Sometimes, Bigger Isn't Better: SFMM vs. Knott's

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Tuesday, July 4, 2006 6:57 PM
Last week, I was in LA for a family reunion, and any time I go to LA, I have to make time for an amusement park, and normally, it's a fight between SFMM and Knott's. On this trip, though, I was lucky enough to have time to go to both parks.

Six Flags Magic Mountain - 6/26/06

Today is a 12 hour day: 10am to 10pm. I get to the park at about 10:30, forfeiting any chances of finding any coaster with a line shorter than a 45 minute long wait, but I check Tatsu's line anyway. Judging by all the squirming the line did in AND out of the queue line, I estimated the wait time to be somewhere around an hour and a half, even with the cool duel station thing it had and 3 trains running. I needed a warm up coaster anyway. It had been a year since I've been on a coaster, so I decided to go on something a little less fierce before hitting the big coasters.

Revolution was the shortest line in the area with a 45 minute long wait. This is always a cool coaster, and perfect for getting someone back into the coaster groove. They should do a little more trimming to the trees around it, though. I almost hit a couple branches with my hands up. It baffled me why they were also only running one train on this one. I though it could run up to 3 trains. Waiting for that one train to go around ticked me off a little.

After Revolution, I wanted to go on X, but this line was almost worst than Tatsu, being about 3 days long. So I skipped it. X wasn't too high of a priority for me since I've been on it on several other occasions in years past. Viper was next for me. I was happy too see two trains running on it. The line moved much faster on this, but, much like Revolution, the station was about dead! There was no enthusiasm from most of the passengers or the ride operators. I did some yelling of my on before my train left to liven the place up, and the other passengers did the same. It doesn't take much to get people excited, which is something SFMM ride operators haven't gotten an understanding of yet. The back seat on Viper is the best, mainly because of the airtime coming off of the chainlift. I LIVE for that feeling.

After Viper, I got in line for Tatsu, which had shortened enough for me to stand in it. It took a little less than an hour to get to the station, where, once again, the most exciting thing was the sound of the coaster dispatching from the station. The duel station can get pretty confusing, but does seem like it works pretty well. Tastu is, by far, the coolest coaster experience I've ever had. 100,000x better than X. The placement of the coaster is perfect for it's theme and gives riders a full view of the park as they fly around. I underestimated the pretzel loop, too. That is a lot of force on you at the bottom of it. The pretzel loop it the coolest inversion I've ever been through. That one was something I definitely had to do later a few more times.

Now, I made my way to the back end of the park. Amazingly, of the 4 or 5 times I've been to the Mountain, I've never been on Psyclone. I was told it was too rough to enjoy, so I've dodged it, but I wanted to see for myself how this thing was, and it turned out to be pretty cool. Being the first wooden coaster I had been on for a year, I forgot the nature of woodies. It was rough, but not as bad as I thought it would be. I enjoyed it a lot.

Bypassing Riddler because of it's long line, I made my way to Colossus. The line for Colossus was about 10 people long AND they were running two trains, so I didn't have a problem doing this one twice. The first time, I was in back because I was a back of the coaster person, and it was cool, but the second time, I sat in the front. After that ride, I was converted. The front seat is where it's at. The back was great for airtime, but the front is all hangtime, wind in your face action after every drop. The front seat is now my favorite seat on coasters, especially woodies.

Next was Scream, about 40 feet away from Colossus's exit. Nothing much here. It seems like this coaster hadn't ever been popular with people. I was at the park a few months after it opened, and the line was just as short then than it was now, about 2 full trainloads long. I think it's a pretty unique coaster, but I guess it's not a park favorite. So, in about 10 minutes, I was on and off, ready for what was next, which I decided would be Batman.

Again, one train running, so it took forever to get through the line. Batman's a great ride, but I think I like the bigger inverted coasters, like Silver Bullet. The compactness of Batman makes it really rough for an inverted coasters, but I like it's fast pace and nonstop action.

