Preservation vs. Reality

Friday, April 16, 2004 8:56 AM
First off, let me preface this by saying that I'm not anti-small park or whatever (so save your rant, Thrillerman). I don't like to see rides go away any more than anyone else.

However, I don't understand this expectation that enthusiasts are somehow going to save all of these rides from extinction when a park closes. Sure, you can argue that it can be done I suppose. But currently existing rides that were "saved" can be counted on, what, one hand?

Roller coasters and amusement parks, despite our emotional attachment to them, are indeed businesses. When businesses fail, they go away. There is no morality or value system that has anything to do with this, it's just the way it is.

So why is it then that enthusiasts think there's something that can be done about it? Assuming even for a minute that you could generate the capital to purchase or even move a ride, where will the money come from to maintain (and insure) it for decades to come?

Like I said, I hope that places like Kennywood never go away (and in that particular case I don't think it will in the foreseeable future), but really, what can you do about the inevitable forces of time and change?

Friday, April 16, 2004 9:14 AM
If you really want to save the park, set up a corperation and ask people to buy stock in it so you can buy the company and run it yourself.

If all you really want is to save the classic roller coaster in the park, contact Knoebels ;)

Friday, April 16, 2004 9:25 AM
What can you do? I dunno... ask the people that saved Leap-The-Dips. Or Belmont Park's Giant Dipper. Or Arnold's Park. And the people that go to Conneaut every year to paint the coaster?

I, for one, don't expect all enthusiasts to save every ride from every small park that closes. That's unrealistic, to put it lightly. But there are things that can be done, and there are some people that believe that the closing of these small parks and the loss of those rides should not go hand-in-hand.

There is the argument of emotion versus business, and it is a valid one. I'll agree that, as much as people love and feel for amusement parks, they are around to make money for their owners and that, when they feel to do that, they run the risk of disappearing. But with that said, amusement parks and their rides fall into the same category of classic cars, old houses and other assorted historical structures. Many of those things became obsolete in the name of progress years ago, but that hasn't stopped people from trying to save them in droves. Why should people refrain from making an effort and refrain from keeping hope alive if they truly believe that something should- and can- be done?

For me, a preservation effort is not a bunch of guys seeing how much money they have if they pool their savings and buy a ride. Large as my backyard is, the Starliner or Jack Rabbit or Screechin' Eagle aren't going to fit! My idea of preservation, which happens to be the same as many other peoples' ideas of preservation, means writing letters (actual letters, not emails), talking to the right people and organizing support so that a defunct ride stands a better chance of being relocated. That kind of effort doesn't guarantee anything, but it does do more than sitting back and doing nothing at all.

Friday, April 16, 2004 9:27 AM
Jeff, I think it has a lot to do with your topic title ... reality, or lack of it. The people that cry to save the smaller parks believe that the coasters and rides in these parks mean something to more people than just them and a handful of other enthusiasts. It takes the ability to step back and acknowledge reality to see that most people don't actually see the value in a small wooden coaster just cause it's "old". In fact, that makes it less desirable because it looks unsafe. Same goes for all the other old rides.

And something I've put into other threads about keeping small parks that never seems to get any acknowledgement, and I'll try it again here, is that weren't most of these seaside parks and smaller parks built around such things as trolley centers, ports, etc. They were built at centers of transportation when cross-country transportation was in its infancy. Transportation these days looks NOTHING like it did before, so the appeal of these parks, being the "local attraction that doesn't require 2 days train ride" or something to that extent, is gone. So, like you said, they're businesses, and now that their niche in the market has disappeared thanks to cars, highways and planes, the parks are disappearing with it.

I think the crux of it comes down to not seeing that most people don't go to amusement parks for nostalgia, or to remember what used to be. They go to parks to have their bodies thrown around at high speed, eat some food, hang out with some friends, and not pay an arm and a leg to do it. Nowhere in there is there consideration that a coaster is really old, or used to be important to an entire area. But, reality is something that's hard for a lot of people to accept, because it makes the world a little less rosy. Take it for what you will.

