Posted Monday, August 20, 2012 9:49 AM | Contributed by Walt S
With great fanfare, Geauga Lake celebrated its 100th birthday in 1988 with the addition of a new $2 million roller coaster. Raging Wolf Bobs was a wooden coaster in the style of the Bobs at Riverview Park in Chicago. Its highest hill was 80 feet and the coaster reached a top speed of 50 mph.
Read more and see the video from WEWS/Cleveland.
I have fond memories of the park that year, and I recall riding it over and over on a somewhat rainy day for my dad's company picnic (National City Bank at the time, since bought by PNC). It was practically ERT, as the park had largely emptied out. I was about 15. Good times.
That ride really made a brief comeback before the park closed, after way too many years of suckage under Six Flags ownership.
My first summer working at GL was '88. The park really hit its stride around that time. Turtle Beach (arguably the best water park for kids ever), the Bobs, and even the Euroracers (go karts) breathed real life into the park.
I think the Bobs was a great idea that wasn't executed that well. Probably the stricter safety guidelines that undoubtedly tamed it down. But, still a pretty impressive ride for teh park at that time.
I remember a ride supervisor walking me up the lift hill and getting in trouble. His boss was on the other side of the park but noticed us up there and got on the radio and let him have it. It was a great view though.
It is interesting to me this story and a story about long-gone Columbus amusement parks surfaced the same day. As a resident of Columbus now, I am constantly hearing stories of theme park memories from both residents here and people visiting town from Northeast Ohio......the one thing that is constant are their memories of Sea World and Geauga Lake. All I have to say is "I'm from Aurora" and I know the next 15 minutes are going to be nostalgia stories! My co-workers are even amazed at the depth level those two parks hold in the minds of people from Ohio. From a business perspective, that is an incredibly powerful tool that exists.
Right now I know there is great confusion of what to do with the property and with Wildwater Kingdom. If I had 5 minutes with Matt Ouimet, I would remind how how much that park generated in attendance in its heyday, like Wahoo Skipper mentioned, when it was "right sized" before the Six Flags fiasco. We already know that it generated an attendance level of 1.2 million on average, with an average of 60%-70% of those guests spending a great percentage of their entire day in what was Boardwalk Shores, then later in the evening enjoying the coasters and other rides. I've seen the market studies and statistics, the market still exists in Northeast Ohio for Wildwater Kingdom to be a 500,000+ attendance level water park.....but it is going to take moderate investment and it is going to take marketing and public relations that ignite and reunite people with their childhood memories. The right people are running the park, the question now is will Cedar Fair give them the tools and resources to achieve the possible?!?
It was a good ride. Was not my favorite there. When I rode it the first time my kids were kinda young so we would parent swap and ride with them. Yet my favorite is still the Big Dipper. Glad my oldest son and I got to ride it 10 times in a row on the last year of that park. Love that ride! I know some don't but it is one of my favorite smaller wooodies along with Jack Rabbit at Kennywood.
I enjoyed RWB, and can say I was one of the last riders. I rode it 3X in the morning the day of the accident that shut it down for good.
mlnem4s; one thing we could never know though is how much of an impact Sea World had on the 1.2 million. They had much deeper pockets, particularly when it came to marketing. And of course, not only did they have Sea World but the NE Ohio economy was as strong in the early 90s as it ever was or has been since.
I think Ouimet should seriously consider a "Castaway Bay" type resort at WWK. I think you could come up with some nice packages in the shoulder seasons that would include some of the golf courses in the area. With Aurora Farms, golf, the waterpark and even the activities at Kent State not too far down the road I think there is a potential there.
CoasterDaddy...I agree with you that the Dipper was the better of the two woodies. I am somewhat biased since I worked it but I rode both of them too many times to count and the Dipper was always more fun in my opinion. I don't think Jeff was the biggest fan and I'm not sure I'd put it in the same category as the Jack Rabbit but from pure enjoyment and nostalgia I still think it is a shame that couldn't have been moved somewhere to keep it alive.
I agree about Sea World's impact on marketing....but a great percentage (50%+) of attendance was also from local group sales business. If, for example, WWK added a Challenge Park type area for teens and adults, invested in a small "Rainbow Island" are for kids under 12, while still adding water attractions I believe a lot of that group sales business in the 25-50 mile radius would come back.
People will say I am crazy but I even would bring back some animals that fit the Wildwater Kingdom tropical theme, such as creating an area around the main gate for pink flamingos like was present in Sea World days, everyone has those photos in their family albums. I think an aviary with tropical birds and floral gardens would be a nice "break away" from swimming too. Whose to say a partnership with the Akron Zoo couldn't provide the care and support needed for such exhibits while giving them promotion? I even hear comments still about the "All Stars Pet Show" where dogs and cats from local shelters were trained for show performances....would be great for the Wilderness Theatre that still stands in the woods behind Tidal Wave Bay.
I also would say that cross marketing with other local attractions (ie. Cleveland Zoo, Cleveland Aquarium, Cleveland Rock Hall, Akron Zoo, etc.) would have a greater impact on WWK than what is being done with the combo Cedar Point/Rock Hall ticket. I hate to say it, but Cedar Point is simply too far away in the middle of nowhere for that type of marketing...it is easier to sell attractions 30 minutes apart than hours apart.
