Six Flags America (5/16/2008)

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Sunday, May 18, 2008 10:02 AM
Carrie M.'s avatar Yesterday I visited Six Flags America in Maryland. That was my first Six Flags experience, so I thought I would write my first trip report.

The park was pretty easy to get to, although it seemingly didn’t exist as you couldn’t see it from the highway. Fortunately, the park web site offers directions from just about every direction, so we knew exactly where to go. We were surprised, though, at the lack of directional signs as you approach the park from the surrounding areas. There was only one that we saw and it seemed quite possible you could drive right past the park without ever knowing it was there.

I had remembered the guys talking about the parking prices on one of the podcasts, so I went on-line ahead of time to make sure I was ready. Sure enough, they charge $15 for regular parking, $20 for preferred parking (although the web site says it is $25), and you can purchase a season parking pass for $45. We went for the regular parking and as it turned out the preferred was closed that day anyway. It was just as well, too, because we were arriving an hour after the gates opened and we were still able to park right in front of the entrance. There were a few buses of kids at the park, but beyond that there was little attendance and the parking lot reflected that all day.

I had a season pass that was gifted to me and I talked my friend into buying one, too, since it cost the same as a one-day admission. The season pass processing center was not going to open until 1, though, so they let us through the gates with our receipts. We would have to come back out of the park later to get the passes and coupon book.

The entrance to the park is beautiful. It is really well maintained with quaint shops and brick walkways. We were both taken aback by the college and military recruiters who were set up at booths along the main midway, though, ready to speak with anyone who was interested. Not that either of us fit the mold for their target audience, but we both commented on how we try to avoid eye contact while walking by such things as not to get sucked in.

Navigation was a little rough as there was little signage to follow throughout the park. We picked up a map, but it didn’t help us much. Now we take full responsibility for not planning ahead and for taking a bit of a laissez- faire approach to finding our way. But there were a couple of times when I felt like the peeps in an RCT2 park. I was expecting to see giant lettering across the sky that said “Guests are lost and cannot find their way.” This actually was noticeably a problem when it came to the ride queues. There was no indication on many attractions of which ramp was the entrance and which was the exit.

Regardless, we found our way eventually and started riding the coasters. We started with the Joker’s Jinx. I had been excited to ride this one, because I really love me a launch coaster. But as soon as I climbed down into the boxy train, I was just not really thrilled. There was a lap bar only, but it also held your ankles in place. It just wasn’t comfortable to me. The launch was awesome as I expected, but from there I didn’t enjoy the ride.

We already had our eyes set on Superman: Ride of Steel, but a navigational faux pas had us meandering to another part of the park. We ended up riding The Wild One next. This coaster had the worst dispatching of the day, and that says a lot because dispatching was awful everywhere. They were running two trains, but they were definitely stacked as it took close to ten minutes to load a new train. The coaster itself was more thrilling than I expected. But thanks to the extra (and I believe unnecessary) push the op gave on my lap bar, I ended up with a bruise. I’m all for safety, but that extra shove was seemingly a little sadistic.

Next we headed out to the car to ditch our unnecessary jackets and to get our season passes processed. That was pretty painless and with our season pass coupon booklets now in hand, we decided to have lunch. Unfortunately, there were only two food coupons and neither was of interest to us. I ended up having a cheese steak, which was only offered in a basket with fries, and a medium pop. It came to $13.24. Ah huh. So that’s how they manage to give their season passes away. Oh well. The food was good, at least.

So we decided to get serious at this point and start riding. We headed over to Superman: Ride of Steel and it did not disappoint. We waited for the front and the coaster was just magnificent. It ended up definitely being our favorite. All in all, we ended up riding three times in the front and once in the back.

Then it was time to face my nemesis, my fear. I am referring to Batwing (or B TWING, as the ‘A’ had been knocked over on the station’s sign.) I decided I had to ride it, regardless of the fear. I do not like being on my back facing the sky and that is the exact position of the cars on this train at the beginning and end of the coaster. As soon as I got in the reclining seat I felt uneasy. When the cars rotated backwards in the station so that our backs were perpendicular to the floor, I thought I could have given birth to Batman himself.

