Thursday, March 12, 2015

Off Season Trip Report 3/12/2015

Well if I had to choose one word to describe this off season-tour it would be… infrastructure.  Basically once the park is open you are not going to see a whole lot of change, but its there, which I think makes this off season review probably more insightful.

So sad... The old octopus cars lined up.  From what we were told they will be sent to Valleyfair to be used as parts for the "octopus" ride there.  :(

Scrambler cars, with a new paint job.  Scrambler will be moved from its Planet Snoopy location back to its original Scandinavia location, and renamed Scandia Scrambler

The hub for Scrambler

As I drove up to the park the first thing I noticed was the Scramber sitting in E lot, it had a bright new paint job, and was sitting along side some rather forlorn looking Octopus cars.  The writing was on the wall last year, but I still had a hope that maybe Octopus would be once again put in storage like what had happened in 1997.  No dice.  Sadly, Octopus is going to the great scrap yard in the sky, making it Worlds of Fun’s first ride loss in eight years (last was Rockin Reeler in 2006, last ORIGINAL 1973 ride removed was Zambezi Zinger in 1997).  Scrambler will be moving back to its original Scandinavia pad, and will be renamed its original name, Scandia Scrambler.  I also believe I heard it will be receiving a new light package.

The arms and hub of Octopus are still in Scandinavia.  We were told Scrambler should be up and running on opening day.  I know they can accomplish a lot in a month..

Since we are talking about Scandinavia we might as well talk about another feature of Scandi, Viking Voyager.  Infrastructure work continues on it this year too, with it receiving a few (probably virtually unnoticeable, but VERY important) updates.  Number one, Voyager’s old filtration pumps located in the flat building located next to Octopus/Scrambler exit (yes THAT is what that is!), haven’t worked in well… a long time.  This year, they will.  Second Voyager’s water holding pond is receiving both a substantial patch job, and in the run-off area, complete replacement.  For those that notice details may have noticed that Voyager’s water holding pond has been leaking A LOT these last few years, especially last year water was literally flooding out into the grass and gravel surrounding the ride.  It hopefully won’t be doing so much of that this year, and the park won’t be loosing as much water.

Some work for the isolation valves in Scandinavia, I believe Wayne told us there were three?

 Run off/Water holding pond work on Voyager.

Talking about water, anyone remember the fiasco at Cedar Point last year were the park experienced water main break, and the park and resort ended up being closed for the entire busy weekend?  That spured the rest of the park’s in the chain to take a close look at their own plumbing.  To no one’s surprise…Worlds of Fun’s needed just a little work.  Worlds of Fun’s has been updated with isolation valves, so that if one section fails, they don’t all fail.  Again not exciting, or mind blowing, but important non-the-less.

A flower bed dug up for new plumbing from the Voyager filtration pump house, to Voyager.

 Last update in Scandinavia, is the old Swedish Sipping Chalet, or the kiosk previously known as the Britannica Encyclopedia kiosk.  It will become the third Coca Cola Refresh station in the park.  I had a thought.... wouldn't it be cool if they renamed this the Icicle? (anyone remember that?)

Swedish Sipping Chalet

There were a few minor updates through Africa, Congo Clearing/Gorilla Grill received a new concrete pad, and new tables,  not so minor, but again not obvious to the casual observer, Boomerang is finally getting a new control system and panel.  Coasters is receiving new paint both on the interior and exterior, and there are a few new landscaping walls being repaired replaced, near the Nile railroad trestle.  
New concrete, Gorilla Grill/Congo Clearing will also have new permanent tables (like the one's in Scandinavia)

work on Boomerang, this is actually "bob" the pulley for the initial lift.

After moving past Nile, we headed into Oceans since that is were the vast majority of updates are heading this season.  Monsoon is receiving some work this off season, both to its pumps, as well as its old loading gates which are being replaced.

Well there WAS a hill there.  Now it will be a well hidden pump house for the new water play area.

 A look at the lake beyond.

Of course the new for 2015 attraciton is the new splash area at Coconut Cove and paddle boat/kayak lake.  I was really surprised to see basically the entire hill behind Chickie and Pete’s removed to make way for the pumps/filtration system for the new splash area.  As you can see below the lake where the new swan boats will call home is receiving a lot of work too, there will be a whole new dock and loaded area.

