the middle of an incredible adventure as they navigate their way through the perils of the Gringotts vaults
  • Witness the magical experience of a wand choosing a wizard at Ollivanders: Makers of Fine Wands since 382 BC, one of the wizarding world’s premier wand shops
  • Discover the darker side of magic in Knockturn Alley, the darkest of dark places that features Borgin and Burkes — a shop specializing in the Dark Arts that will offer a wide variety of Dark objects, such as Death Eater masks, skulls, and other sinister items
  • Explore some of Diagon Alley’s famous shops, including:
    • Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, a vibrant shop featuring novelty items, magical jokes, and toys inspired by the books and films that will amaze the mischievous child in everyone
    • Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions, where guests will find a variety of wizardwear from Hogwarts school uniform ties, scarves and jumpers, to authentic wizard’s robes and character costumes
    • Magical Menagerie, which features a collection of plush animals, such as owls and Hippogriffs
    • Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment, where guests can grab wizarding essentials such as telescopes, binoculars, armillary spheres, compasses, magnifying glasses and hourglasses
    • Quality Quidditch Supplies, offering a wide assortment of apparel and equipment including Quidditch sweaters, brooms, Golden Snitches, Bludgers, Bludger bats, Quaffles and more
    • Scribbulus, featuring authentic writing implements and products such as feather quills, ink and inkwells, bookmarks, journals, parchment paper, seals, stationery sets and postcards
  • Enjoy traditional British fare that includes favorite dishes such as fish and chips, bangers and mash and more at the Leaky Cauldron
  • Visit Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour for frozen treats in a variety of tantalizing and unique flavors such as strawberry-and-peanut-butter ice-cream and many others
  • And more!

More details about the unique experiences that can be found in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley will be released over time. For more information about the area, visit


Cedar Fair announces organizational changes

By | January 22, 2014

Cedar FairSANDUSKY, Ohio — Cedar Fair Entertainment Company (NYSE: FUN), a leader in regional amusement parks, water parks and active entertainment, today announced Carrie Boldman as the Company’s corporate vice president, merchandise and games. In addition, the Company announced the promotion of Matt Shafer to corporate vice president, strategic alliances.

“We are thrilled to have Carrie join our team and to announce Matt’s promotion,” said Richard Zimmerman, Cedar Fair’s chief operating officer. “Our focus is on continually enhancing our guest experience. We believe both Carrie and Matt possess the knowledge and drive to help us elevate the high-quality entertainment value our parks are known for. We look forward to working with both of them in their new roles.”

Boldman has 16 years of experience in the amusement park industry, all of which were with the Walt Disney Company. During her many years in the Disney organization, she held senior merchandise positions within the company’s parks and resorts segment. In her new role with Cedar Fair, Boldman will assume responsibility for all aspects of Cedar Fair’s merchandise and games operations with a focus on creating and implementing a strategic plan that enhances the guest experience.

Shafer has 14 years of experience in the amusement park industry and most recently served as corporate director of marketing where he led the implementation of Cedar Fair’s e-commerce programs. In his new role, Shafer’s primary focus will be the startup and launch of the Company’s new in-house television network.

Legoland Florida salutes active personnel in armed forces with military appreciation days throughout 2014

By | January 15, 2014

Active Military Receive Free Admission Plus Family Member Discounts

Legoland FloridaWINTER HAVEN, Fla. – Legoland Florida salutes the men and women serving in the United States Armed Forces with the continuation of Military Appreciation Days throughout 2014. As an appreciation for their continued service, all active duty military personnel including the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, National Guard and Reservists are now entitled to free single day admission to Legoland Florida and the Loegoland Water Park (open seasonally). Specifically geared for families with children ages 2 to 12, Legoland Florida also offers substantial savings for family and friends of military personnel so all can enjoy the more than 50 rides, shows, attractions and the newest expansion, The Lego World of Chima presented by Cartoon Network featuring an interactive family water ride, The Quest for Chi.

To redeem their free admission ticket, active duty military personnel should present their military identification card to Legoland Florida’s ticket window the day they plan to visit. Family and friends of military personnel also receive substantial discounts on admission tickets and should make purchases in advance through participating military base ticket offices.

“We are pleased to continue our Military Appreciation Days. This is a great way for Legoland Florida to say thank you for the selfless service our military men and women provide every day throughout the year,” said Kim Isemann, director of sales and marketing at Legoland Florida.

For the most current information on operating hours and special events throughout the year at Legoland Florida, visit