I was relieved to take the trip up the lift and have my back raised up a little. Anyway, the ride is most definitely as exciting as it is disorienting. I made a rookie mistake, though, and didn’t pin my hair back. So when I was flipped back over and facing the ground, I would have had the opportunity to feel like I was flying. Instead, I was stuck in a “Cousin It” moment of hair flying every which way in my face and I couldn’t really see. Live and learn. I only rode it once as I expended a great deal of energy the first time.

We also checked out Roar and The Mind Eraser. Roar was a fun wooden coaster. I enjoyed it a lot. The Mind Eraser is an inverted, looping coaster and it was just plain not fun. We rode in the back and my head felt like a pinball between the shoulder harnesses. I could do without that coaster again.

As we were waiting for the front seat of Roar there was a train coming back into the station. The ride op started to make his spiel, “Welcome back, riders, for your safety… AAGGGGGGGHHHHH…AGGGGHHHHHHH…” At that very moment from out of no where a bird flew directly at his face! It went behind the control desk and then flew away. It was one of the funniest things I had seen and heard in a long time. The other ride ops thought so, too. We ended up having a good time interacting with them throughout the day.

So, all in all, it was a good day. I was glad to experience a new park. There was something that seemed a little off to me all day, though. The staff, while being very friendly, all seemed to be uninformed about the tasks they were performing and were all a little lackadaisical. It didn’t instill me with a lot of confidence in their abilities. I am willing to chalk some of that up to it being pre-season, but it still isn’t a good sign in my book.

I hope to get to another Six Flags park this season so I have a point of comparison. But as it stands now with my one park experience, I would not likely make an effort to visit Six Flags again.

"If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins." --- Benjamin Franklin

Sunday, May 18, 2008 11:35 AM
$20 for preferred parking??? Wow... Even $15 is over the roof for just regular parking. How about bringing these prices down SF. From what I hear also Vitamin Water from the vending machines is $4!! It's insulting really.
Sunday, May 18, 2008 11:46 AM
Olsor's avatar Great trip report! But you should definitely visit other Six Flags parks before you rule out the rest of the chain. Six Flags America is probably the least-liked Six Flags park. I experienced the same issues with lackadaisical staff when I was last there three years ago.
Sunday, May 18, 2008 11:57 AM
Carrie M.'s avatar I can tell you that regular bottled water in the vending machine was $3.50.

"If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins." --- Benjamin Franklin

Sunday, May 18, 2008 12:08 PM
matt.'s avatar

Carrie M. said:
There was something that seemed a little off to me all day, though. The staff, while being very friendly, all seemed to be uninformed about the tasks they were performing and were all a little lackadaisical. It didn’t instill me with a lot of confidence in their abilities. I am willing to chalk some of that up to it being pre-season, but it still isn’t a good sign in my book.

It's probably just the opposite, they'll likely get worse as the season progresses.

Sunday, May 18, 2008 2:01 PM
Carrie I get my season pass there, but rarely visit. I live 90 minutes away from America, and 2.5 hours from Great Adventure. I'd rather drive the extra distance for Great Adventure.

Superman is the best ride at the park, and that makes it worth one visit a season. I don't visit the waterpark because of a few previous visits.

For me it not just park itself, but the people the park attracts that ruins my experiences there. That why I prefer to visit when the park isn't crowded.

Good Trip report.

Sunday, May 18, 2008 2:32 PM
Great report. I have long heard that SFA was a really bad park, but it sounds like it was at least OK.

Were Superman and Batwing running two trains? I'm glad to hear that stupid rumor about it not opening this season were false, though I've heard it could use some paint and obviously its A back.

Sunday, May 18, 2008 4:30 PM
Carrie M.'s avatar Superman and Batwing were only running one train each. The train on Superman was having some technical difficulties, too. I believe there was an issue with one of the lap bars.

I didn't notice any paint issues for any of the coasters.

"If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins." --- Benjamin Franklin

Sunday, May 18, 2008 9:06 PM
I was looking to post some comments on Six Flags America myself as I was there on Saturday May 17th and do not see the need to start another trip report forum. I agree with much of what Carrie said, but wanted to stress a few points.

