The question of X

Friday, August 29, 2003 6:21 AM
I was thinking back to my day at Six Flags Magic Mountain last week and about how miserable a day I had at a park with so much potential to be one of the best parks in the country. Then I realized something so earth-shatteringly easy for them to make the park a really nice place to visit. I don't believe I am some great park manager, hell, I have never even worked at an amusement park. My idea might be lame brained and work as well as what the park is doing now, however, it might just be the solution to their problems.

The problem I see it at Magic Mountain is a simple coaster called X. Now I know that I am going to get flamed for picking on such a wonderful coaster, and yes, part of my solution might involve tearing down the ride so I will get the "Taer it down!" crowd on my backs to. The way I want to look at this though, is from a customer relations and business point of view.

X is undoubtadly the most popular ride in the park. People run to in the minute the park gates open in the morning. People are willing to wait five hours to ride it. I will admit that it was my favorite ride in the park. The problem is that they run one train on the ride and people waiting in line can perfectly see two shiney trains sitting in the transfer track area not doing anything. My wonder is how many complaints the park gets over the ride, how many people get completely fed up with the park because of the ride and other ride operations (more on that in a bit) versus how much extra business that X draws to the park.

X is a maintenance nightmare. It doesnt run one day out of the week so they can do maintenance on the ride. It is broken down periodically throughout the week and when it is running it is running one train as anymore would start to rip the structure of the ride apart. It is a poorly designed ride that is too far ahead of current technology. With the instability of the ride, one wonders how long it is until something unfortunate happens with the ride.

Add to this the other park's major problem: Ride operations. Most rides in the park only run one train. Those that don't have serious stacking problems. When I confronted Customer Relations on this they stated that the park was far too understaffed to run the rides at full capacity. This is on a weekday during the summer. Additionally, many of the rides that were closed in the park were due to short staffing (that is except for Deja Vu which is out with mechanical problems and of which I was informed that they can't address at this time because of ongoing maintenance issues with X)

So here is the situation. You have a coaster that should be wowing the pants off of everyone visiting the park. It is doing that, but at the same time these same guests are so pissed off they dont want to return to the park because of ride operations on that ride and other rides in the park. On top of that you have one coaster sucking up the maintenance resources of the park.

Here is my solution. Run an ad campaign stating that X will be open for one month longer and it might be the last ride that they will ever get to take on the ride. Be up front with the public in press releases and such that the ride will be re-evaluated to see if it is viable to keep the ride in the park because of it's many problems. Believe it or not the public eats it up when a company is humble about it's problems.

Run X for that month and reap the benefits of increased attendance for a month. Then once the month is over, close X and release the staff into other areas of the park. You will have additional operators on other rides to increase capacity on those rides and you will be able to open other rides in the park. There are 15 other coasters in that park so they can still market to those rides. Get them running and keep them staffed with the excess from X. Maintenance shouldnt be an issue any more either as the army of workers from X can keep other rides running in top shape.

That being said, the fate of X would then lie in getting some consultants in to evaluate exactly what it would take to make the ride work properly. If it isnt possible, tear the ride down and put something else in it's place: quickly. If it is possible, make those changes and reopen the ride to the public in a grand reopening.

Mind you these are all just ideas. It might be a worthless plan that would never work, but I think it would be something that could make SFMM a truly top tier park and something that would bring me back out to Southern California again to visit the park. As it stands now, I doubt I will revisit the park again, even if I am in Southern California again.

Please feel free to comment, but please keep your comments to non-flame constructive criticism of the plan.

Thanks,
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Bob Hansen
Resident Airtime Whore

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Friday, August 29, 2003 7:50 AM
Bob, I think its an excellent plan, but the one major flaw in there is Six Flags admitting error. A company of that size that has staked claims such as X will be open on time, X runs at anything more than about 400 pph, SFWoA isn't in financial trouble, Psyclone is a great coaster, etc. will be hard pressed to admit that there are serious issues with X.

That being said, I think the plan has a lot of merit. I think that the time that is spent re-evaluating the ride with an outside firm could maybe even provide S&S/Arrow with an opporuntity to attone for past errors and either get the ride in shape or replace it with a well-planned, maybe even two year project that will address all the problems that the prototype had.

One thing that I don't think closing X (either permanently or for an extended period of time again) will do is allow enough workers to spread to the other rides to allow multi-train operation. Perhaps some coasters would be able to get to that level, but not all. Deja Vu would probably open most if not all days which would help make up for X being basically gone, but I don't think that there is enough staffing that would stay on when they're told that the attraction they know best is leaving to cause that much of an increase in operations.

