My fellow coaster enthusiasts, it appears we stand on the brink of change. Changes that may set the tone of the next generation of entertainment, yet many of us have been looking at the past for perspective. Many people point at Magnum XL200 as the first shot of the coaster wars that spurred innovation and record breaking construction for about a twenty five year period. However before and after this time period ride design has always been pushing the boundaries and chipping away at records. I think Magnum deserves to be called the catalyst by hitting that nice even number, but this war was always churning, and it has continued to this day. However last season as many of us were diving into the 2019 ride announcements, an odd thing happened. We collectively became aware of large projects going into 2020 and beyond. So is this the beginning of a new escalation? Will Cedar Point fire the final shot this time around? I’ll give them the last word. Or perhaps it has already been in progress gaining inertia, drawing up plans, and we are just now starting to see this arms race explode into view.
I think the earliest shot may have been the New Texas Giant, while many have criticized Six Flags for their minimalist approach to investment the Iron Horse has been very influential. News of an old wooden roller coaster turning into a hybrid sends a shock wave around the world now that RMC has proven this technology can turn the worst of experiences into the best. This has of course lead the way for the RMC topper track that provides a similar experience with a wooden twist, but the more impactful change may come in the form of the single rails. We saw a pair of these Raptor models installed last year, and the logical path for speculation now is where will the first T-Rex go? How will that technology offer a different experience?
I would also say Six Flags and Cedar Fair made another shot with The Battle for Metropolis and Wonder Mountain's Guardian. All of the chains have been adding an emphasis on storytelling and theme but these two ride in their own way have added that in places that were actively avoiding these elements for over two decades. Interactive experiences, and story elements are being pushed into the amusement park experience more and more. Just this year on roller coasters Universal has introduced Hagrid’s a very immersive storytelling coaster. Carowinds added Copperhead Strike that added a show element to a coaster, and opening later this year West Coast Racers will do the same. In the dark ride motion simulator market BGW has gone for VR. While Cedar Point has gone into full on reality in the Forbidden Frontier and actual space for story telling and interactive puzzles and activities.
Many parks have been taking on new territory, always a good tactic in war. Disney is the super power in this department they add new attractions and continually develop at all of their parks worldwide in an attempt to not have any rivals. Between Toy Story Land, Pandora, Galaxies Edge and the many current attractions that they are rebranding and updating it is hard to question their dominance on this front. Universal, always a challenger, has a plot of land in Orlando many speculate could become a fourth park for them. There are two new construction projects underway in the NYC area right now. Legoland just north of NYC and the American Dreams Mall just over the river in New Jersey. Both of these projects are reminders of just how difficult new construction can be as they both are suffering unexpected delays and obstacles. Dollywood opened a large new expansion called Wildwood Grove, but the public still seems to be preoccupied with Lightning Rod and its status. SeaWorld Parks are expected to put a new roller coaster in every park next year, that would signal a massive change in their investment cycle. The fiercely independent Hersheypark will be adding Chocolate Town a mixed use retail and dining area, along with a new entrance and roller coaster.
Cedar Point fans learned at Coastermania during a Q&A session that the peninsula is becoming four acres larger. While they did not give details on where this new land will be created or how it would be used it is an interesting revelation. This could signal an arms build up. Cedar Point fans have wondered if they would get a new record breaking coaster that could take a substantial record like; speed, height, length, or inversions. On CP Unlimited Andy & Steven discussed the possibilities and challenges of cramming a large scale coaster onto Cedar Point’s heavily developed property. They also discussed another Cedar Fair trend of building up hotel properties. What if Cedar Point’s WMD is a combination of both. The polercoaster is often the best example of how to build very tall with a limited footprint. This type of ride could break the 500 foot barrier and create a layout that could claim the height, length and inversion records in one shot. This structure could have a dual use for the park. Instead of a multi story observation deck at the top, it could be utilized as hotel suites. This premium location and view could command a premium price, while all of the utility areas could be placed at ground level. I understand that space on this type of structure would be limited, but let's do some calculations. With about 125 operating days for the park per season this hotel would have a similar schedule, however there would be extra demand in May, September, and October when guest may want to arrive the day before they head into the park. For simplicity I will be using 125 days. If the hotel platform was four stories tall and could fit only six guest suites per level they would only have 24 rooms. I am going to use conservative estimates so we will look at the low end of what is possible. If each room could earn the park $600 beyond the cost to operate the hotel that would be $14,400 per day and $1.8 million per year. However I think there is room for more days, and a higher nightly rates. Combine these figures with the add-ons that go with staying on property like food, snacks, drinks, and other premium services. The hotel would be the nuclear tip on a roller coaster that could create a lot of demand at the gate and for merchandise. The four acres of land could become the new home of whatever was displaced for this new hotel/roller coaster complex. Only time will tell how this war will play out, and I have proved before, I am always wrong.