Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Mike Collins on "In The Loop"

In addition to the latest podcast we released earlier this week, I had a chance to take part in the latest podcast from the guys at "In The Loop".

For the first time ever, I took part in a show via Skype.

Now you can hear what we'll have to look forward to when EB joins us from Indiana!

Here's the link to the podcast.

Talk about it in the CoasterRadio.com forums!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Our Third Anniversary Podcast!

We launched Coaster Radio.com on April 25, 2005 with a podcast that was frankly a little rough around the edges.

But what followed has been three years of good times on-line and at the parks.

A lot has changed in three years, but we're back today with a brand new podcast to celebrate the occasion.

Mario, Flava and I don't spend a lot of time looking back, but we do spend time talking about some of the latest stories and trends in the amusement industry.

We also talk about some of our upcoming podcasts and events for Summer, 2008.

Thanks to all of you who have stuck with us during the past three years.

Here is the link to the podcast.  Or you can listen with the player below.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Rising from the Ashes

Have you ever stopped to think how much your local theme park is a big part of your life?

For me, I grew up going to Kings Dominion. I used to look forward to summers because it meant field trips to KD with my local church and trips to the park with my family. I have years and years of priceless memories there.

As I grew older and could drive, I brought dates to Kings Dominion (including the future Mrs. Collins). I even took her there after our prom in 1993! It was a big part of our early relationship.

Now imagine if a damn hurricane blew through your town and took out EVERYTHING. Imagine it took out your home, your school, your church, your supermarket and yes, even your theme park.

Nothing would be close to normal for a long, long time.

That's why I was happy to read over on ScreamScape that Southern Star Amusements wants to take control of the former Six Flags New Orleans and open it again. They're aiming to open it in 2009 with new rides and a new waterpark.

Life has not been very kind to the residents of New Orleans since Katrina hit. And while I'm not here to say that a theme park should be at the top of the city's priorities, I do believe that people need a place to take a break and have fun while they are trying to rebuild.

Getting their theme park back would also make a huge statement that things are getting back to normal.

I hope Southern Star is successful. If they are, I'll be one of the first to head to New Orleans to buy a ticket at the new park. (Maybe we'll even produce a CR Podcast there too!)

Talk about it in the CR Forums.

Monday, April 21, 2008

"We're VIPs!"

When I'm coming up with topics for this blog, I usually look all around for inspiration.

Today's blog topic came from an unusual place....

For some reason, I was watching "Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise" the other day and there was a scene where Lamar Latrell was boarding a plane with the other nerds and he proudly told the flight stewardess....

"We're VIPs!"

I'm not sure why I'm bringing this up, other than the fact that I really wanted to post a picture of Lamar on this blog.  Mission Accomplished!

Anyway, while planning a trip to Six Flags Great Adventure, I came across the VIP program they offer.

For $299 a person, you get:
  • A private tour guide for your family or group for the entire day
  • Front-of-the-line access to rides with tour guide
  • Preferred parking
  • Theme park, waterpark and safari admission
  • Preferred show seating
  • A private autograph session with your favorite LOONEY TUNES and Justice League characters
  • Lunch and dinner with reserved seating at select restaurants
  • Meals, snacks & non-alcoholic beverages for each Guest
  • Complimentary games
  • A souvenir ride photo
  • A go-kart ride, rock-wall climb and a paintball session per Guest
Now, a few years ago, I would have totally been against this.  At first glance, it seems elitist and a way for the super rich to get ahead of the little man.

But now that I'm older and have more responsibilities, I don't have as many opportunities to visit the parks as I once did.

But if I was only going to have one theme park experience during the whole summer, I might decide to cough up the $300 and become a VIP for the day.  It might even make financial sense.  For instance, without the VIP experience I might pay...

$39.99 - Online Ticket
$15.00 - Parking
$40.00 - Food/Drink
$20.00 - Games
$71.00 - Gold Flash Pass
$15.00 - Ride Photo
$10.00 - Souvenir

That comes to $210.99 that I would probably spend anyway.

For an additional $90, my friends and I would have a private guide and some other perks that we wouldn't normally get if we were on our own.

The downside to this is that you'd have a stranger with you the entire time.  But, if the guide was cool, they might become a "friend for the day."

Has anyone out there been a part of the VIP Experience?  It would be great to hear what you think.  Join the discussion in the CoasterRadio.com forums. 