I went to get in line for Goliath because I've never left the Mountain with out going on Goliath. It was the first coaster I had ever ridden there, so I've made it tradition to make sure I ride it at least once while at the park...but it had shut down. Some "technical difficulties" had come up, apparently, so I moved on.

Tastu again. The line was much shorter now, and the second time ridding it was way better. This time, I prepared myself for the pretzel loop.

X was broken down now...go figure. I expected that, so I moved on again over to Riddler. Two trains were running, to the line moved pretty quickly again.

Next was Ninja, two trains running, then Tatsu twice more times, then the park began closing, but over in the distance, 235 feet in the air, I heard screaming. Goliath was back open. With about 10 minutes until 10 o'clock, I raced over to the hyper coaster and got in line, catching one of the last trains that ran for the night, and my day was complete. Great coasters, but not too much of a fun park.

Knott's Berry Farm - 6/28/06

Well, now that I've had a day to rest, it's time to go back at it at Knott's. Another 12 hour day was ahead of me, but I wasn't in as much of a hurry here with the park being about half the size of the Mountain. The first thing I got on was the famous Ghostrider. This was the first coaster I had ever been on, and what a wild coaster it was, so I found it appropriate to begin my day here. Silver Bullet wasn't open yet anyway. It was still testing.

The park was not too crowded, to Ghostrider's line wasn't long at all and it had two trains running. It only took about 30 minutes to get on. I blew out my vocal cords at the Mountain, so I couldn't do too much yelling today, despite as much as I wanted to on Ghostrider. This is one of my favorite coasters EVER. It has constant, rough action, just like a wooden coasters were made for.

Silver Bullet had opened while I was in line for Ghostrider, so I made my way over to it. Two trains were running and after the inconsistent number of running trains at the Mountain, this really surprised me. Again, a very quick line for a very cool ride, but here's where Knott's always beats the Mountain: ride operator enthusiasm. There was always constant conversation over the intercom and involvement of passengers in jokes. This was entertaining for the people waiting and fun for passengers who happen to participate.

Anyway, I love Silver Bullet's layout right on top of everything. The ride into about three sections of the park really enhances the ride experience.

After Silver Bullet, I was ready to get on the coolest ride in the park. I skipped Superman at the Mountain for it because I knew it was 5x better. Next, I wanted to go on Xelerator, but, strangely, I hadn't heard it running all morning, so I went over to see what the deal was. They just told me it was closed and they didn't know when it was going to reopen. So, disappointed, I moved on.

Next was boomerang and, if they could, I'm sure they would have been running two trains on this one too...lol. The line was so short that I got in line and got on at the same time. Riding it makes it seem a lot higher than what it looks, even in the front seat.

After that, it was Rip Tide. This ride was so wicked the last time I rode it, that I said I wouldn't ever ride it again. It was too intense for me then, but here I am, finding myself in line again. I did it twice, once on the back side, and once on the front. If you know Rip Tide, then it's needless to say that I was drenched.

The rest of the day was a lot of the same: Silver Bullet, Ghostrider, Supreme Scream, and Montezuma's Revenge over and over and over again, with and Mystery Lodge show shoved in there somewhere. Finally, at about 7 o'clock from the far corner of the park, a launch is heard and screams go off.

Xelerator finally opened.

And, even after being down for more than half of the day, there were still two trains running on it. I race across the park from Bigfoot Rapid to get in line and ensure I get on at least once before I leave, but one time is never enough. It stays open all the way up until the park closes at ten, and in that 3 hour period, I ride it about 6 times, along with another go around Silver Bullet and a night ride on Ghostrider.

The day was fun, energetic, and by far better than the Mountain. Knott's had 1) Better, more enthusiastic ride operators, 2) More entertainment/shows, 3) More trains running on all rides.

While I was in LA, I had heard rumors from a couple of sources that the Mountain was closing. Honestly, I wouldn't care if they did close because if I had to choose between Knott's and the Mountain, I'd choose Knott's every time. Knott's may not have as many coasters as the Mountain, but the coasters they do have are incredible and it's an all around funner park. But I doubt if they close Magic Mountain. Too much money has been invested into the park at this point to end it. If they had intentions on closing the park, Tatsu would not have been built. If anything happens to the Mountain, it will be sold, not closed. I say let Cedar Fair buy the Mountain. Two Cedar Fair parks in one city would be incredible!