First is that I have been to four Six Flags Park and will not generalize the chain. New England and Great America were clean efficent parks the times that I have visited them. Great Adventure and America I cannot say the same for, however, I have seen some good improvements in the Jersey Park over the last two seasons.

I have been to SFA twice this season and have had two different experiences. I don't plan on going back again and instead got a season pass for the purpose of visiting other six flags parks. The first visit was their opening weekend and included a lot of mechanical break downs. Almost every ride we went to. This time around it was the operations that were horrific that were also mentioned above by Carrie.

The park was not full Saturday and should not have included the 30-45 minute waits at the major rides that it did. I have spent a good deal of time working in the industry and understand how operations should work. They were running doubles on Joker, Wild One, and Roar. I personally think it is a crime when only one train is run on a hypercoaster like superman. That happened at SFNE when I was there last year and is the only complaint I have about that park. The wait time is incredibly long along with all of the rechecks required with the Intamin Restraints. The one thing that really put me over the edge was the flash pass situations...

Flash pass on the coasters. With one train and the dispatch times we found that as much as a third of the train was taken up by flash pass users. The standard announcement at multiples coasters was, "If somebody is taking your seat they have a flash pass. If you want a flash pass you can buy one at the front of the park for $30." Anouncement happened thorughout the day. Now I brought a friend and had the parking upgrade. So with my pass the two of us didn't give a dime to the park. But for a group of four that might have paid the gate admission plus parking ($215) I can't understand how they can tell people they need to pay more money to really enjoy the park?

Another Flash Pass Example- Penquin's Blizzard- The operator left the control pannel for over a minute to talk to and admit flash pass guests. The panel was completly unatended! I was next to be seated and the gate was opened so I started to walk. The attendent stuck her arm out, waved to the flash pass people in the back of the station, and told me the "$30 speech".

The flash pass is not an awful idea. Disney and Universal pull it off well. It does require proper operation and efficency of the attractions. I don't mind it as much at the Orlando parks because the line constantly moves and there are constantly units being loaded. With service like this Six Flags is going to continue to see attendance drops with the increase per cap spending they will get through the pass sales.

Even with the coasters with two trains there were long delays. The 10 minute dispatch times were no exageration above on the Wild One and Roar. The operators would not even open the air gates until the train before was back from the course run and sitting in the brakes. It almost looked like standard procedure. The Roar staff- An operator and two attendants actually kept staring at each other and smiling each cycle while people were in the train waiting to be checked for several minutes. It actually looked like they were seeing who would crack first to actually do their job. There was no point for two train operation on the three rides that had it because they were not being used properly. Just more wear and tear on a train. They should keep it in storage.

The only maintance issue was Superman which closed twice during the four hours that I was there. When a guest asked an entrance attendant if it closed often his response was "yes". The guest then asked "how often, every 30 minutes?" He responded with "yeah, that sounds about right."

The Mindache, I mean Mind Eraser actually had several queues full with one train on the track (nothing in storage for this or superman) which looked like a 45 minute wait. I wasn't interested. I stayed for about 4 hours and threw the towel in.

I don't want to be completly negative. Both wooden coasters were running great with good speed and noticable retracking done on Roar. The park was spotless and there were security staff everywhere you looked. Pieces of the new waterslide were being installed as the opening of the waterpark approaches. I have never been to the waterpark or the park in the summer. I've been told the waterpark gets crowded and I don't want to see this park handle a crowd.

The big thing for me was the flash pass. Six Flags needs to ensure normal operation of their attractions before they can charge people for an upcharge service that inconviences others. There were constant shifts throughout the station as guests that were trying to all ride together in a train (4, 6, or 8 people) were thrown off by the people being admited for flash pass.

Sunday, May 18, 2008 9:08 PM
Can you clarify which day you were at the park, Carrie M? The title of the TR says 5/16, the first word of your first sentence says yesterday. Yesterday would have been 5/17. Thanks.

A day at the park is what you make it!

Sunday, May 18, 2008 9:23 PM
Carrie M.'s avatar Uh, yeah, I attended on 5/16/2008. I started drafting the TR yesterday, though, in which case the term "yesterday" would have applied. Oops...

