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Ultimate Rollercoaster > Discussion Forums > Roller Coasters, Parks & Attractions > The Future of Coaster-ing...

The Future of Coaster-ing...

squirrels

Posted:
3/7/12 at
2:53:56 PM

I've always been amazed at the sheer scope of undertaking that a roller coaster represents. A modern coaster can end up being upwards of $20 million to design, build, and test, and then there are the costs of ongoing maintenance.

Some of the trends I see in today's economy are worrisome. Unemployment, inflation...tickets to an amusement park can run $40-$50 in some cases, and salaries aren't really keeping up. Plus a lot of people aren't working right now and many of those who are can't afford the "luxury" of being able to ride coasters.

Add to that the increasing costs of metals like steel, or magnetic systems, or even just the electricity required to power these behemoths.

And then there's the sue-happy culture we live in, and the associated liability insurance...

We've seen a couple of the smaller parks close down. I'm predicting a massive consolidation, where most theme parks will be bought up by a few organizations...Six Flags, Cedar Fair, etc.

When was the last time a new theme park opened? I mean a brand new endeavor, or the last time a small local park was successful enough to make the jump to a true national-level theme park?

Is there enough support for such an endeavor? Is this industry thriving? Or floundering??

I am honestly wondering what the future of coaster-ing is. If we head toward default and end up like Greece, will the theme parks shut down and become ghost-towns? Will coasters be taken down and scrapped for metals, or hidden away in massive storage sites, sections of track laid in fenced-off fields and "rollercoaster graveyards", waiting for a buyer/operator who will never come? Will coaster-ing become a forgotten legend?

Will they stand like relics to a lost time of carefree adventure, when people could afford to p!ss immense resources away for a two-minute adrenaline rush? Will future generations look at the rusted tracks and overgrown stations and wish that things worked well enough for one more ride?

Then again, maybe the industry IS thriving. It seems to be doing well enough right now, anyway...the bigger parks still PACK people in. Hopefully, the modern roller-coaster will continue to justify its own existence for many years to come.

User Submitted Picture
Re: The Future of Coaster-ing... by beastmaster beastmaster Profile at 3/7/12 4:00:28 PM
Whazzat? Coaster ID, please. :)
Re: The Future of Coaster-ing... by RobLec RobLec Profile at 3/7/12 4:15:02 PM
Thanks for taking the time to compose such a provocative piece, and yes, that is a cool pic of the derelict coaster... I'd love to know which one it is. As for your question, I believe that there will always be amusement venues as long as there are people who are willing to spend $100 for a pair of shoes or $100,000 for an automobile. Times are hard for a good many in the western world, but we are a long way from the kind of poverty that is commonplace in the rest of the world... No matter how deep our recession, most of us have clean water and a roof over our heads. It is important that we all be grateful for what we have.
Re: The Future of Coaster-ing... by Eric_Gieszl Eric_Gieszl Profile at 3/7/12 11:47:20 PM
squirrels said:

Then again, maybe the industry IS thriving. It seems to be doing well enough right now, anyway...the bigger parks still PACK people in.

Well enough? Most parks had a very strong year last year. Disney, Universal, SeaWorld/Busch Gardens, Cedar Fair, LEGOLAND and Six Flags all reportedly had a good results last year.

A number of smaller parks had a good season as well. Holiday World and Quassy are two that immediately come to mind.

New parks opening is not really an indicator of how successful the industry is at any given time. I don't foresee much consolidation. Most parks are already owned by a parent operator and I don't predict that any of them will be merging.

Re: The Future of Coaster-ing... by mugen828 mugen828 Profile at 3/8/12 3:27:28 PM
Nice post! I have thought of the same topic, and often while I am at a park.

I feel like there will be a shortage of park openings in the next decade, but only in the U.S. I have read articles about parks in China and other countries in Asia that are building parks based off of current pop culture.

Such as a theme park based off of Blizzard's PC games. You might not know who Blizzard is simply by their name but when I say "makers of world of warcraft" you might know who I'm talking about. They also have HUGELY successful games like WOW, in Starcraft and Warcraft the strategy game series.

It's not an officially licensed theme park for Blizzard but with the popularity of the games especially in Asia the theme park has garnered a lot of attention.

Here is an article about the parks opening:

http://shanghaiist.com/2011/07/15/joyland_the_blizzard_bits.php#photo-21

This is just one example of a theme park opening, but I have also read about a new Happy Valley theme park in China as well. Sure they aren't popping up all over the place, but yes, there is still growth of new parks out there, but like I said, I doubt it will be as much growth in the states.

I feel like the U.S needs to focus on the parks they have. Six Flags in particular needs to get their crap together as far as a customer experience is based. I haven't even been to Holiday World and I want better service from Six Flags. I bet when I do reach Holiday World and get FREE soda, FREE lockers, and NICE ppl, I will wanna move there!

Edit: just took a look at www.rcdb.com and the count for new coasters in 2012 is 79. That's not too bad :)

(that isn't a count coasters that go over 30mph lol, it's any coaster)

* This post was modified at 3/8/12 3:34:43 PM *

- mugen828
157 Coasters -- Favorite Coaster -- Nitro (SFGAdv)
117 Steel -- 40 Wood -- Home Park: SFGADv
Re: The Future of Coaster-ing... by Cyclone_Phil Cyclone_Phil Profile at 3/8/12 4:29:04 PM
Great post mugen!

