Today is an important date in Worlds of Fun history, one that even I had to look up about a year ago to make sure I had the right date. October 12, 2017. What is so important about that date? Well to this editorial, it is about not what happened today, but what happened, or more importantly ceased to happen twenty years ago. Oct 12, 1997. It was the last day that the Zambezi Zinger operated at Worlds of Fun, ever.
“A Long, long time ago… I can still remember how that music used to make me smile. And I know if I had my chance, that I could make those people dance, and maybe they would be happy for awhile. “ – Don McLean
Such were the words of Don McLean. And it was on this date twenty years ago that I personally feel the music died, at Worlds of Fun. Many attractions were removed about twentyish years ago, but the one change that made the biggest impact, the one change that symbolizes everything else that … well went wrong, was Zinger’s removal.
The facts are there, for twenty years there are legions of Worlds of Fun fans that adamantly refuse to come to Worlds of Fun since they took Zambezi Zinger out. This is backed up by numbers, in 1984 attendance at JUST Worlds of Fun only was 1.4 million, we know that it dropped to about 1.2 million or so in the decade that followed that but since the last numbers were publicly released it was always over a million. We also know that it has since then dropped below a million. Significantly.
Why? I am sure there are multiple answers to that question. However, the answer we have found over twenty years of covering park history is simple, Cedar Fair attempted to run the park too much like Cedar Point. When Cedar Fair bought Worlds of Fun they only owned three others parks, Cedar Point, Valleyfair and Dorney Park. All parks very similar to each other, none like Worlds of Fun. They had been successful with those three, so it made sense to keep doing things the way they always did. Look at the first few years of Cedar Fair operation of Worlds of Fun the facts are right there, Mamba, Bearenstein Bear Country, Summer Spectacular, Grand Prix Raceway, Ripcord. Need I go on? Just like Cedar Point, in fact Mamba Plaza even looks like Cedar Point! Those who have been around Worlds of Fun, or really any Cedar Fair park, know their standard policy is that if it costs too much money, or they need the land for a new attraction, take it out.
It’s straightforward to realize that by 1997, with only two years of ownership under its belt, Cedar Fair didn’t realize the impact they were making when they took out Zinger. Two years isn’t going to give anyone any significant experience with any market. Of course, anyone that has taken Business 101 realizes that lack of experience isn’t really a good answer for failure. But here is the ultimate point, Worlds of Fun didn’t have to get rid of Zinger, Zinger WAS fixable. Twenty years later, Six Flags Great America still operates the last of the four U.S. operating Zinger-style (Speedracer) coasters, Whizzer. And then there is the fact that Zinger still operates in South America. Yes, it could still operate and it CAN still operate.
We believe that Zinger can and should come back, that is our answer today, as was our answer ten years ago. It is completely possible, and would, we believe, have an enormous impact on Worlds of Fun and Cedar Fair (which is a plus for us as we are Cedar Fair stockholders). We believe it would boost attendance by at least 30%. It would bring back all those fans that have disavowed Worlds of Fun over the removal of the Zinger, it would attract those Kansas Citian’s who grew up with Worlds of Fun and haven’t been in years, it would also give Worlds of Fun a family-style coaster that the park so desperately needs.
But wouldn’t all this be pandering to nostalgia? Well… Since you mentioned that… Cedar Fair CEO Matt Ouimet had an entire piece in the L.A Times covering his search across Europe for classic-styled amusement park rides to bring nostalgia BACK to his United States parks. He was quoted saying “They will be very recognizable rides,” followed by “It’s playing to nostalgia and just having fun.” Well, Mr. Ouimet if this is what you REALLY believe then I respectfully argue that your most recognizable, fun, and nostalgic ride ISN’T in Europe, it’s in South America.
The next question is how? Is it feasible? Absolutely, yes. And there are two schools of thought on the issue. Bring Zinger back the way it is, from South America, fix its problems, give it a new control system, some new brakes, some anti-roll backs for the lift hill, and yes even some seatbelts. Move Boomerang somewhere else in the park, and reinstall Zinger in its rightful plot in the woods.
The second option is not my favorite, but works as well and is probably more affordable, if not as nostalgic. That option is to rebuild Zinger using RMC Raptor Track. Blueprints still exist for Zinger so it is completely possible to rebuild Zinger, exactly the way it was, at least track layout wise, but make it a whole new ride. Imagine the possibilities. Just imagine, being the marketing team that gets to market bringing the Zinger back to Kansas City. Imagine the bottom line. An inexpensive new coaster that you know everyone will love. There is no "why" to this, it is as an obvious a home run for the park as being handed a blank check.
Zinger after it closed forever at Worlds of Fun
As a fan first and foremost of Worlds of Fun I have come to terms, especially recently, that there is absolutely nothing I have done or said that has made one difference to the park. Let me tell you that is a hard fact to swallow when you have been engrossed in the park’s history for twenty plus years. However, I have seen what has come to parks armed only with an apathetic staff, and parks with the names of Geauga Lake and Astroworld scare me to the core. I cannot and will not let that happen so long as I am alive and breathing, and I firmly believe that the answer to Worlds of Fun problems is as much in the past as it is in the future. Bring Zinger back, give in to the power of nostalgia, and make the park a worlds of fun once again.
Read more about Zinger here: http://www.worldsoffun.org/1973/zambezizinger.html