Industry Focus: Adding New Attractions to Leisure Entertainment Facilities

March 7, 2011

The question of whether to add a new attraction is one that all owners and operators of leisure entertainment facilities ask themselves at one time or another.

One good indicator that such a move may be appropriate is an absence of anything similar in the immediate area, noted David Peretz, founder and president of Laser Star Amusements. That was the thinking behind the installation of the Sky Rocket Launch Coaster, which features three inversions, a zero- to 50-miles-per-hour launch  in three seconds, a 90-degree drop into a maximum G-force pullout, and more, at Kennywood Amusement Park in West Mifflin, Pa. last year.  “There was nothing else like it around or at the park,” said Jerome Gibas, general manager.

The same rationale will lead to the introduction of the WindSeeker, a 30-story tall swing ride, at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, and Torpedo Rush thrill slides at Clementon Park and Splash World in Clementon, N.J. this summer. WindSeeker’s swings will reach speeds of 25 to 30 miles per hour and extend outward almost 45 degrees from the center. It is a sharp contrast to a nearby Wave Swinger whose top speed is nine miles per hour, reported John Hildebrandt, vice president and general manager. Torpedo Rush stands 60 feet tall and sends riders seated in a fully enclosed launch capsule on a free-fall journey to splash-down. Clementon chose to roll out Torpedo Rush because it is the first-ever attraction of its kind; it will be available only at the park, said David Dorman, vice president and general manager.

An identified need to cater to a specific group that frequents a leisure entertainment facility, but does not fully take advantage of it and may, as a result, begin going elsewhere comes under this heading as well. Not long ago, the South Carolina Aquarium in Charleston, S.C. opened its Toddler Cove play area. The attraction features life-size aquatic play structures built into a soft floor, reminiscent of an undersea tropical reef. An aquarium spokesperson noted that the area was built not only to cater to very young children, but to provide a place within the facility where parents could hold play dates and meetings of “mothers’ groups.”

Similarly, Six Flags White Water in Atlanta is adding an interactive water playground rendered in the theme of popular preschool entertainers The Wiggles. Spanning 40,000 square feet, it will include a play ship, a water jet area, and a water slide. Six Flags has used The Wiggles franchise in five of its U.S. theme parks, but never before in a waterpark. The addition of the themed water playground is an attempt to bring more of a family experience to the park, as well as to offer new options to the younger visitor set, reported Melinda Ashcraft, president, Six Flags Atlanta Properties.

There are also instances in which adding a traditional attraction, or any attraction at all, to a leisure entertainment center probably is not in order. For example, “passing” on such a move, at least temporarily, is likely a good idea if there are other pressing operational priorities and/or problems to solve. According to Clement Lanthier, president and CEO of The Calgary Zoo in Calgary, Alberta, many North American zoos currently are, in an effort to compensate for local government funding shortages, introducing new attractions and exotic animals as a means of cultivating revenue-generating return visitors and garnering private/corporate donations. However, this may not be the best idea, as in doing so, they are simultaneously neglecting their existing infrastructure, which is often in a deteriorating state and requires a high degree of maintenance.

Rather than unveiling a “big-ticket, money-making exhibit” in 2011—such as the automated, life-size dinosaurs in a “Jurassic Park”-like setting highlighted at the facility last year or the visiting koalas on loan from the San Diego Zoo in 2009—The Calgary Zoo will promote its conservation, education, and research work throughout 2011. A four-part series, in turn highlighting Siberian tigers, gorillas, grizzlies and hippopotami, will focus on demonstrating to visitors the important efforts undertaken by the zoo’s staff to protect endangered species and their habitats. “I want people to come, enjoy the day, and walk away having learned something,” Lanthier said. “The idea of focusing on four species instead of…on a new attraction will probably give us the opportunity this year to accomplish our goal.”

Owners and operators of leisure entertainment centers should also ensure that a new attraction will not cannibalize revenue from existing ones, noted the director of sales for one bumper car manufacturer. While it is impossible to predict this entirely, if the attraction is different enough from other available options at the facility, it will likely be a good fit. Chad Cook, owner of Freedom Station Entertainment Center in Prescott Valley, Ariz., kept this in mind when deciding whether or not to add bumper cars to the operation’s mix in conjunction with a renovation several years ago. Nothing even remotely similar was on the premises, so he moved ahead with the project and successfully so. The attraction has contributed to a 45 percent increase in revenues since the expansion.

Industry News

James “Chip” Cleary Named IAAPA President and CEO
30-Year Attractions Industry Veteran to Lead International Trade Association

The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) recently announced James “Chip” Cleary has been named president and CEO. He will take over the top staff position at the worldwide trade association on April 4, 2011.

“Chip’s proven leadership acumen, diverse and extensive experience in the attractions industry, and his years of service as an active volunteer and leader within IAAPA make him ideally qualified to lead the association as president and CEO,” said IAAPA Chairman Bob Rippy. “Chip will use his knowledge of our industry and his passion for the success of our members to elevate the products and services we offer around the world.”

