Observation Towers/ Structual Icons... A lost Art?

Wednesday, December 29, 2004 1:29 AM
Observation towers are iconic , in my opinon. It seems that newer parks do not find the value in them. As well as structual icons. Examples: Disney's Cinderella's Castle, Paramount's Eiffel towers and Mountains, Great America's Double decker carousels etc. I think these give parks identity and wish that tradition would continue in newer parks or traditional parks that the big cooperation bought. Amusement parks are like mini cities. Sears tower in Chicago, St. Lousis Arch, The Statue Of Liberty Etc. Just like to see a dying art re invented.
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Wednesday, December 29, 2004 9:12 AM
Maybe icons in the form of observation towers have gone away but there are still park "icons" being built. Disney's Animal Kingdom has the Tree of Life- icons don't get any bigger or more elaborate than that! Tokyo Disneysea has a huge erupting volcano and Disney's California Adventure has Grizzly Peak- both are more or less icons for their respective parks. And look at IOA- the park is full of icons, including the lighthouse that stands to the left of the entrance gates.
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Wednesday, December 29, 2004 9:28 AM
California Adventure also has the Sun fountain--while not visible from far away (and hence, technically, probably not a weinie) it is placed at the "hub" of that park. You'd also count ToT as a DCA icon, I'd think, though it also happens to be a (darn fun) ride.
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Wednesday, December 29, 2004 10:11 AM
Geauga Lake's tower that does not work half the time. I always like that one.
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Wednesday, December 29, 2004 10:12 AM
Sfgadv has a couple the parachute tower and it just built another one kingda ka. you can see it from outside the park o nthe highways.
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Wednesday, December 29, 2004 10:18 AM
kingda is a coaster.
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Wednesday, December 29, 2004 10:36 AM
I'd like to know why more parks don't build one of the most obvious icons: a ferris wheel! There's plenty of parks that could use one of those.
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Wednesday, December 29, 2004 10:52 AM
I would say because there's no RoI on them. If a park has money to burn, sure, put up an observation tower or ferris wheel or something, but the larger parks that are being referenced in this will definitely not be able to attract more people by advertising a new ferris wheel or a new observation tower. That's a lot of materials and parts for very little return. When have you ever seen a line for a ferris wheel or observation tower that even approaches the line for say bumper cars or a wave swinger? I can't think of one...

They're just that - icons. Saying "hey we've got money to burn on something that's just nice to look at!" and that's not really a smart investment when your competition is putting in a whiz-bang new coaster or mega sized flat ride.

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Wednesday, December 29, 2004 11:04 AM
On approaching Hershey PA, the first things that catch your eyes on the horizon are the double smoke stacks of the chocolate Factory, the round domed Founders Hall at the Milton Hershey School (if approaching from the south or east), and Hersheypark's Kissing Tower.

In the day light you can see the flag on top of the tower for miles... and as Christmas approaches, the lighted "tree" on top of the tower can bee seen for miles as well.

Ferris Wheel comment: Sticking with Hersheypark... the park actually recently lost what many called an icon of the park... the double armed Giant Wheel. This, the venerable old Comet, the Carrousel and the Kissing Tower seemed to be what many think of as the Icons of the park... two for their age, one for its uniqueness, and one for its visibility.

However, as times change, Icons change. To most (except wood coaster lovers), the old Comet has become over shadowed by its newer, bigger, faster and more visible younger cousins. And as the park has expanded into Midway America, right against Hersheypark Drive, the new Icons (or at least what many have come to think of as representing the park) are the Wildcat, Ferris Wheel and Lightning Racer.

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Wednesday, December 29, 2004 11:09 AM
Ugh, here we go with the ROI thing again (that's not a slam against you Brent, it just so happens that you're the latest person to mention it). When will it be realized that ROI is not the only thing that matters? Or, better yet, when will it be realized that ROI is sometimes indirect instead of direct.

Sure, people aren't going to flock to an amusement park because they added a ferris wheel (unless they add a huge, record-breaking one like the London Eye). But that doesn't mean that type of ride won't generate business and profit.

Parks add shows and kiddie rides all the time. And unless you're dealing with a park that charges per ride (like Knoebels and Morey's Piers), I think a park would be hard-pressed to generate some form of ROI from those installations. But those are things that keep guests happy, they keep them coming back. Restrooms and trash cans don't generate any ROI but they are important to amusement parks- without them, guests are sure not to return.

I've said it before and I'll say it again- parks need family rides to be successul. Thrill rides are all well and good but in the end, families are the ones that spend the most in amusement parks. Rides like ferris wheels are perfect for that broad demographic and a park that adds a $2 million ferris wheel will no doubt cover that cost and more through steady and sustained business during the course of that ride's life.

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Wednesday, December 29, 2004 11:27 AM
It's Brett, not Brent, sorry that just always gets on my nerves ;)

Yes I realize what you're saying in terms of the RoI being in return and satisfied customers, rather than as a direct result of the ride/icon installation, but I don't think that icons are a necessary thing to get people to come back, whereas quality shows and bathrooms and trash cans are. What parks don't have icons? SFGAdv, they don't seem to be suffering. Knott's, same deal. SFDL/SFA/SFKK and the like - maybe not doing great, but installing a ferris wheel or observation tower isn't going to solve the slow ride ops, trash everywhere or lack of bathrooms problems.