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Tuesday, July 4, 2006 8:55 PM
Good TR, even if the park isn't great I'd love to go to MM just to ride the coasters. Knott's was great fun when I went and I was able to marathon Xcelerator, which is something rarely done on that type of ride.
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Tuesday, July 4, 2006 10:00 PM
Glad to see another excited front seat rider in the making. I always make a point to try and ride front seat on any ride, espically the ones I know I'm only gonna get one chance to ride (read: Millennium Force), and it always makes it worth it. Air is fun and all, but the view is where it's at.

Launch coasters in the front are the best. Not sure if you did Xcelerator in the front or not, but do it on any other launch coasters you come across. Wow.

-nesdude

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Wednesday, July 5, 2006 6:45 PM

Lee Grant said:

Two Cedar Fair parks in one city would be incredible!


And an incredibly stupid business decision. Cedar Fair just bought 5 parks and is up to their waist in debt. They're not going to buy another park that's been underperforming for years so they can compete with themselves (though they did buy SFWoA...so who knows?)

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Wednesday, July 5, 2006 7:11 PM
The Worlds of Adventure purchase is probably the best indicator why CF would NOT buy Magic Mountain. Taking over a Six Flags park with a bad reputation didn't work out too well for them in Ohio. Stranger things have happened, but I just wouldn't bet on this scenario.

Also, I wouldn't use Tatsu as an indicator of the park's future. Something pivotal happened in between the time Tatsu was announced and all the contracts reached an irreversable state of construction and the time that Six Flags made the announcement that they were thinking of ditching the property.

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Wednesday, July 5, 2006 7:30 PM
The SFWoA purchase was a steal---most People That Know (tm) seem to agree that they got it for a fraction of its asset value, though I think in hindsight many of those people have come to the conclusion the negative impression of "six flags" in the Cleveland market cost more than they bargained for. Much in the same way that Shapiro and his team seem to have underestimated the impact of the penny-pinching Burke regime.

In one of the conference calls related to the Paramount announcement, a CF exec went so far as to say that they would not be looking to expand in the near future unless a once-in-a-lifetime deal came about. My guess is that given the raw land values in Valencia, there's no way this park can be bought on the cheap. That pretty much rules out CF.

CF *could* be in the running for some of the other parks that might go for much less relative to their value, though. Who knows?

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Wednesday, July 5, 2006 8:11 PM
Pancake,

Your trying to make it sound like Cedar Fair has given up all attempts to make Geauga Lake work. While I will never be a fan of Cedar Fair, I got to say that they have only just begun to turn Geauga Lake around.

Gotta say though, I've never noticed any of the bad reputation that you speak of, Unless your considering Six Flags former ownership of the park, as the bad rep.

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Wednesday, July 5, 2006 9:27 PM
Yes, Geauga Lake is making a turn for the better compared to just three years ago. It's a much more noticeable difference. They still have a little ways to go to eliminate the bad rep but it's definitely changing from the things I've been seeing/hearing around here, which has been mostly positive.

However I don't think SFWoA had as bad a rep as SFMM has had in the past and could be the reason why Geauga Lake has begun its recovery.

X Factor *** Edited 7/6/2006 1:32:06 AM UTC by X Factor***

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Wednesday, July 5, 2006 9:32 PM

Coasterphan said:
Unless your considering Six Flags former ownership of the park, as the bad rep.

Yes, they're still trying to win back support lost during the Six Flags reign.

Given how slow that's been in Ohio, I can't see how taking on Magic Mountain could seem attractive to CF. The Paramount Parks they recently obtained have no such stigma.

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Wednesday, July 5, 2006 10:09 PM
I was at the park for a few hours this afternoon and operations were relatively quick and efficient. The park was not too crowded, but there was still a good amount of guests. Some quick notes:

The line for Tatsu was the shortest I've seen all summer, but what suprised me was that ALL THREE trains were in operation with both stations running. I was expecting a two train, one station operation considering the switchback part of the queue wasn't even being used. The line moved VERY quickly, but I used Flash Pass.

