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Ultimate Rollercoaster > News > Archives > February 1999 News

News February 1999


February 18, 1999

Employee Falls To Death At Walt Disney World

Orlando, FL - Last Sunday an employee of Walt Disney World was killed when he fell 40 feet to his death, while dangling from one of the cars on the Skyway attraction in Fantasyland.

According to reports, Raymond Barlow, 65, fell to his death after being swept off the ride platform by one of the cars, when the attraction was turned on about ten minutes prior to the park opening.

The employee who was sweeping the area suddenly had to grab onto the outside of a four-passenger gondola to avoid being hit and thrown from the platform. Barlow held on to the car while he desperately looked for a place to fall.

According to the local Sheriff's Office, he was looking for a place to fall to avoid landing on the concrete below.

Barlow died of multiple injuries as a result of the fall and was pronounced dead at the Orlando Regional Medical Center.

The local sheriff's office has ruled the death an industrial accident. A Disney spokeswoman stated that the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration was to begin its investigation Wednesday.

There were no guests in the park at the time of the incident. The Skyway attraction remained closed all-day Sunday, but reopened on Monday.

Lance Burton's Escape On The Desperado To Air Next Wednesday

New York, NY - A television special entitled "Top Secret" starring Lance Burton is scheduled to air on NBC next Wednesday, February 24 at 9:00pm (EST/PST). The show may be of interest to coaster enthusiasts since it will feature a daring escape on Nevada's Desperado roller coaster.

According to a report Lance Burton will be tied to the tracks of the Desperado to narrowly escape only seconds before the train would have hit him at nearly 80 mph.

Sources who were lucky enough to see the taping say it is a must see stunt. So mark your calendar or set your VCR, because from the sounds of it you won't want to miss this show.

Busch Gardens Williamsburg Starts Testing Apollo's Chariot

Williamsburg, VA - According to readers reports Busch Gardens Williamsburg has begun testing of the new Bolliger and Mabillard hypercoaster, Apollo's Chariot. The new steel roller coaster is already one of the most anticipated new rides for 1999.

According to one reader he witnessed the red trains run for nine full circuit tests this past Monday. Another reader reports that a few lucky riders were seen riding the new roller coaster on Tuesday.

Apollo's Chariot is the first hypercoaster to be built by coaster designers, Bolliger and Mabillard. The new coaster is slated to premier to the public on opening day of the 1999 season at Busch Gardens Williamsburg.

Six Flags Magic Mountain's New Coaster May Not Open In 1999

Valencia, CA - Following a trip to the park and according to a report from an inside source the new Giovanola roller coaster will more than likely not open in 1999 as previously reported on this site.

As of last Monday I can report that there was not a sign of any sort of construction going on at the park relating to the new roller coaster.

Last week an inside source wrote to say that the coaster was scheduled to be completed in 1999. But according to the most recent information being passed among park employees, construction on the new ride may not begin until the late spring or early summer.

Following our on site inspection it was obvious that a lot of track has yet to be delivered, if this coaster is going to as big as the rumors suggest.

The same source also informed us that the park would more than likely make an official announcement prior to starting construction. Also, one reader wrote to inform us that one of the names being passed around for the new coaster is Goliath.

We will try to keep you posted on any else we find out about new coaster. So keep checking back.

Superman The Escape To Re-Open And Possible Revolution Changes

Valencia, CA - A park source has informed us that Superman The Escape should be operational again within a few weeks. The ride will remain closed for February, but should open sometime in the early part of March.

According to this source the ride has undergone some major changes including the addition of a traditional fin breaking system. The new breaks were installed so ride mechanics will no longer have to baby site the attraction.

It will be interesting to ride it with traditional breaks. We speculate that the end of the ride will not be nearly as smooth as before.

In other Six Flags Magic Mountain news it is rumored that Revolution may be in for some changes in the near future. According one reader the park is considering a new restraint system that would eliminate the lap bars and retrofit the over the shoulder restraints.

It seems that the park is responding to complaints from guest about headaches and pain caused by the poorly designed over the shoulder restraints.

