Orlando theme parks adapt to accommodate overweight guests

Posted Wednesday, September 15, 2010 12:13 PM | Contributed by Jeff

The average Americans' growing weight and girth have been an issue with some businesses, such as airlines, for years now. And from specially engineered rides at SeaWorld Orlando to bigger seats in the new, soon-to-open Amway Center, many others are designing or installing equipment that can handle the extra pounds or inches.

Read more from The Orlando Sentinel.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010 1:21 PM

Sorry if you're offended by this comment but this strikes me as disturbing and borderline disgusting that this is a trend in our country.

Seriously how hard is it to control what you shove in your mouth and to get off the couch occasionally for some exercise?!

Self Control - Americans need a lot more of it.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010 1:33 PM

While I'd be inclined to agree with you from a moral and wellness perspective, the parks exist to make money, not exercise influence. I'm not sure they have a lot of choice.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010 3:13 PM

Its a reality. Like Jeff said, what do you want parks to do? Turn more and more of their prospective guests away at the gate? And looking at young kids today, I don't think the issue is going away any time soon. Based on the percentage of students in my kids' middle school who are overweight compared to the number of kids who were overweight in my middle school 30 years ago, there will be a significant increase in the number of folks who will need special accommodations in the future.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010 3:42 PM

Interestingly, I see employer-sponsored health insurance as being one of the major players in getting more wellness behavior out there. It's much less expensive to do preventative care/wellness than it is to treat illness---from a cost-of-care perspective, *and* from the employer's perspective. Modest investments in wellness can significantly reduce lost work time, and be a net win for the company.

For example, Michigan will pay its employees $100 if they complete two wellness activities in a calendar year.

http://www.hr.umich.edu/mhealthy/programs/rewards/pdf/activities.pdf

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010 4:48 PM

Yeah, that's why Microsoft pays for a super nice health club for us (we also have no deductibles or co-pays), and I would say that generally the workforce is pretty healthy. But that's also the way people roll in the Northwest, all outdoorsey and active.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010 10:50 PM

RollrCoastrCrazy said:
Sorry if you're offended by this comment but this strikes me as disturbing and borderline disgusting that this is a trend in our country.

Seriously how hard is it to control what you shove in your mouth and to get off the couch occasionally for some exercise?!

Self Control - Americans need a lot more of it.

Many people would argue that there are other body parts that could use more self control as well. Sorry if anyone is offended by that comment.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010 11:43 PM

I hate this trend. Honestly, if you're too big to ride a ride, you're overweight. Period*. I don't even care if that hurts your feelings, it's the truth. It's an unhealthy condition that is your responsibility, not a park's, and honestly as a park operator I would have no trouble looking right into an overweight guest's face and saying "I'm sorry sir, but our rides are not designed to accommodate guests of your size. The only way you will be allowed to ride is if you lose weight." If he never comes back, that's his choice, and I would only feel bad that he chose to pout and blame-shift instead of doing something about his weight problem.

Also I want to be clear that when I say overweight, I mean that something about your lifestyle resulted in your extreme proportions**, and therefore it should fall on you, not parks or ride designers, to do something about that.

Even places like CP that get a bad rap with their inconsistent belt lengths and plethora of rides with less-than-accommodating OTSRs... so they shortened the belt length on MF and now you don't fit. Could you ride safely before? Sure. But if you're walking that line anyway, you would almost definitely be a healthier person if you lost the weight that's making it an issue in the first place.

I understand that they're businesses looking to accommodate the widest customer base possible (pun intended), but I don't like the precedent that this at least theoretically sets for the industry. We shouldn't be enabling the lifestyles of the overweight.

:steps off pedestal, prepares to duck:

*unless genetics gave you an large upper torso or weightlifting gave you a ridiculous barrel of a chest. Then I feel a little bad, but really that just furthers my OTSRs-need-to-die-a-fiery-death-campaign.

**note "my parents are overweight, I have bad genes" does not get you out of your own proportions being your own fault.

Last edited by BBSpeed26, Thursday, September 16, 2010 12:16 AM
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Thursday, September 16, 2010 12:32 AM

Universal Studios sells fattening foods, like hot dogs, burgers, pizza, ect. Turning away guests who eat those kinds of foods would be hypocritical, i my opinion.

I struggle with fast food, as does a lot of people that I know. I'm not quite obese, but I've determined that I need to slow down with the Cheeseburgers and Chicken McNuggets.

I blame a lot of why Americans are so fat on fast food, and easy grocery store food. I quit with the easy frozen foods and such. I now cook, almost everyday, a healthy and normal portioned meal. One meat, and two veggies. I've lost 10 pounds in the last few months because of it. It tastes really good too!

Last edited by LostKause, Thursday, September 16, 2010 12:32 AM
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Thursday, September 16, 2010 2:04 AM

I honestly don't even understand how McDonald's can exist anymore. Seriously. It's disgusting, and barely passes for food. I can't believe that people so willingly put that stuff into their bodies.

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Thursday, September 16, 2010 2:22 AM

Lord Gonchar said 4 years ago:
Look out overweight folks - as soon as society is done with the smokers, you're next.

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Thursday, September 16, 2010 6:36 AM

^^If you haven't yet, it's worth watching "Super Size Me."

^It looks like exactly the opposite, so far.

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Thursday, September 16, 2010 8:08 AM

Businesses didn't drive the smoking bans. Without them, businesses accommodated as many folks as they could legally. Weight may be the next issue but there are different dynamics. Smoking provided health issues to other folks that aren't there with folks being overweight. I think that health issue was overplayed with smokers and the true reason for smoking bans is that people just don't like smoking, smokers are in the minority and so the majority could get bans enacted. You can also avoid smoking for a couple of hours at a restaurant, theater, etc. You can't leave 50 llbs at home or in the car. And generally, smoking rates were decreasing but obesity rates are increasing.

