Six Flags America 04/07/13

Monday, April 8, 2013 4:17 PM

I decided to kick off my 2013 coaster season with a stop at Six Flags America for just a couple hours yesterday. I wasn't really going with the intent of riding that much as, honestly, Superman-Ride of Steel is so amazing that I sometimes view time spent on other rides as time away from it, and also I just wanted to go to snap some photos.

I went back to the Intamin masterpiece to find few people in line for any rows, the front included. Even with the one-train operation, I saw I would only have a few laps to wait, so I decided to wait for that oh-so-prized row.

Unfortunately, Six Flags America is not known for having the most efficient ride operators, so each train would sit in the station for around four minutes at a time, making a non-existent wait rather frustrating. Compounding the situation was a lady in the second row who was involved in a parent-swap situation. She got off to swap out with her husband, for whom the air gates remained closed to allow him to grab his seat. However, he wasn't ready, but they continued to keep the gates closed to allow him to get all his stuff situated. He then asked the ride operator if his wife could re-ride and join him, thus making me question how he was permitted to do the parent swap in the first place, and then they jumped in the front row.

Folks, I think the parent swap system is a classy idea. I'm also not even necessarily bothered by one-train operation on days when the park is dead, though I appreciate parks like Carowinds who run both trains on rides even when only a couple rows even have people in them to begin with. However, I take issue with the fact that such sluggishness is considered acceptable. I've been a ride operator on Millennium Force, so I know the ride system, and I also worked on Batwing and X-Flight. I struggle to see how one other person and I could check a Batwing train and dispatch it faster than they were moving on a much easier system yesterday. A twenty minute wait is perfectly acceptable to me on a ride of Superman's caliber when the park is crowded enough and the crew is doing its best to keep the line moving. Twenty minutes is not acceptable to me for what was effectively a three-train wait or so. At least make an effort to keep things moving.

As for the ride itself, it's got one of the most basic layouts imagineable, but even with that, the ride is just downright exceptional. There are some rides that are just so outrageously fun that, even if they aren't the "best" per se, I just want to power-ride the living daylights out of them. I could spend all day just going again and again on it, and I consider myself extremely fortunate to live less than forty minutes away from it.

I snapped some photos, then went to Apocalypse - The Last Stand for a lap on B&M's first coaster. Dispatches took about five minutes, again with only one train running. In this situation, they weren't even filling all the rows, and I only had a one-train wait for the front. Now, stand-ups are more complex ride systems, and I would expect it to take longer than a ride like Superman. At five minutes on half-full trains, though, I draw the line.

The ride itself is not B&Ms best, but it's a snappy little coaster with a nice layout. It's not super-comfortable, so it's generally a one-and-done for me, but with no wait, it's probably the only other ride at the park besides Superman that I make a concerted effort to experience on each visit.

After that, I walked back to Superman, but I saw the line was outside of the station and I knew that at SFA, that equated to a wait that could be over twenty minutes, so I skipped it, grabbed some fudge, and headed home.

Folks, I wasn't trying to sound bitter, but I guess I just don't understand the extreme lack of urgency on the part of the entire rides department, maintenance and operations. Superman and Mind Eraser both only had one train on the track to begin with, and you would think that the coasters would get enough attention during the offseason to have them ready to go full-force on opening day, let alone a few weeks past that point. Also, it really doesn't take that long to dispatch trains on those coasters, and I'm appalled that it's considered acceptable. Some parks see it as important to deliver the most capacity they can whether it's necessary or not, and I think that putting a little effort into keeping things moving should be a more widespread concept.

All in all, though, it was nice to get outside, and I love me some S-ROS.

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Monday, April 8, 2013 4:45 PM

It's not so much that they are slow but that they are uninterested in doing their job in any way that could be considered adequate.

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Monday, April 8, 2013 4:48 PM

Efficient - or at least "looking like you care just a little" ride operations seem to be a thing of the past at some parks. Luckily, great operations are still alive at Holiday World, Knoebels and a few others.

It was a blessing to work on an old fashioned ride where we couldn't slow down otherwise face a shutdown, and at a time when operations were faster across the board - at every park. It's also a curse, because I go nuts when I see how slow and pathetic some ride crews are (mainly Six Flags and Mt. Olympus).

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Monday, April 8, 2013 5:11 PM

No Wild One? That and Superman are the primary reasons I go...or went, I guess. Been 10 years now.

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Monday, April 8, 2013 5:47 PM

Wild One was easily the best ride my buddy and I rode back in 2009. It was my only time at SFA; we rode Wild One 7 times and everything else once or twice. We were outta the park in 90 minutes.

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Monday, April 8, 2013 6:09 PM

Ride crews at most other SF parks are *not* like those at SFA. In the other parks, they pretty much load, check, and dispatch. Even though SFA has gotten somewhat better on my more recent visits, it seems like there's WAY too much leeway given in terms of "load, check, talk on the mic, talk some more on the mic, make sure you've had your 15 minutes of fame, then dispatch."

