IAAPA, the international organization for amusement parks and theme parks, held its annual convention last week in Orlando. Always a glitzy affair the IAAPA Expo is actually open to the public, but admission costs are steep (well over $100/person) and it’s primarily a trade show, not a traveling carnival. That said, there ARE some rides to sample here (think spinner ride, several simulators, and an odd carousel or two), as well as giant inflatable bounce houses and other amusements.
This being a trade show, you’ll find vendors here displaying new technologies such as debit card readers, or the latest in automated cotton-candy vending machines (a neat trick, actually). They are hoping to talk to buyers from theme parks, regional parks, and even family fun centers, all of whom are looking for a way to make their attraction memorable and unique (and profitable). A lot of business gets done at IAAPA in this fashion.
But it’s not all work; there is always a chance to play. One corner of the cavernous convention center is given over to the latest in ticket-spitting games of chance (and skill?), and there are many video games and pinball machines here too. The new Star Trek pinball machine is a clear winner, but I’m less certain we’ll see the standup arcade game for Plants versus Zombies everywhere (you play as the pea shooter). Namco had a nifty wraparound dome screen in a cockpit; it’s like being on Soarin, but the screen is sized just for one person and you’re right next to it.
IAPPA has updated their list of major attractions opening at theme parks around the world in 2010. It’s quite a banner year. If the list looks thin when it comes to Disney Parks, that’s because most of Disney’s new stuff will be opening between 2011 and 2013.
“Each year parks and attractions look for new and innovative ways to entertain guests and provide unique opportunities for friends and families to spend quality time together,” said Charlie Bray, president and CEO for the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. “2010 is shaping up to be an exciting year as several multi-million dollar, record-breaking investments have already been announced.”
Here’s a preview of some of the new developments already announced throughout the world for 2010:
- In spring 2010, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay in Tampa Bay, Fla., will welcome families to an all-new, Sesame Street-themed playland featuring Elmo, Big Bird, and all their friends. “Sesame Street Safari of Fun” will feature rides, shows, and adventures that celebrate the spirit of Africa, including a new “Air Grover” family roller coaster. www.buschgardens.com
- Canada’s largest themed waterpark, Calypso Waterpark, is scheduled to open in June 2010 in Limoges, Ontario. The park will span more than 100 acres and feature 35 waterslides and a 50,000-square-foot wave pool. www.calypsopark.com
- Carowinds in Charlotte, N.C., will introduce a new roller coaster inspired by racing legend, Dale Earnhardt. The 232-foot-tall “Intimidator” will send riders plummeting down a 211-foot first drop, then race at 75 miles per hour through more than a mile of high-speed twists, turns, and seven more extreme drops. www.carowinds.com
- Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, will open a new 2,100-foot-long water thrill ride, “Shoot the Rapids,” which simulates white-water rapids. The three-minute ride will take guests on 10-passenger boats through a ride complete with an 85-foot drop and meandering rivers along the Frontier Trail and Millennium Island. www.cedarpoint.com
- A $1 million water slide is planned for Dollywood’s Splash Country Water Adventure Park in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. Modeled after one of Dolly Parton’s favorite childhood activities, the “Slick Rock Racer” will span 300 feet and feature four side-by-side lanes with riders belly down on mats sliding downhill head first. http://www.dollywoodssplashcountry.com/
- Holiday World in Santa Claus, Ind., will open the second-largest ride addition in the park’s history in 2010. Touted as the world’s longest water coaster, “Wildebeest” is one-third of a mile long and will cover more than two acres. The new water coaster will feature four-person rafts in which guests will experience a 38-foot drop at a 45-degree angle and travel up and down seven additional hills, three tunnels, and around a helix. http://www.holidayworld.com/
- Kennywood in West Mifflin, Pa., will introduce a new roller coaster for 2010. The new launch coaster “Sky Rocket” will take riders from zero to 50 miles per hour in less than three seconds. The ride will feature a 95-foot vertical climb, a 90-degree plummet, three inversions, and a corkscrew. www.kennywood.com
