Friday, August 19, 2016

New for 2017! An in-depth analysis

It’s the “back gate” not the “main gate”, we have said innumerable times,  explaining once again that the Scandinavian gate that almost everyone, including the park, refers to as the main gate was never intended to be the main gate.  The main gate as we knew it, was bulldozed after the 1998 season to make way for…........... Wait for it…............ Go Karts.  Finally, 18 years later, Worlds of Fun will HOPEFULLY have something it has not had since 1998, a REAL main gate.   On August 18th, 2016 the park made several announcements related to the 2017 season and in this (probably lengthy) blog post we will take a detailed look at each of the four announcements, and provide some insight and probably a whole lot of guessing into the details of each one.

The Henrietta and main gate as it appeared on opening day 1974.

Let’s go back though and look at some history though first (because you do all know WHO is writing this right?).  Worlds of Fun opened in May 26, 1973, and to enter the park guests rode a tram to the MAIN gate, bought tickets at a beautiful tree-lined plaza complete in Americana-style gingerbread trim and crossed the beautiful side-wheeler Henrietta to enter the park.  In front of them as is there today was Front Street Square.    There was a second gate at the time too, the group-sales gate, or back gate that lead into Scandinavia, buses could easily pull up and in later years bands, choirs, school groups could organize and enter the park as a group here too.  Other than for groups it was seldom used, in fact a large sign once hung above the back lots informing guests whether the gate was even open for the day or not. 

The Henrietta twenty-five years later, a sad remnant with debris floating in the surrounding moat.

Change happened in mid-1995, when new owner at the time, Cedar Fair, made the decision, along with many other parks at the time, to discontinue the tram service.  Unlike many other parks the Americana gate was set about a quarter of a mile walk from its nearest parking lot.  The point was to separate the fantasy world of Worlds of Fun from the dust and grim of the normal every day.  Though it is uncommon for a park's main entrance NOT to be visible from the park lots it is a concept employed successfully at one of the most successful theme parks in the world, Magic Kingdom in Florida and was also successfully employed by Worlds of Fun too.  It's that unique separation of the parking lot to the gate that gave Worlds of Fun its "magical" experience but also lead to the unique situation where its main gate no longer functioned when the trams were discontinued.  The problem is that quarter-mile or so was a even longer walk to most people’s car, the Scandinavian gate took over a lot of the foot traffic and became a still secondary, but now more often used gate.  The trickle of guests into the Scandinavian gate over the next few years turned into a flood and it turned the Americana gate, once a hub of activity into a ghost town.  Clarks’ Livery Stable (where Subway is now) where guests would rent a locker or a stroller saw scant guests normally, and was closed in most cases, The glass encased Guest Relations was boarded up, a lone ambassador sitting forlorn on a stool manned the single open turnstile on the once busy Henrietta, when the Americana gate was even open that is.  The writing on the wall was clear as day.    Mamba opened in 1998 to great jubilation, but on the opposite side of the park the Americana gate was closed, no one crossed the Henrietta anymore, very few even noticed it, and its green algae covered water that now surrounded it.  In spring 1999, the gate was gone, completely demolished with Go-Karts now in its place.  The solitary tree that once served as the tram turn around stood in the midst.

The Scandinavian back gate as it appeared in the mid-1990's

The Scandinavian back gate was all that was left.  Over the next 15-16 years the Scandinavian gate changed a LOT.  Landscaping was added, Guest Services had already been relocated several years prior, but it too was updated and enlarged. Attempts were made to make both the gate and surrounding entrance, feel, at least somewhat like a main gate.  An arcade became a gift shop, the original glass blower’s shop became a candy shop, the park’s full service restaurant  gave its outdoor dining patio to lockers and wheelchair rentals.   A beautiful hand carved carousel was added in 2011, though some attempts were half hearted, not all of them were, and it became more and more obvious that there was no way to band-aid in a main gate.   Many of the long time fans who had been coming to the park since the days of the trams took to taking first-time visitors through the “real” main gate by quite literally walking newbies over to the Go-Karts, and walking across what was left of the Henrietta into Front Street square. 

Finally, in 2017 the wait will be hopefully over.  So what will the new gate look like?  We have been given brief details by the park, that the new gate will be re-designed, that it will include an international plaza where guests can meet up, and that it will have a waterfall.  Many of us, especially long time Worlds of Fun fans worry that it will look just like all the other Cedar Fair park gates (well except of course, Cedar Point), like Dorney’s or Valleyfair’s, which are fairly identical cream colored clock tower entrances.  Maybe.  One thing is true first appearances ARE everything, and for the first time in almost twenty years guests will not have to pass through the rickety old Scandinavian gate, one intended to be a back gate, but forced to become so much more.

