Six Flags Great America Trip Report, August 2012
I was in Chicago visiting my in-laws recently. With the addition of X-Flight at Great America, I knew that was going to be on the agenda.
I love looping coasters, and I really love looping coaster innovation. The B&M Wing Rider concept is something that I've been waiting for, for quite some time. I loved X out at Magic Mountain, so even back then, I just knew that B&M had to come out with something similar.
Between the two wing riders that opened up in the U.S. this year, X-Flight was the most likely of two that I would get to. I also think it had the more interesting layout of the the two.
Wild Eagle seems like it would be fun to fly through the standard B&M inversions with no floor or ceiling. But X-Flight brings us some funky new inversions that we haven't seen in the U.S. previously.
I really enjoyed SFGAm two years ago (TR linked below). This year, it was not good. I listed my frustrations on Facebook. I'll just kinda' splice them in here...
By way of explanation on the photos...
Last time I went to Great America, I brought my large camera, which they made me lock up before I even entered a queue. As a result, I bought a nice point and shoot. However, on a recent beach trip, my wife got sand in it, and now it doesn't zoom.
So, I had to borrow a point and shoot that I was unfamiliar with. Not only did it tag every photo with a date (which I hate), but it even had the wrong date. I couldn't figure out a way to remove them, as that needs to be done before you take pictures.
I was doing some thinking, and it may have been the worst park visit I've ever had. Everywhere in the park you hear "Have a Six Flags Day!" My thought every time was, "Don't worry, I AM!"
1) The park was packed. I'm not sure why it was so busy on a Monday, but it certainly didn't help that the waterpark was closed. The queues for Raging Bull, Whizzer, Superman, Batman, V2, Demon, and Viper were all OVERFLOWING into the midways.
2) The park was totally unprepared for the day's crowds. The rides were all understaffed, and it seemed that maintenance and clean-up was too. There were extended ride breakdowns all over. Several midways were filthy at what is self-touted as "The Cleanest Theme Park in the World".
I realize that it's the end of summer, and that employees are quitting and going back to college. But there are ways to avoid that, like bringing in volunteer groups or temp workers to sweep paths or check restraints. Many parks will have a second hiring season in early August to avoid the end of the month breakdown. Some parks even incentivize their employees to stay until the end of daily operations.
3) Highlight of the Day: X-Flight. I really liked the ride - it's right up my alley. My favorite coasters are mega-coasters, but I really love a good looping ride. X-Flight is smooth, graceful and fun.
I waited for the front seat, left side and it was quite an experience. You are totally free-flying up front. The flight tower element, followed by the support fly-through was really neat.
The turn off the lift is really something on the left side. You make this big, slow, inverting turn, which is a lot of fun.
The ride just really flows after that, with one graceful inversion after another. The highlight of the ride is, of course, the control tower fly-through which you do on your side, followed immediately by the support fly-through, which you do upside down. What an insane visual that provides in the front seat. I'm sure it's good everywhere else too.
One thing I noticed was the restraints really pull pull down on you as you ride, so that at the end, they are pretty darn tight. It reminded me of Skyrush's restraints. Has B&M switched to hydraulics? Either way, even when tight, the restraints are very, very comfortable.
4) In waiting for the front seat, what should have taken less than 30 minutes took over an hour. Even though there were two employees on each side of the train, only one was checking restraints - all 16 of them. Trains were stacking for several minutes each time. Only once in my 80 minute wait did I see them clear a train for dispatch before the second one parked.
What made it even worse is that GM Hank Salemi, and other management came up to the station. I thought it would speed up operations. Wrong. A camera crew also showed up, which only delayed the trains even longer as they briefly interviewed riders while still sitting on the train. To say I grew annoyed is an understatement.
5) X-Flight broke down shortly after. It was down for the rest of the day. So, I only got one ride, which I am not happy about. Other ride brake-downs that I noticed: Orbit, Superman, & Yankee Clipper. Logger's Run was never open, nor was the red side of American Eagle.