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Weekend Theater - Down the Tube

The weather is finally getting warmer here at the CoasterRadio.com
studios in Washington, DC.

So I thought it was appropriate to post this clip for Weekend Theater. It puts a smile on my face.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

EB Is Moving On

A message from EB:

Ho, ho, ho! Like that guy we met at Holiday World, I'm moving to Indiana!

Indeed, it's true. I'm tired of the sprawling suburbs and I am packing up my wife and two boys for easy-going country living. The housing costs here in Northern Virginia are insane, so with this move we'll be trading in our little townhouse for a single family home and an acre of land. And my commute will go from 45 minutes in the nation's 2nd worst traffic to 10 minutes and a couple of stoplights.

And yes, we really will be near Holiday World. That will basically be my new home park, only about two hours away (much like good ol' King's Dominion is from where we live now). Can't wait to get down there and ride those woodies – I think we'll be making it a required destination for anyone who come out to visit (this not an open invite – I'm talking about people I actually know, not you).

But never fear, Collins still has plans to finish out the three promised shows, and I will be a part of them, either in person or otherwise (unless I'm actually navigating a uHaul through the Appalachian Mountains at the time). Otherwise? What does that mean? Yeah, I think we'll have to go the Skype route!! Ha! And even though it sounds like crap, you know your CoasterRadio crew will figure out a way of doing it better then anyone else!

Talk about this big news in the CoasterRadio.com forum.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Greatest Waterpark Attraction of All-Time?

Last week, Schlitterbahn Waterpark Resort in New Braunfels, Texas announced their new attraction for 2008. I think it could be the greatest Waterpark Attraction of all-time.

The new attraction is called "Dragon's Revenge" and it combines Master Blaster technology, incredible theming and special effects to create an experience that hasn't been seen before.

According to the park... "guests, eager to flee the wrath of the dragon’s attack, weave in and around castle ruins in search of an escape route before the mystical creature returns. After crossing over a draw bridge and entering into the castle’s guard tower, guests quickly discover the only way out is through a labyrinth of ominous caverns."

"Once aboard the escape vehicle, thrill-seekers are quickly propelled through a series of uphill blasts rocketing riders in and out, up and down around the perimeter of the castle before taking a final fog-filled freefall into the castle’s mote below."

"Guests careen through six dark creepy caverns filled with magical special effects including spinning tunnels, theatrical lighting, fiber optics, riveting original music, aromatic atmosphere, fog, faux fire and an encounter with the angry dragon."

I always expect a good storyline for a traditional ride-through attraction... but I've never heard of a storyline for a waterslide. Plus, the waterslide has an original soundtrack. Have you ever heard of that before?

I live thousands of miles away from this park, but that description makes me want to book a flight today. if you haven't watched the video animation of this ride, check it out now!

Congratulations to the staff at Schlitterbahn for once again raising the bar for waterparks everywhere.

Talk about this attraction in the CoasterRadio.com Forums!

Friday, April 11, 2008

State of the Theme Park Podcast Industry

April 25th will mark the three year anniversary of CoasterRadio.com's first podcast. If all goes well, we'll mark the occasion by releasing a special new podcast to commemorate the event.

When we first started the show back in 2005, there was only one other internet-based show on the internet... In The Loop. There was always much debate as to who was first, but there's an easy answer. They were on the internet months ahead of us... but we were the first to produce our show as a "podcast".

Regardless, we were the first two theme park (non-Disney) podcasts on the internet.

By my count, there are now 17 different theme park related podcasts that aren't Disney specific. Some are created by the parks themselves, but most are produced by fans.

In The Loop Daily
ITL Presents the Coaster Crew's Guide to the Midway
The Season Pass Podcast
PointCast from Cedar Point
A Walk in the Park Podcast
The Kevin and Nate Show
Theme Park Thrill Radio
Six Flags Over Georgia Podcast
Six Flags Great America Podcast
Dottie's Dollywood Dish
Coaster Velocity
North Ohio Parks Podcast
Coasterbuzz Podcast
CoasterRide (German)
Great America Experience Podcast
Rex and the Beast Podcast

I think it's pretty cool that so many new shows have come on-line. I also think it's great that each show is completely different. No matter what you're in to, you should be able to find a show that fits your tastes.