Another possible problem with this plan is it would involve a serious amount of cash, again something that Six Flags lacks. Beyond just re-evaluating X, perhaps SFMM needs a "5 year plan" which involves a total revamp of their coaster lineup and operations. Mull over what to do with X, get Deja Vu running reliably, get S:TE running both sides, burn down Psyclone, redesign the trains on Revolution, send Flashback to another park that has the time and resources to keep it running. But, this again would involve a lot of cash and resources, which until they start turning a profit, Six Flags doesn't have.

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Brett
Resident Launch Whore

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Friday, August 29, 2003 8:32 AM
Hiya,

Actually, I think the basic premise of Closing X for a extensive evaluation is very sound. The current situation is most unsatisfactory for the park and the coaster's fans. One major drawback of the current situation is that no other park will invest in a 4-D ride because of the ongiong problems with x. This is a shame, as everyone that has ridden X has remarked how brilliant it is.

Apparently there are some major issues inherent to this ride's remarkable and commendably brave design. Unfortunatley, it would appear that there are no "quick fixes" to the problems, rather some significant re-designing and investment is called for.

On a positive note, one benefit of really getting to grips with this genre of coaster is that, once the problems have been identifed and resolved, other clones of the ride will emerge. A reliable x would serve as a template for future designs, parks would be willing to invest in the technology and more of us would get the chance to sample this incredible genre of coaster.

Best wishes.

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Friday, August 29, 2003 8:48 AM
Interesting topic. But until the cost of maintaining X exceeds the benefit of keeping it in the park (i.e., increased attendance, publicity), or until the ride just rips itself apart, I don't see anything changing. It could very well be that X's running state, and the state of ride operations across the park, are turning visitors off. But since SFMM is in southern California, where you've got a ton of locals on top of a ton of tourists, it might not matter if some park patrons are getting turned off, as long as they're not getting turned off in enormous, statistically significant numbers.

Believe me, as an enthusiast, it kills me. But in terms of business, I don't know how much of a problem X is to Six Flags.

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Ask about my references

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Friday, August 29, 2003 9:21 AM
Very nicely thought of KTS. I totally agree with you. They should have to do something with the ride, because the way things are now...the park is horrible. I don't think there is another park in the world ran that bad that has so much potential.

SFMM has potential to be one of the best parks in the world, but they go about things the wrong way. I mean look at X and Scream. X is a complete disaster, and Scream is in the parking lot. Why not tear down X, and put Scream in it's place. It makes complete and TOTAL sense to me.

I would like to know though, how much does it cost for X per year. Because I know it is putting a dent in their pockets. I have never rode X, but if it means the park being better overall, I think I would let one ride go....anyone would, or at least should.

I am done babbling on and on now, that's just my two cents! :)

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Cedar Point countdown: 26 Days.

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Friday, August 29, 2003 10:37 AM
SFMM is not going to tear down X unless they are losing money over it, and I don't think that is the case. X is what brings people to SFMM. "Why not tear down X, and put Scream in it's place. It makes complete and TOTAL sense to me." Why do people complain so much that Scream is built over a parking lot? Who cares? Would you rather have the coaster over last years parking spot or not have the coaster at all? Regardless of what some people say, SFMM is running their park correctly from a business stand point, their goal is not to please us, to please the GP which I think they have done a good job of. I have been to SFMM 5 times, and I have yet to had a bad experience.
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Friday, August 29, 2003 10:48 AM
Actually, I think the public IS getting fed up with SFMM and not just the enthusiasts. All week when I was at other parks I had people asking me if I was going to go to SFMM and how I shouldnt go there because all you do is wait in line and they only run one train.(wasnt expecting non-enthusiasts to pay attention to the number of trains run, but I guess they do) That coupled with the number of people in Customer Relations when I went to complain, and a vast majority were complaining about the EXACT same things I was, they have a serious problem on their hands. They might have mega attendance compared to other parks, but the bottom line is attendance is falling at this park and most other parks in the chain. Six Flags needs to pull out all the stops to get people to ignore the economy or whatever and come back to the park. My thoughts are to decrease the waits and make the overall experience more pleasurable. It's not rocket science.

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Bob Hansen
Resident Airtime Whore

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Friday, August 29, 2003 10:49 AM
But that's just the thing, they're really not pleasing the GP. It's a well regarded park, but its not the superpark it could be. I think a lot of its business stems from simply nowhere else to go. When Six Flags discounts are in such abundance, going to Magic Mountain for the day for like $35 is a lot more appealing than going to DCA or Disneyland for $50, and a good portion have probably never even heard of Knott's, or know that it is as big as it is today.

