Smaller, More Refined Coaster/Ride Collections Better for Business?

sirloindude's avatar

I was reading about the new wooden coaster at OCT China (or whatever the name of that park is) and looking at the magnitude of the project with regards to theme as well as the ride itself, and I found myself wondering, is it better to have fewer coasters and rides so long as they're done properly?

I chose Busch Gardens Williamsburg as my original example, but the Tampa park works just as well (I'm leaving out Disney and Universal as I'm not sure that would really work in too many places). They don't have too many coasters, but when you consider how well each of them are executed, it doesn't feel like those parks are really lacking anything. Those parks are more than just gated collections of rides galore. Each addition seems very well-planned and again, very well-executed. What's more, it doesn't give off the impression that the parks are somehow neglected if they don't get a new ride every single year.

Now consider a park like, say, Cedar Point, which seems to be on a quest to fill every last inch of land with a footer. Not only that, but it seems like they have to shell out obscene amounts of cash on monstrous new additions every year or 2 just to keep people interested. Heck, even take a look at Kings Dominion and the way their rides were installed. There seems to be a noticeable difference between the way Dominator and Intimidator 305 were installed and the way the rest of the coasters were installed. It looked very obvious to me where the Paramount influences and the Cedar Fair influences were. Ditto a number of Six Flags parks with their outrageous focus on production models. There just didn't seem to be any personality or finesse with the way those rides were installed, and I'm curious, if they were done up right with regards to themes and all, would the parks perhaps have enjoyed some better financial performance?

On top of that, if Cedar Point removed Mean Streak and replaced it with trees and scenery, would anybody be that upset about it? Sure, it's pretty and all, but it isn't like it's everybody's favorite ride. Removing it saves all the costs associated with running and especially keeping up a ride like that, not to mention the costs of staffing it. It would also restore a more natural look to that area of the park rather than the general slab-of-concrete-with-rides-on-top look most people credit the park with having.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm wondering if doing up each addition better, thereby saving money outright by not having to add so much stuff all the time, is a more financially smart way of developing parks, and potentially a better way to achieve a nicer return on investment.

13 Boomerang, 9 SLC, and 8 B-TR clones

Jeff's avatar

It's not that a few solid rides make the experience better, it's that there's more to do than just the rides. The BG parks in particular make the food itself an attraction, and they're big on atmosphere and shows.

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ridemcoaster's avatar

Not sure you kept up with the news much Sirloindude, but the park changed hands a few times and for a couple of years was in a state of flux. Pushing out a new expensive ride for companies trying to sell is bad mojo. Especially when the first buying group clearly wasn't interested in rides. While you dont see new rides there now.. It doesnt mean you wont in the future.

Now that they have their financial "legs" back. Im quite sure you will see things happening again.

And I echo Jeffs remarks. BGW, is more of the family themeing than the rides. Its always been that way. Add oddly enough, been very successful with that, even when compared to its sister parks.

Tekwardo's avatar

I think that 'solid' rides do make a difference, though, in the grand scheme of more than just rides.

My favorite example is Dollywood. The 3 adult coasters are well done and solid rides. The family coaster is a lot of fun, and the kiddy coaster is in a well done area. In fact, I think all of the rides at Dollywood are very good quality.

But, then, like the Seaworld Ent. parks, Dollywood makes food an attraction, with multiple full service and counter service options of real, good food. Then they have good shows. The atmosphere is spectacular. They have a bald eagle sanctuary. They have other attractions like the church and the Dolly museum.

To me, though, what really makes the difference in parks like that are the choices they make. Dollywood in the last three years added a cool water ride, and this year's adventure mountain thing, and it was the right thing to do. Last year, skipping out on adding an attraction was the right thing to do.

But these are parks that have been ran fairly well from the get go, unlike other larger corperate parks that change management and some of which lost sight at some point or another of how to run a business. Not an anti corperate park rant, as both Dollywood and Busch Gardens are corporate parks. I just think the corporations running them have done a better job.

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I think the food-as-an-attraction is an interesting, and very valid point.

I feel like a lot of the corporate chains completely overlook how integral food is to a guest’s experience at a park. When was the last time you had a meal at a Cedar Fair park that you would call special? A Six Flags park? Hell even Hershey suffers from the same problem. Who wants to go to a park and get overpriced Subway with half the menu missing? And honestly, when was the last time you thought to yourself, “ You know what I could really go for? Chicken tenders.”

The parks that are the most successful; the Disneys, the Universals, the Busch parks, and even smaller places like Holiday World; succeed because they deliver a total package. For a day you are somewhere that strives to make everything an experience, an escape, something to remember, something fun. When parks skimp on food, it means that part of your day is, no matter what, going to be something you endure rather than enjoy. That means that people enjoy their day less, regardless of how excellent the rides are. That means that the next time they’re thinking of visiting, they know that at least 2 meals worth of their day (so an hour or two of their time) isn’t going to be fun either because the food’s bad or because they know they’re going to get ripped off and there’s nothing they can do about it. That means that unless there’s something new and exciting to draw them in, there are other, cheaper alternatives for entertainment that they know will have a higher $/fun ratio.

I submit that the parks that are the most stable/most successful, are those that spend a bit more money on providing the total guest experience, and a bit less on annual ride additions.

Last edited by BBSpeed26,


sirloindude's avatar

I in no way disagree with what any of you have said, as I feel the same way. I know rides are but a single part of what makes a park what it is. I was just curious if you think that a ride that is done up extremely well from a theme perspective, and perhaps a layout and environmental integration perspective as well, holds the attention of the masses longer than, say, a ride slapped into a park with no theme of any sort to really back it up.

