SFA 8/16 Hurricane Harbor & main park--still needs a lot of work

Associated parks:
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Saturday, August 18, 2007 8:17 PM
Edit: Went back on Sunday the 19th. Additional information at the bottom instead of posting another trip report.

My sister and brother-in-law bought me a Premium Pass for Christmas this year which means I have a lot of "Bring a Friend For Free" coupons. Not wanting to waste their gift, I used one of the coupons to take someone to another Six Flags park for free a few weeks ago. Today, I used one of the local coupons.

Originally, my friend Mike and I were going to go to SFA on Tuesday when the weather was supposed to be great. Well, he calls and asks if we can move the date to Thursday. I say sure, not knowing the weather was not supposed to be so good. I check the forecast today, and things look dismal. Scattered or scattered strong t-storms all day long. I try to remain optimistic.

Since Mike doesn't own a car I had him meet me at the the end of the Light Rail Station, which parallels Rt. 97 for those who live in the area. As soon as I pull onto Rt. 97, it starts to pour pretty heavily. I'm thinking that this day might not happen at all. Picking Mike up, we headed down 301, but first there was a "mandatory" stop at Arbys, but it wasn't for me. I just needed some caffeine, as I was quite tired.

Suddenly, it dawns on Mike that he doesn't have a change of shorts after the waterpark. Well, we took care of that at the Kohl's on the way down there. He found another pair of trunks for $4. Got to love Kohl's. If it's not on sale, it's on clearance--and if it's not on sale this week, it will be the next:)

It was still raining pretty badly, and I'm getting worried that the park might just pack it in. It was only about another twenty-minutes or less to get to SFA, and they were open. And it had also started to dry out, so all our stops actually helped the situation out.

HURRICANE HARBOR
We decided to go to Hurricane Harbor first, thinking that with the bad weather predicted that still might happen later on, and what had already fallen, we'd be met with few people, and we were right. Last year, I took Mike to SFA on Labor Day and a lot of HH wasn't open until after we had changed and we decided it wasn't worth changing back again.

Well, I was hoping this time would be different, and for the most part it was. First we had to get a locker, and I noticed the price was $9 for a regular. I thought the $9 included the deposit. Nope. That was another $5. They should've posted that on the sign.

We headed straight for Bahama Blast first, since that was one of the late openers last year. Thankfully, they've corrected things, so the walk-around under the Tornado and Paradise Plunge and Reef Runner doesn't feel stupid for those who take that path. They actually have exit gates so there's some order. It was fun, but it's still more of a family slide—as was intended.

Next we did both sides of Paradise Plunge and Reef Runner. These old slides are still a lot of fun. It was somewhere on the stairs that I was pointing out to Mike where they could add another attraction—perhaps a Probowl/Cannonbowl, or a set or racing slides. It would make the path that goes under the Tornado and these slides make more sense as well, as it would provide access to the new attraction.

I believe we skipped over the Tornado and moved next door to the two intense waterslides known as Mako and Hammerhead. At the top of the complex, I looked down and saw a dormant Castaway Creek (lazy river/small body slides) once again. Sigh. At least this time, it had water in it so it was an improvement (?). One thing I found interesting though was that the small body slides in the complex didn't look repainted, but replaced or covered over as they had new colors. The ones facing the stairs were purple. Can anyone confirm what they did?

So we started out with Mako, the green half-enclosed/half not-enclosed tube slide. I don't know why, but I always forget every year about the double-drop and the airtime—and oh yeah, the unenclosed part that feels like it drops out from underneath you. The loud-whoosing noise that some of the people make riding it is quite frightening.

So, of course since the line was short, we had to go up and ride Hammerhead, right next to it. This slide is completely enclosed, and I don't think it's quite as fun. So naturally, we had to go back and do Mako again. A young kid asked a question about the Tornado next door that I didn't have an immediate answer too (but I did later on in my head). He asked me where the yellow-tubes are?

So we're all on the same ProSlide page, that would be a Cloverleaf tube that seats four. From the stairwell, I didn't see any coming down, and none were on the concrete at the exit either. Putting two-and-two together, I thought that it was because of the "accident" at SFGAM where four teenagers got hurt on their Tornado—probably because they ditched the tube (just a theory). I've seen it happen at SFA before.

We then rode the Tornado twice. No wonder just about everyone has added one of these things. It would be nice though if everyone had the conveyor belt, but that's what my trips to the gym have been for, right?:) Next, we headed across the way to the multi-activity area known as Crocodile Cal's Outback Beach House. Besides the usual tipping bucket, it has a few smaller slides, and we rode the green one I believe. Unfortunately, the one all the way at the top was closed off. Surprisingly as hot as it's been, the water was a little bit cold.

