The Price of Access at SFGAdv.

Perfect sunny, Sunday afternoon on Columbus Day weekend. It’s been a couple of years since I was at Great Adventure. Really impressed with the improved boardwalk, and the addition of the Golden Kingdom. I can’t remember when Six Flags spent so much on a themed area for the park. With the addition of Superman, Blackbeard, El Toro and Kingda Ka the park seemed much improved. I stared to feel like Six Flags was on the right track, that maybe they could turn things around.

However, by noon the lines became long. Superman, Medusa and Nitro all had two hour long lines, El Toro three hour and Kingda Ka four hours. The line for Kingda Ka got so long they stopped letting people into line, yet Q-Botters continued getting in. At times I’ve encountered the rare 3 hour long line for the ride the whole world wanted to ride. But these type of line seemed like standard practice for big rides at Great Adventure.

I realized even if I waited in line all day I wouldn’t get access to more than two coasters. They offered me a cockroach to avoid the line, but the thought of paying to eat a cockroach, the idea of entangling one of the worst experiences of my life with roller coasters I just couldn’t stomach. The better option seemed to be to wait in line for an hour to purchase a Q-Bot for $32, then cut in front of hundreds of unfortunates stranded in never ending lines.

Kingda Ka was about what I expected, a one hill wonder with a finish that left you wanting more. Nitro was again brilliant, as good as it’s ever been. Superman felt short, not quite as good as the Superman in SFOG. El Toro was as smooth as it was intense, a much wilder ride than Kingda Ka. I loved it and was sad that I couldn’t imagine getting a chance to ride it again. The two longest lines I Flash Passed, doubling my coaster output from 2 coasters to 4 in seven hours time.

Now I’ve been to just about every park in the country, some many times over, and I have never seen lines as bad as I saw in Great Adventure today. Even SFWoA at its worst was better than this. And this was not just a crowded day at the park. I was at Disney’s Magic Kingdom when they were at max capacity, when it was so crowded people had a trouble just walking around the park, just literally bursting at the seems. Three times as many people, and I never waited in line for more than a half hour, while accessing three times as many attractions. We were pretty smart with the Fast Pass, still I had Flash Pass at Six Flags and it couldn’t compete, not even close. It was a disaster.

I sure didn’t see too many happy faces at the park, but Six Flags may have felt differently as it advertised it’s two millionth sale of Flash Pass. At $32 a pop with about half purchasing Gold Pass at $64, I think we’re talking about a 100 million dollar profit. I’m not sure if this number was gained just at Great Adventure or all Six Flags parks, but a 100 million is nothing to sneeze at.

Some have rejected the idea Six Flags is profiting from long lines, suggesting this keeps people from purchasing food in drinks. I haven’t found long lines to suppress appetites or thirsts, which is why food and drink is available during the long lines. With the Q-Bot I found I had nothing but time to eat and look in gift shops as I waited for my ride. So, I don’t know why some think people stop buying the longer they wait in lines.

Despite Six Flags’ efforts to double the number of roller coasters in most of their parks, the result over the past few years has been some of the world’s longest lines, and management seems okay with that. It seems they have resigned to the fact that they can’t convince more people to come to their parks, so what they are left with trying to squeeze more money out of the people who are still going. And I sure got squeezed today.

Is this standard operating procedure for the Great Adventure now? Did I use the Q-Bot wrong or should I have gotten the Gold-Bot instead? Should people have to eat cockroaches to regain access to rides? Was this Fright Fest a nightmare, or a sign of things to come for Six Flags? How hard should Six Flags squeeze the cash out of their guests before people become discouraged, and does Shapiro even care about acquiring the reputation of the world’s longest lines? Hasn’t the price of access at Six Flags increased in more ways than one at these parks? *** Edited 10/9/2006 4:41:02 AM UTC by rc-madness***

I can see your frustration. The park does tend to get 'summertime' crowded around this time. The thing though is that 1-2 hour lines is nothing new at Great Adventure. They existed before the days of flasspass. In the old days when they ran coasters more efficiently, visit on a saturday and you would see they same mob scene.

I have been to many big parks and wait 1-2 two hours for certain rides. Some of these parks include Canada's Wonderland, Kings Island, Cedar point and Busch Gardens. Nothing negative....its just that you have to choose your visit days wisely.

Fate is the path of least resistance.

Jeff's avatar
With as many high capacity rides that park has, they shouldn't have consistently huge queue times. That doesn't make sense. I can't remember the last time I waited more than 45 minutes on the busiest of days for anything at Cedar Point (keep in mind I don't gamble on Dragster's up time and avoid it).

How you can build more rides, maintain attendance, and still have long lines defies logic.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog

$32 for a flashpass? Ouch.

So if I'm Joe Nobody and I actually want to enjoy my day (as opposed to standing in line for 3 hours), it's going to cost me $92?!

I want to check out El Toro, but I can think of a lot of other things I'd rather do for $90.

When I was there the other Saturday, it seemed the loading time for El Toro was extremely slowed down due to the safety system, where the computer lets the operator know that a bar isn't pushed far enough into your internal organs. They'd release a whole car, then have to go back and recheck all the bars. People not putting on their seatbelts, then the bar was already in place, release reattach, etc.

Too bad the couldn't have configured a 3 train operation to ease the congestion.

