There will be several before and after photos in this report, but let's start with the gate. Before (last fall), the only structure still there in this photo is the one below (Season Pass Processing).
After... I didn't mention this in the review, but the gold/burnt umber color of the buildings is almost identical to the original color of the Scandinavian gate. Nice touch.
In twenty years I have learned that there is one indisputable fact about opening days. They are not perfect. Every year. I keep hoping for a perfect opening day, you know. All the rides running, no one complaining about a sixteen-year-old having issues ringing up a taco, you know simple things. It hasn’t happened yet, and this year wasn’t one either. Though, with that being said, not only have there been far worse opening days, and while there were numerous issues that we will detail in this opening day review, there were also several positives. And, unlike almost every opening day I have attended in the past, the positives were overwhelmingly so, and the negatives, very minor.
So let's talk about opening day 2017. Actually, let's start before that, as we attended the Thursday evening Passholder Preview event. We arrived at the park around 4 pm, having remembered lines for passholder processing being never ending on opening day we arrived early. It wasn’t really necessary as we processed our pass in about five minutes if even that.
Is there really anything I need to say here?
Of course the most exciting part of all of this? Seeing the new gate! Folks, this is what we have been preparing for, for YEARS, Decades even. Over the last two decades I have written so many editorials, and commentaries in regards to the old Americana gate, the sad old Scandinavian gate, and the desperate need for a new gate I have stopped counting. Once we heard the announcement last summer that the park was finally going to give the park a decent main gate for the first time in eighteen years my first thought after being incredibly excited, was… absolute terror. Terrified that the park would end up with a gate that would look like every other cookie-cutter Cedar Fair gate built. I even made a comment somewhere along the lines of I thought it would be better than we expected, but not as wonderful as we would have hoped.
Folks… never, EVER, have I ever been happier to be more wrong. The new gate is beautiful, well designed, and well-laid out, and most importantly, does absolute justice to what the park could be as a whole. I have to go so far as to make a comment I never in my wildest dreams thought I would say. I think I like it better than the original, beloved, Americana gate.
On the left is a look back at security coming from the front parking lots. On the right is the walkway in from the back lots.
So what makes it deserve such accolades? First and foremost, it’s functional. Security was something we all knew was coming, and it’s handled here as well as could be possible considering the circumstances. Security is located at the entrance to the plaza area, with two locations, one coming from the front parking lots, B, C & D and one coming from the back lots, E-K. It WILL back up, it already has, but once you’re past it, you’re past it. And you don’t have to look at ugly gray metal detectors in front of a gate. Thank you GOD! (I’m looking at you old Paramount parks…). Our first visit we parked in C lot, so on our first approach the first building is Passholder Processing. Passholder Processing is the old Guest Relations building, but is virtually unrecognizable to its older form. The simplest explanation is that it works and its design is simple and clean. Right next to that is the NEW Guest Relations Building. With almost half the exterior walls being windows, it’s light and airy. Guest Relations is also well designed with both an out of park entrance and in park entrance. This allows guests to visit Guest Relations whether they are inside or outside the park.
Guest Relations entrance from outside of the gate.
Guest Relations entrance from inside the gate.
Ticket Booths. There is a wide empty space directly to the left of this picture which is a great job on planning. Perfect for group events, etc.
A concern many had, including ours, was in regards to the location of the ticket booths to the gate area. Originally we were thinking that security would be part of the gate/turnstiles area, and might see a traffic pile up with those in line for tickets, especially at high peak times (such as Halloween Haunt). With security being separate, I don’t see this as being an issue, and the “odd” layout of the ticket booths facing the gate doesn’t feel odd at all, again it's all very well laid out. Honestly, though, the highlight of the whole gate area was how well it integrated everything, the old and the new. The new being the new double-domed turnstile structure, which looks onto the relatively “old” entrance plaza area but still feels one in the same, and also, and most importantly, open.
This isn't so much a before and after as it is a compare and contrast. The old main gate in Americana was home to a compass...
And so is the new gate. Actually, from this angle both gates areas seem strikingly similar.