"If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins." --- Benjamin Franklin

Tuesday, May 20, 2008 10:25 PM
rail junkie's avatar Very interesting SFA trip report

My buddy and I didn't get SFA 2008 season pass. Because we don't like the way SFA i running. One time my buddie and I where waiting in the Two-Face The Flip Side and when it was our turn to ride. The ride attendant let a whole bunch of Flash pass holders board the train and didn't bothered to open up the air gates for the rest of us. So we had to wait for the next cycle. Afte we rode Two-Face we went to guest relation and complan about the way that they were runing Two-Face. And anther tme my budie and I where waitin the 1st row to ride SROS. The ride attantdent let the Flash pass holders pick any row. there one row which I for get is for Flash pass holders. And to top it off they were only running one train. I looked at my buddie and told him that this was my very last day going to SFA.

To me the Flash Pass aren't working and I really want SFA to get ride of the Flash Pass. I also told my buddie that I won't go back to SFA unless they change. *** Edited 5/21/2008 2:26:30 AM UTC by rail junkie***

Rail Junkie
Tuesday, May 20, 2008 11:49 PM
I just happened to be in the area last weekend and I also went to SFA on Friday for the first time. (I flew a jet in for the Andrews Air Show)

I got a season pass because I plan on hitting a couple of parks this year and that process went well once I got to process my pass at 1 pm.

I showed up just after the park opened. Mind Eraser was first to get it over with. I didn't think it was too bad but I always sit near the front on these suckers and ride very defensively.

Next was Joker's Jinx. I love that ride but I only waited 1 train and it looked like horrible waits the rest of the day and they had 2 trains!!

Superman was fantastic! I want to ride the one up at SFNE so much more now! I rode middle, back, and second row. All were unreal, but the back and front really toss you out for that ejector air. (I asked the ride op about the second train and he said it was still getting fixed up but they plan on running two...I would hope so!!)

Batwing was great. 1 train wait for the front row. I love flying coasters, even if B&M flyers are way better IMO.

Next was Roar. I loved this ride! I think it would be even better with GCI's special trains but the PTC's they run do a good job on this twisted coarse. I had three rides on this, front, back, middle and enjoyed them all.

The Wild One was a pleasant surprise especially with its unique history that is told in the queue line. I thought this wooden was exceptional. I had two rides in the front and back.

Got my season pass processed and took my coupon book and bought a medium dippin dots that got me the coaster car bowl with the coupon. My daughter loves her new coaster car bowl!

I really enjoyed the park, but I went early, it was the first Friday it was open, it was rainy/overcast, and so the crowds weren't really there. I don't think I would ever go to this park in peak would be a nightmare because I saw a lot of the attitudes that have been discussed above. These employees need a boss that can liven them up, show them how to do a good job, and really mentor them. Attitude reflects leadership and I think we all know what that really means!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008 12:16 AM
Before ruling out the rest of the chain, I recommend checking out Great Adventure, New England, or Over Georgia. At each of these, I have experienced nothing but great dispatch intervals, great rides, and service with a smile. SFOG is the only one of the three I haven't been to this year, but last year and the year before proved to be a great time. From all the reports over the years, and the few from this year, it really seems like SFA is the ugly step child of Six Flags, and the park stuck in a time warp from the old management.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008 11:22 AM
Out of all of these reports from this year, no one has mentioned going on Two-Face. Was it open?

Over Texas, St. Louis, and Great America I haven't had any major problems with. At Over Georgia, they will put the train on later in the day if they feel they need to which wastes too much time. Start the day with both trains, and end the day the same.

They also close the park when they see the time it's 5 minutes before closing, and let's just close it, or it could be 15 minutes. Who cares (at Over Georgia), let's make up when the park closes.

To stick up for SFA, they have a number of rides that aren't just typical coasters. Joker's Jinx has the LIM's, and some of those rides aren't always working like a standard lifthill chain ride, and regular course. Batwing, is a flying coaster. It's complicated. I don't know what the problem is with Superman, but it was having problems when I went after I left.

