PCW 30/04/04 - Sneak Preview Night (+pictures)

Associated parks:
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Sunday, May 2, 2004 1:22 AM
After last year’s reported 8% decrease in attendance, Wonderland has been marketing the crap out the park. Over the past couple weeks, a wide assortment of different advertisements have been airing on television and radio stations almost around the clock (interestingly, one even describes TR: TR as S.H.O.T.S.). But as many parks are beginning to realize, even the most intensive marketing strategies and major attractions cannot make up for lousy customer service. While PCW has never had poor guest relations, or even below standard for that matter, in my opinion they have still managed to improve 110%. My entire visit was accompanied with a sense of friendliness, hospitality and enthusiasm amongst workers that I have never before seen at the park.

Upon arriving, I noticed that the arrangement of the metal detectors is slightly altered from last years (when their addition was somewhat rushed.) While the re-arrangement seems to have little impact, the most noticeably change comes in the form of the operators. Last year’s staff seemed somewhat confused, disorganized and generally clueless, which lead to very long waits. This year, many more of the detectors were operating, and the staff had it down to a science. The transaction went as follows:

Operator: “Hello, do you have a cell phone, pager or camera with you today?”
Me: “Yes, I do.”
Operator: “May I please have it?”
Me: “Yep.” *hands over camera*
Operator: “Thank you, please step through.”
Me: *steps through*
Operator: *hands back camera* “Thank you, enjoy your day.”
Me: “Thanks!”

Literally, it took all of 10 seconds, where as last year there would have been mass hysteria and infighting between operators about proper procedure.

Next, time to whip out the new season pass and get riding. One problem, it seems they have been having minor problems with the cards this year, something about them being cut too close to the bar code for scanning. Most work, some don’t. However, a quick call to a manger, 2 minutes, almost too many apologies from the staff (almost ;)), and I was on my way with a brand new card in hand.

First stop, Tomb Raider: The Ride, a Zamperla Volare, and Canada’s first flying coaster. Upon arrival, the ride was in midst of a breakdown, but I decided to wait it out and it was up and running within 10 minutes. The themeing surrounding this ride was far beyond expected. First, centered in front of the actual ride, is a nice little “U”-shaped sitting area with a rustic mossy sculpture in the center. Nearby, sit giant speakers, which occasionally emit an earth rattling (literally) bass note, which is surprisingly loud and intense. Other speakers fill the area with the sounds of the jungle - creating a nice atmosphere.

The entrance is underneath a large bamboo archway, which sits in approximately the same location as the old archway for The Great Whale of China. On top of the arch, sits two large flames, which occasionally burst into tall columns of fire (coinciding with a bizarre mechanical screeching sound effect.)

Adjacent to the entrance, sits a tent that replicates Laura Croft’s camp. Various crates and a pair of motorcycles sit outside, while computer equipment inside plays scenes from the movie.

After entering under the arch, a large detailed sculpture forces the queue to snake around it. The typical metal queue bars have been replaced with wooden spikes with thick rope swaged between. The line wraps closely around the unique spiral lift, which is quite fascinating to watch in action. Once entering the station, which is made to look as if it is constructed entirely out of wood, a single rider line (which I seemed to be the only one taking advantage of) made the wait much shorter.

The staff had the ride operating in top form, which is definitely necessary with such a low capacity ride. In fact, the line was spilled out of the queue my entire visit, which is concerning since the park was hardly busy.

Once boarded, I noticed that it was absolutely impossible for my neck to come into contact with anything. A major complaint I have heard about The Flying Coaster at SFEG is that the coaster contained a drastic amount of throat banging, for lack of better term. It would seem that Zamperla’s modifications have managed to correct this problem. However, the ride is still somewhat rough. While nowhere near unbearable, the ride is very shaky and rattles quite a lot. As the ride whips around it’s hairpin turns, there is also some head banging. However, strategically placed padding helps to reduce the pain. If it weren’t for the zero-g rolls, which are very fun, the ride would be pretty lackluster.