Revolution, Scream! and Viper were all in two train operation, despite the lines being relatively short. Everything else, I'm not too sure because I didn't ride them.

The biggest thing that "hit me" today was that there were few families. I never really thought about it considering I go to the park quite frequently and fall into the "young adult" category, but the amount of little kids with parents are definetely not as abundant as the new management wants to see. There WERE families, but not the same amount you'd see at Universal Studios or Disneyland.

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Wednesday, July 5, 2006 10:41 PM
Great TR. But, since you had the choice between SFMM and Knotts, I'm struggling to understand why you didn't chose to go to Disney :) (My personal preference :) )

Kraxel: I agree....in case you didn't read my recent TR (with Tatsu doing 5 minute dispatches...UGH!), my friend and I counted all afternoon the number of traditional family units we saw. Our criteria were mom and dad (wearing wedding rings) with at least one child somewhere between birth and 10). In our 6 hours in the park we saw either 4 or 5 "families" walking around. The day after we were at Disneyland....they have what Shapiro wants...you could spit and hit 7 familes. Another point...at SFMM my friend who is 41 felt like the oldest person in the park. It seemed that 99.5% of all people were between 14-29. Of those, many looked (how shall I say this kindly...) like they weren't the friendliest of people. In fact, we overheard MANY unfriendly things. If my kid heard half of the things we heard...ugh..... *** Edited 7/6/2006 2:49:18 AM UTC by Peabody***

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Wednesday, July 5, 2006 11:58 PM
SFMM has always attracted a buttload of rowdy teens, at least since I started going in the mid 90's. It's location (25 miles from the San Fernando Valley) doesn't help.

The difference now is that I'm 35, and my tolerance is MUCH lower for that crap then it was 10 years ago. You could also count on some well-to-do Santa Clarita families to balance things out, but they stopped going years ago. Teens have almost single-handedly supported SFMM for years now (which is pretty remarkable), but obviously that just isn't enough anymore.

Burke/Story weren't completely stupid, they knew who they were marketing to, and building for. I don't care what anyone says, the MAIN reason the park is in such a mess is because operations and maintainance slipped so badly *across the chain*. The smaller parks are easier to re-mode, with SFMM, where to begin? *** Edited 7/6/2006 4:04:48 AM UTC by DWeaver***

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Thursday, July 6, 2006 12:40 AM
Okay, the Cedar Fair buying Magic Mountain was just a nice idea. Yeah, I am aware that Cedar Fair has gone spending crazy over other parks, and will probably never be able to afford the Mountain. But after the transformation of Knott's since 1997, I just thought, man, what a park the Mountian would be if it was owned by Cedar Fair. They seem to have the right idea on how to run a park and they'll probably work wonders with the new parks they have.

Disneyland doesn't even exist on my "places to go list". I've been there before and it's a cool park for families and little kids, but, c'mon. Their tallest ride is one of their oldest ones: Matterhorn Mountian. I'm more of a drop-me-from-as-high-as-you-can person. I don't have time for a park that doesn't top 100 ft. Same thing applies to California Adventure.

After I posted my TR, I made my way over to Screamscape to see what they had to say about the Mountian closure, and they make some sense. Tatsu is not the only coaster that's hard to put in another park. You still have Ninja, Viper, Goliath and the legandary Superman that are either too big to fit in another park or are made specially for the Mountain, some that still have major expencive problems, like X and Deja'vu, and others that no one cares about buying: Flashback, Colossus, Psyclone, and Goldrusher. I'm agreeing with their theory of this whole thing being joke to boost attendance for what people will think are last visits to the park.

My solution: build more inexpencive flat rides. Really, how many extreme flat rides do they have now that aren't almost a decade old? Thrill Shot? It seems like the Mountain is one of the few parks that haven't caught on to this concept yet. Get rid of one of their log flumes, make room on the side of the mountain and put up something...ANYTHING that's new and can either swing, spin, or both.

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