High-tech roller coasters deliver thrills for riders, frustration for park operators

Posted Wednesday, August 6, 2003 4:54 AM | Contributed by hilldundee

While new cutting edge rides push the envelope for thrilling guests, new rides that do extreme things can be maintenance nightmares for the park operators. Recent examples include Six Flags Magic Mountain's X, Cedar Point's Top Thrill Dragster and Paramount's Kings Dominion's Hypersonic XLC.

Read more from AP via The News-Messenger (Fremont, OH).

Wednesday, August 6, 2003 6:43 AM
Wow, Kinzel has some interesting quotes in there. "Everyone asks what the problem is, but we just don't know," he said. "I don't think the manufacturers know." Sense some frustration there?

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- Chris

"This is no social crisis. This is you having fun." --The Who, Another Tricky Day.

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Wednesday, August 6, 2003 7:40 AM
I'm afraid teething problems are always going to be an integral part of pushing the envelope in any walk of life; theme park ride technolgy is no exception. As Michael Sanfilippo said, it's a learning process. It's unfortunate for all concerned when rides of the calibre of TTD experience difficulties in the initial phases of their operation. However, problems will eventually be resolved and future rides will benefit from the lessons learned.

Parks like Cedar Point should realize that customers appreciate the gambles they are taking with these cutting edge rides, understand that unforseen problems may occur and will tolerate some dissapointment if all parties are seen to collaborate in getting the rides up and running reliably. Lets face it, we all like to have a grumble, but what coaster enthusiast worth their salt can honestly say that they won't be in-line for a go on TTD when the problems are ironed out. Exactly!

What is sad is when the legal wrangling between the ride designers and the park owners reaches the point where it seems as if the effort is being directed towards 'passing the buck' rather than fixing the ride. I'm thinking of the whole "X" and Six flags vs. Arrow situation here. Such scenarios are no good for the reputation of the ride designers or the parks and will inhibit future thrill ride development, as no one will want to take a chance on implementing new technology for fear of being sued should unforseen problems occur.

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Wednesday, August 6, 2003 8:13 AM
Jeff's avatar There's a lot more to that story. I've learned from certain People Who Know(TM) that some of the problems they've had can likely be attributed to Cedar Point's disagreement on the need for certain systems in the name of cost savings. For example, the cooling system in Dragster's motor building was not what Intamin recommended and now they are replacing it to that original spec, thus buying something twice.

I'm not surprised. The biggest issue that park has right now is their "cost control" is starting to interfere little by little with the overall guest experience, and it shows. I hear, for example, that they've wanted to replace the upstops on Gemini with wheels ever since they did it with Magnum, so they don't have to replace the little brass plates on them, as many as a half-dozen every day.

The problem is that these cost cutting measures save them money that they can quantify. It's a lot harder to quantify the cost of bad press, the administration of handling guest service complaints or distribution of exit passes, etc.

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Jeff - Webmaster/Admin - CoasterBuzz.com - Sillynonsense.com
DELETED! What time does the water show start?

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Wednesday, August 6, 2003 8:34 AM
CPLady's avatar It's important to note from this article that it's not just one coaster company/designer, nor is it just Six Flags or Cedar Point who have had troubles with coasters that incorporate new technology in their first, and sometimes even their second seasons.

People who go to parks are the ones asking for bigger, better, faster, different. Those people should also be more understanding when new technology needs tweaking before it will work consistently and stop all the dissing of park management and ride designers/manufacturers

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I'd rather die living than live like I'm dead
http://www.webtechnik.com/ebony/CPLady.htm

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Wednesday, August 6, 2003 8:49 AM
Jeff, interesting, if that is indeed the reason and we should acknowledge that apparently nothing has been proven yet. If CP were engaging in some spurious cost cutting they should also be aware that, apart from the potential cost implications of bad publicity for them, this is likely to sour their relationship with the ride designers. It doesn't look good for them when one of their showcase rides develops serious problems from the outset. Any ride is, afterall, a major piece of marketing for the talent of those who designed it.