SFMM will get stagnant and they will begin to lose money, and not in a trickle fashion, its going to come like the dam bursting and all of a sudden, one of the 5 "flagship" parks is about to go under all due to a giant, high maintenance, high cost, low return yellow and purple p.o.s. (namecalling directed at engineering and construction work, not ride experience).

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Brett
Resident Launch Whore

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Friday, August 29, 2003 10:59 AM
Another reason SFMM won't drop X is that they need it to continue their "coaster war" with CP. If they dropped X, they'd have to do something like their 3 coaster stunt again; which they don't have nearly enough money for.
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"You're afraid of heights, but you love roller coasters...yep, you're weird alright."
A friend's response to my constant yelling at the top of Power Tower. And I'll ride it again and again...:)
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Friday, August 29, 2003 11:01 AM
The thing is, Bob and Brett, SFMM isn't trying to recreate the Disney experience. It's barely a theme park, by theme park standards. If SFMM gradually begins to resemble a glorified carnival or fair, then that's what it's going to be, as long as it brings in dollars.

I don't have access to SFMM's expense sheet, so I'm not going to speculate if the park is losing money or not. I also don't have their attendance figures. Suffice it to say, the brass at Six Flags can dismiss a downturn in both those figures by blaming it on the weather, or the economy. If, however, the park is still experiencing a loss in revenue and attendance in a few years, when the weather and economy might not be valid excuses, then they might have to wonder if poor customer service is the cause of those numbers.

And be realistic, Impulse-ive, SFMM is not going to go under any time soon. Six Flags has 38 parks in the chain. They won't just let the biggest one implode. And I know a thing or two about "big five" companies going under...

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Ask about my references

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Friday, August 29, 2003 11:19 AM
Well, the way I see it, SFMM is still a decent park, but if they keep pouring money into it the way they are without paying any attention to pre-existing problems, they're just stacking the blocks higher and higher on a questionable foundation. If anything shakes that foundation, like (god forbid) an accident due to maintenance on X or Deja Vu in which a guest is seriously hurt or worse, and SFMM gets hit for bad publicity and a lot of money, there's going to be major problems.

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Brett
Resident Launch Whore

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Friday, August 29, 2003 11:22 AM
Another big problem that I see coming out of Six Flags is that they don't seem to fix problems that often, but instead just build a new ride in hopes that their old problems will be forgotten or seem not as important. You can see an everyday example of this at Six Flags Great America. The main focus is now Superman, and it seems as if Deja Vu is the forgotten coaster of the park. It's rarely open, while the Deja Vu's at the other parks seem to have much more uptime.

I agree with your thoughts about either tearing down X and putting something in its place, or fix the ride completely and then open it again. Deja Vu should also be fixed, but hell that ride has it's fair share of problems too.

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Friday, August 29, 2003 11:25 AM
I don't agree with the suggestions to tear down or move any of the coasters. And I definitely don't buy into the FUD about SFMM suddenly going under. These things just ain't gonna to happen. But there is no doubt that the park needs improvement in ways other than adding more rides. Here are a few of my observations on a recent trip to SFMM...

- Inexplicably held at entrance with traffic backing up all the way down the hill to the light.
- No trams running until noon on Friday.
- Hounded by agressive camera sharks at gate. 'Split and Evade' tactic didn't work.
- Unmonitored and uncontrolled line jumping on some of the rides *cough*Riddlers Revenge*cough*.
- Insufficient and inefficient security check at the gate results in lines stretching back WAY beyond the ticket counters.

These are all customers service concerns and treating the customer right which is something that I think the big parks just simply aren't interested in doing. Except for Disney of course.

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Kevin Stone
NoLimits Roller Coaster Simulator
http://www.nolimitscoaster.de

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Friday, August 29, 2003 11:36 AM

CobraRoller said:
Another big problem that I see coming out of Six Flags is that they don't seem to fix problems that often, but instead just build a new ride in hopes that their old problems will be forgotten or seem not as important. You can see an everyday example of this at Six Flags Great America. The main focus is now Superman, and it seems as if Deja Vu is the forgotten coaster of the park.

What are they supposed to do, wait to get a new coaster until they work all the bugs out of Deja Vu? That makes zero business sense.

Everybody who wants X to be torn down (TAER IT DOWN!) is completely ignoring the business side of running amusement parks. This isn't RCT where you can demolish and rebuild with the click of a button. X cost money to build, and it would cost money to disassemble X. Until the cost of maintaining X exceeds the benefit of it being there, despite not running at full capacity, it will likely stay.

And if the customer service at SFMM is so bad as to drive away guests from future visits, it will come back to haunt the park, eventually. But it's not going to force SFMM out of business. 3 million people aren't going to just stop going to SFMM overnight.

