Just days after their Halloween haunts made their debut, California’s Great America and Knott’s Berry Farm have pulled the plug on their newest offering, FearVR, because of concerns that the attraction could be “hurtful to those who suffer from mental illness.”
The move comes after mental health advocates in Southern California protested the virtual reality story line about a possessed patient running amok in a hospital. Parkgoers are strapped into chairs, given VR goggles and told to press the “panic button” if the experience becomes overwhelming.
A statement issued Tuesday night by Cedar Fair, parent company of the Santa Clara and Buena Park theme parks, said the “edgy, adult-only” attraction was never meant to “portray mental illness.” However, “As it is impossible to address both concerns and misconceptions in the Halloween timeframe, at this time we have decided to close the attraction.”
A Southern California mental health advocate, Kay Warren, praised the decision. “I’m so grateful (Cedar Fair) listened to the voices of the mental health community,” she told the Orange County Register.
Today California’s Great America announced that for the 2017 season, it will introduce Patriot, the first floorless coaster in the park’s 41-year history. Patriot will emerge from the soon to be retired Vortex coaster, the oldest stand up roller coaster in the United States. Season Passes for the 2017 season also go on sale today at the lowest price of the season, offering unlimited admission for the rest of 2016 and all of 2017.
Patriot will take riders to a 91-foot height before plummeting them into a 360-degree loop at 45 miles per hour. Patriot’s position in the park makes it a dynamic visual from three different sections of Great America.
The inspiration for the coaster’s name was taken from the fact that the ride is nestled adjacent to All American Corners within a park whose name celebrates America.
The transition from a stand up to floorless ride will include state-of-the-art blue and white trains positioning guests with their feet dangling above the blue and white track.
“With the track visible beneath their fee, Patriot will create unique and exciting new perspectives throughout the ride,” said California’s Great America Vice President and General Manager Raul Rehnborg.
Guests can take their “Last Stand” on Vortex through September 5. Then work will begin to ready Patriot for the 2017 season.
Great America’s season continues weekend operations through Oct. 30, with Halloween Haunt running Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from Sept. 24-Oct. 30.
WinterFest debuts and takes center stage Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from Nov. 25-Dec. 30, with daily operations Dec. 19-23 and 26-30. Guests can ice skate in front of the iconic Carousel Columbia, admire magnificent displays of lights and décor, view spectacular live holiday shows, experience 18 rides, see Santa’s workshop and Mrs. Claus’ kitchen, and enjoy scrumptious holiday foods around the park.
"Welcome aboard Mass Effect: New Earth at California's Great America, where anyone can be an explorer," says the narrator. "Please prepare for an immersive, 4D holographic across the galaxy...if you dare."
Writing on Twitter, Great America said the attraction features the "world's largest 3D LED screen." The ride was produced in partnership with Electronic Arts and Mass Effect developer BioWare.
When New Earth was announced in September 2015, it was described as a "first-of-its-kind guest experience," featuring "settings and characters" from the series, brought to life virtually.
Visitors will "climb aboard motion-based seating and wear 3D glasses, live performers will curate the journey and interact seamlessly with the 'next generation 3D visual.'" In addition to the motion seating, the ride will have "high-tech sound and other 4D effects."
Even as nervous families and kids streamed into Great America on Wednesday in a fit of spring break fervor, the president and CEO of the company that runs the amusement park was at the entrance with a calming message: The place is not disappearing and will never be anything other than what it is today.
"We are here to commit to the long-term growth and the vibrancy of Great America pending approval of our master plan by the city," said Matthew A. Ouimet of Cedar Fair Entertainment Company, owner of the park. "We are prepared to invest in a collection of new rides, attractions and shows," he said, speaking at the outdoor fountain and carousel of the 40-year-old institution.
Ouimet said the approval of the master plan will make the park "more fun," referring to a 35-foot height limitation that is a bane to the higher-faster-crazier formula that delights amusement park fans. Now, any ride higher than the limit must get special variances before it is built. The master plan, says Ouimet, promises more spectacular roller coasters and water slides and, with Silicon Valley in mind, "there will be more digital rides."
California's Great America will set out to claim the tallest and fastest wooden roller coaster in Northern California in 2013 as they now announce Gold Striker. The park's 8th coaster will also be the park's second wooden coaster next to Grizzly. The ride will be built by Great Coaster's International.
The ride will be 108.2 ft high with a 103.3 ft drop, the highest in Northern California with the previous record belonging to Roar of Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. The coaster will reach a top speed of 53.7 mph, the fastest in the region. The ride sprawls out over 3,197 ft of track with a first drop, which is considered a double-down, that curls around the 200 ft Star Tower, then passes the station at break neck speeds, and the rest of the course is filled with lots of sudden drops, high speed elevated banked turns, and tons of cross-throughs. The ride will have banking as high as 80 degrees and a duration of 2 minutes and 30 seconds.