I would counter to you, when are you going to realize that RoI is what matters. This is a business, as we all know, so RoI is the thing that matters, and if you don't focus on that, you won't be in business long. I just fail to see how spending $2 mil as you say on a huge ferris wheel or observation tower that will rarely attract large amounts of riders, take up valuable land, take employees and maintenance budgets and possibly even require the removal or moving of existing rides is money better spent than $2 mil on new plumbing in the bathrooms, additional garbage cans, hiring a few more sweeps, putting up new facades on the games, or putting in a new bathroom in a "bathroom deprived area". I know where my money would go ...

Edit: plus not all families enjoy ferris wheels - I know unless someone else in my group takes them on it, or they get on it themselves, no kid of mine is ever going to ride a ferris wheel with me. I'm terrified of those crazy things.

*** Edited 12/29/2004 4:28:56 PM UTC by Impulse-ive***

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Wednesday, December 29, 2004 11:53 AM
Sorry Brett... the guy running the football pool is named Brent and since I'm in contact with him on a weekly basis, my fingers were programmed to type his name and not yours. My apologies.

I'm not saying that parks need icons as much as they need family rides. Ferris wheels and observation towers fill the need for significant family-friendly attractions. Yeah it's true that there are those with a fear of heights and they will shy away from those types of rides but I'm willing to bet that more people will ride a ferris wheel than won't. And if a park passes on some kind of ferris wheel or tower, why not a big carousel? A creative antique car ride? A well-designed darkride?

I understand ROI and how that makes or breaks a park. But like most things in the business world, ROI is hardly a cut-and-dry, black-and-white thing. There are investments that have immediate and profound impacts on a park's bottom line and there are investments that indirectly impact a park's bottom line. I drew a comparison to trash cans and restrooms because those things do not generate revenue but they indirectly impact a park's profitibility much like a roller coaster or a huge season pass promotion.

If you look at a highly-rated park like Knoebels or Holiday World, you can easily pick out two or three standout attractions- the Phoenix and the Raven come to mind. But are those great coasters really what make those parks great? Would people be so inclined to visit those out-of-the-way places if they had great coasters but no Lusse Auto Skooters or employees that make you feel like family? There are a lot of things that make parks like Knoebels and Holiday World so wonderful, things that aren't exceptional on their own but together create something extraordinary. Things that, incidentally, might not generate huge amounts of revenue... that's assuming they generate revenue at all!

I doubt a $2 million ferris wheel will directly make any park a load of cash. But when you consider that $2 million ferris wheel might make a park more appealing to families after all the adreneline junkies get tired of the latest $25 million coaster, a case gets made for adding a gentle, icon-like attraction.

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Wednesday, December 29, 2004 1:12 PM

Impulse-ive said:
I would say because there's no RoI on them. If a park has money to burn, sure, put up an observation tower or ferris wheel or something, but the larger parks that are being referenced in this will definitely not be able to attract more people by advertising a new ferris wheel or a new observation tower. That's a lot of materials and parts for very little return. When have you ever seen a line for a ferris wheel or observation tower that even approaches the line for say bumper cars or a wave swinger? I can't think of one...

They're just that - icons. Saying "hey we've got money to burn on something that's just nice to look at!" and that's not really a smart investment when your competition is putting in a whiz-bang new coaster or mega sized flat ride.


At Geauga Lake this summer I worked the Americana (ferris wheel) and on one day we had over an hour wait with all the cars loaded...and the Americana used to be the icon (well for one season in 99)

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Wednesday, December 29, 2004 1:27 PM
I think *typically*, the observation towers were put in at the beginning of the park, not added later as an "investment"...

Not sure about that, and really the only ones I'm thinking of at the moment are SFMM's, PKI/PKD, and SFoT's Oil Derrick....now that I think about it, what about SFGAm's tower?

bill, *pretty sure* Hershey's Kissing Tower came in WELL after the park's Grand Opening...;)

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Wednesday, December 29, 2004 1:50 PM
While Hershey's Kissing Tower was installed 68 years after the park's grand opening, it was one of of the Icons of the park's transformation from small local traditional amusment park to regional theme park during the late 1960's and early 1970's. Even the park's name changed (from "Hershey Park" to "Hersheypark") during that time.

Three of the "big" additions that came to symbolize the park during that transformation were the Monorail (1969), the Giant Wheel (1973-2004), and the Kissing Tower (1975).

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Wednesday, December 29, 2004 1:55 PM
When was Sea World Orlando's tower added? I want to say that was one of the park's original attractions but I'm not positive.
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Wednesday, December 29, 2004 2:23 PM
Out of curiousity, what is the newest observation tower installation? (both in the US and worldwide)

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Wednesday, December 29, 2004 3:14 PM
Weren't a couple of Huss observation towers built at South American parks recently? As in the past year or so?
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Wednesday, December 29, 2004 6:12 PM
US? Stratosphere?
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Wednesday, December 29, 2004 7:10 PM
Inside a park, SFEG, I think. Built by Premier rides!
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