Sunday, April 22, 2012

2012 Opening Review

So in the last 15 years I have written 11 opening day reviews.  There are some not so memorable, so ugly you just want to look away, opening day reviews I had to write.  2000 comes to mind… nothing like, "We will open the rides at 35 degrees.." then "We will open the rides at 45 degrees" and then (I kid you not) "we will open the rides at 55 degrees" … and and by the way our new ride stinks, and we never opened up the Orient Express the season before like we should have so that's all anyone cares about… Followed by the 2004 season opening day, when Orient Express was just removed and Spinning Dragons was sitting as the worlds largest lawn ornament, in its place… Or it could be the 2003 opening day when the park basically re-opened looking exactly the same as it did in October 2002.  So why am I bringing up all these old seasons past?  Primarily, because I have spent the last few days reading the Worlds of Fun Facebook page, and people complaining about how unprepared and "disastrous" the 2012 Worlds of Fun opening day was.  Disastrous?  Seriously? Nope, not even close.

In reality this opening day wasn’t all that bad.  Yes there were a few snafu’s, a few wet behind the ears ambassadors, and some not so great weather,  but after all there were no tornadoes, the rides all ran, (mostly) and personally? I had fun. Speak for yourselves other facebook people.

So onto the day.  Due to a 0 Dark 30 clinical I didn’t arrive at the park until 4pm.  On arriving I was pleasantly surprised and HOW busy the park was.  I don’t think I can remember when both C &D were both full on opening day.  It hasn’t been the last 10 years.  I kind of feel bad for those people who I told that opening day would be dead.  Sorry. 

It used to be we would park in G lot at this point.  We can’t do that anymore because of preferred parking.  When this was introduced last season, both Jeff and I weren’t  thrilled.  To me this is the biggest money grab of anything WOF has concocted lately, yes even more then the Fast Lane thing.  YOU DON’T GET ANYTHING EXTRA! Its G lot! I parked there last year this time for free!  Atleast give people a covered parking area, bottle of water or something.  For those that use it, really?  Regular parking is 10 feet away, same distance to the entrance.  H lot.  Atleast at Silver Dollar City I get a closer parking spot and feel I get something for my money. 

*Disclaimer: Since SOME people don't have a sense of humor I should mention the covered parking comment was a JOKE.*

Rant over

So as we walked into the park, I spied these new ornamental “cacti” ready to go into Americana.  The old “cacti” are looking a bit thread barren so maybe these are replacing them.  They look nice.  I like the  “working towards the theme” theme that we have going on here.

Cacti Topiaries

So as we moved towards the gate, pretty much everything else looked the same, flags are still there (good thing), and we noticed the first ADA addition.  Instead of having the replace the gate (dang it!), they found a way to get around the non-ADA compliant hill into the park, and built a gradual ramp located behind guest relations.

The ADA complaint ramp at the Scandinavia Park Entrance

On entering the park I realized the park was just as crowded inside the gate as out in the parking lot, it’s a great sign, and the first thing that caught my eye, was the Plaza Gifts sign.  Now don’t get me wrong I think Scandi Skees made a remarkably nice transition from arcade to shop, but man, that’s a BIG sign. The new Plaza gifts is really nice though, its very Cedar Point-like, and I say that in a good way.  The old doorways are all gone, excepting one, and replaced with windows (one original doorway headed towards Voyager is still a door).

The new Plaza Gifts

Inside Plaza Gifts

The old Baltic Bazaar is still with us too, originally I had heard that it might be demolished to have a new structure built.  Personally, I am glad they kept the original structure.  Its received a bit of a face-lift, and new signage.  Norma’s Funnel Cakes (which returned as Norma’s on the map a few years ago), is Norma’s on the sign now too.  I don’t know if the park realizes this, or you the reader realizes this, but Norma’s is an original Hunt Midwest name, named after Norma Hunt.  (Lamar Hunt’s Wife), making it one of only two restaurants in the park to still be named after someone from the park’s Hunt Midwest days. (The other being Big Jack's named after Jack Steadman)

Norma's Funnel Cakes

(For those interested the others included: Lamar’s Libations in Europa, Daniel’s Dannish Deli in Scandinavia, Clark’s Livery Post in Americana, and Rick’s Café in Africa)

I have been avoiding this, but I have to mention it.  The music. Jeff, my husband and fellow WOF nut job, has beaten me down to acknowledge that popular music may MAY be okay for the park entrance, because it is the park entrance.  What about lower Scandinavia?  Come on it really needs some themed music, yodeling.  Something Scandinavia-like.  You have to give me some credit for atleast trying. 