One thing that really irritated Mike last year was that the wavepool now known as Hurricane Bay was open but the wave-making machine was broken. Well, that was different this year thank goodness. Before we entered, we looked at some other possibilities for more slides. I could definitely see some more speed slides where the patio is right now across from the locker rental. I had said for years that they could put a slide in between Mako/Hammerhead and P.P./R.R. and that's where the Tornado went. Let's hope I'm right again one day.

We hopped into what had to be the perfect temperature for a wavepool. It was a lot of fun, but it does get exhausting after a while. Leaving Hurricane Bay, you could feel the water getting noticeably hotter the more you got towards the zero-depth entrance which naturally makes sense. We had one more slide complex left and that was Hurricane Mountain. These are the oldest slides in the park, and they're still made by ProSlide.

One thing that has consistently bugged me is that you often won't find all four slides open. Today is no different. We went up the staircase only to find out that the slide we thought we were getting on changed midcourse up the stairs to the yellow slide—which is not a bad thing since it's one of the higher ones.

All of the slides in Hurricane Mountain are extremely windy and paying attention to the weight limit is highly recommended since these are tube slides (which probably wasn't always the case). I believe the yellow slide is what took my friend Matt out on the final turn a few years ago. Somewhat like a bobsled track, the last turn before the pool tracks very high. What is quite amazing is how much structure there is to support the four slides, and it's all under tree-cover. It's all made out of wood and there are beams everywhere. After a re-ride, we headed back to the dry park.

DRY PARK

This is only the third time I've been to SFA this year (the two other trips were earlier in the year), so I had my hopes up for some changes and there were a few. I think this is the first time I've ever seen Around the World in 80 Days—the small Zamperla ferris wheel—closed. that sits at the edge of Hurricane Mountain. After the recent accident, I wasn't expecting The Octopus to be opened and it wasn't. But hey, check out those new snazzy signs for both attractions, like the type I saw at Great Adventure a few weeks ago.

We were looking for some place to eat and with my Premier Pass, I can get 20% off at four locations. Mike says the first location Lucky Albatross didn't seem to have much that interested him, so we moseyed on into Coyote Creek. After years of not having a sign, Coyote Creek finally has a sign once again. The old sign actually hung above the entrance by the stunt show. The new sign is more "real-estate-type" and is closer to The Rodeo, but it still looks great.

I'm still not happy to see a basketball game where The Tilt was (ironically still listed on the sign out front). We pass The Rodeo (Breakdance), and I'm trying to convince Mike that it's not running right now as the ride op is sitting at the exit to the ride. I'm hopeful that it'll open later.

So we stopped in the Crazy Horse Saloon, and it was a bit pricey. They now just use the Saloon to show Looney Tunes Cartoons. Renegade Rapids was also not moving anywhere, but there was water running. Doesn't make any sense to me. So we wound up eating at the Subway in front of Shipwreck Falls. It was nice to turn left and look down the midway and see Tower of Doom running. We passed Skull Mountain, and I was excited to see a conveyor belt running, but then I noticed a boat not moving before the station. Another ride with water running but not operating. Oh well, I may try to return on Sunday and hopefully they'll have more staff.

First ride was Roar and we rode in my favorite location—the back seat. It wasn't one of my better decisions today. Roar was a little bit rowdy today to say the least. I don't know how much weather plays a factor in how a wood coaster rides, but with few instances (like this morning) it's been bone-dry for far too long.

The last time I had seen The Hall of Justice (formerly the Batman Stunt Show), it had been painted red and had some diamond-shaped accents on the columns, but whoa, I was in shock when I saw the finished product. The full-length posters of the Justice League were unexpected. So it was nice to turn around and also see the completed Gotham City Snack Shack—a major expansion which provides more food options. It still doesn't offer a place to sit down and eat in an air-conditioned environment, but it's something.

We headed to Joker's Jinx and rode in the front. I found it amusing watching Mike try to figure out how the seatbelt functions, in that sadistic kind of way:) If you've never seen how it works, you take the strap with the release end of it and attach it into a clip that's on the lapbar—either on the left or right of you. It felt a little bit bumpier than in the past, but nothing terrible. Perhaps it was due for a wheel change?

Heading down to S:ROS, there was yet another closed ride—The Avalanche (Chance Bobsled). I'm guessing they were hurting for employees. I'll admit that I had strange feelings about riding Superman again after riding Nitro a few weeks ago. I've been giving more respect to Nitro over the years (there was a point when I found it not at all that exciting). We headed straight for the front-row and it was really hot, so I was hoping for a really good ride. I was not prepared for what followed.