Dorney Park's main gate
Valleyfair's main gate

Onto the rides.  Two new rides for 2017 let’s see if I can get this right.  Falcon’s Flight and Mustang Runner.  First, as I am sure I am the only one geeky enough to notice, Falcon’s Flight follow’s traditional Worlds of Fun ride naming pattern, two words, both starting with the same letter. (Zambezi Zinger, Oriental Octopus, Finnish Fling, Viking Voyager, Fjord Fjarlene, the park was and is littered with them) So lets start there,

Falcon’s Flight facts, the ride is a Huss Condor, first manufactured by Huss Rides in 1984 it is one of two used rides purchased by Cedar Fair on its Europe legacy rides tour.  It will however, from reports be completely updated, and for all intensive purposes, be a new ride.  It is a 102 foot tall circular ride, with four arms, and four cars circling in each arm with a capacity of 56 riders per ride cycle.  It’s also a rather rare ride, this will be the first in the Cedar Fair chain, and one of only a handful in the United States, in fact the only other operational Huss Condor I can think of is at Hersheypark.   In the unconfirmed rumors division, we have heard that Falcon’s Flight will be replacing Le Carousel which interesting enough, and factually enough is Europa’s newest ride added in 1979,  making Flying Falcon, Europa’s first new ride installation in 36 years.

The second ride is a little more common, a Huss Troika, that the park will be naming Mustang Runner.  It will be located in the western Americana section where Krazy Kars/Crashem Bashem (Kiddy bumper cars) was located, the yellow building is still there for now.  It is unknown at this point whether the old Ski Hi Station (red barn) will remain.  The Huss Troika was first manufactured in 1973, and is as mentioned a much more common ride but one that is exciting to see the park adding as it’s a very enjoyable, not too overly thrilling of a ride. 

Both rides as mentioned were manufactured by Huss Manufacturing in Germany which also manufactured the Huss Enterprise known at Worlds of Fun as Zulu and the Huss Top Spin, which was known at Worlds of Fun as Thunderhawk. 

The last new announcement for 2017 was the addition of Winterfest to the parks 2017 operating calendar.  Parks opening up in winter or the Christmas-season is becoming a more and more common occurrence, however Winterfest is actually a take off of an old tradition at another Cedar Fair park, Kings Island.  Winterfest at Worlds of Fun is due to kick-off on November 24, 2017 and will operate for six weeks.  Though details are scarce the park is announcing that the new festival will feature 14 characters, lighting displays, ice-skating and live entertainment.   For a look at how Worlds of Fun may operate their Winterfest it is beneficial to take a look at the history of the event at Kings Island.  The original Winter Fest debuted in 1982, and featured festive lights, a large Christmas tree at the park’s signature Eiffel Tower attraction, ice skating in the royal fountain (located at the entrance to the park), the carousel and steam train were the only rides in operation.  In 2005, Kings Island attempted to bring back the festival with limited success,  and is again doing so along with several other Cedar Fair parks in 2017.

As Winter Fest is a traditional Kings Island event, a look at King's Island version at KI Central might be of interest:

Those were the facts, now we enter into the world of speculation.  Nothing I write going forward has been confirmed by the park in any way shape or form.  Many of the attractions at Kings Island could easily be copied over to Worlds of Fun, A Christmas tree in Americana, (the art work shows a large Christmas Tree in Front Street Square), while we lack a large fountain for ice skating that King Island possesses, I could see them using Ripcord lake, or possibly creating a flat ice skating rink somewhere else in the park.   However "flat" and "Worlds of Fun" do not seem to go hand in hand, this detail should be interesting to see how it unfolds.  Also, a key aspect of the event is live entertainment, this makes me question whether Tivoli Music Hall may be on the list for renovations, since it is in many ways functionally the same as it was in 1973.  Another consideration is that many buildings were either not built, or have not been renovated in such a way to operate in cold temperatures, bathrooms and fountains are shut down in the winter, most buildings that I am aware of do not have heat, so there are many logistical mountains to cover so to speak prior to next November.

In regards to rides questions began immediately after the announcement.  Would there be rides?  Some said no, as Kings Island only operates their steam train and carousel during the event historically.  However, nearby Silver Dollar City operates almost every ride as long as the weather is favorable and meets necessary temperatures.  Worlds of Fun has stated so far that they are considering about two dozen possible rides for operation.  Im guessing at this point the list will include the Worlds of Fun Railroad, the Carousel and possibly Cyclone Sam's, in fact a online poster (not affiliated with Worlds of Fun) mentioned temporarily re-theming Cyclone Sam's to a blizzard instead (Blizzard Bill's?) which I thought was quite creative.  Last point is the so called elephant in the room, though Winter Fest is being hosted at several Cedar Fair parks it’s a question as to how this event will compete with nearby Silver Dollar City’s Old Fashioned Christmas, the folks at Carowinds must be asking the same question as their market is not to far from Dollywood, which also hosts a Christmas-time event, it’s a question we will most likely not have an answer for until December 2017.  It will be interesting to say the least as in most cases its rare for the general public to visit the park past the traditional end of October closing date. 

1 comment:

Brill Assignment said...

That is pretty good analysis, many things to take from this post. Going to share it with others, thanks for sharing it with us and keep posting more such posts