Final Push for Kentucky Kingdom
In a battle that has been raging on now for over 3 years, which has swung Kentucky Kingdom from the edge of salvation to the brink of total extinction and annihilation, it finally seems as though a deal may be legitimately coming to reopen the park. According to WFPL, Governor Steve Beshear has approved of a plan to reopen the park, with only the final details left to work out. That group, led by Kentucky Kingdom journeyman Ed Hart, will need to negotiate with the state on its proposal.
After several failed attempts for Ed Hart and his supporters, the group of investors, known as Kentucky Kingdom LLLP, ended up being the only entry to submit a proposal to reopen the park a few months ago when Gov. Beshear opened up for proposals. According to WLKY, the Kentucky State Fair Board finally approved a 50-year lease agreement with Ed Hart, whose attempts until now with the Fair Board had failed.
The investors have already agreed to invest $45 million into the park, but must also secure an additional $25 million in private loans before opening the park. He will also need another $70 million over 30 years for the long-term lease. Beshear told WLKY, "This agreement is great news for the families who will visit Kentucky Kingdom and will certainly be a shot in the arm for local and regional tourism." A big point of the proposal involving the lease was to protect taxpayers from "shouldering private debt."
WLKY reported that Kentucky Kingdom LLLP now has 90 days to complete its financial obligation, at which point the opening of the park can move forward. To help out, Louisville Mayor Greg Fisher will provide three financial incentives to assist in redevelopment, worth as much as $300,000 a year. According to the Courier Journal, the Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau voted to provide Hart and his group $100,000 per year for 5 years to help offset the park's operating costs. As well, the Metro government will also give back up to 1.25% of "occupational taxes" (generated by park employment) collected from the park for 10 years, an estimated $100,000 per year.
Hart has his work cut out for him, as the park has sat dormant and been run down for 3 years now without maintenance. The park has already lost Chang to relocation, and according to Hart, Greezed Lightnin' is "beyond repair." On the upside, he does plan to reopen one of the park's other major coasters, Twisted Twins, for the park's second year. Few other details have been revealed, other than the fact that Hart would like to double the size of the water park, add a $15 million coaster, and install 3 major thrill rides, according to the Courier Journal.
Plans seem to be moving forward as all sides work to finalize the deal, with plans to get the park back on track for an opening in 2014.
Alton Towers: The Smiler
Alton Towers theme park and resort in Staffordshire, United Kingdom has announced the name of their roller coaster that will debut in 2013. According to a story bythemeparktourist.com, the new roller coaster, known for its codename “SW7,” will be named The Smiler and will be themed to tie in with The Sanctuary, a horror maze debuted at the Scarefeast in the 2012 Halloween Event, that focused on the mysterious "Ministry of Joy" which undertook experiments on humans during the early 20th century.
The Smiler will boast a secretive “World’s First” element that is currently under construction. The ride will feature at least eight inversions, two lift hills, and the highest drop will be approximately 100 feet. The Smiler is set to be located alongside Oblivion, a steel roller coaster located in the X-Sector area. The Smiler will cost approximately $18 million, which is estimated to be the largest investment the park has made in a while.
Alton Towers will premier the ride with a “distinctive” logo that has already started to appear in prominent locations around the country. The ride is currently set to open May of 2013. In a move which could be viewed as an “insurance policy” in case the opening day slips for the new ride, the park has confirmed that it will bring back The Sanctuary for the start of the new season.
MyMagic+ at Disney Parks
Disney recently rolled out their plans to begin using MyMagic+ system, under the NextGen technology company, in their parks. The MyMagic+ system will allow guests to experience the park in a whole new way, while it also allows Disney to get to know their guests a little bit better. According to an article bynytimes.com, the park plans to begin using this new system over the next few years and it is estimated that it will be an investment between $800 million to $1 billion.
The new MyMagic+ system will allow guests to to pre-select 3 FastPasses for rides and attractions or V.I.P seating for parades, fireworks, or a character meet-and-greet before they even leave their home with an app called My Disney Experience. This website will allow guests to customize a variety of personal details that the MagicBands will use. The MagicBand will be able to be used as a room key, park ticket, FastPass, and even as a credit card.
