IAAPA 2000: Joe Vandenbergh interview

Posted | Contributed by Jeff

Setpoint, Inc. appeared on the scene with their Pteranodon Fliers at Univeral's Islands of Adventure. A ride where the vehicles are suspended below the track. This Swing Thing model was combined with water effects last year to create Super Saturator at Paramount's Carowinds. President Joe Vandenbergh took time out at IAAPA to talk with us about creating a niche for his company, and share a preview of their next project.

CB: Your product is one of many new unique products out there. Is the market driving all this new technology, or is the technology driving the market?

JV: The market drives everything. We all set the bar so high with what’s out there. We get bored with it, and that’s why we have a 300-foot coaster. People had ridden Magnum, it’s 200 feet so they said, “Yeah, I’ve done that. So you put in a 200-footer. Whatever!”

CB: You bring up a good point about size. What other things can you do to create new experiences?

JV: That’s exactly what we’ve done here. The thing is, when you get on a ride, and it takes you where it’s going to take you, you don’t change the experience. So what we did is we combined the water effects and the ride so that every time you get on that ride you have a different experience. On this ride [Super Saturator], you can sit forward, you can see what’s going on, you get wetter, you’re the first one through the curtain and the first one getting shot. You can ride backward, where you’re not going to get hit as much, and you can see who you bomb. You pull your levers and you can see the water come out over the people on the ground. Or you can see the grandfather on the ground that didn’t want to ride, but he can shoot the grandkids as they pass by. The interactivity adds to the ride. We didn’t create virtual reality; we created reality.

CB: The inverted design has become wildly popular. B&M has been extremely successful with their rides, Vekoma has SLC’s in every park, Caripro has a similar product to yours, and here at the show Fabbri and Reverchon are showing inverted designs. How do you account for this popularity?

JV: It actually started with Arrow with their suspended coasters. What we set out to do was look at the coasters out there and see what needed to be improved. Sightlines are one of the biggest areas we can improve. What we’ve done with our coaster is give everyone a great view. We put the restraint at the waist, and the seat is skeletal, so you can turn and see through. When you ride the ride you’re vulnerable and out there. As you fly through the scenery you can see everything. With our first ride, Pteranodon Fliers at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, you fly out over the trees and among the scenery and you’re vulnerable. It’s a great effect. That’s what we went for; we needed something that was one up from the other coasters up there.

CB: Is “being out there” what differentiates your coasters from some of the others out there?

JV: Absolutely. B&M makes an excellent product, they’re one of the best in the market. For what they build, they’re the best. One of the most common complaints is that if you’re in the third row, middle seat, you can see anything. They get capacity because they put 36 people on a train, but you can’t see. We get capacity by using more vehicles with better views.

CB: With all of these inverted designs, where does that put you in the competitive landscape?

JV: We aren’t interested in building something faster or taller. We’ve targeted “funner.” We consciously targeted the family. What you have to do is put mom in a seat that’s not going to make her sick. That’s why we have the nice side-to-side, forward-to-aft swing. It’s nice and gentle. Then you have the interaction, so you’ll develop more memories with your family then you would with a hypercoaster.

What our goal is, what our mission is, is to create niches and fill them. Swing Thing is a niche ride. No one else is doing it, and we created a niche. Now, we didn’t do it alone. We did it with Paramount’s creative people, because they had a dream of what they wanted to do. We did it with SCS Interactive, because they had a dream. We all wanted the family to play together so we mixed the ride and water and put it all together. We teamed up to make a niche. We’re going to lead because we are going to do a better job.

CB: Would you like to see one of these installed at a park with rich terrain?

JV: Absolutely! The thing about having such good visibility, hanging out there in space, is flying through the scenery. You don’t have to go fast to get a great ride.

CB: Tell me a little bit about the ridership research that you conducted at Paramount’s Carowinds with Super Saturator.

JV: After the ride opened, we conducted a survey of 1,500 people, 500 people a month, about what they liked and what they didn’t like. One of the things we were really after were demographics. Did everybody get on the ride? Was it primarily little kids? Was it primarily adults? What we found is that the results matched the demographics of the park. Everybody got on the ride. Ten percent of the riders were 45 to 50, ten percent of the riders were 40 to 45, ten percent of the riders were 5 to 10 percents. The only big jump was between 15 and 20 because they made up a large portion of the park. That’s what we were after: we wanted to get everyone in the park involved with the attraction. Everybody paid at the gate and everyone wants to enjoy it.

CB: How would that compare to the installation of a hypercoaster?

JV: The interesting thing is that you want your park to appeal to all kinds of people. The day you put in a 300-foot coaster you narrow the ridership of that ride down to a very narrow band of your guests. You actually alienate a certain portion of your guests; people who paid to get in. They’ll watch it, but they won’t ride it. Watching it isn’t as fun.

CB: What can you tell me about the “Seizmic” coaster design, which will use a box truss track with racing trains on each side?

JV: Again, what we were shooting for is visibility. Your feet are free so you can see below you, there’s no track above you so you can see above, so it’s one up from the Super Saturator which has track above you. On this coaster you have nothing above you or below you, so your visibility is great. We have patents pending and issued for this ride design.

CB: Do you have a timeline you’d like to see one of the rides installed?

JV: 2004 would be great. That would give us time to develop it, but it very much depends on what a park wants to do.

The next Swing Thing will be built in 2002 for a park Setpoint would only say is in the "northeast."

See two exclusive photos of the Seizmic model: Front Back

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