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Monday, April 8, 2013 6:30 PM

I was only at SFA once, and I was shocked at how crappy the ride ops were and how poorly maintained everything looked because Great Adventure is SO the opposite as far as I've seen, and they're not that far from each other! The flying coaster took about 15-20 minutes to load my train, and they kept letting people switch seats and re arrange their loose articles (yes, loose articles, like tshirts around their necks and hats and plastic bags--I am not kidding--and other detritus). Superman was off and on operation all day, so I was in line for a while until they finished testing, but the ops were still slow for that one too.

I missed Wild One when I was there too. I couldn't find the entrance and was too tired to keep going (I had already driven to Kings Dominion and done a full day there).

Sad to see ride op speed and general performance still lacking there. The park itself has an okay collection of rides and could do better.

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Monday, April 8, 2013 6:32 PM

I'm the odd one out. Been to SFA twice in the last 10 or 12 years and both times dug the place and had a good experience.

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Monday, April 8, 2013 6:43 PM

I've had decent days there as well, but more often I've had frustratingly bad experiences. I still want to go back sometime, as I'm pretty sure I stopped going not too long before they started to improve significantly.

My last visit in '03 was awful. However, I don't complain about it as if that's still the case. ;)

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Monday, April 8, 2013 6:53 PM

I know other SF parks aren't in the same boat, and I don't want to pretend they are. I was actually rather impressed at how friendly many of the park's staff members were. It's strictly ride operations that bothers me.

Now, I don't go often enough anymore to determine whether or not these are isolated incidents, but my visit on a Sunday in October last year wasn't any better. They're slow as death.

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Monday, April 8, 2013 8:31 PM

Not sure if I mentioned this, but when I was there in 2000, I was on Superman when the lift chain broke.

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Monday, April 8, 2013 8:34 PM

On Opening Day 3/23, my rides on Wild One were the best of the day until it broke down in the afternoon. I got no rides on Batwing (less-than-sporadic operations) and Supes...never opened, water dummies all day.

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Monday, April 8, 2013 8:55 PM

I was there early one year with a season pass and I remember one Superman train looking like it had been through a war zone even though the park just opened. The other train was still torn apart on the transfer track.

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Monday, April 8, 2013 9:02 PM

As much I liked the coaster itself, that ride scared the crap out of me because of those beat up trains and strange spare parts laying out in the field over by the ride. I likely will not go back to the park again any time soon.

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Monday, April 8, 2013 9:17 PM

Mike, that's interesting that Superman wasn't open for you on opening day. I went on opening day for several years and encountered the same situation. You'd think they'd work hard to get their signature coaster up and running.

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Monday, April 8, 2013 9:38 PM

My family and I spent 5 hours there Saturday March 30th. We had a pretty good time. Short waits, friendly staff and a clean park. Would it kill them to throw a coat of paint on Batwing. Apocalypse, different park, same pain.

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Monday, April 8, 2013 9:55 PM

Out of all the Six Flags properties, I can't think of one with a more consistent track record of negative trip feedback. Why hasn't this park had the same level of transformation that we have seen at other Six Flags parks?

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Monday, April 8, 2013 10:54 PM

sirloindude said:

I was actually rather impressed at how friendly many of the park's staff members were.

That's been my experience.

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Tuesday, April 9, 2013 12:02 AM

Jarrod L.Thorne said:
My family and I spent 5 hours there Saturday March 30th. We had a pretty good time. Short waits, friendly staff and a clean park. Would it kill them to throw a coat of paint on Batwing. Apocalypse, different park, same pain.

Oh man, Batwing was horrible with the paint!! I can't believe they still haven't painted it!! When I went, it was the year before I-305 went up at KD, and they STILL haven't redone Batwing?! Lol I'm just both amused and appalled.

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Tuesday, April 9, 2013 2:27 AM

I went to SFA twice during the summer of 2007, and it remains the worst park I've ever been to, both operationally and just overall. Perhaps the one thing that stands out most to me was the restroom I went into around noon that had poo smeared all over the walls and floor. Not just in one isolated stall, it was everywhere When I left at closing time (which was 6:00. Who closes that early in the middle of summer?) nobody had even attempted to clean that restroom.

I was in line for Superman at closing time. It was a station wait the entire day, and just running one train. Despite still having a full station, at exactly 6 the last train rolled in, unloaded, and then the crew just walked out, leaving a bunch of bewildered guests standing around in the station. No announcement, no closing the line off ahead of time, they just left. That same day I timed Batwing (also running one train) at just a shade over 15 minutes per dispatch. My 4-5 train wait from the bottom of the stairs took over an hour.

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