In general, my overall thoughts on the ride are that the themeing is really neat, but the actual ride isn’t. The themeing made me want to like the ride, but it just doesn’t deliver. While not terrible, the ride really isn’t all that exciting. Also, the rides bright colour scheme doesn’t particularly fit with the themeing, and once boarded, there is absolutely no themeing to speak of.

While I only managed one ride, I have a sneaking suspicion that the ride was purchased for novelty and uniqueness rather than quality of ride (no real shocker.) As for other Canadians, it’s a toss up… remember, they absolutely adore Top Gun and The Bat (a Vekoma SLC, and Boomerang).

As for other park improvements, both Minebuster and Wild Beast now have retractable seatbelts, as per other Paramount parks. The retracting mechanism is mounted on the outside of the train, and enters via a slit in the upholstery. Besides some slight guest confusion in the station, the seatbelts have no negative impact on the ride, as they don’t really tighten once secured. This means, that they have all the safety benefits of normal seatbelts, have no negative impact on airtime, and prevent people from accidentally sitting on them when boarding. It’s a win/win situation.

Other things of interest include a tonne of new flat screen queue televisions added to all major attractions. They show everything from episodes of Spongebob Square Pants, to music videos, to interviews with movie stars. Oddly, some didn’t have any speakers, but I’m sure that will be corrected in the near future.

In the fresh paint department, the cars on Drop Zone have been done completely in black, and the front half of The Bat’s track has been repainted (hopefully the lift hills and supports coming soon.)

While Season Pass Sneak Preview night typically is notorious for small short breakdowns, I saw only three to speak of. First, there was a short delay on Tomb Raider. Next, one of the sides on Drop Zone became stranded near the top temporarily before being hoisted the rest of the way and dropped. And finally, I was trapped in Wild Beast’s brake run during the last cycle of the night for around 20 minutes before being manually released and escorted from the ride.

My overall impressions for this season are that a major new attraction, increased marketing, decreased season pass prices, and great strides in customer service are going to definitely improve park patronage. Unless unforeseen circumstances arise like last year (SARS, blackout, mad cow, etc.) I can see a record setting year in the makings.

To see pictures of Tomb Raider go to http://coasterfuge.vze.com (click photographs - Paramount Canada's Wonderland - scroll to bottom.) Sorry for the lack of any overall shots, by the time I realized I hadn’t taken any, it was dark and they all came out blurry.

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Sunday, May 2, 2004 1:16 PM
Interesting to hear about the “possible modifications,” but it doesn’t look like there was anything really changed about the cars if you look at this photo: http://www.coastergallery.com/2000/E44.html. It appears that while some people’s necks may come in contact with the padding, other’s may not depending on how you are positioned. I know that I have never experienced of that “throat banging”, but I still don’t really like the ride. ;)

Thank’s for the pictures...funny how you’ve got more of the theming than of the ride. :)

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Sunday, May 2, 2004 1:47 PM
Of the few pictures of the new rides on the web, the only modifications I have been able to notice were the removal of the conveyor belt, which was a VERY good idea, and the bottoms of the cars looked slightly different Of course, there could be subtle changes that I would not be aware of.

I think the amount of pain during the ride is heavily affected by position. The main issue I've noticed is not having the shoulders snug against the harness, kids can have an especially hard time if they don't pop their heads as high as they can.

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Sunday, May 2, 2004 1:52 PM
One question, however...

...I noticed on their park map, they don't have the Huss giant Enterprise listed anymore. That ride was kick ass... espcially compared to SFDL's itty bitty one.

Is that ride still in operation at PCW?

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Monday, May 3, 2004 4:35 PM
The Orbitor was not in operation, and had about half of its gondolas removed and sitting beside the ride. However, with all the work that went into its restoration/rethemeing I'm sure it will operate this season.
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