RD is back today with an article that is sure to ruffle a few feathers so hold onto your butts.
As for me, this may be my favorite of RD's opinion pieces and I think if you stop yelling at your screen long enough, you'll see that he's got some great points. - Gregg
Over the past few years, I've noticed a disturbing trend among many sites that I read about the world of theme parks. Notably, it is the obscene amount of people who say that their home park NEEDS some ride that another park has in it. Of this, the Fanboy community is truly the worst offender of this.
Let me say this: YOUR PARK DOESN'T NEED IT.
Realistically, your park doesn't need ANY of them. Your home park does just fine without them, and has for years now. In some cases, your park adds in things they think will be a success among the people paying the bills: The GENERAL PUBLIC. (No, not the fantastic Dave Wakeling band, either.)
So let's take a look at a few of the most commonly heard FANBOY-pushed coasters/parks, and WHY THEY DON'T NEED IT.
The most commonly heard reference to the "OUR PARK NEEDS THIS!" I hear is Cedar Point. I s*** you not, of all the FANBOYS in this world, they are the single largest group of complainers. (Hands kleenex to the CP FANBOYS.) I mean that too - None of them are ever satisfied with what they get for rides, shows or attractions - and they are constantly screaming for more, more, more. "Cedar Point NEEDS an RMC makeover of Mean Streak, and it can be the biggest, tallest & fastest RMC EVAR, and have 26 inversions, and be 7 miles long, and it could wrap around the entry plaza and serve golden pellets of regurgitated quail eggs, and it NEEDS TO HAPPEN."
No, CP does not NEED an RMC makeover of Mean Streak. It doesn't NEED anything - much less than another FANBOY delivered ultimatum. CP knows what they are doing - and have done so for over 100 years now, and without the throngs of FANBOYS crying over everything. If CP -wanted- an RMC makeover of Mean Streak, I bet you this: It would have happened - or will happen WHEN THE PARK WANTS IT.
"Busch Gardens Tampa NEEDS a B&M Gigacoaster! It can be 330 ft. tall, go through the safari part of the park, and then loop over the main gate and THEY NEED TO BUILD THIS!!!"
No, BGT does not NEED a B&M Gigacoaster. BGT's coasters have, for the most part, got every base covered in the park's arsenal, and if persistent rumors are correct, another one is coming in the very near future. But does the park NEED a B&M Gigacoaster? Not really. If you look at the arsenal of what they currently have in their works, they have almost every base already covered, from a dive coaster to a classic single-looping ride. And, if BGT wanted a B&M Gigacoaster... THEY WOULD HAVE ORDERED ONE!
Editors Note: According to reports, BGT will be getting a Mack spinning coaster with a vertical lift hill. And it looks amazing. We'll find out for sure at some point today.
I think it can best be said in this: If a park wants to build a ride, and they have the money, they will build it. However, FANBOYS don't quite see it this way: They see some other park (not their own) getting something, and immediately soil their diapers, scream & cry, and then begin the "WE NEED THIS AT OUR PARK!" tantrums. And then they begin spreading rumors - and some real whoppers too: "OUR park is next to get an RMC coaster, and it will be the world's tallest, longest, fastest & most inversions in the history of EVAR on it. I know because I talked with (insert park manager/GM/operations manager's name her) and he/she told me it is coming." Or the 'other' FANBOY faerie tale: "Well, we're going to get the next 450ft tall B&M ubercoaster with 56 inversions & a 25 second long airtime hill. I saw the plans because (insert construction manager/operations manager's name here.) Face it: If you hear those stories... dry them out & put them on the roses. You've got pure steer manure in your hands.
Now you're thinking this "How do you know this FANBOY isn't telling the truth?" Well, that's quite easy really: NO PARK IS GOING TO GIVE AWAY THE SECRET OF THEIR FUTURE RIDE. Parks spend uber-bucks on their latest & greatest attraction to do two things: Draw attention to the park, and to increase attendance - and all important ticket sales & park revenue. If you leak out what you are building before the official announcement, other parks see it, and begin a competitive response plan. These plans are made years into the future for many parks, with advance planning going as far as five to seven years out in some cases (longer if you're in a UK park - let's face it: Planning Councils SUCK!) In this industry, secrecy is of utmost importance, and that means that with very few exceptions, the new ride for 20XX is NOT known by anybody outside of the top level of management. And it would not surprise me if those people are signing confidentiality agreements at the same time. And ride builders are the same way - they tell NOTHING to ANYBODY about anything. (Really, if the USA wanted to keep their secrets safe, they should be handing them to park GMs & Ride manufacturers. They'd never lose them again.)