Calypso Cafe, the old basement (that was dead space, and not used for anything anyway), will feature 4-5 new family restrooms.

Not advertised but a nice addition to the area is that the park is adding 4-5 new family restrooms to the basement of Calypso Café. Previously parents had to make their way up the hill back to the bathhouses above, and with the water play area spreading out even further, this new addition though relatively minor in the grand scheme of things should make for a better experience for families.

Moving up to Americana, we noticed the WOFRR cars uncopled near Taxi’s.  Wayne told us that he had a railroad specialist out to take a look at the passenger cars, who, found some work that needed doing.  This is still a work in progress, so no further details available at this time. 

The old Incred-O-Dome pad/Scrambler pad, the pad is still there, the walkway to it has been demo'd

Another water line shut off valve placement in Americana.

Up in Planet Snoopy, the old Scrambler pad has been cleared out, and the walkway from the main Planet Snoopy area down to Scrambler has been completely removed, which is nice, to make a clean break of the area. (so it doesn’t simply appear abandoned)

Moving into Americana, Wayne told us of the work going into both Thunderhawk and Steelhawk to make the both up and operational for opening day this year, Thunderhawk received a new motor.  Steelhawk also received a new motor, the corporate back up from Cedar Point, we were told that water and weather had worked themselves into what is a elevator motor, and caused the malfunction that lead to Steelhawk’s downtime late last season.  That issue has been atleast partially resolved, so they (and us) are hoping to see less downtime on both rides this year.  Here’s hoping!

I have to admit on first sighting of these next images I let out not one but two involuntary cries.  Completely involuntary, I felt horrible. Still those who know me know how I feel about my trees and landscaping in general. (sigh)  Given the reasoning behind the tree removal, I guess I can somewhat rationalize the removal (guest flow), still this kind of thing is hard, I need a tissue.

I am going to cry... really.  

A new train trestle bridge.

One of the two new kiosk's in the Orient
Moving on, as we moved from Americana to the orient, we looked over and saw this new train trestle.  Ah maybe THAT’s were the trees went! (joke!).  In the orient these nice, THEMED kiosks made me smile, and made up for the trees… almost. 
So that’s it for today.  It’s always fun to get out in the off season to see what’s going on, but no matter what opening day is always that much better to see everything done (mostly), and some additional updates always make their way in.  Looking forward to April 11th!  See you at the park!


Friday, June 13, 2014

This Place Ain't Possum Trot No More...

Associate… its like fingernails on a chalkboard…

Ugh.  For FOURTY YEARS employees at Worlds of Fun have been known as Ambassadors.  Its part of the theme, guests circle the world, and are taken care of by each “worlds” ambassadors.  Get it?  Probably somebody, at a place in Ohio that will remain unnamed, thought homogenization was a great idea.  For the whole five people that read this… NOT A GOOD IDEA.  It’s like replacing the themed music, absolutely not reasoning to it, except that it seems to work at all the other parks. Ugh.

Anyway, sorry folks had to start with that lovely tidbit, but I promise there are more interesting things to talk about in this blog, lots of interesting things, and not all entirely bad things either. 

So lets talk about something not entirely different.  As we all know 41 years ago Worlds of Fun opened, 11 years later another Worlds of Fun landmark opened to the public, on May 25, 1984.  At a cost of 3.5 million it was Worlds of Fun's most expensive expansion at that point in time. 

That ride, Fury of the Nile, or more often just referred to  as “Nile”, turned a ripe old 30 years old just two weeks ago.  Sadly, Nile is a bare shadow of its one glorious, thrilling self.  I remember when I rode it the first time a few years after it opened and that it scared me to pieces. The tunnel was dark and foreboding, the waves seemed huge, and the ride itself seemed to glow at night.  Most don’t remember but the four pump pits (located at the top of the lift), used to be up-lit at night, glowing blue/gold through the bubbling water.  Today, it might be that I am older, and maybe slightly wiser (yes, that's questionable), but there is nothing terrifying there.  Especially with the giant overhead lights around Tower 2… Yes I know they are for safety, but it seems to absolutely KILL the ride atmosphere at night.   Still, as a child Nile was my undisputed, absolutely favorite ride at Worlds of Fun, and I can’t let the year go by without at least mentioning  its 30 year milestone.