For example, the old Sky Heis station/Tivoli East has been for years hidden behind trees and other buildings, is now allowed to be seen right as you walk into the park, and for almost forty-five years old, looks pretty good! One of the most memorable features of the old Americana gate, and well any good main gate is that once you enter it feels as if the park opens up in front of you, like a book. The new gate has that same, or similar feeling, while also being just a tad bit grander. I also love the addition of the compass at the base of the entrance walkways. For those that don’t know, the original sunken fountain in Americana wasn’t actually original, the ORIGINAL entrance area had… a compass too. Very cool.
The new Grand Pavilion picnic area, looks nice. Remember this used to be a dump, that's the crazy part.
Lockers, Rentals and Photos, this used to be First Aid.
So what is inside the park? To the left is the previously mentioned Ski Heis/Tivoli East and new, fancy Grand Pavilion picnic area. (That used to be a dump… I’m still trying to wrap my head around that one). To the right is the old First Aid building, but you wouldn’t know it to look at it. The old First Aid is now, Rentals, Photos, and Lockers. But again if I hadn’t known they kept that old First Aid building… I would have had no idea this was the same building. It’s so nice to see Lockers and Rentals not jerry-rigged into an old restaurant patio anymore…
The new Norma's Funnel Cakes, next door to Chickie & Pete's
Love the sign!
Of course, that old Patio isn’t a patio either. The eastern side of Chickie & Pete’s is still currently under construction, but I am happy to report that Norma’s Funnel Cakes looks like it’s staying… Norma’s Funnel Cakes. For those that don’t know Norma’s was and is still named after Lamar Hunt’s wife, Norma Hunt.
Touch screen ordering at Chickie & Pete's
I also went in and checked out Chickie and Pete’s itself. As you might expect the small dining area and interior bathroom on the left side, is closed off, but I discovered something I didn’t at all expect. Electronic kiosk food ordering. I experimented with it a bit, and found you could order using any of the different dining plans the park is now offering, or simply ala carte. Smart. There are food ordering kiosks at Pizza Pier and Coasters too I believe.
If it seems like I’m glowing over the new park gate. I admit it, I am. It really did exceed expectations, and even the most hard core, Worlds of Fun traditionalist fans seem to not have a single bad word to say, and all I have yet to hear are positive remarks. A rare feat to come from a band of rabid Worlds of Fun fans. Plus, I admit, I have been looking forward to writing this in an opening day review for so many years, and I was so thrilled to be able to look at the gate in a 99.999% completed state (Jeff, of course, had to point out the one concrete seam that still had tape in it…)
A friend of mine, who is also a season passholder made a comment that I will use to segue into the rest of the review. The new gate is beautiful, but it’s basically a beautiful new front porch on the same old park. Sigh. Let's be honest, all of us that were there on Thursday at 6pm, waiting to be let into the rest of the park were wondering about two rides, Mustang Runner and Falcon’s Flight. As we all know now they weren’t open, and sorry… it was like my nice beautiful hot air balloon… was massively deflated.
The Lift signage (actually Norseman's signage) received some new wood.
Standing there next to Voyager, I was looking for one thing at that point. Tivoli. I knew that they had chopped off the old (but not original) shaded entrance. It had been looking just terrible for the last decade, and we knew that it would be better for it to go than to stay. I’ll be honest, my first thought on seeing the new Tivoli was “ugh”, they had chopped off MOST of the entranceway, but not the whole thing. I was told later the park wasn’t done with it. So with that being said, I won’t go any further on Tivoli as I am interested to see what the final product will look like and like many things I am trying, very hard, to keep an open mind.
Since opening on that Thursday Worlds of Fun has been absolutely lambasted on social media in regards to closed rides for the entire weekend. I have, every year, made a huge deal about closed rides on opening day. I have been told by some that Six Flags, a park that closed in December because of their holiday event, had every ride open on opening day, I have heard, and felt the disappointment of not seeing the shiny new rides not operating. After all, Jeff and I did literally travel over a thousand miles to ride them! I stand behind what I have always said; every ride should be open on opening day, with very few exceptions to that rule. I can understand that the gate was a priority, I mean; obviously, you NEED a gate for a park. However, maintenance does not build a gate.