I'd also question the wisdom of parks deviating from the specification recommended by the ride designers. Particularly with cutting edge rides.

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Wednesday, August 6, 2003 9:44 AM
I wonder if TTD being down all the time has any effect on people going to CP. Are hotel reservations, etc. being canceled? I went in May just for TTD and everything was fine, but I would cancel if I had to go now in August.

Does anyone know when KBF opened Xcelerator were there similar problems?

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Wednesday, August 6, 2003 9:55 AM
Phil,

_One_ of the reasons (there were a few) that I cancelled my trip to CP this month was because od TTDs lack of reliability. So, yes, its reliability can affect people plans...

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--George H
---Currency tracking experiment... http://www.wheresgeorge.com (Referring to The "George" on the $1 bill - Not Me)

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Wednesday, August 6, 2003 10:19 AM
Phil, yes Xcel did have many problems daily when Xcelerator first opened, and they've gone down dramatically since then.
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Wednesday, August 6, 2003 10:59 AM
How long should we have to wait for these bugs to get ironed out? I expected some problems, but nothing like this. I have visited six times this year and TTD was only operational three. Not too good.

They built Xcelerator to test out the new technology and make sure it would do what they wanted it to do. People plan their vacations to ride these new rides, only to be disappointed when they get to the park. Don't get me wrong, I still have fun when I visit, but after driving 3 hours each way, I do go home with a little bit of a sour taste in my mouth not being able to get at least one ride in on TTD.

I also think that the park should be more honest with their guests. Monday I was at the park and it was down. We were told that it would be open later in the day. Later in the day, we were told that it "would open tomorrow." Well, it never opened Tuesday either. Don't lie, tell us the truth. If they do not know when it will open, tell us that you don't know. I am sure that there were people that decided to stay an extra night just because they were told that TTD would be operational Tuesday, only to be disappointed. TELL US THE TRUTH! If it's broke, I can accept that and enjoy the rest of the park, but don't lie to me!

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Keep your Arms Down, Head back, and Hold On!

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Wednesday, August 6, 2003 11:40 AM
Jeff's avatar They aren't lying to you. There is no conspiracy. It's what they plan for, and sometimes what they plan for doesn't happen. A lie implies deception, and that's certainly not their intent.

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Jeff - Webmaster/Admin - CoasterBuzz.com - Sillynonsense.com
DELETED! What time does the water show start?

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Wednesday, August 6, 2003 11:41 AM
CPLady's avatar CP Ismyhome...didn't you read the article associated with this news item?

CP gives the information they have at hand. I don't believe they are lying to guests when they say they hope to have it open later in the day, or tomorrow. I have YET to hear them give a definite answer, only "hopefully" or "possibly" and one time I heard "we expect".

Again, it irritates the heck out of me when people diss a park (ANY park) or ride designer/manufacturer when a ride with new technology has problems, even if the problems were caused by ignoring recommendations. Would you rather parks stop building rides like these?

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I'd rather die living than live like I'm dead
http://www.webtechnik.com/ebony/CPLady.htm

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Wednesday, August 6, 2003 12:34 PM
There was no hopefully or maybe or possibly, they said that "it would" be open Tuesday. I asked one of the white shirt and tie employees walking around the station platform and he said that it would be open tomorrow (on Monday). It really doesn't matter, because I was not at the park Tuesday, but like I said, I am sure that there were people that changed their plans to stay an extra day to try to catch a ride. $$Hotel room$$extra ticket$$extra food$$ extra money for CP, no ride for guest. All that I am saying is that if they do not know when the ride will open, don't make predictions.

I do think that they owe it to their guests to try a little harder to get this thing ironed out. People travel long distances and spent a heck of a lot of money to ride this thing and it's down more than it's up. I still have fun when I visit the park and will go back, but still leave disappointed not riding the main ride that I came to ride. And I only traveled 160 miles, not thoushands like some do.

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I regret to inform you that Cedar Point's newest roller coaster, Top Thrill Dragster will not be operational today, or tomorrow or probably any day that you decide to visit our park. Please accept our apologies.

