Thoughts on the state of the industry

Tuesday, June 10, 2003 6:13 PM
I guess that I've been thinking about this for a bit and will take some time to make a comment or two. One has to wonder about the state of the roller coaster industry. This is by no means a doom and gloom kind of thing, but has the industry reached its limits for now? Prototypes are a wonderful thing, but recently apon their opening, there have been substantial problems with them to begin with. Intamin has been at the forefront of technology, and I commend them for what they have done to stir interest in roller coasters. However, I wonder if they tried going to high to fast.

I know that things happen with prototypes and I am very understanding when it comes to problems. It just seems like it didn't use to be like this in the mid 1990's with the really big new attractions not running consistantly when they opened. In recent years the industry has seen some problems with the openings of Volcano, Hypersonic, X, and very early TTD. I know that Cedar Point is doing all that they can and that this is the only park that would have had Dragster operational by now. They have the good reputation of having the tallest, fastest, and best roller coasters on the planet, and they will work their hardest to keep this title. It just seems like maybe they were pressured into topping Millenium rather quickly. From a business sense who can blame them, but did they put their investment at the right time.

This leads into a brief discussion of B & M. It seems like they are staying away from the height race. Instead they are building very reliable, fun rides. One can only wonder about what they might be working on behind the scenes. It appears that they want to perfect their designs before going crazy. This is not really a comparison between companies, but it is just stating that they seem to be pretty reliable, and are waiting to perfect before building record breaking machines.

In conclusion, without new ideas the industry will become stale. However, it took them 11 years to add 71 feet to reach a drop of 195 ft, and it took them another 11 years to add 115 more ft to a drop in 2000. In a shaky economy, companies may really hurt themselves by trying to push the envolope too quickly, and lead to a downturn in the industry. I'm not sure what may happen in the future, but it looks like the safest bet would be to perfect current technologies before trying anything else new. I enjoy the state of the industry now, but fear that it might be slipping a way. I am pretty interested in what others thing about this, and I hope all works out in the end for the industry.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2003 6:21 PM
Like everyhting else, things go in cycles. There might be a slowdown right now. It will bounce back in the future.

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Is that a Q-bot in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

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Tuesday, June 10, 2003 7:11 PM
Agreed. Having been to the last three IAAPA trade shows I might just skip this year's because there's very little going on in the way of new rides.

We can attribute this to a number of things, in my opinion:
1) Six Flags has scaled back on cap-ex.
2) Major consolidation... larger companies formed by combining smaller ones.
3) Market saturation.

Let's keep in mind that the manufacturers build what they're asked. Sure, some of them come up with great ideas, but even when they manage to do that it doesn't lead to actual sales. Ride manufacturing is still a customer-driven business.

B&M doesn't have much of a hand in limit pushing, but I think they tend to play things safe, and that's part of their strategy. I mean, they've essentially been using the same technology for 15 years, varying only the type of seats strapped on to their trains.

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Jeff - Webmaster/Admin - CoasterBuzz.com - Sillynonsense.com
"Pray that your country undergoes recovery!" - KMFDM

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Tuesday, June 10, 2003 7:40 PM
I think the future for now is flat rides, BIG flat rides like the kind made by Huss. It also can't hurt to have a drop tower like Drop Zone at PKD or PKI.
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If you have a problem with clones, the solution is real simple—Stop traveling.
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Tuesday, June 10, 2003 8:52 PM
All great comments above... what I'm curious about is if (or when) there will be a trend toward removing "aging" rides - something akin to King Cobra's fate, ultimately being replaced by an upcharge and a flat ride.

I figure that ride novelty has to play at least as large a part as wear and tear in the decision to remove a coaster. Is it safe to say stand-up coasters or suspended coasters were fads? Not to diminish the importance of those rides in any way. But I'm wondering if the flying coaster is just this decade's stand-up. Novel rider position, but not much to the ride other than that.

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Friday, June 13, 2003 8:46 AM
They can keep pushing the technology as far as they want! Personally, I would prefer they stick to the good old fashioned 80-120 foot high woodie! These don't seem to have any troubles! They are near the top of a lot of enthusiasts lists! The general public likes them too! Seems like the good safe bet for any park worried about PR! Six Flags has ruined their reputation due to excessive downtime! Cedarfair is getting into the action with Xcelerator and TTD! There will always be a place for the biggest, tallest, newest, etc........I'm just hoping that maybe there will be a trend to the old reliable thrill ride. To me, that is the future! I don't think the negative publicity that is starting to come with these non-operating rides is worth it!

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Give me wood or give me B&M! :-)
(330 plus and rising)

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Friday, June 13, 2003 8:55 AM
Wow! that was! a very positive! post! I do think that the industry is in a slowdown period, but its due to their own saturation. Most parks have a full lineup of coasters now, and no room to make a star attraction without moving other rides around, etc.