Update: Mustang Runner is now operating as of Saturday 4/22/17, and it appears Falcon's Flight isn't far behind. Though they weren't open on Opening Day, it is fabulous to see the park getting the new rides up and running "almost" on Opening Day. Not picture perfect, but FAR better than we have seen in previous years.
Another point, that I really don’t understand is why Voyager was not only not operational but still very much in pieces. The brake fins had yet to be re-installed. Mind you this was a ride that was closed last September, it has been down now for eight months almost.
Still. I was told by friends who know me, and well Jeff too, that we shouldn’t be too hard on the park because it rained during the last two weeks leading up to opening day. I also, personally, can’t stand people beating up on Worlds of Fun on social media. Stop it. Or if you are going to do it, at least get your facts straight, 50% of the rides were not down, there was a total of five, Timberwolf, Viking Voyager, Finnish Fling, Fjord Fjarlane and Zulu, and of about half that list, two were operational by Saturday night. Also, there has been some improvement in the topic of ride operations, all the coasters that were operating were running two trains, (except Boomerang of course), a definite improvement over my previous opening day review in 2015.
Also in regards to the new rides… I highly doubt Mustang Runner and Falcon’s Flight will take until July to open. Remember that? July?! Yeah, I’d like to forget that too.
And a control booth.
So moving on, we headed down into Scandinavia, as previously mentioned Fjord Fjarlane was down, though it was completely assembled, and was sporting a brand new paint job of teal and cream. Fjarlane, surprisingly received a lot of work during the off-season it appears beyond just a paint job, it looks to have received a new control system, and entirely new entrance and control booth. The control booth looks pretty much like all the more recent ones such as Steelhawk, a small, enclosed building, big enough for one person to move around in, which is all it really needs. The control booth has a nice, themed trim similar to that on the old Chickie & Pete’s/All Stars/Inn of Four Winds/Smor Borg building, and is quite cute. The entrance for the ride has also been moved over towards the eastern side of the ride (towards Tivoli). Overall, it looks nice. I think very few were complaining about Fjarlane being down with the small hope that maybe it will run the way it ran when it was originally installed, with more than a half-hearted nudge of a swing.
Looking over to the gate area from near Fjord Fjarlane, a view that is quite different this year.
As mentioned previously both Voyager and Finnish Fling were closed throughout the weekend. Both Scrambler and Sea Dragon were open. A point I want to make before I move on. There have been some complaints about Passholder Preview night. How some rides weren’t open and some opened after 6 pm. My distaste for closed rides is such that that point doesn’t need to be repeated. However, I think some are missing the point of a “preview” night. It’s a preview. Meaning, it may not be 100% ready to go. So if Scrambler, or a few rides were a little slow getting open, so long as they were open on Friday, don’t complain. It’s called a PREVIEW for a reason. (This makes me wonder if the whole first weekend should have been a preview)
Moving into Africa, we found Zulu down too, but Prowler was running. Zulu would be worked on by maintenance throughout the day on Friday, and would open on Saturday. Which brings me to my next point. When making plans to come to Kansas City for Worlds of Fun opening day I was surprised that opening day was on a Friday. I am sure at some point in the park’s forty-four years of operating there may have been a year when opening day was not on a Saturday, but I can’t remember when that was. Maybe it would have made more sense to keep opening day on Saturday? That might have given maintenance some time to get more rides operational, and as both Zulu and Timberwolf were operational by Saturday, I know hindsight is 20/20, but just something I thought about.
Throughout Africa, all other rides were operational at least part of the preview night, and throughout the rest of the weekend, though Nile didn’t open until 4 pm on Friday which I thought was a little odd. I am not sure if that was a staffing issue or maintenance issue. Though I have to admit I saw more than one ride operator with a supervisor shirt on which concerns me a bit.
Forum/Heart of America Theater.
From Mamba, we headed down Forum Rd, and I know some people will call us hypocritical for using it since we are such big proponents of CLOSING Forum Rd. But we did want to check out the entrance to the Forum/Heart of America Theater since the map was rather confusing on this point. The entrance and theater I am happy to report is completely unchanged.
Another before and after, Krazy Kars prior to 2014. Note where Detonator is in the background.