We also opted for the single train/single track operation on Rolling Thunder...1 hour and 20 minute wait. Even though when they were testing the ride in the morning, they were running multiple trains on 1 track. I don't get it.

Lord Gonchar's avatar

Jeff said:
I can't remember the last time I waited more than 45 minutes on the busiest of days for anything at Cedar Point (keep in mind I don't gamble on Dragster's up time and avoid it).

Good thing you weren't there this past Saturday. :)

Jeff's avatar
When the weather is that nice on a Saturday in October, I'd expect no less! I went Friday, and had minimal waits for most everything.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog

Lord Gonchar's avatar
So a sunny, warm October weekend just sucks (in terms of crowd and waits) at any large park, I guess.

Kind of common knowledge to the enthusiast types.

you cant compare the rides at disney to gadv. Most of the rides are constant like boat rides where people hop on and the car leaves , no real waiting for the car to finish the track before the next one comes on.

Nitros long waits was probably due to the people waiting for the front row. No matter how many times the ride ops announce it people will not move over to let the other rows go into the station.

eightdotthree's avatar
Gosh, I really want to go at the end of this month, but I am worried I will have one of these experiences. I have been there when its busy and its just awfull.

^ Go on a Friday night. Crowds are non-existent. By 9pm Toro and KK were no more than 10 minute waits.
If two, three and four hour lines are common at amusement parks I'd sure like to hear about it. Cause maybe my 6th sense has given me a special ability to avoid them all these years, and it isn't until now that I've clued in to the hell everyone else has been going through. Five coasters with lines over two hours long? Isn't that a little strange or is this what enthusiasts come to expect from their local thrill parks on any given weekend?

NitroFan is dead on about El Toro. The chair sensors are faulty or something, so the trains are constantly being rechecked. An additional third train would make no difference. But they're not going to fix it until the end of the year anyway, and then who knows.

When Expedition Everest opened they were pushing more people through that ride then all the coasters at SFGAdv. combined. The new ride with its problems is an excuse only goes so far, then it just sounds like what it is: excuses. At the end of the day you still end up with a ton of exhausted, ticked off guests tired of the long lines. How long is it going to be before some competitor advertises that they have shorter lines at their park? At some point not too many people will dispute that claim. *** Edited 10/9/2006 11:28:44 PM UTC by rc-madness***

Jeff said:

How you can build more rides, maintain attendance, and still have long lines defies logic.

There's the problem in a nutshell. The loss of rides to the building of rides has been at a steady decline since 1999. When you're shipping your flat rides to you other parks, and all you're left with is mainly coasters, you're going to have problems. There have been four coasters built since 1999. The amount of rides lost that everyone can ride is bigger:

1) Viper
2) Rodeo (Breakdance, now at SFOT)
3) Jumping Jack Flash (Jump)
4) Double Chance Inverter
5) Polyp
6) Evolution (now at SFSTL)
7) Frisbee (now at SFGAM)
8) Chaos

It also doesn't help that Batman & Robin the Chiller has been closed most of the season and that KK is only running two out of four trains. The Shaceshuttle (looping starship) was closed as was the Zamperla flatride next to Skull Mountain. I didn't even venture into the Batman & Robin Chiller area of the park, so I don't know if any of the flats were running in that area.

On Friday night everything was a walk-on except El Toro, which was around 20 minutes because it opened a late.
Wasn't it cold and rainy on Friday?

Jeff said:

How you can build more rides, maintain attendance, and still have long lines defies logic.

Paying thirty bucks or sixty seems crazy when there are so many people, but what else are you going to do.

Would you rather attend the park on a Friday night with nobody just for lines, or would you like to be with all those people that have come out for the october festives. Basically, it comes down to that.

Firday and Saturday for me. I wouldn't really want to miss either.


Ride On!

ApolloAndy's avatar
My experience of GAdv. has been that, while it can get crowded during the summer, fright fest on the whole is the be all and end all or crowding. I've taken a trip to the park and had to wait 1.5 hrs. to park my car, 45 minutes to play a round of DDR and then another hr. to get my car out of the lot (no exaggeration). Even on the busiest summer Saturday, I've never had to park in the overflow for Hurricane Harbor (which I had to do that day).

Hobbes: "What's the point of attaching a number to everything you do?"
Calvin: "If your numbers go up, it means you're having more fun."

Monday was extremely insane as well. El Toro's (amazing!!!) queue was full and overflowing through Plaza Del Carnival all day, with 5+ minute dispatch times. Most of the time they stacked before the air gates even opened. I don't agree that the seat sensors are faulty. Everytime a car was called out, it was for the seat of a large guest.

Kingda Ka (and its 3+ hour line) was the most inefficient operating coaster I've seen. The trains move up to launch together, and the ride takes forever to reset. Once a train leaves the station its literally 8 minutes before it dispatches again. Cost for me: 101.29 for Gold Q Bot for two. You can't get anything done in the park without it.

Top Thrill Dragster - 2005 Wicked Twister/Top Thrill Dragster - 2004
A Tale of Two Parks

It was the best of times (Cedar Point), it was the worst of times (Six Flags Great Adventure).

Seriously, how is it that CP can have a similar sized park with comparable attendance figures but the prices are lower, the lines are shorter and you don't need to pay extra to really enjoy the park.

The northeast needs another megapark that is more affordable and better run than SFGAdv.

Arthur Bahl

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