The trains are the standard issue stock from Great Coasters International, which are their famous Millennium Flyer trains decked in orange. The trains consist of each row of 2 seats that are their own individual car, known as an articulating train. There will be 12 cars, thus the ride will hold 24 riders. The ride will use 2 of these trains in hopes of getting 850 riders an hour as its capacity rating.
Cedar Fair has just announced that it is now officially looking to sell its California’s Great America amusement park in Santa Clara, California. Cedar Fair stated that they are selling the park to help reduce its debt, and has entered into an agreement to sell the park to JMA Ventures, LLC (JMA) for $70 million.
JMA Ventures, LLC, is a real estate and investment firm who manages projects in hospitality and leisure properties among others. The company is perhaps most well-known in California for its ownership in major mountain and ski resorts, including: Alpine Meadows, Fairmont Heritage Place, and Red Lodge Mountain. The company has been in operation in this line of business since 1986, and Cedar Fair seems to have no doubts they will be more than competent manages of the parks future.
Cedar Fair CEO Dick Kinzel stated in the press release, “Our decision to divest of our California’s Great America park was not an easy one…we determined that divesting a smaller park like California’s Great America at an attractive market value created a compelling business opportunity we couldn’t pass up.” Namely, selling the smaller park gives the company a chance to reduce its debt without greatly affecting its current lineup of parks, giving them greater financial flexibility in the coming years.
The California’s Great America park is one of the leading parks in the area, featuring over 50 rides and attractions, but the park seems to have fallen by the wayside over the years. Over the past few years, the ride has seen the loss of several rides and attractions, such as the recently announced removal of the parks Invertigo roller coaster, but has seen few additions to the parks lineup of rides. The last ride additions to the park were 2008’s FireFall Top Spin attraction from HUSS, and the 2006 Zamerla Disk’O attraction. Other than those two rides, the majority of the parks additions have been shows and waterpark expansions.
While the agreement has been made between Cedar Fair and JMA, it is still subject to approval by the City of Santa Clara and closing conditions, but is expected to close without any issues in the fourth quarter of 2011. As mentioned previously, once the transaction is completed, it is expected the $70 million will be applied to the company’s secured debt.
Great America potentially for sale
A popular park in the Santa Clara, California area may be meeting its demise soon. The San Francisco 49ers have proposed a new stadium in the area, more notably, around theGreat America amusement park which may become a hassle for the park. Negotiations between Santa Clara, the 49er's, and Cedar Fair are in the works.
As some may recall, another park met it's end due to a stadium and the hassles of traffic and parking it created. Six Flags Astroworld closed due to it's close proximity to the infamousAstrodome in Houston, Texas, thus closing the park. The same story seems to be occurring to Great America and thus, Cedar Fair has opposed the proposition of the new stadium and hopes to alter the location of the sports facility. However, in the end, it will be up to the people of Santa Clara to decide the fate of the former Paramount Park.
Great America has been a favorite park in the area mainly due to it's affordable pricing, cleanliness, and value for the price. Major attractions have included Top Gun: The Jet Coaster(a B&M inverted coaster), Vortex (a B&M stand up), Invertigo (Vekoma Inverted Boomerang), and the former flying coaster, Stealth. The park was once in the same chain as it's Six Flagsequivalent in Chicago until both were sold to their respective chains, the California property toParamount and Cedar Fair, and the Chicago park to Six Flags.
Paramount's Great America is getting their first coaster since 2001, to be dubbed Survivor: the Ride. This new thrill will be the first extended Zamperla Disk'O model to debut in the United States, adding more length to the usual ride experience.
Survivor: the Ride will be an interactive ride recreating the atmosphere taken directly from the CBS reality television show, surrounded by jungle sounds and music. The riders will be divided into two "tribes" in the queue line that will try to beat each other out by yelling tribal chants and dances. These chants and dances will make tribal masks spray water on the other "tribe."
Riders will enter the ride on a large platform with seats on the outside of the circular passenger car. The riders will then embark on the Survivor journey through the course reaching heights up to five stories while spinning and rocking back and forth along a W-shaped track layout.
Survivor: the Ride will be Paramount's Great America's ninth coaster and will further its title as the park with the most coasters in Northern California.
Today, officials of Six Flags Great America changed plans to remove Whizzer, the last remaining Schwarzkopf SpeedRacer in the United States, from the park's ride collection in favor of a new coaster for 2003 and, as it is reported, instead decided that it is the 14-year oldShockwave's time to go.
This comes after the park announced that the Whizzer would close on August 11th to make way for an unspecified attraction to open next season.
The Shockwave, which opened as one of the world's tallest and fastest looping coasters in 1988, features 7 inversions and comes from Utah's Arrow Dynamics. Reports state that the ride has already been closed and dismantling of the coaster should begin any day now.
Thanks to all who voiced their opinion that the Whizzer should stay, and this is fortunately one case that a classic American coaster gem can be saved!