SeaWorld is absolutely the reason the park thrived. It was an interesting symbiotic relationship. When SeaWorld began to fail, GL wouldn't be far behind, even though it took a few years (coupled with the gross incompetence of Six Flags).
So how do you explain GL's existence prior to 1970?
GL existed for years under a simple model: 1 Park, 1 Overhead, 1 Admission.
When Sea World opened the model remained equivilent: 2 Parks, 2 Overheads, 2 Admissions.
SF changed the model to 1 Park, 2 Overheads, 1 Admission. CF, by moving the waterpark kept the SF model instead of keeping the waterpark on the GL side and reverting to the 1 Park, 1 Admission, 1 Overhead model
Captain Hawkeye said:
So how do you explain GL's existence prior to 1970?
Most likely a different business/market environment existed 3 or 4 decades before the noticable decline.
It was a local park dependent upon school and corporate picnics, like most parks of it's size in the tri state area were for decades. When school districts started to consolidate they went looking for larger venues (that's what eventually killed West View Park). Seaworld showed up about the same time that Funtime bought the property (this is an interesting story in itself. One side of it is documented in "The Wave Maker" The Story of George Millay...........) and from then on they were linked until the demise of Seaworld Ohio. People would go to Seaworld during the day, then when they closed at dusk they went across to Geauga Lake and finished their day.
The death of Geauga Lake wasn't caused by something like falling off of a bridge. It's a great example of death by a thousand cuts, and that pisses people off who want a simple explanation that validates theories about how it could have lived on. Think about how entertainment changed in those 30 years... Video games, massive cineplexes, malls as hangouts, municiple recreation centers, and of course, the Internet.
My thinking about this subject has evolved over the years.
I agree completely that what Six Flags and Cedar Fair individually had wrought with the park over the years became an unsustainable commercial enterprise. The level of staffing required to operate what became a three-, then two-headed monstrosity just couldn't be supported by the turnstile clicks it was getting.
Which is still the reason you couldn't bring Geauga Lake back today. Simply put, the park more than a few of us loved and remember fondly is not ever going to come back, period.
That being said, I do think there is opportunity for revenue growth that is being overlooked. Perhaps the resurrection of the Worlds of Adventure model is a pipe dream, but the concept behind it is still sound, albeit on a much reduced scale. With very limited investment provided in small, low-stakes doses, I believe attendance could be raised significantly (e.g., 10-25%) with only marginal increase in overhead. I'll provide an example plan of how this can be achieved:
Year 1: add one or two upcharge FEC attractions: miniature golf, go-karts, bumper boats, etc. With the large, captive waterpark customer base, these attractions will be quite popular and easily pay for themselves, plus black ink.
Year 2: Repeat. Perhaps add an arcade, a play structure for the tikes, trampolines or a climbing wall.
Without a huge amount of dough sunk in, the park can now boast a nearly full-fledged FEC to accompany the waterpark. Marketed as such, the appeal of the property for groups and picnics will increase as the word gets out.
Year 3: Add a small area of kiddie flats--perhaps three or four round-n-rounds that can be staffed by a single operator during less busy times. Again, focus on marketing these additions to Wildwater Kingdom. Now parents with little kids will see past all the vast complexes of slide towers and find something simple, non-threatening, and easy on Mom and Dad. Don't underestimate that last factor!
By now, Wildwater Kingdom and Family Zone has established itself as a park that frequently adds new attractions (even though of the extremely modest sort). The great people of Northeastern Ohio, one of the most bored collections of persons on the planet, take notice. Attendance continues to rise modestly.
Year 4: Adjacent to the kids' area, expand with two, maybe three, adult flats. Rehabbed used rides, even carnival models, will work just fine. Again, market the park wisely. Concentrate on nearness, low cost, diversity of attractions, and family focus.
And that's it.
The beauty of the model is that there is very little risk involved, with potential for significant, incremental increases in attendance. If the plan pays off, the powers that be can consider additional, conservative investments over time--though care should be taken not to grow too big. There's no sense in repeating the mistakes of history. Further, if the results of this rather minor experiment meet or exceed expectations, the model can potentially be applied to other Cedar Fair waterparks.
Conversely, if the investment doesn't pan out, there's very little pain in removing elements of the expansion. Replace all of it with one new water attraction and customer repercussion will be minimal.
Waterparks are small potatoes. The giants don't draw much more than a million or so people in a season. I have little supporting data, but from my many trips to WK with my daughter, my speculation is that attendance at the park is mostly stable, somewhere around 75,000-100,000 on average (and perhaps with a slight increase of 1-2 % yearly). The park wouldn't have to sell many more tickets to raise those numbers substantially.
Wow, that was a lot longer than intended.
Great post, Mike. Daydreamy AND smart, at the same time!
Seeing Raging Wolf Bobs new is like seeing my parents young...disconcerting....and it was hardly a wooden twister coaster as this video proclaims.
What would you call it, bjames?
What I would not call it is a re-creation of Riverview's Bobs.
I call it Wolf Kabobs. Wooden twisters should maintain a minimum speed of 30mph. I could swear that RWB was going like 15-20 for the last 30 seconds of the ride.
Just to add to what Ensign is proposing, additions like go-karts, bumper boats, small rides, etc. would allow the park to stay open later without adding staff numbers. Move staff from the waterpark over to the FEC side when the waterpark closes. Keep a couple food stands open while your at it.
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