And I think Jes has a good train of thought too - to make these parks survive in today's transportation economy, these small parks that are "saved" would have to become at least regional parks, thereby putting other small parks in the area out of business (since most small parks are clustered within a bunch of 4 hour driving circles anyway from what I know)

Friday, April 16, 2004 9:46 AM
Wow Jeff, Thank you, You started a post in my honor!! Weeee :) :)

OK..While I'll also agree about business is business to some degree, I won't just sit back as an enthusiast and let my favorite places go bye bye. I've watched it happen for too long now and it makes me sick. There is a lot of history in these places, but when you never visit them yourself, I don't expect you to understand. You can give me all your excuses about where you choose to spend your money or where you like to travel, but until you put forth some effort to go to non mainstream places and discover what's really unique, you'll never fully understand. You can talk the talk here all you want, but until you walk the walk and make some type of an effort to visit these charming places, your opinion is moot. Your just a bag of wind to me until you actually open your eyes and begin to visit the smaller parks.

Oh yeah..and why is it that you never posted the press release I sent to you last month about the founding and formation of the WCFC? I know you received it. Don't you want to give some of your posters here the opportunity to belong to a unique organization, or are you against that too??


Jon Blakemore [founder of the Wood Coaster Fan Club] *** Edited 4/16/2004 1:57:37 PM UTC by Thrillerman***

Friday, April 16, 2004 9:57 AM
And mixing history and amusement parks has always been a profitable business endeavour ...
Friday, April 16, 2004 10:06 AM
Impuls-ive: You make some good points, although I have to disagree on a few points you made.

First, while many small traditional parks were either stops or destinations on trolley lines (Dorney Park fits this description perfectly), seaside parks are generally younger than traditional parks and came about when people started vacationing at the shore due to the advent of the highway. Take Wildwood NJ for example- for years, the boardwalk was all about theater and other forms of entertainment, but since the 1950s, it has been mostly about rides and games. The Garden State Parkway was constructed around that time and made travel down to the "shore points" much easier than Route 1, which was one lane in each direction for about 100 miles. The highway was built, families started driving down the shore and those parks came to be. I would imagine that places such as Panama City, Ocean City MD and Myrtle Beach all experienced similiar growth in the economic boom that followed WWII. And because these parks are located in areas that still see a lot of vacationers, they seem to be more immune to the things that usually cause the demise of traditional parks.

Second, people don't tend to visit parks because they're "traditional"... people visit those parks because they like the "traditional" feel. Big difference, even though it may not seem like it. Look at it this way:

I visit Knoebels because its a GOOD park. Its an old park with a lot of old rides, and that scores a lot of points with me, but if it were some run-down "old" park, I would't be so fond of it. The traditional aspect makes me like Knoebels, but the fact that it is an overall quality park is the main selling point for me. I assume that people are like me and like the Phoenix not JUST because its old but also because its just an outstanding ride. Nostalgia plays a part in many peoples' affection for the ride, but ride quality is even more meaningful.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that a park doesn't have to be traditional for me to enjoy it, but it doesn't hurt. And when a nice traditional park like Miracle Strip is announced to be closing, that upsets me. And all the other people out there that value traditional parks because they value nostalgia or they value a GOOD park.

Friday, April 16, 2004 10:07 AM
Great topic Jeff.

I think this is similar to the need for people to preserve a ride at a park that might be dismantled or sold to make way for a new ride.

It is hard to let go of our youth. Go into my attic and you will find all kinds of crap that I have collected over the years that I just can't seem to throw away. They have sentimental value if nothing else.

To this day I still hate to drive by Idora Park but the closing of the park is symptamatic of the problems facing the Youngstown area.

Enthusiasts can make some noise about park closings or ride dismantlings but I think the rides that have been saved thus far are the exception and not the norm.