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Ask about my references
*** This post was edited by Olsor 8/29/2003 3:41:04 PM ***

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Friday, August 29, 2003 11:52 AM
I will concur with the rampant line jumping you have pointed out, but that is a problem all over California from my experiences. It was just worse there than it was anywhere else I have ever been.

My bringing up the topic is not in any way a way to cut down Magic Mountain. Like I said in my post, the park has tremendous potential. Like it or not, as customers get more and more "me" centric (it is happening too, just visit California where all the trends start), customer service is going to be the sole key to retaining any type of business.

I have always said that America is the place where a person can get WHAT they want, WHEN they want it and HOW they want it. This idea of culture is only going to get more and more common in our culture as time goes by. There are other parks besides Six Flags that offer a much more satisfactory customer service experience. Look at Knotts or CP. Look at Holiday World (definately a different scale). You don't have to be a Disney to give good customer service, but in the very near future in this industry, you are going to need good customer service to survive.

Oh, and those that think this post is talking about just tearing down X, you missed the point completely. I think they need to close it down and evaluate the situation. I think the way it is running right now they are driving repeat business away. The overall customer experience may not seem important to them right now, but let me tell you, five years from now it is really going to bite them in the a$$ as more and more consumers get more and more narcisistic.

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Bob Hansen
Resident Airtime Whore
*** This post was edited by Kick The Sky 8/29/2003 3:56:06 PM ***

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Friday, August 29, 2003 12:09 PM
I hear you, Bob. I can only hope that SFMM management is doing their best to both keep the ride running somewhat consistently, while also seriously evaluating its future. The end of daily operation might also help the situation, too.

And customer service is huge. The problem is, I don't know how much the younger crowd cares about customer service, and they're the ones filling up the lines, and spending that coveted disposable income. Adults definitely feel the impact of poor customer service, though, and larger chains will definitely have to wake up to that fact sooner or later.

As I get older, and I'm not that old, I have less and less patience for waiting in line... any line. I don't know why free virtual queue systems (like Fast Pass) haven't caught on industry-wide. Seems to me like that only makes guests happier, and park wallets fatter. I hope it's just a matter of time until other parks come around.

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Ask about my references

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Friday, August 29, 2003 12:10 PM
I like the idea of closing it and having the ride evaluated, but that's exactly what they have been doing along - while keeping angry guests off their back about why it isn't open. Even if guests are told that X is "down for maintenance purposes", there will be mobs of people that will be fed up with the ride being closed so long. That time between January 12 2002 and August of the same year was also an evaluation/fixie period. Lawsuits were filed against the park because of that - even after the advertisements and commercials were discontinued during that period. People will get upset, no matter what. So the park's best bet is to have it running as often as possible.
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Friday, August 29, 2003 12:14 PM
They are getting fed up that they go to a park and see a coaster that is great, but runs like crap, knowing there is a lot of potential. I never said I cared about Scream being built over the parking lot, but why not take X out, and put Scream there...little late now.

SFMM is one of the best parks in the world...when everything goes right. I don't mean to bring Cedar Point into this, but I have to. They have great staff, and for the most part, the rides are reliable. I know the situation with TTD, but even that runs better than X.

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Welcome back riders, how was your ride?

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Friday, August 29, 2003 1:23 PM
There is no way in hell SFMM will get away with closing X for a signaficant amount of time. Not when it sits proudly at the front of the park, greeting guests as they enter through the gates. Imagine your a first time guest, and as you make that turn into the SFMM parkway, in awe of the spectacle of such a large, unique looking coaster. Id imagine if your a coaster fan(and you wouldn't even consider a park like SFMM if you weren't) it would be the first ride on your mind. Now imagine you find a big sign stating X is not just down for the day, but down until management can figure out what the heck to do with it. Um....ok.

The solution to most of the park's current problems have nothing to do with X(the money funding X wouldn't go to any other aspect of the park anyway *budget cuts*), and everything to do with the future planning of SF INC. Let's face it, SFMM had major issues long before Deja Vu and X were built. And if you take away either ride, your not left with more employees to spread to other areas of the park, you don't have those employees to begin with.

SF Inc has painted SFMM into a nice little corner. It will be interesting to see if and when they find a way out of it. But had best find a way to work out their problems while keeping their attractions open unless it's just not possible. Time has worn thin.


*** This post was edited by DWeaver 8/29/2003 5:33:18 PM ***

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Friday, August 29, 2003 1:31 PM
kRaXLeRidAh- What other coaster forums do you visit? I remember you visiting one I am still looking for.

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