So moving on to the next point, and that is the one I am sure most are anxious to read about, the new Train Robbery show at the Worlds of Fun Railroad.  First impression, I thought the show was very good, very entertaining, and it seemed like overall the guests really enjoyed it.   When we arrived back at the station one kid behind us asked his parents “can we do that again?”

 I have to be honest, I was completely and utterly SHOCKED (in a good way!) that they re-named the area “Yumma Yuca Mesa” (Though the sign has a “k”), I was pleasantly surprised and was NOT expecting that.  Though the show it self borrows certain jokes from SDC, that is also to be expected.  Overall, the show is original, funny, clean (for younger guests), and well done.  As a warning to those that might have children frightened by loud noises, the guns the train robbers and sheriff use during the show do “fire”, and are quite loud.  I personally LOVE the fact that they included this level of realism to the show, and unfortunately I wouldn’t be terribly surprised (if greatly dismayed) if the PC police stepped in to put a stop to that part of the show. 

Now with that being said there are several improvements that could enhance the show and guests experience.  First, and foremost there needs to be a sign, advertisement, somewhere saying what time the train robbery occurs, after asking we found out it runs 12-6 every day.  But, what about people that see the signage and ride the train expecting a train robbery?  Also, with the extended run (15 minute train ride instead of the previous 7 minutes), the train can now run only twice an hour at its current, well… slow operation.  This makes lines for the train on a intermediate crowd day all the way back to the Icee Stand.   Me thinks a fifth coach would be an advantage to the park, but that certainly is not a quick fix.  But there are quick fixes that can be made.  How about re-opening the gift shop and then moving the turnstile so it’s at the entrance to the shop, thereby using the train station as a bullpen?  Solves multiple problems, faster loading, more themed, and … MORE revenue!  Just some ideas.  Overall though we were both impressed with this new addition, and hope to see it continue into the future.

Last comment, we also had a chance to catch the new show at Moulin Rouge, “Busting out Broadway”, which runs several times a day, as well as the “British Invasion” show that we have not yet had a chance to catch.  I would recommend either show to a guest visiting the park, the talent is exceptional, and continues to entertainment even the usual non-show enthusiast that I am.  We just came back from a cruise on the Royal Caribbean “liberty of the seas”, and I can’t even begin to tell you the number of times sitting through one of the live entertainment shows I was thinking “Worlds of Fun shows are SO MUCH BETTER”, so there you go, and I don’t have to pay a thousand+ dollars to see them.  Seriously.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Worlds of Fun May 17th, 2014

We headed out to the park today, May 17th, it had been awhile since we had been out, between races jobs and traveling its been tricky finding any free time sometimes.  Interestingly enough we had visisted Worlds of Fun's arch nemesis Six Flags St. Louis the weekend before, participating in the Roller Coaster Race series.  What was so interesting about it is how drastic the difference was between the two parks.  We still had a good time but I have to say Worlds of Fun definitly is about a million miles ahead of Six Flags St. Louis in regards to landscaping, overall though WOF has some serious room for improvement, our visit to WOF was honestly, more enjoyable.  That has most definitely not always been the case.

So since there have been several updates in the park. We entered the park through the Oceans of Fun gate, and found this nice new cedar trellis.

AND... for no other reason but they were just so dang cute, Mrs. (or Mr.) Groundhog, the broad was playing near by. It was adorable.  Though looking at the burrow I'm not entirely sure Landscaping feels the same way about these critters.

Next up was Europa, and the mostly finished Moulin Rouge, the sign wasn't lit so I am guessing there is still some work to be finished up.

I also like these themed windows... there are several of them all with a variety of French advertising.

 Also in Europa is some new landscaping near Deja Vu.  Also not pictured but the old evergreen shrubs in front of Pasiano's Pizza (Bonici Bros.) have been replaced by  new boxwood shrubs.

Moving on to Americana, there is the star of the show this year... Steelhawk going nowhere fast, atleast while we were there.  We found out that after we left SteelHawk ran, that's of course ALWAYS our luck.

A video we shot of SteelHawk's light show.

The new Coke Refresh station in front of SteelHawk.  We found it rather humorous that it does have a rather nautical look to it... like there should be a boat somewhere nearby... hmmm..