If we could put all of these "treasured" rides into one park you may actually be on to something. As the older populations continue to grow...and we live longer...there may in fact be a market for these cherished memories. Now, wheter or not we could actually ride them..or just look at another matter.

I am all for the effort to try to save these classics but I don't think there should be an expectation that there will always be success.

Friday, April 16, 2004 10:11 AM
I don't think that there is an "expectation" to save traditional parks and their rides, but there are certain individuals that want to go the extra mile and see what can be done. Preservation has been the exception and not the rule for many years, and while I accept that, that doesn't mean that I like it being that way, and it doesn't mean that people can't try to change that.

That's what some of us are trying to do ;)

Friday, April 16, 2004 10:47 AM
See... I knew that Thrillerman would post something about how I just don't understand or whatever. Predictable, and still not relevant to the discussion. My alleged character flaws aren't going to kill or save a park. (I didn't get any press release either. If you sent it via e-mail, it must've been taken out by the spam filter, or it seemed as credible as the CPC. Show me incorporation as a non-profit and I'll post whatever you want.)

Brett makes some really good points about transportation. In a historical context, we can credit trains for Cedar Point and Kennywood, among others. You have to wonder if CP would still be around had it not been for the hotel and the start of significant development in the 70's.

But with that said, amusement parks and their rides fall into the same category of classic cars, old houses and other assorted historical structures.
I'll give you historical structures, which generally have the backing of local or federal governments, but classic cars? There's a difference between something I can restore in my garage and a roller coaster.

I would call Knoebels a traditional park, but with the lineup they have, it's far from a small park. They have more in common with Dorney than they do Conneaut.

Perhaps the biggest business consideration is that expectations for amusement/theme parks is astronomically high. We can thank the rat for theme parks and Cedar Fair, Six Flags and Paramount for amusement parks. Even for a place like Kennywood, they knew they needed Steel Phantom/Revenge to survive, with Six Flags two hours away and CP three hours away. If I were not an enthusiast, I would never stop at smaller parks while traveling down the coast. The value proposition to me as a tourist wouldn't be high enough to justify it. Heck, in some cases it's not even an option. Driving to Niagara Falls, I still haven't been able to stop at Conneaut, Waldameer or Martin's because they just haven't been open!

Friday, April 16, 2004 10:57 AM
Wow, seems to me to be a bunch of cup half empty instead of cup half full emotions.

Reguardless of the ones being removed they are still being built at a greater rate than those we are loosing. (I forsee this for at least the short term and think the wooden coaster is going to make a huge comeback due mainly to cost of large steel coasters. Theres only about a dozen parks that can build these $15-30 million dollar rides in the US on any kind of regular basis.

I am a fan of the wooden rollercoaster. Make no doubt about that. If there is something I can do. Write a letter, Volenteer work, while I don't have much extra cash I will help if I can.

The loss of small parks is nothing new and seaside parks as well are nothing new to being lost. Believe it or not Kings Island in the past and other large parks have actually been considered for sale to developers based on property values alone

I hate to see parks dissapear but its nothing new. I bet compared to the '20s there is only about less than a quarter of what once existed and I don't see it all as big park beating out the small park.

If a park as a buisness doesn't find it's niche to be succesfull (And I think there is a way for almost everyone to make it) Then it's going bye bye.

In the case of Lesourdsville I strongly believe it could make it even thrive but we have a owner unwilling to sell and admittedly had no idea what he was doing in 2002 other than throw money at it.

There is another group vieing for Lesourdsville but at this time I regret to say that the dealings with Carl Jennings (Peony Park owner) are off.

Im sayng for rides to be relocated there has to be interest first. While enthusiast did have something to do with LTDs preservation there were a ton of buisnesses that donated, offered their skills and money and it's still not paid for.