The Revolution was originally designed and operated for nearly 14 years with only lap bar restraints. In 1990 the trains were retrofitted with seat belts and then shortly after over the shoulder bars.

It is unknown exactly why the park modified the trains, but some speculate it had to do with changes in an insurance policy. In any case the changes have made the Revolution one of the most painful attractions in the park. A new restraint system if done right will be a welcome change for this once incredibly popular coaster.

February 11, 1999

Holiday World Signs Contract With CCI For Y2K Coaster

Santa Claus, IN - Paula Werne, Director of Public Relations for Holiday World and Splashin' Safari has informed the coaster community that the park has signed a contract with Custom Coasters, Inc. (CCI) to build a new wooden coaster for the year 2000.

A letter posted on rec.roller-coaster from Paula Werne states that the park should have a final design to present within a month. According to Werne the park has received nearly a hundred e-mails from coaster enthusiasts after they requested for input. The enthusiasts who wrote in gave suggestions on the name and layout for the new coaster.

According to Werne's letter, Holiday World has made quite a few design changes to the new coaster, thanks to the input from the e-mails. The park took the time to print out each letter and forwarded them on to the park's owner Will Koch, who then sent a list over to Denise Dinn Larrick at CCI.

Thanks to the recommendations, Holiday World and CCI were able to work quite a few of the recommendations into the design of the 2000 coaster.

As for the name of the new coaster it has yet to be selected. But according to Paula Werne, the park management is in the process of making a selection.

We would like to take this opportunity to commend Holiday World for listening to and taking the input of the coaster loving community so seriously. This may be the first coaster ever to have been designed in part by direct input of coaster enthusiasts.

In addition to the new coaster for 2000, Holiday World announced that the popular Stark Raven Mad event would be held on Friday, June 11. For further details consult the Stark Raven Mad flyer on the Holiday World web site.

Jazzland To Open With A Variety Of Attractions

New Orleans, LA - A source that attended a meeting on the new Jazzland Theme Park has passed along the following details about the attractions that will be built at the park in time for the parks opening.

According to the source the opening date for Jazzland has now been pushed up to April 2000. Below is a listing of the new attractions to be built in phase one and phase two at Jazzland.

Phase I Attractions

Giovanola Inverted Roller Coaster
Vekoma Boomerang Coaster
Vekoma Family Coaster
L&T Wild Mouse Coaster
Kiddie Coaster
S&S Sports Inc., Space Shot/Turbo Drop Twin Tower
Huss Airboats
Huss Frisbee
Chance Aviator
Chance Wipeout
Chance Chaos
Chance Inverter
Wave Swinger
Pirate Boat Swing
Bumper Cars
Giant Wheel
O.D. Hopkins Log Flume
O.D. Hopkins Shoot the Chutes
Interactive Dark Ride
Sky Coaster
Air Jumper

Phase II Attractions

CCI Zephyr 'Clone' Wooden Coaster
River Rapids Ride

According to the list it now appears that Giovanola has a second U.S. project in the works. They are currently preparing to begin construction on their first coaster project at Six Flags Magic Mountain.

The biggest surprise on the list was the Zephyr wooden coaster clone, which was originally believed to be a part of phase one. According to the source the park rep's confirmed at the event that the Zephyr is in fact a part of phase two.

New Go-Cart Tracks To Open At Several Six Flags Parks

Dallas, TX - We have confirmed that Premier Parks, Inc. will be opening go-cart tracks at Six Flags Over Texas, Six Flags Magic Mountain and Six Flags Great Adventure for the 1999 season.

The track being installed at Six Flags Over Texas will be over 800 feet in length and located on the north side of the park under the Shockwave roller coaster.

The new track at Six Flags Magic Mountain is said to be located behind the sky coaster in the location of the old "TAGS" building.

The new go-cart attraction at all three parks will be an additional cost to ride on top of the regular all day admission prices. The pricing is expected to be $5 to drive and $2 if you wish to ride in the passenger seat.

More Rumors Surface On The New Magic Mountain Roller Coaster

Valencia, CA - [RUMOR] We have received word from an unknown source that the support colors for the new Giovanola roller coaster will be teal and the trains will be red. According to the source he claims that this may very well be the "ugliest" roller coaster ever built.