AND Mustang Runner. I think based off where Detonator is in the photo that this photo may be taken from the same place. It wasn't intentional.
Some nice signage.
As you exit Forum Rd for Americana the area itself is quite changed. There used to be a bright yellow building for the kiddie bumper cars, and now that has been replaced by the new ride, Mustang Runner. Overall, the area looks very nice and well put together, the landscaping crew did an excellent job, and I was surprised how many of the mature trees they were able to keep. I’ll be honest though it took me a few minutes to find the entrance to the ride! I went around to the right, I guess since I am so used to Krazy Kars and its entrance facing away from Detonator. (Since it was oriented towards the original main gate). Mustang Runner is actually on the opposite side, facing Detonator. I love how the control booth again fits the theme and is made to match the old red Ski Hi barn next to it, very adorable. Though neither ride was operational, Mustang Runner went through a series of tests on Friday, as if they really wanted to get the ride open for the weekend. I also happen to know how a certain person in maintenance LOVES Huss, and I am sure he is having a field day with two new Huss rides that don’t want to do what they are supposed to do.
I blame the Germans. It’s always their fault.
Over near ICEE/Custer’s Last Stand we noticed a few conduits poking out of the landscaping beds and figured that there was some work being done for Winterfest. THAT will be interesting and I am very much looking forward to it.
We passed by Timberwolf, which was closed until Saturday night from what I have heard. Supposedly, the final helix is incredibly rough, which was the segment that was supposed to have been re-tracked over the off-season. I hope it does get some work done next off-season, and I hope that its re-tracking doesn’t get put off like the 2nd year tunnels on Mamba (basically, never happening). On the topic of wooden coasters, even Prowler is getting a little rough. With two wooden coasters, it’s past time for the park to start doing annual re-tracking work on both, beyond just typical maintenance; they are both too good of coasters to receive anything less.
I can't help it, I love this guy. I really wanted that Pac-Man too, but it was at Cat Whack and that is quite possibly one of the hardest games to win.
In all this doom and gloom I figured I would point out a few shining stars that we noticed. First, games employees (I can't and won't use the "A" word) which have been quite outgoing for the last several years continued the trend, and seemed to continue to be going out of their way to have a good time. By Game Street USA I had an absolute sudden desire for a Pac Man plush, and I also have to hand it to the Games employee over by Timberwolf Games. There was NOBODY around, except me, and she was barking (come play my game, that games employees do), like she had a whole crowd of people around her. Lots of enthusiasm, it was wonderful to see. I have also read comments from others that are reporting improved experiences with park employees and we also had a good experience with Guest Relations on preview night. Great job.
Another department I want to give kudos to and that’s retail. For years retail merchandise was pretty stale, and for probably a decade I can’t recall buying much more than a pair of socks (which I still have and wear all the time). About two years ago retail came out with a retro line featuring the traditional Partridge Font, and merchandise featuring the Zambezi Zinger and Orient Express to name a few. However, the logo that was used was what we call “Cedar Fair retro”. Let me explain. For the first twenty-four years of park operation the Worlds of Fun logo was the balloon, with “Worlds of Fun” in Partridge Font on a single line, like this…
In 1995, when Cedar Fair bought the park they almost immediately changed the logo, just slightly, so that the balloon was on the left, and “Worlds of Fun” was split and stacked into two separate lines on the right, like this…
Of course, we all know a few years back the park, along with pretty much every Cedar Fair park dumped their “park identity” logos and went for a branded, everyone the same (aka everyone boring), “Impact Font” logo. Since then, we have argued for the need to return to the recognizable balloon and Partridge Font. Well… the balloon is back. Retail is back now with the Partridge font too, now only if we could get the rest of the park on board.
Some new merchandise this year. I love it!