Friday, April 16, 2004 10:57 AM
I wasn't implying that a classic car is the same as a roller coaster, but the idea is the same. A classic car is surely obsolete in this day and age, lacking airbags, ABS, traction control, auto climate control and power windows and locks, just like a classic wood coaster lacks loops, corkscrews and the like. Still, people find classic cars to be worthy of saving, so what makes classic wood coasters any different? That's the point I was trying to make.

Knoebels is what I feel to be a hybrid park. It has a traditional feel but is larger than the many small parks in PA that are considered traditional. Still, it has many traditional aspects, and that's why I think that most people think of it that way. But if Knoebels is a bad example of a traditional park, then one such as Lake Compounce or Canobie Lake is a good one. Do you think that people say "lets go to The Lake because its old?" or "we'll go to Canobie instead of SFNE because its traditional?" No, people go to those parks because they like the rides, the employees, the prices, the atmosphere... whatever. They go to those parks because they're good parks. People find them worth their time and money.

Like I said, if there was a traditional park that was absolute crap, I wouldn't bother with it on a regular basis. Just like I don't bother with crappy theme parks on a regular basis, even if they're only a couple of hours away. The majority of people that appreciate traditional parks like them because they are good parks and that some people would rather spend a day there than at a big corporate park with a ton of coasters.

Friday, April 16, 2004 11:06 AM
I must respectfully dissagree that Kennywood needs phantom to survive period.

Kennywood is a park thats clearly found it's nitch, Afordable, Picnics and a ton of things to do both new and classic. While Geauga and a few other parks are not far away, They are not really direct competition to the people of Pittsburgh who can take many trips to their fun affordable park and maybe one or two to bigger parks.

Chuck, who hasn't been there since 2000 but it was the least ridden ride in the park and I don't think Revenge instantly made the park any more poplular than it was already.. That park was busy and enjoyed and respected That was clear to me on my visit

Friday, April 16, 2004 11:10 AM
I think the Phantom's Revenge was a knee-jerk reaction to a problem. They had this loser of a ride and had to do something to get rid of it and replace it with something better, so SP becoming PR made the most economical sense. Take away Phantom and I don't think anyone would flinch. Take away T-Bolt, JR or Racer and you'd see a riot break out.

Charles is right. Kennywood found its niche a long time ago and have concocted a formula for success. Great family entertainment at great prices- its pretty much fail-safe. Hershey and Knoebels have done pretty much the same thing, with Hershey taking the "theme park" road and Knoebels taking a road all their own.

Friday, April 16, 2004 11:15 AM
Some people may prefer traditional parks but is it enough to justify keeping the park open? That is the ultimate and deciding factor. Restoring an old car is great but it only needs to make one person happy to enjoy it.

Restoring an old coaster, and the cost involved, is only going to make sense if there is a great perceived benefit beyone a relatively small group of people.

Without Steel Phantom at Kennywood I'm not sure the park would still be around today. The success of that coaster spawned some significant additions including Lost Kennywood and the refurb of Noah's Ark...just to name a few. I never went to Kennywood before Steel Phantom was built and, in fact, had never heard of Kennywood before that.

I think the Wolf Bobs at Geauga Lake similarly served to catapult that park. Without that addition I am not sure you would have seen additional growth the likes of which followed. The park certainly wouldn't have been attractive enough for Premier to purchase. Even though the Bobs didn't live up to it's namesake it served to bring national attention to Geauga Lake.

The bottom line is that some people resist thinking in terms that these parks are businesses. Rides are built not because of what the enthusiast group wants but because what the park thinks the vast majority of people will want. Prices are increased because the park wants to make more money and it believes the price increase is sustainable. Parks charge for parking because the general public will pay it.

Friday, April 16, 2004 11:25 AM
I completely understand that parks are businesses, no question about that. What I'm trying to say is that coaster preservation is something that makes business sense in certain cases.