Rumors about the name continue to circulate around the park. So far the names being discussed among the employees are Hercules and Millennium.

It is still believed that this coaster will open in 1999. But work on the new ride seems to be slow to start. We will be making an attempt to contact Giovanola to see if they will offer any details on a time frame for the construction of this new coaster.

Knott's Locates Couple To Get Married On The GhostRider

Buena Park, CA - Knott's Berry Farm has located a couple to get married on their new wooden coaster, the GhostRider. The lucky couple will be flying in from their home in Michigan to get married on the roller coaster this Friday, February 12. According to a park source the couple are members of the American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE).

Six Flags Magic Mountain Spoofs Knott's Promotion

Valencia, CA - With the help of Los Angeles radio station KIIS-FM 102.7, Six Flags Magic Mountain officials have put together a promotion to counter Knott's Berry Farm's attempt to marry a couple on the GhostRider.

The KISS-FM / Six Flags Magic Mountain promotion is similar to the one going on the same day at Knott's. The radio station has been giving away tickets on the air.

The event will be held on Friday, February 12 from 9:00 am to 12 noon. According to KISS-FM on air personalities they too are seeking couples to get married on the various roller coasters at Six Flags Magic Mountain. Colossus and The Riddler's Revenge have been specifically mentioned on the air.

It is unclear which park thought up the promotion first though we suspect that Knott's did. In any case it is apparent that the two parks are dueling for the media's attention. It will be interesting to see what happens once Six Flags Magic Mountain begins construction on their new coaster.

Disney Begins Cast Member Preview Of Kali River Rapids

Orlando, FL - A source has reported that Disney will begin cast member previews of Animal Kingdom's new Kali River Rapids ride. The cast member preview will be held from February 10-14.

According to the source the new attraction will open to the public on February 15. The ride will then be closed once again from February 26-28 for an unknown reason. Following the three-day closure the attraction will once again re-open for good.

The source informed us that during the preview only cast members of Disney will be allowed to ride. Cast members were not allowed to invite guests for this preview.

Kali River Rapids is said to be a heavily themed traditional river rapids ride, where guests will get wet, possibly soaked. It is believed that aside from the Disney water parks, this is the first Disney attraction to ever warn guests that they will for sure get wet.

Sea World's New Steel Eel Nearly Ready For March Opening

San Antonio, TX - The Steel Eel, Sea World's newest roller coaster is almost finished and will open on the park's first day of the season, March 6, according to Sea World officials.

The new 3,700 foot long steel hypercoaster was designed and constructed by D.H. Morgan Manufacturing of California. Sea World's latest addition and newest attraction will surly be the highlight of the 1999-operating season.

Standing high above the park the Steel Eel can be seen for miles. The new coaster will be full of exciting thrills while it travels along the track at speeds of up to 65 mph. The first drop will send 36-riders plunging 150 feet at 60 degrees and feature a g-force of 3.5 at the bottom.

In addition to the high speeds and exciting drops the Steel Eel promises to deliver plenty of airtime as well. The design of the coaster places several hills in specific places that are designed to produce negative g's or airtime as most coaster enthusiasts call it.

Construction and testing of the new coaster should be complete within the next couple of weeks. Sea World, San Antonio opens for the 1999 season on March 6. If all goes as planned the Steel Eel will open that day as well.

Cear Fair, L.P. Has Announced Record Earnings For 1998

Sandusky, OH - Cedar Fair, L.P. announced on Friday, January 29 that it had record earnings last year at its amusement parks. The record earnings were achieved thanks in part to the addition of the chains newest park Knott's Berry Farm, located in Buena Park, California.

Cedar Fair announced that the combined attendance for the five parks, Cedar Point, Valleyfair, World's of Fun, Dorney Park and Knott's Berry Farm was 10.8 million. A 58 percent increase over the previous year.

The dramatic increase can be attributed to the estimated 3 million plus attendance at Cedar Fair's newest theme park member Knott's Berry Farm.

While attendance was down at most Southern California parks, Knott's Berry Farm managed to have no change in its attendance from 1997 to 1998. The other Cedar Fair parks saw an increase in attendance by about 7 percent.