The train was tearing along the track and it felt very smooth too. I was on the edge of a gray-out in the helix. The third hill came up and both Mike and I were bracing for impact. Oh crap, here it comes—and finally the huge airtime. Around the other helix and through the last few hills with big airtime and we get to the end and I get a whole new appreciation for a coaster I've been on hundreds of times. There's just something that's feels so different about the Intamin trains due to the height at which it rides above the track. I guess it's kind of like riding in a sportscar versus the luxury SUV ride of the B&Ms.

We went back around and rode in the second to last seat. This time things were a little bit rougher. I heard a father say to his kid "Boy, it'd be really bad if the brakes didn't work" at the end. I immediately went into my head, and said "Turn enthusiast brain off." I wasn't about to spoil their good time by bringing up any past history. We had one area left to explore in lower Gotham City as I like to call it and that was a ride on Batwing. Last year, Mike never got a ride because the train would not lower itself, and the spare train was in even worse condition with some rows up, some down.

So I was happy to see it running. Only, it broke down temporarily while we were on the stairs. They were once again having a train problem, so the solution was to put the train from loading station two on our side. This only took a few minutes, and it didn't involve any maintenance men, or test runs. I wasn't sure how Mike was going to like Batwing, but he handled it just fine. I thought it was rather enjoyable today as well. So then it was time for the hike back to what we hadn't done yet. It was time to enter the Southwest Territory and knock-off a couple of rides.

We did two back-to-back rides on Two-Face the Flip Side, and the first one was in the last across from the operator. I see something on my way up in the storage area/boneyard that made me go "hmmm...". There's a whole bunch of yellow track-like looking objects (like for a Wild Mouse) sitting by the brand-new trams which look awfully spiffy. We went around this time and rode in the front of the train, and I don't see any curved sections, so I'm ruling out any coaster possibilities at this point. Mike loved Two-Face and commented on the fact that both Mind Eraser and Two-Face that your feet dangle. I always think it's great when you don't have to point out the obvious:)

Wild One was first and thankfully, it wasn't as rough as Roar, but it was still pretty rambunctious. Coming down the exit ramp I see that the Sonoma Speedway (go-karts) wasn't operating, and I forgot to mention earlier that the Skycoaster wasn't either. I was quite surprised to see the pay-extra attractions not operational. They really must be hurting for employees during the weekdays right now. Amazingly, two flatrides were working in this section—The Falling Star and Cyclone-a Scrambler.

Mike wanted to ride Tower of Doom, and I have to admit after what happened to the girl in Kentucky, that I'm slightly nervous. They're only running two of three sides (of course). It must be my adjusting to the ride due to its small height, but it didn't feel like much happened. Again, there's a cool new sign.

We departed the Southwest Territory and went into Looney Tunes Movietown, which looked rather dead, except for the The Great Chase. I had received word that this is no longer a need-a-kid to ride coaster, and just like at Great Adventure, I picked up another Zamperla kiddy coaster. They run three cycles, and that was probably two too many. Both Mike and I had our legs on either side of the lapbar and would make contact with it on the last turn before the station. We agreed that if we ever rode it again, that we would try to ride on the left or right of the lapbar.

Mike wants to ride Mind Eraser and I keep saying that I'll watch and he keeps asking me "why?":) But first, I had a suggestion to see Movie Magic at the Grand Theater—a new show this year. This is one of those audience-particpation shows in which using green-screen technology several members of the audience become part of a finished movie. The plot of the movie is a little bit strange, but it basically involves the Pink Panther and a missing script. There were two main characters working the show. A guy who plays the host, and a ditsy-blonde named "Crash," who is his assistant.

She would pull people out of the audience to participate in various areas of the "filming." Not surprisingly, when asked for volunteers, my extroverted friend immediately put his hand up in the air and got picked. He got to be in a running of the bulls scene. I thought Movie Magic was pretty well done, but being the audio guy that I am, some of the spoken word stuff was a little bit tough to decipher. This could've been a microphone problem, or it could've been a speaker issue.

Leaving the show to go back into Coyote Creek, I was really happy to see The Rodeo running again. If you're only going to have a few flats going, you might as well have one of the good ones going. But Mike is incessant on riding Mind Eraser first. Once again, I tell him that I'll take pictures and watch. Both trains are on the track, but there's really only enough people to load one train. This is where I see something very unusual—the empty train leaves the station and is climbing the lift while the other train is out on the track. It pauses briefly at the top and keeps on going.

