by Paul Ruben
I had scheduled this trip to California months earlier, for the first week in June. It was before airfares rose, before hotels raised their rates for summer, and before children were out of school and families were travelling. It would be when all the California parks would have their new attractions finished and ready to go. I was soooo wrong!
First stop was Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo near San Francisco, home of the new Premier Rides looping launch coaster, Superman Ultimate Flight. I arrived about the same time cranes were hoisting the last two sections of track into place. It would open about three weeks later, but they gave me a hard hat so I could go on-site and take a photo in front of the still-unfinished loading station. Made me feel like a construction worker, not a reporter.
A little further south, Six Flags Magic Mountain, Valencia, was adding a new 400ft drop by Intamin to the side of its Superman ride, Lex Luthor: Drop of Doom. They were actively working on it when I arrived, four weeks before it would open. For consolation I rode Apocalypse, their recently-added wood coaster, which was fun.
Universal Studios Hollywood had opened Transformers: The Ride-3D. It’s a breakthrough thrill-ride propels that guests in 12-person vehicles along 2,000ft of ride track, where they are surrounded by 14 gigantic screens to immerse them in the action-packed world of Transformers.
Disney’s California Adventure in Anaheim was preparing to open Cars Land, part of a $1 billion renovation. That’s not a misprint, billion with a “b”. I got a peek at it, and it would open just seven days after my visit.
Finally I visited SeaWorld San Diego, where their thrilling new Manta launch coaster by Mack Rides had opened. I got to enjoy it and write about it.
So that’s two out of five new attractions that were ready when I was ready, or when I mistakenly assumed they would be ready. One of my greatest virtues, you see, is my impatience. Next time I’ll check first. I had forgotten the wisdom of two of my favourite park operators, Dick Knoebel of Knoebel’s Amusement Resort and Marineland of Canada’s John Holer. Each has told me, on more than one occasion when I asked when their new ride would open, “It will be ready when it’s ready.”
Finally, a heads-up. Have you noticed that your revenue from on-ride photo sales is dropping?
During the trip detailed above, I noticed a number of on-ride photo sites in which guests, rather than buying the photo, are now armed with mobile phones with camera capabilities. They were snapping pictures of their on-ride photos directly from the TV monitors at the end of the rides. Apparently these photos are good enough to send to friends. I would never stoop to such a stunt, taking an on-ride photo from the monitor with a mobile phone. I was shocked by this, especially the dismal quality of their photos. I carry a real camera, not a mobile phone. Much better image.