Cedar Fair earned $83.4 million or $1.58 cents per share in 1998. This was up from $68.5 million or $1.47 per share in 1997. Revenues increased in 1998 to $419.5 million. Up from $264.1 million in 1997.

Disney May Built A Theme Park In Hong Kong

Hong Kong, China - In an attempt to improve tourism in Hong Kong, government and tourists industry sources confirmed that Hong Kong is talking to the Walt Disney Company about building the world's fifth Disneyland theme park.

A government source confirmed that they are looking into a variety of options to boost tourism. Tourism in the area has fallen off since China's take over of Hong Kong from Great Britain.

We previously reported that Disney CEO, Michael Eisner, had mentioned in a letter to stockholders that the company might be close to building a major Disney attraction, in the world's most populated country.

A new Disneyland may be just what Hong Kong needs to reverse the decline in tourism. Disney currently operates theme parks in the United States, Japan and France.

February 4, 1999

California Has The Highest Rate Of Ride Related Deaths

Sacramento, CA - Nationwide from 1973 to 1997 there were a total of 57 people killed on amusement park rides.

California, which has the second highest attendance, has reported 14 deaths directly related to rides since 1973. Florida, which has the highest attendance, has no fatalities on record. The second highest state was New Jersey with six deaths.

The data compiled by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission excludes fatalities not directly connected to rides. In addition mobile rides used by fair and carnivals are excluded.

The recent death of a Disneyland guest has drawn concern in California that the theme park industry should have some sort of state safety inspections. California is among twelve states without state safety regulations.

Following the December accident officials from Disneyland, Knott's Berry Farm and Paramount's Great America all commented that they would favor regulation if it were to improve ride safety.

Many of the other parks still oppose state safety inspections favoring in house inspections. Parks arguing against a state system claim that it is unnecessary since they already thoroughly inspect the rides to maintain the park's reputation for safety.

In any case it now appears that after thirty years of resistance some form of regulation may be adopted in the near future. A California assemblyman already has plans to reintroduce a safety bill that was killed a few years back. The bill was introduced following a Northern California water park accident that killed one teenage girl.

New General Manager Appointed at Riverside Park

Agawam, MA - A 16-year theme park veteran is the new general manager of Riverside Park. The announcement was made by Premier Parks, the parent company of Riverside Park. Gary Story, Premier Parks' president and chief operating officer, named Timothy Black the new general manager effective immediately.

Black comes to Riverside from another Premier property, Wyandot Lake Theme Park in Columbus, Ohio, where he was General Manager. His experience includes senior positions at Wyandot Lake, Six Flags Fiesta Texas, Frontier City and White WaterBay, three major regional theme parks.

"Vital to our goal of building Riverside into a world class regional park for the New England area is having an experienced general manager in place at the Park. Tim's expertise, experience and creativity will be invaluable to us as we continue to move forward with our short and long-term capital plans and programs," Story said.

In addition to his operations responsibilities, Black will oversee the massive construction project that began in 1996 after Premier acquired the New England Park. Upgrades and improvements to the Park have included over $55 million in new rides, shows and attractions during the last two seasons. Plans for the 1999 season's new improvements will be announced within the next month.

Black replaces Bill Muirhead, who recently left Riverside to become General Manager of Riverside's sister Park, Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey. "Riverside Park and Western Massachusetts will benefit from the experience and dedication that Tim brings to the Park," Muirhead stated. "His operational expertise and passion for the theme park industry will ensure that Riverside continues to offer a first-class and entertaining family experience," Muirhead added.

Coasterphobics Take Their First Ride At Island's Of Adventure

Orlando, FL - Thanks to the help of two Boston psychologists more than a dozen coaster fearing individuals took their first ride on the Incredible Hulk Coaster at Universal's new Island's Of Adventure theme park.

The coasterphobics were invited to Island's Of Adventure to take part in the park's new program, which is designed to alleviate riders' fears about thrill rides.

The program was designed by psychologists Brian Newmark and Michael Otto and is the first program of it's kind in the nation.

On Tuesday, January 26 Newmark and Otto spent the day training the park staff techniques on how to identify scared riders and help calm their nerves.