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Wednesday, August 6, 2003 1:02 PM
Just got back from my annual trip to the Point. Spent all day Friday there but didn't get a chance to ride TTD. Went back on Sunday, stood in line for three hours, got right up to the gates, and......it broke down.

Guess I will wait for next year. Too bad they couldn't "soft open" the ride to get all the bugs out ie. EPCOT's Mission:SPACE. But such is life with a seasonal theme park.

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Check out www.themeparkdiva.com for info on my new show!

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Wednesday, August 6, 2003 2:59 PM
I would expect that TTD would've been something difficult to simply soft open. Anyways back on topic....wiht new pushing the envelope technology will always come problems. I'm not trying to sound like a broken record here but you really have to give these parks and employees some credit. Being an amusement park employee (games attendent at SFDL) the job can get frustrating at times. And my job is really simple. Now Cedar Point I can tell you is not having a fun season here. Those working on or involved in TTD probably go through alot of stress and aggravation. Let me tell you, those are not fun working conditions (especially with always having to answer that infamous question of when the ride will be open). Now when they say like, "the ride will open later or tomorrow," that is their goal. Now these goals are very often not met wiht success. Maybe somethign else goes wrong, or they just plain can't get it to work. That happens. Yes it is extremely disappointing for a guest to travel the country to get there only to find it closed. However that could happen at any park to any ride. Suppose you take your vacation wihtout good research and hit constant thunderstorms all week, that would suck big time. For those travelign to CP to ride TTD, you really have to realise the risk of it not being open.

Off of Cedar Point for a while, any park goes through the same kind of stress and frustration when they just can't fix something. True that alot of the mess possibly occured from cost cutting, but who can blame them. Let's face it, this ain't exactly a good year for parks, or really a lot of businesses. So initially when they see a chance tho save some money they'll do it. It's not really that easy for a park to simply just toss in a new coaster. This cost can be a nightmare, especially during a bad year. Back to Cedar Point for a second, I'd imagine that TTD is going to cost them alot more than they bargained for, and even if it did work perfectly it'd still cost a bundle for them. So give these guys a little slack. They add these new extreme attractions and undergo alot of frustration in the process. That's a big undertaking for a pay check. I don't know how much sense my endless ramblings really made but oh well.

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Wednesday, August 6, 2003 4:13 PM
Jeff's avatar You can't do a soft opening for a park that's open essentially four months out of the year.

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Jeff - Webmaster/Admin - CoasterBuzz.com - Sillynonsense.com
DELETED! What time does the water show start?

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Wednesday, August 6, 2003 5:29 PM
It is a sort of sticky situation. Sure, we all want to see rides continue to reach new heights and break records, but are the costs always worth it? In a struggling economy eventuallly it will catch up with parks if they loose too much money in an investment. Eventually this would come back to the patron having to pay more. The other thing to consider is look what X did for Arrow. This was to be a grand achievement and we all know what financial shape they ended up with. I hate to be negative because I want to see these new rides, but if they will do long term harm to the industry, then are they really worth it?
*** This post was edited by tservo 8/6/2003 9:30:30 PM ***
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Sunday, August 24, 2003 1:56 AM
You know something you people complain way too much, see here is my point maybe if you left the park employees alone for 5 seconds they might be able to fix the coaster! Here is my other point I live by SFDL and they never get a new coaster at least cedar point adds a new one every other year if not every single year so quit your complaining they ride will run next season alot better then this one. Take every ride ever made with LIM launch system has had problems in its 1st season, Superman the Escape, wicked twister and all the others of the same type that SF bought, Volcano the blast coaster, Xcelerator, and without a doubt TTD so look every ride that runs on LIM launch system will have its share of downtime and for CP fans like myself you need to just ride the other rides till the problem is fixed! Thankyou move on life goes on and so will ride problems oh and as for hypersonic XL dont ever think it will be fixed compressed air to launch a rollercoaster isnt the brightest idea in the world for one it costs too much and its too many moving parts to operate it, so i feel more sympathy for the PKD fans then the CP fans because hypersonic XL is alot older then TTD and HSXL still doesnt work right! so quit complaining
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