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Thursday, September 16, 2010 8:24 AM

BBSpeed26 said:
I hate this trend. Honestly, if you're too big to ride a ride, you're overweight. Period*.

How in the world does this affect you? Other then if its easier for people to get on a ride capacity will go up causing your wait to be shorter. I really dont understand your hatred of this idea.

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Thursday, September 16, 2010 9:08 AM

Why does it have to affect me for me to care about it? Why on earth would my hatred of the idea have anything to do with something as utterly meaningless as my own wait time on an amusement ride? I will absolutely not apologize for viewing this through a lens that says "I would prefer it if my culture encouraged people to care about their health instead of continually accommodating obesity in search of profit" rather than "I want my wait on some trivial amusement ride to be shorter".

I hate it because it furthers the idea that it's OK to be unhealthy. Should the onus fall on amusement parks to motivate people to lose weight? No, but I do think that it sends a very wrong message to say "Oh, you're obese? Don't worry, we have special, gently named 'big-boy' seats for people of your size."

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Thursday, September 16, 2010 10:29 AM

BBSpeed26 said:
Why does it have to affect me for me to care about it? Why on earth would my hatred of the idea have anything to do with something as utterly meaningless as my own wait time on an amusement ride? I will absolutely not apologize for viewing this through a lens that says "I would prefer it if my culture encouraged people to care about their health instead of continually accommodating obesity in search of profit" rather than "I want my wait on some trivial amusement ride to be shorter".

I hate it because it furthers the idea that it's OK to be unhealthy. Should the onus fall on amusement parks to motivate people to lose weight? No, but I do think that it sends a very wrong message to say "Oh, you're obese? Don't worry, we have special, gently named 'big-boy' seats for people of your size."

Its pretty obvious that our society at large has no interest in its people living healthy. There's no money to be made in good health, and I do believe the "diet industry" is a multi-billion dollar one. Rant all you want about how you think other people should live their lives, but its pretty obvious that theme park ride seats are not going to be catalyst for social change.

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Thursday, September 16, 2010 11:48 AM

While I'd be inclined to agree with you from a moral and wellness perspective, the parks exist to make money, not exercise influence. I'm not sure they have a lot of choice.

Exactly. Of course they will want to cater to folks who are more inclined to spend big money on park food and soda.

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Thursday, September 16, 2010 11:52 AM

Bill, I agree that people need to be more proactive in taking care of their own health, including weight. But many of the rides you enjoy were probably paid for as much, if not more, from the park's sales of junk food at ridiculously high markups than from bargain basement ticket and season pass sales.

Look who the parks are partnering with: Pepsi or Coke, Ben & Jerry's and Coldstone, Nathan's, Papa John's, M&M/Mars, etc. Not companies pushing the healthiest product choices. (OK, Hershey has the "Capital Blue Cross" Monorail and fitness walk, but given my experiences with them as a customer, they're not too keen on supporting wellness programs yet.)

It's a societal thing. We've advanced to the point where we no longer do manual labor, we sit all day, even at work. It's a status symbol if you can afford to pay someone to do your manual labor for you-- housecleaning, yard work, etc. I'm one of the few people I know without a riding mower. Kids don't just play anymore, they have play dates, and parents have become so afraid of predators (maybe overly so) or of the kids getting hurt, they don't let them outside.

Two income families means fewer meals prepared at home, more take out and meals in restaurants. Even for single people, cooking at home is a hassle. The portion size at restaurants has grown immensely. Restaurants couldn't afford to stay in business if they served actual portions and charged accordingly. How long could you watch TV without seeing a commercial for some kind of food or drink? There's a lot of money being spent to make sure people keep eating.

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Thursday, September 16, 2010 12:25 PM

Cooking at home is a hassle? I can throw a chicken breast on the grill for 15 minutes, steam some broccoli in less time and nuke a potato. Taking a crap is more complicated than that, and we all have to do that too.

Touchdown said:
How in the world does this affect you?

It's absolutely a public health problem. It's a drain on the entire healthcare system. There are countless diseases and conditions attributed to obesity, and the unfortunate thing is that we can treat so much of it that we don't actively go after the root cause... eating poorly.

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Thursday, September 16, 2010 12:48 PM

GoBucks89 said:
Weight may be the next issue but there are different dynamics.

Indeed.

I think that health issue was overplayed with smokers...

Agreed entirely.

...and the true reason for smoking bans is that people just don't like smoking, smokers are in the minority and so the majority could get bans enacted.

I feel like the tide is swelling in attitudes toward the obese in the same way they did towards smokers. It may be just the beginning and slow to build, but...

You can't leave 50 llbs at home or in the car.

No, you can't. But weight issues can be rationalized (like smoking issues) and people can be stigmatized and penalized into not carrying that 50 lbs at all. Basically using the same 'social engineering' that's been used the past couple of decades with those who smoke.

The tide turned with smokers. The weight issue just seems like it's following the same path...and yes, it's a long slow road. I'm 37 and easily remember people smoking in malls and on airplanes. It took 20 years to go from that to NYC planning to ban smoking in outdoor city parks.

We're already seeing ads like this - which seems to make it ok because you're demonizing the food, not the person. Seems like many of the same arguments/thoughts that are leading to what will eventually be a full-on smoking ban are starting to be made towards obesity. I don't think prediciting the same outcome is going too far out on a limb.

Last edited by Lord Gonchar, Thursday, September 16, 2010 1:08 PM
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