After training the staff Newmark and Otto stayed an extra day to work with the coasterphobics who were introduced to coaster enthusiasts. The riders were taught techniques on how to deal with their fears.

Each participant in the program was paired up with a coaster enthusiast who was to act as a mentor for the phobic. After a day of preparation it was time for the coasterphobics to get their chance to ride the roller coaster.

According to a report it is believed that all but one took at least one ride on the Incredible Hulk. Some in fact took more than one ride.

While it may not be the ultimate cure according to some of the coasterphobics. Most agreed that the classes did helped clam their nerves.

The New Incredible Hulk Coaster Gets Rave Reviews

Orlando, FL - Several lucky coaster enthusiasts last week got the opportunity to try out the new Incredible Hulk roller coaster at Universal's new Island's Of Adventure theme park.

Reports from those fortunate enough to get the chance to ride the new coaster have been good. Several of the enthusiasts have reported that the Incredible Hulk will more than likely be one of highlights of 1999.

The Incredible Hulk is one of three new roller coasters built at Island's Of Adventures. Coaster designers Bolliger and Mabillard designed the Incredible Hulk. The ride features a number of inversions following an exciting launch up through a 150-foot tunnel.

The new Island's Of Adventure theme park is a part of the new Universal Studios Escape, which opens in Orlando, Florida this spring.

Riverside To Open Several New Attractions This Season

Agawam, MA - A source has confirmed that a new white water rapid ride will open this season at Riverside Park. The new river ride will be named Blizzard River. Construction on the new river ride has already begun.

In addition to the river ride, Riverside also plans to install a number of new spinning flat rides. Chance Rides has already confirmed that they will be installing a Double Inverter at the park. Also Riverside is in the process of replacing the old bumper cars with newer ones.

The water park located at Riverside will also receive four new water slides, but details about the slides are unknown.

February 1, 1999

Giovanola Track Spotted At Six Flags Magic Mountain

Valencia, CA - "I Told You So" was the title of one e-mail received from an inside source on Friday morning. According to this source and verified reports over the weekend it has been confirmed that Giovanola track has arrived at Six Flags Magic Mountain.

According to an inside source we should expect to hear an official announcement about the new roller coaster prior to the start of construction.

It was confirmed last years IAAPA conference that the new roller coaster will be a hypercoaster and the first US project for European designer Giovanola.

As for stats on the new coaster, our best sources still claim that the hypercoaster will stand about 260 feet tall and have an initial drop of approximately 255 feet. The top speed is expected to be nearly 90 mph and the track length to be around 6,750 feet long.

The layout for the coaster still remains unclear, but some sources report that there is a chance that this coaster may allow for a four-train operation.

If the stats are correct it would make this the tallest, fastest and longest steel roller coaster in the US and the third year in a row that Six Flags Magic Mountain builds a record breaking thrill ride.

One individual who asked to be quoted, but remain nameless said "Premier will spend $42 million on Great Adventure for 1999, but the new roller coaster at Magic Mountain will be the largest ride built at any Six Flags park in 1999. If you think the hype on Medusa was big, just wait until they announce this one."

If all goes as planned according to several sources, the new hypercoaster should open in early July.

Unknown Company May Try To Purchase VisionLand

Bessemer, AL - A local paper reported last week that a company may be interested in purchasing VisionLand amusement park. According to article VisionLand Chairman Larry Langford confirmed that a unnamed company has expressed interest.

The article stated that Langford will meet with the representatives of the unknown company, which have only been identified as having $1.5 billion in assets.

VisionLand opened in 1998 at a cost of $44 million. The park is currently owned by eleven cities and towns in Jefferson County.

The article mentioned that the letter requested more information about VisionLand and called the park "an ideal candidate to advance our strategy in the Southeastern United States."

Initial rumors claim that the interested company may in fact be Cedar Fair L.P. A source pointed out that a newspaper article that appeared last year on Knott's suggested that the company was in fact be interested in further expanding it's theme park operations into other areas of the United States. Cedar Fair currently owns and operates five theme parks including Knott's Berry Farm and Cedar Point.