Another view, this small creek/water feature is unofficially referred to as as "Wilburn's Creek"

Moving on... Steelhawk would never be confused with this ride with a completely different name ... ThunderHawk (Yes, I have more then once made the error of called SteelHawk, ThunderHawk or vice versa). ThunderHawk is no longer the World's Largest Lawn Ornament.  Seen here operating.  Much sooner then last year.

 Last, we have the finished Orient Coke Freestyle station.  Looks nice, again I am glad they took the time to theme these.

We actually hung out at the park until dark, we really wanted to provide photos and video of Thun... Steelhawk (there I go again), operating.  Again my luck is the moment we leave... it runs.  Of course. We will bring updates on SteelHawk as soon as possible, and think it will be a great addition to the park.  Much better then Go-Karts, SO MUCH BETTER then Go-Karts. Have a great weekend!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

WOF 42nd Season Opening Day Review

Welcome to the Worlds of Fun 42nd Season opening day review!  If I was going to summarize the experience in one word, it would be disappointing; I was expecting a better experience.  Honestly, the disappointments weren’t due to the normal opening day glitches, because its opening day, everything that can go wrong will go wrong, we expect that.  Workers will be slow, computers will … well do what computers love to do, which is not work they way they should.  That’s where this story starts.  We arrived at the park around 1:30 pm, as we had run the Rock the Parkway half marathon that morning… We decided to park at the Worlds of Fun parking lot for opening day to have a “normal guest” experience.  (last year we started parking at Oceans).  First thing? Pass didn’t work for parking.  Neither of our passes did, and we have platinum passes, which covers parking.  At the time we didn’t realize this was such a wide spread issue… we were told we had to pay parking.  LUCKILY I had $15 in cash on me.  We were then told we had to take our receipt and get reimbursement at guest relations in the park.  Luckily we were able to hit guest relations when it had a relatively short line.  However, we were also told we had to do it THAT DAY, otherwise, we were out of luck.  Sorry, you paid for that season pass which covers parking (and was over $100 per person), sorry you took time on a weekday to process the pass so you wouldn’t have to worry about this anyway, oh and by the way we are going to make you stand in line at guest relations, in what could have been a VERY long line, to get a refund for something we shouldn’t have charged you for in the first place.

So… my issue? Not the systems going down, no.  My problem was the way it was handed.  Worlds of Fun these are your season pass holders, loyal visitors, sometimes for many many years.  You KNOW we have a pass, your employees can see it.  Is it going to really hurt the park to just eat that $15?   Are you really even eating the $15? Not really.  The park just alienated a bunch of people by being unprepared. 

Here comes a Hunt Midwest story.  NO I am not one of those people that think Hunt did everything right and Cedar Fair does everything wrong, but this is one of those cases.  Many years ago, same thing happened.  Hunt had just put in a new computer system, which summarily CRASHED on opening day.  Instead of being able to scan the passes as guests entered the park (this was for park admission not for parking), it wouldn’t read anyone’s pass.  You know what the park did?  They let everyone in anyway.  They didn’t make people pay for admission and get a refund later.  No, they remembered that customer service is just as important as the immortal dollar.  They let people in, people remembered this, and it probably helped the park in the long run.

 Flowers at the entrance plaza

So, with that being said. The park WAS very busy for an opening day, I would have to say probably as busy as I have seen it on an opening day, that’s good.  The new asphalt heading into the park helped with a better first appearance to the park, that’s also good.

 Baltic Bazaar with a new roof, paint and lights.

Plaza Gifts with newly painted/renovated towers
As we moved into Scandinavia the first thing we noticed was that many of the buildings have received some cosmetic work. It appears Baltic Bazaar has received not only a new roof, new lights and a little bit of a new paint job, but also  FINALLY, two years later mind you… the towers on Plaza Gifts have not only been painted they have been repaired! Yeah no Green towers!  The overall building infrastructure in the park is starting to see some significant improvements, and it is definitely noticeable.  That will be an up hill battle for sure, but it's good to see.

Viking Voyager...

 Worlds of Fun TV in the Voyager Queue line, in this case showing current weather.