So back to retail. Well, after two years retail came out with a REAL Retro shirt, featuring the balloon and “Worlds of Fun” on one line. Not only that, but retail is featuring several shirts that harken back to the golden years of Worlds of Fun, the 1980’s "tag lines" and Tivoli shows, "Let Go" and "Break Away" (1983 and 1984 seasons)
Retail has made two new additions completely unrelated to logos. One is a pretty major addition, and that is the addition of Fuel Rod swap/buy stations in both Front Street Emporium and Plaza Gifts in Scandinavia. For those not familiar with Fuel Rods, they are great, pocket size cell phone rechargeable batteries. You buy one once, and then they can be swapped an unlimited number of times for fully charged versions. You can also charge them at home, and they are completely swappable, meaning the Fuel Rods we have bought at Disney parks (and they are all over the place there), are exchangeable for the ones at Worlds of Fun. As far as I am aware Worlds of Fun is also the first park outside of Disney to offer them, and they are less expensive at Worlds!
A Fuel Rod station in Front Street.
There were a few other small additions to retail, first being a small "new" retail location in the Fury of the Nile queue line. Nile, had many years ago had a small drink stand, called Sphinx Drinks, it has been closed now for about two decades. This season a new retail location opened in the same small enclosed kiosk. It's nice, and I am sure will come in handy to would be, and wet exiting riders.
On the left are several Taffy barrels at Front Street, on the right is the new, un-named (?) merchandise location in the Nile queue line.
Also, not as major either but retail added Taffy to the candy lineup in the Front Street Shops. Last thing before I go on, I mentioned how I never used to buy merchandise because it was all boring and the same? Uh yeah… my bank account would like to return to those days. So would my closet.
On the left is the New Funtier Arcade/Snoopy's Arcade exterior, on the right is the interior.
These two photos were once Uncle Sam's Skeeball Hall, today they are the entrance to First Aid.
Interior of First Aid.
Jeff and I parted ways briefly at this point he went to go ride Patriot and I wanted to check out a detail I had noticed on the park map over in the old Bicentennial Square. I had noticed on the map that First Aid looked like it had been relocated to the old Uncle Sam’s Skeeball Hall. Well, it has. Truth be told, I guess it was inevitable. Back when Bicentennial Square was built, and New Funtier Arcade and Uncle Sam’s Skeeball Hall opened in 1976, Arcades were growing into popularity. Now, no one born in the last twenty years even knows what an Arcade is. So the writing was on the wall. What was New Funtier/Snoopy’s Arcade is still there, and received new wall color and flooring which it desperately needed (the old floor was literally falling apart). It still has several arcade games and Skeeball machines. But the back half has been walled off. The side entrance, which is where Uncle Sam’s “started”, has now become First Aid.
Another before and after, and this one is pretty stark contrast. Before we have old Europa, this was where the old Le Grand Prix Raceway was.
And today... all I can say is WOW.
Some very pretty signage.
Those Falcons (Condors?) are going aerial...
At this point, we backtracked back to Europa. Europa has been the one section that has been in such need of life support for the last many years. Consider, the last new ride Europa received was in 1979 with Le Carousel, the shops, restaurant(s), and rides have virtually been unchanged since 1973. Two years ago, Moulin Rouge received a major facelift, along with Déjà vu. This year, Europa finally received some serious love. Falcon’s Flight, a Huss Condor, was mostly assembled, excepting for a few small detail elements. While I think it probably has another one to two weeks before opening, unlike Mustang Runner I am not a bit surprised that it was not open for opening weekend. Like Mustang Runner it made some movement on Friday (In that the ride vehicle lifted a few feet off the ground), so that was good to see. The overall ride and queue line detail was spot-on perfect. Of course, we have talked about the ride’s name, Falcon’s Flight and how it's not only appropriately (thematically) named, but also is one of the first rides in about twenty years to be named in a traditional, double same first letter name (Finnish Fling, Viking Voyager, Zambezi Zinger). However, I like the details in that the queue line coverings are themed to a medieval tent, and probably an overlooked detail, that a key color of the ride, mauve (deep purple), matches the same mauve on the Flying Dutchman next door. (Which is also boasting a new paint job) Overall, it is quite striking.
Many people asked what I meant about the Europa Bathroom looking better, well this is why. Here is the Europa Bathroom last year..
And here it is today, small details make such a huge difference.