Disneyland's Tomorrowland Attractions Plagued With Problems

Anaheim, CA - It was confirmed this weekend that the Rocket Rods at Disneyland have been once again closed down due to technical problems. The new 'flagship' Tomorrowland attraction has been plagued with problems since it first opened in May 1998 and according to sources the problems have once again begun to escalate.

The original closure occurred in July 1998 after a short month and half run. The ride then remained closed until the fall when the park began to operate the attraction on selected days. Beginning in early November the attraction began to operate nearly every day.

An inside source reports that the Rocket Rods will now be closed until an unknown part arrives at the park. This part is expected to solve some of the problems Disneyland has been having with the attractions cars.

In addition to the Rocket Rod problems, it was also confirmed that the on-board audio system on Space Mountain is also not operational at this time. Sources claim the park is currently working on the audio system to improve the reliability and performance.

It should be noted that we find this to be sort of odd, since the audio system on Space Mountain has rarely if ever failed on the numerous visits to the park we have made since it was installed.

Which Florida Thrill Ride Is More Thrilling?

Orlando, FL - On January 25, 1999 the Central Florida Business journal had this to say about the new Islands of Adventure theme park, opening this Spring in Orlando.

Too Much Of A Thrill?

When Universal Studios Escape's Islands of Adventure opens this summer, the debate will start again on which theme park has the scariest ride. Islands of Adventure's Dueling Dragons roller coasters may be in the running. Word is even the designers, when they rode it for the first time recently, worried that they had miscalculated and would slam into a wall at one point. The ride features several near-misses, including near collisions with an oncoming coaster."

So far the initial word has been great from those who have ridden the Dueling Dragons is great. I guess the rest of us will just have to wait until this Spring to find out.

Another Classic Coaster Falls Victim To The Wrecking Ball

Denver, CO - On January 25, the classic wooden roller coaster better known as Mr. Twister became the latest SBNO (Standing But Not Operating) coaster to be destroyed. Mr. Twister was designed and built by legendary coaster designer John Allen.

Mr. Twister was closed after Elitch Garden's moved to it's new location in Denver. The coaster was left behind standing to decay ever since.

Many fans had hoped to see the coaster relocated. The best news to come from this came this past fall when Knoebels Amusement Park in Pennsylvania announced that they would be a slightly modified replica of the classic Mr. Twister.

Many enthusiasts considered this to be one of the greatest roller coasters ever built. Mr. Twister will be missed.

Plans Are Set For Cedar Point's 1999 Coastermania

Sandusky, OH - It's time to mark June 4, 1999 down on your calendar. That's the official date of Coastermania 1999, held at Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio.

The official word is Ron Toomer, former director of Arrow Dynamics will be this year's guest speaker at the event. Toomer will speak in the Cedar Point Ballroom at 10:00 am and 12:30 pm.

Exclusive ride time (ERT) will be offered on the Mantis, Raptor, Mean Streak and Magnum XL-200 roller coasters. The park will also be offering reduced rates on the Ripcord sky coaster. Attendees will be allowed to ride the Ripcord from 9:00 am to Noon for only $8 and for $10 from Noon until 4:00 pm.

Coastermania 1999 is open to members of all roller coaster clubs and organizations. You must have a valid membership card. Tickets to the event are $22.50 and the member may purchase up to three additional tickets for non-members.

World's Tallest Freefall Now Open In Australia

Queensland, Australia - Dreamworld located on the Gold Coast of Australia is proud to introduce the The Giant Drop, the world's tallest freefall thrill ride.

The new $12 million thrill ride, was designed by Intamin AG of Switzerland.

Aside from being the tallest freefall ride in the world, The Giant Drop has created structural design and construction history for rides of this type, sharing the physical tower that supports one of the fastest, tallest thrill rides in the world - the Tower of Terror. The dual 8-seat cars are being used for the first time on a ride of this height and design.

The Giant Drop peaks out at 119 meters (aprox.. 390 feet) high. Riders then get to experience the sensation of free falling down the 39 story tall tower. The previous record holder was the Blue Fall located in Hakeijima, Japan. The Blue Fall is 107 meters (aprox.. 350 feet) high.

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