6) Even Raging Bull shut down while I waited in line. It was lightly drizzling, but the sun was still out. It did that for about 30 minutes, and the ride continued to operate. Not once did it start to rain any harder. But as we approached the Flash Pass merge point, they shut it down due to "rain". We waited about 25 minutes until they decided to re-open it.
Upon re-opening it, a flood of Flash Pass users, of both varieties came to the merge point. Aris, I believe his name was, took a break from spitting and throwing the ice he was chomping on, to let them ALL through. We stood still for about 15 more minutes, while every single Flash Pass user was sent up to the station.
Our group grew restless, with some even questioning Aris as to why we had to stand still after waiting so long already, even when the station steps were clear. His answer "I'll let you go when I'm ready" as he continued to chomp his ice. Total Raging Bull wait time: 105 minutes, with three train operation.
Aris, management will soon know how you acted.
7) After waiting 30 minutes for Yankee Clipper, whose sign said the wait was 15 minutes, we left the queue, upon realizing two things. One , we were only 1/4 the way through. And two, that ride broke down, as there were no boats in the station, and only empty boats on the course. We opted to go sit and wait for X-Flight to reopen, as we at least knew there was no line there.
8) As we sat and waited, of course a thunderstorm rolled in, shutting down everything. We waited 30 minutes for the skies to clear up. I figured that X-Flight, when you combined the brake-down and the weather, was not going to re-open that day. So we opted to see if we could get on Viper. After waiting outside its queue for about 30 minutes, we called it a day.
9) All told, in the 6 1/2 hours spent in the park, we got on 3 coasters with one ride on Sky Trek Tower. Had I not been to the park before, I would be really upset. Like I said, we certainly had a Six Flags day!
I think Great America is one of the best Six Flags parks I've been to. I had a great time two years ago. It is very well laid out, and they have a nice collection of flats and coasters. The park is very well put-together.
I am just very disappointed in my day that went from bad to worse. Not everything that went wrong was within Great America's control, but a lot of it was. Parks have bad days too, and I got stuck there on one of them.
I really wanted to ride X-Flight a couple of times, as well as Viper, Whizzer, and Demon. I only got on X-Flight, Raging Bull, and American Eagle (blue) once - which is the side that was not open on my last trip - lucked out there.
I don't feel that parks owe me anything more than they owe anyone else that pays to get in. I just feel that they short-changed everyone in the park that day.
More photos can be found over on my Facebook page.
Coaster to Park Ratio: 4.79 / Steel to Wooden Ratio: 2.55 / Wooden Coaster Percentage: 28.1%
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All things considering with that camera, you still took some great shots. I love them!
Sounds like they delivered for you at Great America.
Happy to hear about X Flight, though.
Based on what we had heard from some of the locals, August is the worst month to visit that park. Apparently all the local public schools give children free tickets to the park if they complete a reading assignment, and of course, being procrastinators that most people are, they all wait until not long before they have to return to school to use their tickets. It seems that the local school districts have created a slow-motion "black friday" like event where everyone packs the park over the same narrow time period. I doubt I will ever return to that park, but if I do it will surely be early in the season or better yet, when schools are still in session in either the spring or fall.
Glad that you liked X-Flight, even though it was only one ride. Glad that you enjoyed that front left side seat as that flip over the track at the top of the lift is really cool. Now I'm trying to imagine doing that 170 feet above the ground next year....
I heard he phrase, "Have a Six Flags Day" over and over again at Fiesta Texas two weeks ago. I kept thinking, "So, you want me to have a day of over priced parking, over priced food, slow ride operations, broken down rides, and unfriendly staff?"
Sounds like they delivered for you at Great America.
Happy to hear about X Flight, though.
LOL, after reading Eric's recent treatment at Fiesta Texas, they want you to, and spend your money, and give you nothing you deserve.
Sorry about your crappy day at SFGAm. That park is starting to turn into a typical SF park now. The same rude workers you usually get. over-priced items, and that annoying locker rule. If you go on a day were there are few crowds , it can be good.