What do you think of the state of Theme Park podcasts? Talk about it in the CoasterRadio.com forums.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

CoasterRadio.com Book Club - Walt Disney Imagineering

There are a lot of great theme park related books out there that can educate us all about our favorite hobby.

Of course, the CoasterBoy in all of us probably knows many of the included facts, but sometimes you can learn an interesting tidbit or two that you didn't know before.

So, I was thinking... if Oprah can have a book club, maybe we can too!

The first book I'd like to recommend is Walt Disney Imagineering - A Behind the Dreams Look at Making the Magic Real.

When EB reads this post, he'll roll his eyes and make a smarmy comment about my unhealthy devotion to WDI... but this book is one of the favorite items in my library.

The book is a carefully written look at the history of Walt Disney Imagineering.  It was first printed in 1996, but it doesn't seem outdated.  The forward by Michael Eisner talks about how he was against any book that gave away the "secrets" of Disney's attraction development team.  But that once he saw how it would be more of a tribute, he signed on to the project.

There are great stories about the iconic Disney attractions that we all know and love, but the best parts of this book are the pictures that are included.  The authors went into the Imagineering archives and found dozens of amazing blueprints, images and renderings of attractions past and present, as well as many that were never built.

The book is a great thing to share with someone who doesn't quite understand your love for theme park design.   If they get a chance to flip through the pages of this book, they'll come a little bit closer to understanding your obsession.

Join the Book Club discussion in the CoasterRadio.com forums!


Monday, April 07, 2008

Houdini Lives!

Over the past few weeks, I've been reading a really good biography on Harry Houdini.  If you're at all interested in the early days of show business, this is a book I'd recommend.  It's fascinating.

Anyway, reading this book has reminded me of Houdini's Great Escape... the attraction at Six Flags Great Adventure and Six Flags New England.  

The reviews of this attraction are always mixed, but I happen to love it.  It's one of the few attractions at a non-Disney/Universal park with an actual storyline.

For those of you who don't know, the attraction begins as you approach a stately, Victorian manor.   The first room you enter is an old library, filled with dusty books and many of the magical props that Houdini used during his career.

I won't spoil what happens, but if you catch this attraction on a day when all the effects are working, it's pretty damn good for a regional park.

After the pre-show, you move into the main attraction which is essentially a Vekoma Haunted Swing.  The attraction uses convincing effects to make it seem like the audience (and the room around them) are turning upside down again and again.  This is all set to a dramatic soundtrack that goes along with the storyline.

It's difficult to find pictures or video of this attraction, but there are similar ones around the world.  Check out this video of Hex at Alton Towers to see what it looks like.

Anyway, I'm a big fan of adding storyline to attractions to make it more of an experience.  Hopefully we'll see more regional parks attempt to add a bit of story to their rides.

It will be interesting to see how the new Dark Knight Coaster turns out at Six Flags parks across the country.  They seem to be trying to give it a bit of story along with the thrills.

Talk about it in the CoasterRadio.com forums!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Theme Park Rewards Program

I was going through my wallet today and realized that I have a lot of cards.

I've got credit cards, debit cards, a drivers license and my work ID. But I also realized that I have a lot of cards that confirm my enrollment in "Rewards Programs".

I have cards that offer me perks at clothing stores, casinos, hotels, grocery stores, airlines, movie theaters, car rental agencies and restaurants. I pretty much have a card that offers me points or credits for anyplace I spend money.

For the most part, these "rewards" programs help keep me loyal to certain brands and companies.

I have a lot of Frequent Flyer miles with United Airlines. So when I'm booking a flight, I usually check their fares and schedules first. I have a lot of "Players Club" points at the MGM-Mirage casinos. So when I'm in Las Vegas, I spend most of my bankroll in those properties. Today, I bought a brand new suit at a men's clothing store and was told that for every dollar I spend, I get one point towards additional savings. Guess where I'll go for my next suit?

Obviously, programs like these work. They make the customer feel appreciated and develop brand loyalty. So, would it work for a company like Six Flags or Cedar Fair to come up with a "Rewards Program" for theme park guests?

Maybe you get a certain number of points per dollar spent on food, games and merchandise. Perhaps those points can be traded in for front of the line access, comped meals or preferred parking. Maybe people who earn a lot of points could qualify for behind-the-scenes tours or other special access events.

The possibilities are endless! But will the parks ever do it?

Talk about it in the CoasterRadio.com forums!

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