For Six flags, I like that finally they are concentrating on making their existing parks better as opposed to the past where they kept buying parks, slap their logos on and buy $20 mil coasters. They over expanded and that was their downfall.

Now, I know this will sound a bit selfish, but Six Flags really should sell off some of their smaller parks. If they aren't doing well revenues wise, it'd be best to let them go and focus on their other more 'well off' parks. No where does it say there must be a Six Flags at every major state/city. BG-SW does just fine in the few locations they have. And Disney has California and Florida. But that's just me.

Re: The Future of Coaster-ing... by frontrow frontrow Profile at 3/9/12 9:11:00 PM
I posted a tread simular to this a while back. I also have a concern about the future of the industry, for the same reasons you guys have already mentioned. One thing that I don't think has been mentioned is the lack of wooden coasters that have been built in the last few years. From 2004 to 2008 we were blessed with Thunderhead, Hades, El Toro, The Voyage, Kentucky Rumbler, and Ravine Flyer II. All are in my top 10 on my wooden coaster list. It looked like we were entering another era of wooden coasters. But as for 2010, 2011, and now 2012, it seemed that trend has come to a sudden halt. Back to the subject. The one thing that makes me optimistic about the industry is the attendance. Even in bad economic times, people are still piling into parks. I'm seeing this first hand by visiting multiple parks every year. Those days of small crowds, coaster walk ons, getting 10 rides on your favorite coaster, and running from ride to ride are getting very slim. Even at the smaller parks I attended last year there was large enough crowds where the park was most definitely making a profit. That's what's important. If people are coming through the gates, spending money, and the park is profiting, I don't think we have anything to worry about. I'm not concerned that there haven't been any new parks built in the US in the several years. I just we keep the ones we have. The reopening of Kentucky Kingdom next year is certainly a step in the right direction. All in all I think the industy is strong, but at the same time my kids and I try to visit as many parks we can afford. You never know what park will suffer the fate the Geauga Lake and SF Astoworld did. The best thing to do is get out there and ride and enjoy the parks we do have.
Re: The Future of Coaster-ing... by beastmaster beastmaster Profile at 3/10/12 7:17:27 AM
frontrow said:

From 2004 to 2008 we were blessed with Thunderhead, Hades, El Toro, The Voyage, Kentucky Rumbler, and Ravine Flyer II. All are in my top 10 on my wooden coaster list.


Me too, save for Hades..Haven't been to the Dells.

* This post was modified at 3/10/12 9:58:24 AM *

Re: The Future of Coaster-ing... by mugen828 mugen828 Profile at 3/10/12 3:04:59 PM
beastmaster said:

frontrow said:


From 2004 to 2008 we were blessed with Thunderhead, Hades, El Toro, The Voyage, Kentucky Rumbler, and Ravine Flyer II. All are in my top 10 on my wooden coaster list.


Me too, save for Hades..Haven't been to the Dells.


You my sir, are missing out on a hell of a coaster! I went to Mt.Olympus on it's last day of weekday operations last year and we got in for $10, AND it included the water park! Hades is in my top ten rides overall. I haven't ridden The Voyage yet, but I feel like Hades is right up there with El Toro. It's a crazy and...hectic ride, but I feel like that's how it was meant to be. Rather than the smooth intensity of El Toro you get an intense, fast, but hectic ride of half darkness, half light.

I like the point that someone made about the multiple wood coasters that have come out in the last decade that made it in their respective "top" list. There have been awesome coasters built in the last decade alone, but has there been a theme park to open in the past decade that has flourished?

- mugen828
157 Coasters -- Favorite Coaster -- Nitro (SFGAdv)
117 Steel -- 40 Wood -- Home Park: SFGADv
Re: The Future of Coaster-ing... by squirrels at 3/12/12 8:23:03 AM
I think the reason that there haven't been many more "woodies" built lately is that most major parks have two or so of them already, and they're still operating. (i.e. why build more of the same??)

The downside to this is that a lot of the older woodies are becoming loose, rickety, and painful. And parks have a habit of keeping these older coasters around for nostalgic/historical reasons. The only way we'd start seeing new wooden coasters is if some of the old ones started getting torn down.

And even then...steel is the medium of the modern coaster. It can be made to do pretty much anything wood can do and many things that wood cannot do.

The neatest thing about modern wood coasters, in my own opinion, is the fact that many of them turn in on themselves. Wood coasters have a unique support structure. When wood coasters turn back in on themselves, tying themselves in snake-ish knots, the structure of the coaster creates "head-chopper" effects and the illusion of speed due to timbers whizzing by. It also hides what's coming up on the coaster so the rider is genuinely surprised.

I'm not impressed by "out-and-back" woodies. Their time has come and gone. They were neat in their day. They have been surpassed.

I do like what Intamin did with El Toro, applying near-vertical drops and high speeds to a wood design. I also like what GCI does with coasters like Lightning Racer...the steep banks, the racing/dodging coasters...these are the things needed to keep wood interesting.

But hypers/speed is king right now. And to do that with wood is so pricey and daunting engineering-wise that you're better off just using steel. Just like loops in the 1990s. Wood can't do it.