So now the FANBOYS are saying "But, but, but, I could so SEE that in our park, we NEED to have it, our park sucks without it, our lives are RUINED without it."
OK, first, GET A FREAKIN' LIFE.
Second, not every park NEEDS to have these amazing new rides. Many parks have done very well without these attractions - and will continue to do so well into the future. Parks have a set idea for what draws them in, for what sells, and what people want. Let's look at Knott's Berry Farm for a second.
Knott's was taken over in 1997 by Cedar Fair, and began a multi-year long period where new attractions came fast & furious, and older rides were scrapped & replaced. Soap Box Racers was scrapped for a TOGO Looping Mouse (Windjammer- huge mistake) and for many ginormous attractions that later followed: Xcelerator, Supreme Scream, Ghostrider, Silver Bullet and Perilous Plunge to name a few. And these rides for the most part were/are good rides...but they didn't quite fit into what Knott's really needed. They were trying to compete with nearby Six Flags Magic Mountain - and it didn't work out as well as hoped. Cedar Fair realized this - and over the past six years has spent a small mint in redeeming the park, investing heavily in the classic attractions that KBF already had: Calico Mine & Log Flume. At the same time, Perlious Plunge was extracted & replaced by three smaller & more family friendly rides - and the public has eaten them up. KBF didn't NEED these big rides - and does just fine as a good, family park with some good thrills mixed in.
Some parks are just not cut out for a gajillion foot tall ubercoaster - they won't look right and don't fit with a park's general atmosphere. I look at parks like Knoebel's in this case. Knoebel's has built a solid reputation on classic rides & a classic atmosphere where new-technology rides such as Impulse are welcomed. Impulse, which is new-generation technology from Zierer was intentionally built small, compact & thrilling, as to not overshadow the nearby greateness of Phoenix & Twister. It 'fits' the scale of the park perfectly, and will be a good strong contender well into the future.
And mind you this: A park does not NEED to add anything if they feel it doesn't fit. And if the FANBOYS start to throw tantrums over it, that's their fault. Show some pride in how your park already IS rather than what you feel it needs. That shows some integrity towards the park you are obsessed over. Parks like Six Flags Over Georgia are wonderful places with or without a 200 mile long mega monstrosity added to it. They work well without these beasts, have excellent balances of rides, shows & attractions, and do their finest to keep up with what they have.
In short: It is one thing to WANT something so badly you can taste it - it is another to look like toddlers with dirty diapers because your park doesn't HAVE it.
Today RD shares a special personal story of a very important day in his life, when he fell in love with Theme Parks and coasters.
Enjoy this great story and article. Do you have a special day you remember that made you love your hobby?
Today, I wanted to share with you a bit of my own history rather than a true OpEd piece - so bear with me, the trip you're about to go on is through not only Space... but time. With that said, please fasten your seat belts, put your tray tables and seat backs into the upright & locked position, as we're descending through time - to March, 1988.
In December, 1987 One of my parents was asked to speak at a conference in Lake Buena Vista, Fl. I had -no clue- at that time what or where Lake Buena Vista was - or for that matter that it would alter my life permanently. The conference was set for the first week in March, and I would be going along for the trip, the highlight of which would be my first trip to Walt Disney World.
March in Virginia can be 'moody' weather wise, and so it was on 5 March, 1988 - when we headed to Dulles Airport for the flight southbound to the mysterious place called Orlando, Fl. This was long before the explosion of Universal occurred; Sea World was still a learning park with no hard-core rides, and there were only TWO parks at Walt Disney World. Our resort hotel (Marriott's Orlando World Center) would be home for the next week. The portico out front was bigger than the block of flats we lived in up north; indeed, even the resorts were magical in size & scale. Large glass elevators ran up the tower in the middle of the lobby to our room overlooking the golf resort - and off in the distance, the world's largest golf ball awaited.