It was stuck on the lifthill. I didn't care. I don't know how bad Two-Face is doing. People say it's mostly open until I visit the park. The Octopus, I think they had problems with. Skull Mountain is another one, and don't forget about Tower of Doom (3 side Generation Drop ride which doesn't always have 3 sides working).

I think the problem stems from the fact that it is a smaller park, and it gets a smaller attendance. Thus, Six Flags doesn't want to dump the maintenance money into this park compared to an Over Texas, and Great America. I don't think that St. Louis needs as much maintenance money like this park does.

That's my opinion on why rides are broken down at Six Flags America. Sometimes, they just aren't fixing the rides at all, and they aren't open though because of staffing. If you go to Six Flags America, and you get to go on Superman, Joker's Jinx, Wild One, Avalanche, Skull Mountain, Two-Face, Tower of Doom, Octopus, Shoot-the-Chutes, and Batwing, you should pat yourself on the back, and brag to people.

Mr. Freeze seems to be the little trouble they have over there, and Xcalibur, they are the ones that get that thing running when Great Adventure couldn't.

Get Ready. Get Set. Spinout! Six Flags America: The Park that is Full of Disappointments
Wednesday, May 21, 2008 12:54 PM
Carrie M.'s avatar Two-Face was not operating when I attended. The web site indicated it would be closed and it was.

"If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins." --- Benjamin Franklin

Wednesday, May 21, 2008 1:20 PM
Kick The Sky's avatar

Parker17 said:
$20 for preferred parking??? Wow... Even $15 is over the roof for just regular parking. How about bringing these prices down SF. From what I hear also Vitamin Water from the vending machines is $4!! It's insulting really.

Welcome to the cost of things when you are being entertained. Six Flags is not the only company charging these kinds of prices and the amusement park industry is not the only one that charges these prices.

For example, I pay 20+ dollars to park every time I go to an NBA game in Milwaukee. I pay 15 bucks to park for Major League baseball. To go to the summer festivals in Milwaukee, I pay 20-25 bucks to park. At all of those events I pay about 3-4 bucks for a bottle of water or soda. If you want beer, expect to pay upwards of 6 bucks or more, even if it's Miller, and that is brewed right in town.

Certain victory.

Sunday, May 25, 2008 11:55 PM
Superman should be the easiest coaster in the park to keep operating. Check the lapbars, hit the dispatch button, and it's on its way up the lift hill. So what goes wrong? It sets up all the time.

I've heard from a reliable source that the computer sometimes thinks there's a phantom coaster in the same block so it stops on the lift. I'm not sure I understand why this problem can't be fixed after nine years of operation.

Spinout, I'm not sure I would agree with your comment about St. Louis not needing as much maintenance as SFA does. After all, they have The Boss, a monstrosity of a coaster that must take hours every morning to inspect.

As far as them getting Xcalibur working when Great Adventure couldn't get it working as Evolution, I'm not sure what the answer is. I tried five times at Gadv. and missed every time.

My friend who rode it said that the program was way more intense at Gadv. because the part at the top lasted far too long. People were constantly getting sick. So he got the Evolution original program credit and I got the Jump credit twice.

Back to SFA, here's where I disagree with you. You say that SFA's a smaller park, therefore it gets a smaller attendance. Have you noticed all the available room to build on inside the existing park? The possibilities get really crazy when you add in the undeveloped property.

I think if someone else were to take over the park, that it could be brought up to the standards of a larger park i.e., more rides, more restaurant choices, bathrooms in lower Gotham City (yes that's a broken record that won't stop skipping, but come on!) Rides that need paint badly (like Batwing) would finally get it.

And I don't think it helps that four flats got removed over time. This contributes to the small park feel when you have fewer options of things to do.

About dispatches taking too long, there just has to be improvement made or they're going to lose even more people. I went opening weekend, and man was I getting annoyed by how long it was taking. I don't remember things ever being this bad in the past.

Lastly, I'm glad Hurricane Harbor is now open, because the attitude always seems to be more relaxed in HH than the main park.

Monday, May 26, 2008 12:31 AM
Superman problems really started when they modified the restraint system, and the block system, before that it was one of the parks most reliable rides it never used to break.

Last i heard was Roar couldn't get M-Flyers because SFA voided there warrenty with GCI.


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