by Danny Miller
You know, it’s not too often that I come to COASTER-net to express my complaints. Most of the time I write to tell you about how awesome a trip was, how much I liked a new ride or something along those lines. After a brief leave of absence from writing, I’m coming back to the blogs from my apartment near my summer job back in Buffalo, New York. Last week I talked about Darien Lake, its lack of new rides, and its declining attendance. While I may have given the park a slap on the wrist, I did my best to put a positive spin on, as I am hopeful that another down year may mean something that much bigger in the near future.
Now I don’t know about you, but when I woke up this morning, looked at my phone, and saw that it was June, I had to stop and think about it for a minute. We are now in the heart of the three-month peak season for theme parks, and more than a few parks still have yet to open their signature attractions they’ve been hyping up all winter. Sure, the anticipation gets higher, but with that comes increased expectations, and thus, and much more likely case of “anticipointment” as the hosts of the Coasterradio.com podcast have talked about so brilliantly in the past.
I’ve referred to the term before, but for those of you who may be puzzled, “anticipointment” is the combinations of high expectations that result in disappointment. This doesn’t mean the ride is bad. In fact, the ride still may be great, but if it doesn’t meet your expectations, it may not seem to be as great as it is. So why all the talk about high expectations? Remember Firechaser Express at Dollywood? That opened this year. How about Banshee at Kings Island? That’s a new-for-2014 ride too. It seems like forever ago that these rides opened. More recently, Story Land, Canada’s Wonderland, and Walt Disney World all opened signature rides on or around Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial kick-off of summer. Kudos to these parks for making sure their new rides were ready for one of the biggest weekends of the season.
But hold the phone. Other big-box parks have big attractions still under construction, and some aren’t close to opening. I’m going to look at three of them in particular. Let’s start close to my home at Six Flags Great Adventure. Zumanjaro: Drop of Doom is the highly-anticipated, world-record-breaking drop ride that is being attached to the Kingda Ka tower. Now I understand that it’s not as simple as this, but literally three 420 foot-long pieces of track are being bolted to the tower.
Now the winter on the east coast was harsh, and it’s not easy to do construction that high up with rain, snow, and wind. You also have to consider the construction to get back there and the new path, but they were nowhere near being ready for this ride to open a few weeks ago when I visited the park. I’m sorry Six Flags, but if Cedar Point can build a record-breaking coaster AND redo their entire main entrance plaza with their geography and have it ready ahead of schedule, you can certainly do better than June for a ride that requires minimal construction efforts.
Elsewhere in the Six Flags chain, Goliath at Six Flags Great America, the highly-anticipated wooden coaster from Rocky Mountain Construction, limps along, finally entering initial testing this past weekend. The media event (open to coaster clubs) was initially planned for Memorial Day Weekend, and then was pushed back a week after crews were behind schedule. Now, the park has said that event may not even take place, as they are so far behind that they just need to get it opened. The real problem is that the ride didn’t even go vertical until around the time Banshee’s track was COMPLETE down in Cincinnati.
In an area with bad weather like Chicago, failing to get a jump on construction was a big mistake, and it’s costing them dearly. With testing in the earliest stages, it’s still a couple weeks until it opens, and that’s pushing July, nearly halfway through their season. Aside from the delay, this is a ride getting hyped because of the success of Outlaw Run. The thing most people don’t realize is that this is not going to be Outlaw Run. It isn’t a terrain coaster, there is considerably less spots of airtime (or so it appears), and some are questioning whether the inversions will be as thrilling as Outlaw Run’s. The course is short too, something that kept Outlaw Run from being higher on my personal list. I am going to make every effort to ride it this year, but I’m keeping expectations mild at best to avoid the “anticipointment” I fear several people may experience.
Not to make this all about Six Flags, Busch Gardens Tampa is having their fair share of problems too. Falcon’s Fury, the ground-breaking drop tower in the middle of the park, is redefining the skyline of the park, but guests are currently just standing there watching. To be fair, those guests usually do a double-take, take a video, and ask, “Did it really just do that?” Yes it did. Falcon’s Fury looks pretty impressive, much like the other two rides, although I do wish the seats stayed facing the ground just a bit longer, but that’s another topic for discussion after the ride opens. Like the others, the intended opening date is being missed, and delays keep pushing the debut back. The good thing for Busch Gardens that they are a year-round park, so they don’t rely as much on the summer months. I just hope Falcon’s Fury doesn’t become another Mach Tower because I love the Busch parks and would really hate to see them miss with a ride as unique as this.
So after taking into consideration what we’ve talked about, I’d like to get your thoughts on this. Which of the above three rides has the most inexcusable delays? Is it Zumanjaro, the drop ride that requires very little construction, Goliath, the coaster that started construction very late, or Falcon’s Fury, the first-of-its-kind drop tower that just can’t seem to finish up its testing?