When Knoebels moved the San Antonio Rocket to Elysburg, it was done because the park couldn't have afforded a wood coaster if they didn't go that route. That's not speculation- that comes right from the park. Look at the parks that relocated wood coasters afterwards: Wild World, Lakemont Park, Great Escape and Magic Springs... all small parks, ones that probably needed to purchase and rebuild a used ride in order to afford such an expansion. All of those parks are very much alive and well, probably thanks to their "new" wood coasters.

There are plenty of small parks out there that are walking the fine line that separates "roadside attraction" and "amusement park." Those parks- like Wild World and Magic Springs- probably want to add something that will make that kind of impact but can't afford to do so unless they take a different approach. That is where coasters like the Starliner and Screechin' Eagle come into play. Two wood coasters, probably very much for sale (now or in the near future) and in good condition... perfect additions that would make economical sense for the right park.

While I lament the loss of traditional parks, I try to focus more on what happens after they close. If I can help play a part in an effort to find a coaster a new home, that makes me happy. It makes me feel as though I didn't just sit on my a** and do nothing. If the effort fails, that's too bad. If it happens to succeed, then what's wrong with that?

Friday, April 16, 2004 11:39 AM
I love that wall you keep hiding behind Jeff. It's not about me. It's not about me. It's not about me. It's not about me. Talk about predictable!!! You skate my real issues like a true politician.

Wood - anything else is an imitation

Friday, April 16, 2004 12:46 PM
Thrillerman---I don't know either you or Jeff from Adam. But, from where I sit, Jeff is asking a question about the tensions between business and enthusiasm and what is possible, and you're taking it personally.

He isn't skating your issue, he is addressing it head on---in his evaluation, going to a park with more to offer is a better use of his limited leisure time and disposable income. One can make that decision even if one hasn't been to a smaller park. True, it may not be the most informed decision, but based on what's happening in the industry, it's a darn common one.

Friday, April 16, 2004 1:21 PM
What Brian said. I'm not hiding behind anything, I'm calling it out. That's why I started the topic. Note that I don't make an argument that has anything to do with you. You've not made a point yet that wasn't made personal.

Rob: I know there are exceptions, and I stated that from the get go. These are situations where it worked out. However, consider the size of the industry as a whole, and I think you'll agree that opportunities like that, where someone else can come in with the money to save a ride, are rare and maybe even a dying breed.

I think Wahoo's point about a park finding its "killer app" and running with it could be applied to so many different parks. I would argue that Holiday World's "seed" and turning point was The Raven. Beyond that I give them credit for having the good sense to price the park right, build The Legend, and carve out a niche with one of the best water parks in this part of the country. Their success has nothing to do with nostalgia, it's about really good business decisions (among them being an emphasis on service).

Why do you think Waldameer wants so bad to build the Ravine Flyer II? Because if they're going to find their niche and survive, they need the "gee-whiz" attraction. Go down the road and look back at the history of Conneaut and you'll see that similar decisions were never made. No one other than an enthusiast is going to go there just because the Blue Streak is historic.

A compelling business case is the key to survival, not nostalgia or enthusiasts with good intentions.

Friday, April 16, 2004 1:30 PM
The only way you're going to make these parks survive is to either charge only $5 a head for all day passes, or start a conspiracy to up the prices of the big parks considerably. Otherwise, what added value comes form a Lesourdesville, or a Conneaut? (horrible spelling, I know)

I haven't even found it worth my while and the money I could easily use to pay for another day at Hershey to go to Knoebels to ride two supposedly awesome coasters - but that's just two. That's gas money, potential food money, and ride ticket money that I could use to ride Lightning Racer and Wildcat which I know I really love that I'd be using on a chance that I might like Knoebel's coasters better.

As has been said before, and because I feel like hearing myself talk today, I'll say it again, history and nostalgia is no basis for marketing something that doesn't include indian artifacts and school field trips and have a funny name (a museum for those following along at home). I work hard for my money, I want a return on it that I know I'll enjoy and wouldn't be better spent elsewhere.


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