The MagicBand will also be used to make kids waiting areas, such as the “Under The Sea” attraction, more appealing to children. For instance, instead of going through and pointing out the talking sea gull, Scuttlle from “The Little Mermaid," guests with the MagicBand will be able to talk directly to the robot. A system on the robot will have a special sensor that will be able to pick up the guests names who are wearing the Magic Band. “We want to take experiences that are more passive and make them as interactive as possible — moving from, ‘Cool, look at that talking bird,’ to ‘Wow, amazing, that bird is talking directly to me,’ ” said Bruce Vaughn, chief creative executive for Walt Disney Imagineering.
Not only will the MyMagic+ system change the way guests experience the park, but it will also grant Disney more information about its visitors and allow Disney parks to “refine its offerings and customize its marketing messages." If used properly, the MagicBand will be able to pick up on what the guest wearing the band is doing in a matter of minutes. It will allow the park to see what rides you rode, what attractions you visited, if you bought a balloon, etc.. Did you shake Goofy’s hand? The park will also be able to see if you have done so.
The MagicBand system is, however, an option to guests. Visitors who choose to use the system will be able to control how much they want the park to know about them through My Disney Experience website/app. Do you want Disney employees to know your name? Do you want Cinderella to know it’s your birthday? Guests with the MagicBand will be able to control all of these options plus more through the website. But what happens if the guests loses their wristband? Park employees will be trained with the new system, which will include deactivating lost MagicBands. Guests will also be able to deactivate their own MagicBand through the app.
The MyMagic+ system is expected to turn into big business. “When Disney makes a move, it moves the culture,” said Steve Brown, chief operating officer for Lo-Q, a British company that provides line management and ticketing systems for theme parks and zoos. "The company must aggressively weave new technology into its parks — without damaging the sense of nostalgia on which the experience depends — or risk becoming irrelevant to future generations," Thomas O. Staggs, chairman of Disney Parks and Resorts said. From a business perspective, he added, MyMagic+ could be “transformational.” As the systems grows, plans to add collectible accessories for the MagicBands are being considered. Advance planning will also help lock visitors into Disney once they arrive in Orlando, discouraging people from visiting Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter, for instance.
Changes to the parks are included in the initiative’s cost. Eventually guests will no longer enter the parks through turnstiles. Instead they will tap their MagicBand on a post. Mr. Staggs explained that research indicated that guests, particularly mothers with strollers, viewed the turnstiles as an unpleasant barrier. “Small, subtle things can make a big difference,” Mr. Staggs said.
Timber Mountain Makeover
When the calendar turned over from 2012 to 2013, many made their New Year’s Resolutions, and the same could be said for some parks. Just before the calendar turned, Knott’s Berry Farm announced its New Year’s Resolution: to give the old Timber Mountain Log Ride a major overhaul. According to the park’s press release, the renovation will be a multi-million dollar restoration project that will begin in January.
The old Timber Mountain Log Ride opened at the park on July 11, 1969 as just the second log flume ride in the entire US. Designed by Bud Hurlbut, the attraction cost $3.5 million and was originally called the Calico Log Ride, to go along with the Calico Mine Ride already at the park. Running around and through a huge mountain with 24,000 gallons of water and countless “animals,” the ride ends with a 42-foot drop.
Raffi Kaprelyan, General Manager of Knott’s, said of the ride in the press release, “ The Timber Mountain log Ride not only embodies the spirit of Knott’s Berry Farm, but it also set the bar for all themed attractions that came after.” The park will be getting help renovating the ride from Garner Holt Productions, one of the world’s largest designers and manufacturers of animatronics, and plans to be done by the middle of 2013. The ride should maintain its original theming and storyline, but will have all its figures, animatronics, and sets upgraded, while introducing a few new ones to the fray.
The reopening of the Timber Mountain Log Ride will follow alongside the park’s work on its boardwalk section. For the 2013 season, the park will be expanding its “California Boardwalk” theme by adding in new attractions to bring that part of the park’s popularity back up after the loss of Perilous Plunge. Coming later this year before the renovation of Timber Mountain is completed are the Pacific Scrambler, Surfside Glider, and the Coast Rider family coaster.