So Mike comes back and figures out why I didn't want to ride. So winding down the night, we hopped on The Rodeo. Sometimes, I think I just have bad luck, or the people I'm riding with are disportionalety sized compared to me, because except for the initial startup, we just kept going in left turns.

CONCLUSION

We had a good time, but I still feel like they should've had more open. One thing that you see at SFA that you don't see at other parks is a lot of trash sitting where the track is after the train leaves. The operators should take more care, or maybe they need more trash cans in the station.

Some of the rides need major overhauls appearance-wise. The electrical boxes on the back of the Batwing trains either need a good cleaning or need to be sandblasted. And as I mentioned last year, Batwing is the ride most in need of new paint. The Superman trains are showing their age. The red train has some bad dents and could use a fresh coat of paint. The Rodeo bulls are also in terrible condition.

While nothing can be confirmed yet, hearing that we might go dry again next year can't be good for the park. When Mike asked when Batwing was added and I answered "2001," I was thinking in my head that's a really long time for a park the size of SFA to go without a new coaster. And next year, HH turns four years old and hopefully they'll add something new.

ADDITIONAL STUFF FROM THE 19TH VISIT:

My friend Shannon called me and since we didn't get together for the Great Adventure visit a few weeks ago, she asked me if we could meet at SFA. I also brought along my sister for this visit as well to use another "Bring a Friend for Free coupon."

The day started off almost identical to the other day, except it was a lot more crowded. After a ride on Roar and Mind Eraser (we rode in front so it wasn't too bad), we met Shannon back at the main gate. There were only a few flats running, and most of the same ones were closed.

We wound up catching the "Pop Revolution" Show where the Looney Tunes amplitheatre used to reside at 2 p.m. It would take quite a bit of money for me to wear some of the costumes the guys had to wear. The show was quite insane.

In the space of 25 minutes, they fit in about 40-60 snippets of songs (with one longer solo song done by one of the females), plus choreography. The set consisted mostly of 80's and 90's familiar tunes, with a few 00's thrown in.

One thing that hasn't changed is that the audio could use some work (sorry, it's my job--I find it hard to turn off my job when I'm out in public). The small amplitheatre is a little bit too live (reflective), and could use some better flown speakers. Some of the female vocals especially came across as a little bit harsh.

Today was also Country Music Day and the headliner was Blake Shelton. Now that amplitheathre has some kick-butt audio, although I believe that was a ticket-event, so we didn't catch it.

Later in the day around 2:45 p.m., High Seas (pirate ship) finally came on-line, and my sister and I got onboard. What I don't remember is the lapbar being split 60/40. The right side could fit two people, while the left side fit three people. While the poles look freshly-painted, the rest of the ride needs a makeover as well.

Some more of the flats started coming on-line like Falling Star and The Rodeo. My sister and I rode together (Shannon still has trouble getting the Coney Island Breakdance out of her mind :) ), and as I though the weight distribution was much better and we had many changes of direction, instead of just turning in left turns.

CONCLUSION #2:

The Good: All coasters were running. More flats opened-up later in the day. Looney-Tunes Movietown was fully functioning from what I could see. I finally got to see one of the spiffy-new trams running today. They had the Red one running. Sonoma Speedway (go-kart track) finally opened later in the day.

All the seats on The Octopus were flipped-up I guess for either a) inspection or b) modification. I would hate to see this ride go.

The Bad: Still no Skull Mountain or Renegade Rapids. On second inspection of some rides such as Roar, it was unbelievable to me just how bad some of seats looked.

The second time we rode, the seat I sat on looked thoroughly dry-rotted, as the leather was all cracked and the padding showing. The seats on S:ROS all need replacing, and so do the grab-handles. In fact, one of them was missing altogether. Many rides had seats closed-off.

The new throughout-the-park sound-system. The volume is usually okay until one of the frequent Marine ads comes on. The guys voice is so deep and loud, that it's hard to talk to the people walking right next to you.

Lack of enforcement of park rules. People were smoking where they wanted. We saw one person smoking outside of a non-smoking zone at Great Adventure.

Edited 8/20/2007 1:17:46 AM UTC by Intamin Fan*** *** Edited 8/20/2007 1:19:58 AM UTC by Intamin Fan***

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Saturday, August 18, 2007 11:10 PM
I definatly agree that SFA needs a new coaster. I haven't been since 2005 but it would have been longer if my friend had not wanted to go. My first and only other visit was in 2001 when Batwing opened. It's a nice park but there just isn't enough to keep me coming back unless they get something new.
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