- Kings Dominion in Doswell, Va., will also introduce a Dale Earnhardt-themed coaster, the “Intimidator 305.” This 305-foot-tall gravity-driven roller coaster takes riders along 5,100 feet of steel track at 92 miles per hour. www.intimidator305.com
- “Flying Turns” will open for the 2010 season at Knoebels Amusement Park in Elysburg, Pa. The thrill ride features a train that rides in a trough guided by the curved walls surrounding it. The cars are allowed to freewheel with the centripetal force creating the effect of a bobsled ride. www.knoebels.com
- La Ronde in Montreal, Quebec, will introduce a suspended roller coaster. The ride features five inversions, more than 2,200 feet of track, and two 20-passenger trains. www.laronde.com
- LEGOLAND California Resort in Carlsbad, Calif., will open the world’s first LEGOLAND Waterpark this June. The park will include a lazy river, several water slides, a splash tower, spray LEGO models, and two beach areas. www.legolandwaterpark.com
- Nashville Shores in Nashville, Tenn., will expand this year with new attractions including a 25,000-square-foot wave pool and a 1,000-foot-long lazy river. www.nashvilleshores.com
- Noah’s Ark Waterpark in Wisconsin Dells, Wis., will open a 10-story-high looping tube waterslide, “Scorpion’s Tail.” Riders of America’s first looping water slide will zip through the 45-degree-angle loop-de-loop at speeds up to 40 mph. www.noahsarkwaterpark.com
- Quassy Amusement Park will open “Free Fall ‘N,” a family-friendly drop-tower ride. With a circular seating arrangement, the ride will lift 12 riders to the top of the tower before releasing the ring of seats for a series of thrilling drops. www.quassy.com
- Seabreeze Amusement Park in Rochester, N.Y., will open “Revolution 360°.” Guests will face outward aboard a giant disk which rotates 360 degrees in both directions five stories high. www.seabreeze.com
- Silver Dollar City in Branson, Mo., kicks off its year long 50th Anniversary celebration with the opening of “Tom & Huck’s RiverBlast.” Raft riders and spectators, armed with water soakers, battle each other raft-to-raft and raft-to-shore. http://www.bransonsilverdollarcity.com
- Opening Memorial Day at Six Flags Great America near Chicago, Ill., is the new “Glow in the Park Parade,” featuring state-of-the-art floats, intricate light design, and Cirque-style music. The “Glow in the Park” nighttime parade will start in Hometown Square and will take approximately 30 minutes to wind through four themed sections, including Carousel Plaza, Orleans Place, and Mardi Gras. www.sixflags.com/greatAmerica
- Six Flags Hurricane Harbor in Jackson, N.J., will open “Tornado,” a seven-story water ride that will send passengers plummeting down a tunnel into a 60-footwide funnel. www.sixflags.com/HurricaneHarborNJ
- Inspired by J.K. Rowling’s best-selling novels, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter a multimillion-dollar project at Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Fla., will provide visitors with an immersive experience. Opening in spring 2010, the new world within the park will transcend generations and bring the wonder and magic of the amazingly detailed Harry Potter books and films to life. www.universalorlandoresort.com/harrypotter
The IAAPA Attractions Expo opened on Monday. But the show doesn’t really get going until the “What’s New” presentation which was yesterday morning. This year the kickoff session featured performances from Universal and The Blues Brothers, dancers from Busch Gardens, and a new song from beautifully performed by a singer from Walt Disney World Resort. All in all a great showcase for central Florida.
Three new IAAPA members were inducted into the Hall of Fame. Arto Monaco (Land of Make Believe) and Edgard “Eddy” Meeus (Walibi Parks) both played key roles in the early days of theme park development and were awarded posthumously. Larry B. Cochran helped open Six Flags over Texas and rose to the top of the company during his 41 years of service and team building. He gave a wonderful speech with a tribute to his family and team members.
The bi-annual Applause Award went to Xetulul a theme park in Retalhuleu, Guatemala. I’ve never heard of this park, but it looked like a lot of fun. San Diego SeaWorld cam in a close second.
After the morning performance everyone heads down to the show floor to make some deals and see what’s hot from vendors old and new. I only managed to cover about 20% of the show floor yesterday but click through the cut to read a few things that caught my eye.