Now, in those days for me I had a totally different visualization of Walt Disney World: I honestly thought when they said that EPCOT was built in the same place as the Magic Kingdom, they were in fact right NEXT to each other. Of course, reality seldom has anything to do with the imagination of a teenager.
The first few days of our stay were spent getting used to the warm Orlando weather (When we left DC, it was a balmy 24f/-4c outside) so 72 and cloudy with rain was GREAT! Partaking of my young stupidity, I was the only one in the pool complex during a rainy afternoon, using the waterslide & discovering that one could ride it forwards, backwards, facing up, facing down...again, teenage stupidity for the win! The extra rain helped in adding more 'push' to the slide as well - no problem there at all. The sheer scale of the resort was on par with the largest of Vegas: I found the food court to be a good place to find eats at all hours; the buffet dining was amazing for breakfast, and for me, one of the most important events of my life took place in the Golf Course dining room: French Fries with mayonnaise. (OK, stop it. Y'all are supposed to be adults. Quit all the gagging noises. NOW.) Yes, even then I was a budding foodie, something that I learned during this nexus moment in my life.
7 March, 1988:
The morning started off more or less like any other vacation morning - though at this point it was like any other theme park trip for me: Just 'there' and nothing else. Parks, no matter who they were or where we went, were rather unimportant in my world. Breakfast was at the fantastic buffet, before a short ride over to the Walt Disney World Resort complex. I was headed initially to the Magic Kingdom, but the sheer scale of everything was grandiose on a totally different level than anything I had ever seen before. Tickets purchased, I had a 4 day unlimited park hopper pass (BOTH parks! Four days! For only 96.00!) complete with Monorail access and off I went. The Monorail terminal stood up a series of ramps, and there I waited briefly for the 'hisssss' of the monorail to arrive. Just like anyting else new, everything seemed so perfect, so incredible - and it was. The trains were the original MK IV model - with the individual doors per row. A push-button system on the side of the lead cars 'popped' each door open, and into the bench seats you went, sliding across the car. On the bulkheads was the Walt Disney World "D" logo - a nice touch. A few seconds later, and all the doors were 'KLONKED' shut, and off we hissed in air conditioned comfort to the Magic Kingdom.
The first day at the park was rather, well, random. I didn't do a lot of rides or attractions; mostly sticking to things like the Swiss Family Robinson tree house & the PeopleMover, as well as "If You Could Fly" - a very rare & truly wonderful advertising piece by the then-official airline of Walt Disney World - EASTERN AIR LINES! Most of the day was spent doing more sightseeing than anything else. Lunch in Fantasyland introduced me to Disney dining - and everything tasted so good! In the early evening I headed back to the hotel - but what awaited me the next day would truly alter my life permanently.
8 March 1988:
I write this piece with crystal-clear memories of some 27 years ago; the day, the time & the events are unaltered in ANY way. The moment was so important to me that I can tell you in precise detail, as I will here, down to the exact pinpoint moments.
The second day for me would be one of actually RIDING things in the park beyond the family attractions & such - I had to conquer a fear I'd had for many years of roller-coasters. Yes, good readers, I still was uneasy about riding things; while I'd already had my first coaster credits (less than 10 overall) I had not embraced them as I do now. That morning was a beautiful spring-like morning as I entered the nearly deserted Magic Kingdom at 9AM; the streets still slightly wet & shining with the overhead sun as I made my way to Tommorowland, and to the white cone in the far distance. Out in front a spire with a 'rocket' mounted to it introduced me to Space Mountain - and for me I recall pausing for a second before heading into the queue.
SP75's entry queue was built to allow access to the ride by going UNDER the train tracks as to not break the Disney illusions. And it worked. Even now I can recall the smell of moist concrete from the day's previous washing, and the Star-Tunnel soundtrack playing overhead as I passed the visuals that Disney had installed as part of the overall theme to the ride. In the background you could still hear the sounds of 'rockets' rattling around in the cone above, and upon entering the loading platforms, the sight of the red-nosed rockets added a totally different dimension to the experience. At the top of the entry ramp, I turned right and entered the nearly empty queue for the Alpha track, as rockets lined up and people piled in. I was assigned seat #1 - the lead position - for my first trip into Space.