I think that the next time we see things picking up will be in 8-10 years when some of these larger coasters begin to overstress themselves, and things start cracking and requiring too much maintenance, a-la Steel Phantom, Mean Streak, etc. Once the maintenance price outweighs the daily "profit" (using some tricky math of total park guests times their admission, and take a percentage based on the daily traffic on the coaster) we're going to see many of the bigger rides going to the scrapheaps, or being melted down for the next big thing. Even if its just the same concept, but with a new twist. Even repainting a room in your house can drive up the value and make you smile a little more when you go into it. As a CP example, I think Mantis will be the first to go this direction, but I don't think it will be for a while, and I don't think it'll be replaced with a mega-coaster. Maybe just another B&M looper, just with a different kind of train, and maybe a different layout of loops.

The public will soon learn that there really isn't anywhere for rides to go (at least from what we know now), and they'll (reluctantly) become satisfied with just replacements. I think Scream! is the first good example of this, and I wouldn't be surprised to see other coasters of that nature (almost what is now industry "standard") begin to replace some of the older coasters in the years to come.

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"As soon as you design something that's idiot-proof, the world will go and design a better idiot." ... Thank you EchoVictor!
--Brett

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Friday, June 13, 2003 9:12 AM
I think we'll see a resurgence of the small parks... HW, MiA, etc. Many of them have acres upon acres of room to expand; as people get used to what SF and CP have to offer, I think they'll start exploring what some of the smaller parks have to offer.

In addition, there seems to be a trend of the large parks buying small parks for expansion right now... if the large parks truly hit their limit, they'll either have to spend much more money per ride they add, or else start building up the small parks. They might actually see a higher return on investment if they can boost attendence at a small park by adding a mid-price coaster instead of getting a slight boost in attendence at their home park by adding a record-breaking coaster. Let's face it... a large attraction like TTD will gain publicity and attract visitors from competitors, but it is still mostly tapping an established customer pool (especially when it is seen as "extreme"). On the other hand, a new small park might be able to attract more visitors, especially casual family visitors, if it is closer and marketed as a family park.

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Friday, June 13, 2003 9:35 AM
I think stand-ups were fads for sure (though the fad came in two seperate waves by Togo then B&M). I don't think suspendeds were a fad, they were just made better by the B&M inverter, which does more or less the same thing only with a greater degree of control. Let's be honest, a suspended ride doesn't change much from one cycle to the next aside from wear on the shocks, so taking those extra moving parts out of the ride and enabling inversions killed that product.

Things like X and Dragster will always be exceptions to the rule, but affordable thrill rides, I think, are where it's at. CCI woodies were that, as far as up front expenditures anyway. The few new flat rides we've had in the last ten years also qualify in that category.

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Jeff - Webmaster/Admin - CoasterBuzz.com - Sillynonsense.com
"Pray that your country undergoes recovery!" - KMFDM

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Friday, June 13, 2003 4:15 PM
I think we're entering a decade of refurbishing and perfecting. I think we have an aging population and with too small a 16-30 population to survive, parks will have to retain and even increase their over 30 customer base. To do this, comfort and safety will become major considerations. Many of these rides, whether swings or coasters or Paratroopers, could be refitted with padded seats, higher or padded backs or sides, footrests, etc.
I also think lines are going to receive tremendous focus. 40 year olds, or 60 year olds, are not going to stand in line in the hot sun for over an hour, no matter what the ride. There will have to be ways found to overcome this, whether it is running more trains on a coaster, loading and unloading flat rides more efficiently, or adding rides to spread the lines out more.
Finally, I think the next rides to see a real burst of creative engineering will not be coasters but Giant Wheels and Ride Through Dark Houses. Dark Rides have not been improved since the 1940s. They can create hurricanes, tornadoes, tidal waves, fire walls, Indiana Jones runaways, cave ins, and a hundred other special effects. And Baby Boomers will love it.
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Saturday, June 14, 2003 5:43 PM
In looking at the big picture, it seems that things might not be that bad. The idea of tweaking and perfecting, might not be that exciting, but if things work, that may pave the way for more experimentation. Hopefully, gravity group will take off, because putting high quality, realtively inexpensive rides in the market will be a good thing. I hope all this talk isn't too gloomy based on the relative excitement over the past few years, but I will have no problem with a slow down as long as it involves reliability.
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Saturday, June 14, 2003 6:10 PM
I think that TTD is the last BIG coaster we'll see for a long time. With rides like space shot etc. . . popping up, I think we're entering a short age of extreme rides. That aren't coasters! A lot of parks have areas where they can put rides of this size, without taking anything else down. Why remove something when you don't have to?

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Don't you think he knows, you know, he knows, you know, you know? Or not. I'll be under a rock if you need me.
*** This post was edited by Binks Drake 6/14/2003 10:12:44 PM ***

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Saturday, June 14, 2003 6:44 PM
I think that the next step is in the flat direction. There is so much you can do with them. Take the topple tower by Huss for example. They just changed the direction of the fall of a drop tower to make a totally new experience
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