Gone are the days where you could do big features on the annual trade show. When I covered the show for CoasterBuzz in 2000 and 2001, it was a big deal in terms of new rides. These days the growth segments are in inflatables and Halloween stuff.
This year and last year I've dropped into the show mostly to keep in touch with people. Even that has radically changed, as so many companies have folded or merged. It's a very different landscape.
I like to theorize that in the area of rides, we can attribute the lack of growth to two things: Six Flags can't afford to buy as they did, and the R&D seeds that were driving so many new products failed to produce buyers. Back in 2000, I expected Setpoint would take over the world and Arrow would make an amazing comeback. Neither happened.
Anyway, a couple of random highlights...
I was impressed to see a triple-deck carousel that reached to the ceiling of the Orange County Convention Center. I didn't actually look to see who built it.
Zamperla seems to be the only ride vendor that consistently brings a lot of rides to the show, and again it was pretty clear that the Disk-O is a hit. In chatting with some folks, the mobile version is apparently very easy to setup, and I can attest to the fact that it gives a very similar ride to a Frisbee, though it doesn't go further than vertical.
I got a good look at the Interactive Rides' Frequent Faller car on display (this particular car was apparently headed to Hersheypark). The restraints sure appear a little extreme, though I didn't get a chance to sit in them. There was a really annoying Cirque-wannabe show in the next booth that made it impossible to spend a lot of time there.
I was hoping to check out Vekoma's bike, and they didn't disappoint. The rep I talked to said they made some tweaks to the design. I don't know how it would feel during acceleration, but it was very comfortable and very snug. I've felt it was possible to, with time and perhaps bleeding, to get out of most restraints, but this thing is anatomically perfect as best I can tell.
The Robocoaster on a track thing sounds interesting enough, but I suspect it's a cost and maintenance nightmare to actually work. I took one look at it and thought, "Yeah, right." Maybe they'll prove me wrong.
That was really the extent to which things stood out to me. The rest of the vendors showed up with their usual stuff and usual models.
There is a lot of "excitement" with non-ride products. I saw quite a few vendors selling systems for virtual queuing, electronic cash, and other computer-based products. If you have the right system in place, there's clearly a lot of money to be made in that area.
With the show going back to Atlanta next year, I don't think I'll go. At least in Orlando there's other stuff to do, and that makes it worth the trip. But covering the show from a press angle, there's less and less "new" product to write about, unfortunately. Perhaps I'll make it an every-other-year affair from this point out.
TeknoScorpion said: IIRC, It will be in ATL next year, and New Orleans in 07', followed by Orlando again in 08'.
Not completely true .........IAAPA is in Atlanta for the next TWO years (2005 & 2006), and 2007 is still undecided, but will most likely be back in Orlando for two additional years. There are only three convention centers in the US that are large enough and have the capabilities to host IAAPA (Orlando, Atlanta and Las Vegas). The show has very specific size, power and amenity requirements of the exhibition space. IAAPA will never go to Las Vegas (International attendance drops when the show is not on the East Coast and vendors have voiced that they don't like all of the distractions of Sin City). So the future plan is to rotate the show between Atlanta and Orlando in two year segmants. *** Edited 11/22/2004 4:18:44 AM UTC by Hanging n' Banging***
I too made my annual trip to the show last week, walked the 7 miles of show floor, and would agree with Jeff that the show overall was uneventful. The biggest "buzz" going around the show was Holiday World winning the Applause Award. I spoke to several of my colleagues at HW and they were all excited beyond belief to receive the award. Congrats!!! My facility won a "Brass Ring" Award, which doesn't even compare to the Applause Award, but nonetheless, we were very excited.
Like many parks this year, the weather hurt our attendance, so were more focused on new idea generation as opposed to purchasing. This seemed to be the trend with many folks. There were several decent seminars held throughout the week, and the floor continued to grow with Halloween and inflatable vendors. The Laser Tag girls weren’t as good looking as they used to be, and Mini-Melts continues to try to top Dippin’ Dots....keep trying!
Overall, I would say that the floor was the same ole’ thing......I found a few "diamonds in the rough", but as for that new ride development or product innovation, looks like we will have to wait for another year.
And yeah, those Cirque wannabees were pretty loud and annoying! :) *** Edited 11/22/2004 4:41:35 AM UTC by Hanging n' Banging***
Of course there are a few other cities that could "hold" it. By that I mean convention and hotel space and easy travel. New York, Chicago, LA come to mind. However I beleieve IAAPA wants it to be in a warm area to have the midway and promote a more likable location.
However it could be said the midway could almost be done away with. This year there was virtually nothing there. There was one drop ride that was too high to be inside.
I think part of the reason the Magical Midway hasn't been so magical the past few years is because IAAPA has been in Orlando. Why would so many vendors bring rides and set them up at the convention when there are so many FECs on I-Drive and 192? It seems as if the vendors are sending the buyers off site to the rides rather than bringing the rides to them. Hopefully they'll pack the GA Dome next year!
The main reason is because the carnival market is so soft. Outside of Zamperla a lot of companies don't work on rides that will highly appeal to both carnival and park owners. The last year the midway was really packed was Atlanta in 2000 and the rides were useful to both markets. With the weak carnival market having portable rides on-site isn't as important.
Matt has a good point. I do know that S&S did send representatives from my park to a local facility that has the same S&S ride in operation that we were looking to possibly purchase. This particular ride could have been set up in the midway, or even indoors. I would imagine that the vendor cost is enormous to exhibit a ride at a convention like IAAPA. I do know that a single booth is in the $10,000-$15,000 range, so you can assume that that a company like Zamperla paid a pretty penny to exhibit all of their rides at the show. I guess that if they sold one ride, it paid for the expense… *** Edited 11/23/2004 9:22:34 PM UTC by Hanging n' Banging*** *** Edited 11/23/2004 9:23:51 PM UTC by Hanging n' Banging***
IAAPA held the trade show in LA about ten years ago. While the facility was more than adequate, the unions that work the center created some problems. When it came to the set up of the rides and heavy equipment, the exhibitors brought their own crews. The union's contract stipulated that an equal number of union employees had to be present for each setup and tear down. They didn't lift a finger, and the exhibitor had to pay for their time. Needless to say it was probably the last time IAAPA will be in LA.
Unions at convention centers have gone a long way to make sure they got less work instead of more. If you think that's bad, the food situation is frequently even worse. When we go to the national qualifier for volleyball in Baltimore, they won't even let you bring in a bottled water, in fear of retribution from the union that represents concession stand workers. It has apparently been a sore point for a long time, but where else do you stick 70 courts under one roof?