So we all come for the rides, and we know from previous editorials that this was an area we should see some improvement in, so did we?  Well first experiences coming in… Voyager was down.  Not exactly good timing as the park had planned a free Viking hat giveaway for the first 500 riders.  You know from that that the Voyager down time was NOT a planned occurrence, or even an expected one.  We found out later that Voyager’s downtime issue occurred quite literally minutes before it was due to open, and from what we also heard efforts were occurring to get the ride open before the end of the day.  While it’s easy to attack the park about ride downtime, and it is sometimes warranted, in the case of Voyager I think it was simply a case of extreme bad luck.  After all the 2013/2014 off-season saw more improvement work on Voyager then it has most likely ever seen.

The other two “major” rides we experienced downtime on first hand included the nearby Octopus, and to no one’s surprise… but still incredibly disappointing, ThunderHawk.  But again, its opening day, and you know whatever can go wrong will go wrong.  So on the brighter side of things, lets talk about capacity.

If we can remember last year opening day, ONE TRAIN on pretty much every coaster.  That is a big issue for us, because like a lot of things it shows not only poor planning, but a lack of even caring about the overall guest experience.   This year, totally different, with the exception of Patriot every coaster (well except Boomerang which can’t help it) was running two trains.  Patriot’s lack of a second train was due to technical issues with the second train, so it couldn’t even help it, really.  This shows definite improvement, I can’t even remember the last time Timber Wolf had two trains on opening day.  Where they stacking trains?  Probably, but seriously GIVE THEM A BREAK.  Its opening day!  They are going to be slow.  Still, with that being said two trains on all coasters for a busy opening day should be EXPECTED. 
So before I get to far off track let me finish with Scandinavia. One aspect of Worlds of Fun that has always been a favorite of mine (and others) is the theme.  It’s been an aspect that I haven’t really been talking about a lot lately, but that doesn’t mean I haven't been thinking about it.  For the past few years, the themed music in the park has been on again off again.  Meaning some parts of the park have themed music, Africa, Western Americana and the Orient come to mind, Europa… does sort of.  Scandinavia not so much, somehow having rides called Viking Voyager, and Sea Dragon don’t exactly jive with popular radio music… Sure "Roll out the Barrel" and "In Muchen steht ein Hofbrauhaus" are not the picks of 15 year old teenagers… but here is the thing, its part of Worlds of Fun history and culture.  Plus, I haven’t seen any Virginia 15 year old's talking about how great singing mushrooms or floral clocks are… yet they are important enough to Kings Dominion culture to be replaced them there… Or California 15 year old's talking about how great a boysenberry bush farm looks like at Knott’s… but something that costs the park next to nothing at Worlds of Fun… is brushed off because it wouldn’t appeal to 15 year old's… Explain that logic to me?  Please?  Or could it simply be that no one cares?  

 Phileas Fogg traveling "the world"

Last point about Scandinavia, and it’s a point, which actually really covers the entire “world”. Three years ago, in 2012 a new attraction so to speak debuted with no PR, no press release, and no mention on a park map or show schedule, nothing.  But has quickly become one of my favorite attractions at the park, and it’s a person, and sometimes two.  That’s Phileas Fogg, and his sometimes co-pilot Nellie Bly.  For those that don’t know Worlds of Fun is based (loosely) on Jules Verne’s “Around the World in 80 Days” of which the main character is Phileas Fogg.  About fifteen years after the book was written, in 1888, a non-fiction American journalist, Nellie Bly tried to recreate the fictional Fogg’s journey around the world.  Today the duo that plays these fictional/non-fictional characters roam the park providing photo ops, good park information and entertainment through their crazy antics.  It is no secret that these two absolutely love the park and it shines above a sometimes gloomy day otherwise.  With their return, Phileas had petitioned to be recognized as an official Worlds of Fun attraction on, and though not existing on a map, or other official publication, I agree.  

 A picture is worth a thousand words?  When was the last time any of us saw this door open?  Makes the store more light.

Now with that being said, there have been some complaints about the new Worlds of Fun TV playing popular music.  This personally I have zero problem with, in fact I like the idea of Worlds of Fun TV.  After all it’s actually bringing back something that Hunt Midwest tried (and was ahead of their time), back in the 90’s.  It provides entertainment and information about the park to those waiting in line, and it appears very tastefully done.  Again issues there whatsoever and I personally really like the idea. WOF TV is available in the Voyager, Prowler, and Taxi’s queue lines from what we were able to see.