Essentially, I'm just asking if you think that from a business perspective as well as a park-goer's perspective, do you feel that a ride like Montu, with its surrounding theme and environment, is a smarter addition than, say, Scream! at SFMM, and if parks took approaches similar to the Busch parks, for example, would the coaster collections of the world look a lot different and perhaps not be as large as some are?

13 Boomerang, 9 SLC, and 8 B-TR clones

Mamoosh's avatar

sirloindude said:
...holds the attention of the masses longer than, say, a ride slapped into a park with no theme of any sort to really back it up.

Like SFMM's Scream? Never has a long line, plopped right down in the middle of the parking lot (painted lines still visible!).

Tekwardo's avatar

I think if Thunderhead and Tennessee Tornado were on flat land in a flat park on asphalt, with Mystery Mine having no theming, and the rest of the park was flat, with the same rides, no atmosphere, and subpar food, you'd have Wild Adventures. Thankfully it looks like Herschend is transforming Wild Adventures into a park with better atmosphere.

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I can see both perspectives of quantity vs quality. However, infrastructure is the key to success in my opinion. True, large coasters will result in a huge draw for a temporary amount of time, but when a family decides to travel to a park, parents especially look beyond coasters and rides. First off, a clean park is a successful one, because no one wants to walk around food spills, avoid touching a dirty restroom, and experience a general feeling of filth throughout the day. Second, are there shows and scenery? Not every trip is a coaster marathon to a family. Thrirdly, a variety of affordable food options provides a much needed convenience. Lastly, a good park needs shade, shade, and more shade with plentiful benches for escaping the heat. Congratulations to Dollywood and Busch Gardens for touching all bases effectively. Finally, I hope well-themed additions like Maverick and Shoot the Rapids are a sign of Cedar Point's commitment to quality in the future.

I don't know if theming is as much the proper word to use as planning. Anyone can say "let's put up some wooden buildings, not paint them, and voila, we have a western area." Unfortunately, anyone can also say "it's time to put in another ride. Where can we fit it in?"

Planning involves a great many things other than thinking about what new rides to install. It involves things like traffic flow-- how easily people can get to and from and also through and around future attractions. Don't create dead ends where people have to turn around and walk back into oncoming guests. Also don't put a really cool attraction way out on the edge of the park and make people walk through acres of nothing to get there. Not only guest traffic has to be considered, but also employee traffic. Expansions should be planned so that, as much as possible, all the behind the scenes stuff stays behind the scenes.

I also think planning needs to be done on a more regional scale rather than on a ride by ride basis. Again, I don't mean that parks should say "OK,we'll put nursery rhyme land over here, and over there will be space galaxy world." Instead I mean, parks should think "we have x number of acres here we want to develop in the next 5-10 years. Or, we want to refurbish this part of the park. What will the terrain allow us to put in? How do we connect this to the areas that are already developed? What's the best way to extend infrastructure and provide rest rooms, food service, games and gift shops?

I'm sure a lot of parks already think that way, and it shows with the way they present their attractions. Of course, no park can predict what kind of technology or rides are going to be available within the next decade. Or whether they'll have the means to execute the entire plan in full. But the planning is still necessary. It seems elementary, yet there are so many examples of poor planning and presentation out there.

I yanked this paragraph from The Mole's HW/KI trip report, which he happened to post today. Fits perfectly here:

The Mole said:

While Holiday World was a park full of quality entertainment, Kings Island felt like a discount warehouse. I saw sings for "EVERYTHING UNDER $10!" and outside vendors. That's nice, but I can get Starbucks, Skyline, and Greater's Ice Cream within a 5 minute drive of my car, so why should I drive an hour and spend MORE to buy the same stuff? I bought more at HW not just because of the drinks, but because of what they offered. HW has tons of great "classic" designed tshirts, while KI had bland, unappealing clothes and toys. I could get glass wares, fudge, and so much more at HW than KI, so why would I spend any more than just on their somewhat ok food?

As for coasters, I don't know if theming necessarily constitutes a more desireable ride, as some of the best coasters out there lack a theme, but a ride needs... personality. Scream was a great example of a soulless ride, but even effectively un-themed rides like Millennium Force have some personality to them, their queue, their experience.

On the bright side for parks, it seems to me that it's a lot harder to build a total failure these days than it was even 15 years ago. What coasters built in the last ten years can anyone think of that would constitute outright failures? I can think of one (SOB) and that's a full 10 years ago now. That's good though, both for us and the parks. Knowing that going into business with a B&M or a Premier or a GCI etc. means that you're going to get at the very bare minimum a *good* ride theoretically frees up some of the risk associated with sinking additional money in for atmosphere and themeing beyond your standard ride-in-a-parking-lot. I like to think that parks like Dollywood investing in rides like Mystery Mine is something that we'll start to see more of in the not-so-distant future.


BGW, is more of the family themeing than the rides.

We invited friends from our grad school/residency days to join us on our Williamsburg vacation this year. They aren't "riders", and they weren't even going to by BGW tickets until I hooked them up with the bounce pass.

They ended up spending more time in BGW than anywhere else that week, and really enjoyed themselves, hardly getting on what any of us would call "a ride".

But, I also agree with the broader point. The four coasters there kept my family in the game as well, because they are done well. It's a surprisingly good balance---and a relatively rare one. I think Dolllywood might be another good example of the parks I've visited. Strangely enough, WDW isn't---it's a little tame for us, really. We still enjoy it, but we're starting to wonder how long it will be before our Orlando visits come "Universal/Sea World" trips, not "Disney" trips. I'm guessing a year, maybe two.

Last edited by Brian Noble,

An example of a smaller park that focuses on the total experience is Lake Compounce. They may not have nearly as many coasters as SFNE but they have a good variety of other rides, a variety of shows, beautiful landscaping, good food at reasonable prices, and managable waiting times for rides.

Arthur Bahl

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