New Trees near Skyliner
Some good news, Orient HAS themed music.  In fact most of the park does!  That’s where we headed next.  Not much has changed.  All rides were up and running, and Bamboozler looks like it may have gotten some light work over the winter.  On a completely different subject let’s talk about trees.  If you remember from last year, many (dozens) of Worlds of Fun pines succumbed to a relatively new killer pine disease.  In the Orient (especially near Skyliner) several were removed.  Good news, these pines have been replaced by new young trees.  In fact, as we will try to highlight MANY of the old diseased pines that were removed last year have been replaced.

Moving on to Americana a few minor changes, Pizza Pier and the surrounding food joints received new picnic tables and new concrete.  I wish they had replaced all the concrete in that area, but still it was a nice surprise.

Near Pizza Pier, new concrete and picnic tables

Of course, one of the eatery options on the park  is Caribou Coffee, which opened in the old Pig Pen’s (plush animal shop).  Now I’m not a coffee drinker, but if I was, it’s a nice looking place to get coffee.  And for a positive outlook, atleast its not that coffee chain that starts and ends with “S”, yeah you know the one.  Also suprisingly enough the prices are extremly inflated, coffee runs about $3-4 each.

I also really wanted to make a comment about the photos on the wall,  including Cotton Blossom, Sam Panda, and some original park concept art.  I’m not sure what others think about it, but I think it’s a nice touch.

The new Caribou Coffee

Inside Caribou Coffee

One of the framed photos on the wall in Caribou Coffee

We next moved on to Timber Wolf.  The good news?  Timber wolf not only had both trains assembled and ready to run (an improvement over previous seasons), but they were RUNNING both trains.  That's good, but truthfully, I shouldn’t be mentioning that as an improvement, it should simply be done.  Timber Wolf the ride on the other hand… Can we just give GCI a call and re-track the whole thing?  Yeah I know lots of $$$ but really even I didn’t enjoy it all that much and I usually really like Timber Wolf.  Yes it was fast, and I think there was some airtime in there, but I was so concerned about holding on and not being beaten to a pulp, that I hardly noticed.

In another improvement (should be happening anyway) ThunderHawk was open.  If I was the park I would have certainly made sure it was open for opening day, I think it was closed 75% or MORE of last season.  

The old Uncle Sams Skeeball Hall, now Snoopy's Arcade.  There used to be a large trim piece above the door that was removed at the end of last season, instead of simply being repaired.

The old Uncle Sam’s Skeeball Hall received some new landscaping and trees around it, and some new doors (from the look of it) but the building itself really needs some love, both inside and out.  A lot of its trim was removed last year, probably due to wood rot, which is sad.   Of course it is now home to the parks only remaining skeeball machines. 

Wacky Worm gets a new theme, but is a little late to the party. 
Next to Timber wolf is another coaster… Wacky Worm, Cosmic Coaster, still Wacky Worm to me.  (Hey that rocketship isn't supposed to have FEET) Yep its not open for opening day.  Originally, I was planning a long-winded harp about how every ride should be open for opening day.  AND every ride SHOULD be open opening day, especially when you have a winter that has on 3.9 inches of snow.  Can someone remind me again what ride maintenance does for half of the off season? I want that job.  There really is VERY little that bothers me more then rides not being open on opening day.  However, there is one thing that bothers me more, and that’s mud slinging.  Lately on Facebook I have seen a lot of whining, about simple human mistakes. It seems like a lot of supposedly mature adults forgot what it was like to work their first day of their first job when they were 16 years old, and are following a rather disturbing trend in the US of expecting everyone (except themselves) to be perfect.

Worlds of Fun may NOT be perfect, and as you will see soon in my Europa review, they are FAR from.  Worlds of Fun is ran by human beings, who make mistakes, and while I firmly believe we should learn from mistakes and not keep repeating them year after year, after year (cough cough cough), some small degree of learning curve should be expected on the first day of the season.

Now with that being said one last comment about Planet Snoopy and children’s rides in general.  So last year the park added eight new family/children’s right?  But did they REALLY ADD 8 rides?  No.  In the last two years the park has gotten rid of Bouce-A-Roo’s, Head Over Wheels, Pony Promenade, and Too Too Train.  That’s four.  So the 8 new rides is really fuzzy math.  Still the ride subtraction/addition is a positive number, the park still ended up with 4 new rides overall.    And I don’t care who you are I will take the Grand Carrousel of Bounce-A-Roo’s any day.

So Europa. I have to wonder if the powers that be realize the park really has a section called Europa.  Walk through it, take a look at the rides, shops, restaurants.  Yeah.  There is enough there for me to write 50 pages about.  Honestly, I am beginning to think maybe the park should bulldoze the entire section, leaving of course Le Taxi Tour and Flying Dutchman (hey I LIKE Flying Dutchman) and of course rebuild it. Last year I harped about Autobahn and its pathetic seven cars in operation.  This year… the same thing.  Now I know money does not grow on trees but this is just pathetic.  Right next to Autobahn is State Fair Mini Donuts… in Europa.  This is the snack stand formerly known as Lamar’s Libations.  What I have a hard time understanding is that the park can return Norma Hunt’s namesake, but not Lamar Hunt’s?  Plus the signage is just extremely tacky, and I have yet to see it open this season. 