 Moulin Rouge and its new sign.

Taxi's and if you look close you can see the screen for WOF TV.

Moving through the park to Europa we come to another point of contention, the Moulin Rouge.  As promised it has a new sign and is in the process of receiving a full refurb of its exterior.  It appears that the sign just made it up just prior to park opening and personally, I really like it.  Yes it looks nothing at all like the sign it replaced, but it does look like the original on the real Moulin Rouge in France.

The rest of the exterior is still very rough, but in the next few weeks it should look very nice, too bad there is  no windmill… *smile*  Again love the infrastructure work on many of the buildings at Worlds of Fun.

In other news related to the Moulin Rouge, there is no show there until May 17th.  This really bothers me. Honestly the changes with live entertainment at the park REALLY bother me.  First the shuttering of Tivoli after 39 years of continuous shows two years ago.  We were told then that that decision was made so they could spend money elsewhere.  Now, in 2014 another cut in live entertainment, over a full month of park operations without any live entertainment in Moulin Rouge?  That means there are ZERO indoor shows during a time of year when the weather can be iffy.  If this is a one-time occurrence because of the work on the Moulin Rouge I can accept that, but that’s what we thought with Tivoli too.  So you will forgive me if I sincerely doubt that.  Live Entertainment is not really my thing at WOF, but for many it is, and I am starting to see a seriously negative trend occurring here.  This bothers me, and it should bother everybody.

Bonici Bros. no more, now Paisano's Pizza.

In other Europa news, Bonici Bros has been replaced by a new pizza place, Paisano’s.  It was also open along with every other restaurant in the park, except Chicken Patio, on opening day.  This is another positive improvement, as in the past there were more restaurant locations closed then have been open.  This seems to line up with the increased train capacity on the coasters as improvements towards again what should be expected for providing an improved visitor experience.

 Vittle Griddle with its new exterior.

 Americana Fountain

So moving onto Americana.  More infrastructure improvements are visible throughout this section too, most noticeably Vittle Griddle, which received an entire exterior rehab and looks great.  The sunken fountain seems to have received some work over the off-season too and looks better then it has for awhile.

Timber Wolf as I previously mentioned was running two trains, and did experience a somewhat short outage, it was back up and test running by the time we left.  I heard it was running better this year, though after running 13.1 miles this morning my stomach wasn’t up for that experience this afternoon.  Moving on to ThunderHawk. Though to most fans it comes as no surprise, to us it does… ThunderHawk was not operating.  Unsure as to why but ThunderHawk doesn’t seem to like to operate on opening day?  Hopefully it will open up soon.  You know this ThunderHawk thing… it’s so sad its kind of funny actually.

Dirt now covers the recognizable keel of the Henrietta, surrounding it is a smaller man-made creek bed area.

 Steel Hawk

New curbs or probably seating areas? for the new Steel Hawk plaza area.

Of course Steel Hawk is not open yet either, I thought this was communicated by the park well, though KCTV5 seemed to not do a good job on their end… We did walk around the public areas surrounding the Steel Hawk site, to get a few photos.  You can see where they are filling in the old Henrietta pond, and creating a smaller creek-like area.  There will be a Coke station where the old Henrietta building was (purchase station for Go-Karts).  It appears that electrical work is being finished up on Steel Hawk.

 New seating, tables and patio area at Panda Express.

 Refurbed Bamboozler Station

Moving on into the Orient section, as mentioned in a prior off-season review Bamboozler station received some significant rehab work as well as Panda Express.  Panda Express (remember when it was Rangoon Refresher?).  Panda Express now has a whole new patio, retaining wall and expanded seating area, which it most definitely needed.  Since it was such a cold winter many of the pear trees in the Orient were still in full white bloom, giving a very elegant “oriental” feeling to the entire area, Though I have to say I still miss the Cherry Blossom trees which used to be there too.

So ends another opening day review.  Overall, it could have been better, and like I said I was disappointed… though there are definite improvements over previous years in overall ride capacity and park operations.  I am still concerned as tl the overall direction both of live entertainment as well as customer service.  We have a whole new season ahead of us and it should be an interesting one!  See you at the park.