A 30-year veteran of the attractions industry, Cleary has been a partner in and/or managed a variety of attractions including amusement parks, family entertainment centers, and waterparks.

Cleary started his career in the industry in 1978 at Adventureland Amusement Park in Farmingdale, N.Y. He worked his way up through a number of positions to serve as vice president, where he oversaw the rebuilding and operation of the park.

In 1991 Cleary supervised the design and construction of Splish Splash waterpark on Long Island, N.Y., and served as the park’s president until 1999. Cleary and his partners sold Splish Splash to Palace Entertainment in 1999, and Cleary joined Palace’s executive team as vice president of the waterpark division. Splish Splash is consistently rated one of the top waterparks in the United States.

Palace Entertainment was purchased by Spain-based Parques Reunidos in 2007 and Cleary was named senior vice president to oversee the company’s portfolio of waterparks in the U.S. In 2008 Lake Compounce was added to his group.

Cleary has been an active volunteer in IAAPA for nearly 15 years. He served on the association’s exhibitor awards, government relations, safety and maintenance, and conference and trade show advisory committees and chaired the membership, strategic planning, compensation and executive committees. Cleary also led the team that produced the Kickoff Event at IAAPA Attractions Expo for the past four years. He served two terms on the board of directors and was elected third vice chairman in 2007. He served as second and first vice chairman in 2008 and 2009 respectively and he was chairman of the board in 2010.

Cleary graduated magna cum laude in 1973 from the New York Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. He is a past chairman of the board for the Amusement Council of the New York State Hotel Motel Association and has served on the boards for the Long Island Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Miller Place Civic Association.

Gold Medal Celebrates 80 Successful Years

Eighty years ago, a daring man risked everything to support his family. The stock market crashed two years earlier and America was in The Great Depression. David C. Evans borrowed $2,000 on his $8,000 home to buy Kings Ink Company. With ingenuity and determination, he expanded the original ink-only lines to include everything from paste and glue to soft drink concentrates, cake flavorings and coloring. The food line he developed was then sold under Gold Medal.

With the help of David’s sons, David Bruce and J.C., Gold Medal became a worldwide concession leader by creating industry milestones and revolutionary advances. By the late 1940s, Gold Medal was a major producer of Sno-Kone®, cotton candy and popcorn machines. Gold Medal introduced its first 6-ounce popcorn popper in 1949, and the first factory-made cotton candy cone in 1951. In the 1950s, Gold Medal continued to share its passion for popcorn with advances in poppers. It then continued to perfect and introduce other concession classics to the world during the next few decades. Now, Gold Medal holds numerous patents for concession equipment and makes a wide variety of fun food machines to give each customer tailored, profit-packed sales. (For example, it holds 16 patents on popcorn machines and makes more than 80 models of poppers.)

Now, as it celebrates its 80th anniversary, Gold Medal still takes the risks to ensure the rewards for its customers. It still manufactures concession equipment and flavors and distributes them, and other concession supplies, worldwide from its Cincinnati, Ohio location. The company continues to thrive with the third and fourth generations of the Evans family, each building on the success of the past. It’s led by J.C., chairman, and Dan Kroeger, president. The family business has also expanded to employ more than 350 people, has 10 additional branches, and has a network of dealers around the globe to ensure timely, unsurpassed customer service.

Contact Gold Medal today for more information about the 80th anniversary celebration, the history, or the revolutionary advances.

Stage 1 Crane Control Board Wins 2011 Amusement and Music Operators Association (AMOA) Innovator Award.

Coast to Coast Entertainment Stage 1 Crane Controller Board, which features the patent pending AutoClawTM function, has won recognition from the 2011 Amusement and Music Operators Association (AMOA) Innovator Awards, which were presented during the Amusement Expo in Las Vegas.

The Stage 1 Crane Controller Board enables the crane to automatically adjust itself with no dials, pots, dip switches or settings to adjust. This takes the guesswork out of setting up cranes. The Stage 1 Crane Controller uses a state of the art LCD display to setup and configure Coast to Coast Entertainment crane machines.  The Stage 1 Crane Controller allows operators to set the price to play from 25 cents to $10, adjustable win ratios, prize values ranging from $1 to $2,500, detailed diagnostic tests build in, and custom music is easily changeable through a removable SD card.

The Stage 1 Crane Controller uses Wi-Fi to connect your crane machines to your Smartphone (Blackberry’s, iPhone, and Windows based phones).  Coast to Coast Entertainment’s Smartphone App allows connection to your Stage 1 Crane Controller remotely.  With remote access to your crane machines – operators can check game counters, run diagnostics, adjust attract sound volume, and much, much more from remote.

The Stage 1 Crane Controller is currently available for Coast to Coast Entertainment Toy Taxi and Hot Stuff 31” and 38” Models and for Betson Big Choice cranes. A video demonstration was created by the company and presented by the company’s Co-owner, Gary Balaban.

For more information on Coast to Coast, visit

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