Then there’s Taxi’s, FOUR whole cars. FOUR..  There are FIVE parking spots at the loading dock, but only FOUR cars.  Well that’s a whole whopping capacity of a hundred or so an hour. This is on a ride that used to operate with 18 cars on average.  

Some shabby looking trim in Europa.

Not only is State Fair mini donuts not open, but neither is Bonici Bros (atleast that I have seen), and its façade is looking especially shabby.  Now that might be made worse by the fact that the rest of the park is looking better, but wow.  Unlike Arrow Taxi Cars, and Bumper cars I know for a fact that sandpaper and paint is pretty cheap. (wood trim isn't horribly expensive either) I just get this feeling that if Europa could talk it would be screaming “help me!”.  Really the poor section hasn’t had a new ride since 1977, 34 years. 

A couple of good things going on in Europa though, Jeff was able to check out the new Trax show at Moulin Rouge, and commented that it was a really good show, sort of along the lines of the old Tivoli show.  So definitely check that out.  Europa also, like western Americana and the Orient still has its themed music! 

The new Trax show at Moulin Rouge
 Last thing about Europa, the Europa/Africa hill is sporting this nice new landscaping wall...

A new landscaping wall on the Europa/Africa hill/
So moving on to Africa.  Of course the big update is Boomerang’s paint job.  Looks nice, and its good that they also took care of the station and metal walkways they were looking really bad.  Couple other things, Same Day Gateway/Ride and Slide Gateway has been replaced with an ADA compatible entrance.  Opening day it wasn’t open, but second weekend it was.  Checked it out, looking good. 

While were in the area (near Mamba and Prowler) I thought I would add a few comments about the new Fast Lane.  First its $50 per person for those unaware, which is a)expensive and b)probably means not a lot of people will be using it.  Couple of things I noticed, on at least Prowler and Mamba, the Fast Lane queue works very similar to Fast Pass at Disney, those with Fast Lane don’t get RIGHT on, the lines join up at the station, so if they want the front, they still have to wait for the front.  Again as long as the park runs decent capacity (two trains when the line is out of the station for example), then I'm okay with the Fast Lane idea, not my most favorite thing in the world, but okay with it.  

However, I still have to voice a concern of both Jeff and I.  What if for example Patriot is running one train and the line is down the stairs and around the station, people are waiting 45 mins plus for a ride, which is basically being run at half capacity.  A Fast Lane user may bypasses a line, but they are bypassing a line that SHOULDN'T EVEN EXIST.  In this case I see Fast Lane as a simple money grab.  The park COULD take the cheap and easy route and run into disgruntled park guests or they could do the right thing, and run capacity.

Sorry for the bad quality photo, Gorilla Grill

One of the big name changes besides Norma’s is the change of Congo Clearing to Gorilla Grill.  I am going to say something that some may not agree with.  Its themed appropriately, and as much as I liked the name Congo Clearing, I really like the new signage for Gorilla Grill, its bright and makes that restaurant really stand out. 

As far as Prowler (besides it being just a great ride) for those that remember opening season last year, we had to wait about a month before even the second train was fully assembled, so it’s a good sign that not only is the second train fully assembled, but both were running. 

So moving into Scandinavia once again. Lower Scandinavia, isn’t changed much, it has the same music selection of Upper Scandinavia, basically popular music.  Are they on the same track?  Guessing so, am I asking for to much to have themed music in atleast HALF of Scandinavia?  Well I can try.

Not a great photo, but if you clip to expand you can get a better view

Oslo’s Chicken and Waffles is another one of those restaurants I have yet to see open, but I have to admit, I really like the logo, putting a chicken in a Viking helmet on the logo, just speaks old Worlds of Fun to me for some reason.   Maybe its just I’m a girl and I think its cute.  Why a chicken in a Viking Helmet is cute, is like questioning why giant plush panda balls are cute, they just are (check out Plaza Gifts)  Still waiting for the restaurant to open so I can see live and in person the concept of Waffles and Chicken.  Supposedly a southern dish, we shall see.

The new ADA compliant entrance for Viking Voyager

So that’s it, another opening day in the books, and next year May 28, 2013 we will be celebrating the park’s real 40th anniversary.  There have been some dark years in there, and I would like to say I think its all clear sailing ahead, but there are still a lot of problems that I see that need attention.  However, I think the park has made clear, obvious strides between last year and this year, and it looks like attendance is reflecting that, here’s to a great 2012 season! See you at the park. 

1 comment:

Rob said...

Thanks for the review Jennifer! I agree with you on Der Fender Bender... would love to see that ride restored to its glory days with more cars (capacity), even if we all have to go around the loop in the same direction like it used to be.