In addition to the new ride the old asphalt from the train bridge, to right before Paisano’s was replaced entirely by concrete. Two years ago they had removed all the small islands, and Cottonwoods, so thankfully or sadly, (depending on how you look at it), there really were very few trees that had to be removed. One or two that used to tower over the old Grand Prix Raceway and one or two over by Autobahn. There were a few new trees planted near Falcon’s Flight, that are as of yet an undetermined species of flowering tree. So that’s good. Several of the Cottonwoods and flowerbeds next to Autobahn are still there, and I am actually mildly surprised they kept the one’s that they kept. Last detail, they added the white trim back to the Europa bathroom, and it, at least on the exterior, looks much more like its old, nicer, self. Overall, the entire area just looks so much BETTER.
Any botanists out there that care to identify? It almost looks like a magnolia but I don't think it is?
There is one draw back to all this newness. And I only bring it up because A) It’s so obvious and B) It was mentioned by almost everyone I talked with. The new areas (Falcon's Flight/Mustang Runner), gate, and new rides, looks SO nice, it makes the rest of the park well… look even shabbier then it already did. Two points I would like to address that were especially striking, the “asphalt” and the railroad. So to start with the asphalt, some of it is just absolutely HORRIBLE condition. I get the park can’t do everything in one year, and I did see several rather large asphalt patches, but when asphalt has massive cracks, and is crumbling like gravel… I don’t know what else to say. Fix it. I don’t know about my readers, but heck if it came down to concrete in a few smallish areas (okay it was HALF of Europa) vs. new asphalt everywhere in the park, I would have gone new asphalt everywhere. I know I know it’s not my millions of dollars…
A view from the walkway behind Front Street of the train station, ELI and Europa. Quite a different view. On the right is the new Propane tank, the small tank is for filling the train, (right past the switch track), the larger propane storage tank is right behind it (looks like a rocket). It was moved because the original one was where the Picnic pavilions are now.
Train shed, you can see how close the Picnic Pavilion kitchen is to it, that is where the old propane tank was.
While I am busy hypothetically spending Cedar Fair’s money, lets talk about the train. First, I was rather surprised to see ELI fired up and running on Thursday night, it’s quite an undertaking to fire up a steam train for just four hours! However, I am worried about ELI. This year its forty-four years old, in forty-four years ELI has been the one, and ONLY steam train to pull millions upon millions of passengers around the park. Consider that Knott’s has at least two, Cedar Point has four, heck even Omaha Zoo has TWO! It’s an incredibly popular ride for multiple reasons and I would dare say it is probably the most popular. Then why does Worlds of Fun not treat it as such? Heck, couldn’t we at least PAINT the thing? I noticed several large missing paint spots on the engine, one was there last year, but I am pretty sure not both of them. Here is my last point, ELI should be the HIGHLIGHT and crowning glory of the park, but instead it sometimes seems to be treated worse than a Missouri mule. Thankfully though ELI is still with us, and with the construction of the new gate and picnic facilities did receive a new propane tank.
To finish up, a look that is both similar and quite different. Last year, Baltic Bazaar would have just been past those trees.
And, at night...
Overall, as always we did have a good time (or at least I did). I know many were disappointed about the rides not being open. Many who have expressed the concern are passholders, and attended on Thursday. I would be completely remiss without mentioning it, the park did graciously offer complimentary front of the line passes (two each), for any ride in the park, to be used up until the end of May to all passholders who attended on Thursday. It was an unexpected and nice gesture. I think overall though, beyond rides, and concrete, and a front gate, one of the most important aspects to anyone having a good time, is the quality and service from the employees serving them. Both Jeff and I had several good experiences, as I mentioned previously. The employee working at guest relations who assisted us with the front of the line vouchers was warm and conversational, the ticket takers at the front of the park seemed outgoing and sincere in wishing guests a good day or a good night, the ride attendants seemed to be having fun and I especially wanted to mention the conductor on the train. I loved the line about the train being the fastest ride in the park, because it can cover five continents in seven minutes, I'm not sure if that’s part of the new script or just this specific employee's idea, but whichever, it was fabulous. I also spoke with many friends who also mentioned several positive experiences with employees. I think Candy would be proud. That above all else speaks of a positive outlook in the start of Worlds of Fun’s 45th season. Hope to see everyone at the park!