9:45AM 8 March 1988.
The rocket pulsed forward into the first of two hold areas prior to the star tunnel. In this era, there were no lap bars; a single seatbelt would be more than enough to hold me into the original rockets. At the third hold, a sign flashed to my left side "Prepare for launch!"
And the brakes released.
Down and slightly to the right we went, into the star tunnel, the spacey sounds of the light sequence timing somewhat to the movement of the rocket forward. A perfect Disney illusion, you felt like you were going a LOT faster than you actually were - and it worked perfectly. A loud ROAR and the train bolted to the right, and into the Space Station, complete with flashing signs...
"30 seconds to launch."
"10 seconds to launch."
"5 seconds to launch."
And then... into the darkness.
(I will dismiss you from recalling the entire first ride with me; many of you have already experienced Space Mountain before. For those who have not, there are some excellent videos of the ride on YouTube.)
Halfway through my trip into Space, something 'clicked' with me. It was a crystal-clear awakening; the moment when you know with perfect alignment that something takes over. It was, for me, like falling in love: THIS WAS FUN! It was at that point where I was altered - either by illusion or by forces - that I could totally escape my mundane (and let's face it: shitty) life into a totally different dimension. There WAS a better place out there, and it happened to be on guided rails. I didn't care about anything else around me, and for that matter: It didn't exist. Spiritually I was in a totally different consciousness; it was ethereal.
And I realized that, as the rocket 're-entered' and turned towards the unloading dock that I had been changed - changed by Disney. I exited my rocket, blistered down and out... and back into line to ride the Omega track. And the experience was (no surprise here...) identical. Disney had introduced me to immersion & illusion in one step of time.
That day, 8 March 1988, I rode Space Mountain no less than 37 times. The light crowds & more able legs of a teenager made it easy to do - and FAST. (I do recall the travelator exit ramp 'bounced' nicely when jogging up and into the exit path!) That same day I also 'earned' the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad credit, and the race for more was on.
Over the next few days, I experienced the rest of what Disney had to offer at Walt Disney World - riding the Monorail loops to EPCOT - where I got to experience more of what Disney gave to me: Total immersion. At that time, EPCOT was a nearly-deserted park, with many attractions that at the time seemed almost a bit dated - but in a good way. Universe of Energy was a dichotemy of itself: A building entirely solar-powered was sponsored by an OIL company and about how dinosaurs turned into petroleum. The ride was pretty nifty, though a bit canned in audio & performance, the sheer size of the travelling theaters was impressive. Horizons was a walk-on re-ride if you wanted it, complete with 'your own future' endings, I tried all of them! World of Motion (Sponsored by GM!) talked about how (ahem) great US cars were, and how GM was leading the world in auto design. (Hey, this was 1988. We were still optimistic then!). A brief crossover to the other side of Future World provided us with a cute though dreadfully long journey into Imagination, complete with the ubiquitous Captain EO theater. (Needless to say, I did not spend a long time there.) Next door though was one pavilion that I thought was truly amazing: The Land. A pavilion about future foods, complete with Kraft Ranch Dressing! And finally, the then-new Living Seas pavilion rounded things out - complete with cheesy ride-through fishtanks & oversized swimming areas for the many types of marine life that wre showcased there.
(One thing though stood out in my mind: Why was there a seafood restaurant that faced the side of the fish tanks??? Did they throw the fish that weren't behaving into the kitchen as a threat to others?)
My first Walt Disney World experience changed me permanently; not only for how I feel towards theme parks, but also towards rides, immersion and into a world where I truly feel safe. It is a huge part of who I am, of where I come from & my beliefs surrounding things. When I enter a Disney park, I leave my reality behind, and for me it is the only place on earth where I can live, exist & belong without the outside influences of reality. It is true freedom for me - something I do not enjoy in my actual daily life. As for coasters - a similar but extremely important altered universe exists: As many of you know, I battle a debilitating disease that is difficult to live with - Multiple Sclerosis. When I'm on a coaster - whether Disney or otherwise - for the brief period of time that I am on it I leave my broken & damaged body behind - and let my spirit exist in freedom.
And it is all because of 8 March 1988.