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Coaster/park industry news articles


East Coast(er) General
Staff member
Ever come across a good or even great newsworthy article about roller coasters, theme/amusement parks or the industry in general? Well here's the place to post them for other like-minded forum friends to read.

I had never heard of Leisure Labs or coaster brokers before, so I found this one quite interesting & wanted to share. It also confirms a lot about the stats that roomraider put together here: http://www.coasterforce.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=29879

For a guy who has been to just about every amusement park in the world, many more than once, Bob Dean sure loathes roller coasters.

“I’ve been terrified of them since I was a kid,” says Dean. “I would be totally discombobulated and messed up for two hours if I rode one.”

An even more unusual twist: Dean is one of the few people in the country who makes a living brokering sales of roller coasters between manufactures and amusement park operators.

Dean’s firm, Sarasota-based Leisure Labs, represents five amusement ride manufacturers worldwide in commission-based arrangements. Essentially Dean, along with one Leisure Labs employee and independent contractors in Atlanta and Salt Lake City, match up amusement park executives in need of rides with one of the five specific clients.

“We are the rainmakers,” says Dean, who founded Leisure Labs in 2000. “We facilitate the deal.”

Dean normally takes a weeklong trip once a month to facilitate those deals. Dean recently worked with Ocean Park, an amusement park in Hong Kong that signed with two Leisure Labs clients to buy a bobsled-themed coaster and a bumper-car ride system.

Before taking on the ups and downs of roller coasters, Dean rode another kind of roller-coaster career — stock brokering — for seven years in the 1970s. He decided the telemarketing-like feel of the business wasn’t for him. “I couldn’t stand it,” says Dean. “It just wasn’t any fun.”

The roller-coaster business is plenty fun, says Dean, even though he avoids the rides. He gravitated to the industry when he took a job with a film company in the 1980s. A series of corporate changes and public offerings led him to want to start his own business, and he found his spot after he spoke with another roller-coaster broker.

At its peak in the middle of the last decade, Leisure Labs arranged deals for roller coasters and other rides worth $35 million a year, says Dean. That resulted in $1 million to $2 million in annual revenues, on average.

Still, that $35 million figure has at least been cut in half the past two years because of the recession and industry consolidation.

“Our [industry] isn’t as big as it was during the arms race of the ’90s,” says Dean. That’s when dozens of family-run amusement parks tried to outdo each other with bigger and better rides. “The business has really scaled down since then.”

Despite the industry downsizing, Dean continues to thrive. One reason goes back to a key lesson he learned from one of the few other people to have a similar business: Watch the money. Dean has had no debt, and the business has turned a profit every year.

Moreover, Dean says, if an amusement park wants to expand its audience, it needs to spend on capital upgrades every year, no matter the economy. So that almost guarantees some business.

While Dean avoids the rides, he enjoys riding their peculiarity. At parties, Dean morphs into a quasi-celebrity if word spreads about what he does for a living.

“You can be in a room full of Nobel laureates, but everyone wants to talk to the roller-coaster guy,” says Dean. “It’s a very interesting way to make a living.”

Now that is a job I'd like to have & you better believe that I'd be returning to those parks after the coasters were built to give them a go. :wink:


Giga Poster
Oh, wow, I've never heard of coaster brokering, much less this company, either.

And they're based less than an hour from me!

Great find. :)


Strata Poster
Wow, great article, and thats something I think would be awesome to do! But still, I wanna do that!


East Coast(er) General
Staff member
Here's the one that bob_3_ posted in the Rollercoaster Factorys topic he created. I'm re-posting here as it's quite good & will get buried once his topic gets a bit older.
Scott & Carol Present: Getting On Track With B&M
When you ride a coaster designed by Bolliger and Mabillard, do you ever wonder how the track is made? Or do you think it just magically appears in the staging area to be assembled? One track builder B & M use is located in southwestern Ohio. Here is an inside look for News Plus Notes readers about this fascinating process. Our tour guide for today is Ken Miller, the General Manager of the plant. He has spent his entire career at the facility, starting by sweeping the floors. He took us through the over 152,000 square foot steel fabricating facility.

“It all started back in 1989 when Walter Bolliger came to my office and asked if we would be interested in building track for their company,” said Miller. “They had seen some of our work on the supports for the Arrow coaster at Kings Island, (Vortex,) and Six Flags Great America, (Shockwave,) and liked what they saw. Now they keep us busy seven days a week with all their projects. Every piece of track for every one of their roller coasters in the United States is made right here in Ohio.”

The track begins as flat sheets of steel and pipe for the support columns is sourced in the United States. The bent pieces of track pipe are brought in from Europe. Most B & M coasters are custom designed. Each track element is a compilation of different sequences and requires a lot of flexibility of the workshop.

So let’s start with the support columns. Every piece of pipe used in making the support columns is hand cut by one of the seventy-nine employees at the factory. “The process used to start with blue prints, “Miller says, “but now it is mainly XYZ coordinates. The use of digital transmission for product specifications has made blueprints obsolete. We also send all of our quality control data back to them electronically. The results of every test are all kept on file by both us and B & M.


The flanges for the columns are cut using a CNC oxi cutter because they are made from over one and one half inch thick steel plate. They have cutters with either a 20’ or 40’ table. The plates are then sent out to be machined to the final measurements. When they return, the flanges are welded onto the pipe. According to Miller, “Our Quality Control department's nondestructive testing personnel are certified to the guidelines of the American Society for Nondestructive Testing (ASNT). We do a magnetic particle test or ultrasonic test on every weld, depending on B & M’s requirements.

After being machined to final dimensions, the supports are processed and painted before shipping. The paint inspectors are certified to ensure consistent quality for all customer requirements. No this photo isn’t of supports, but it was the only thing they were painting on the day we were there. Any guess where these pieces are going?

All of the columns have an extension that projects down into the empty space on the concrete footer. Large nuts and washers are used to adjust the height and angle of the support to get them in the correct position. After the track is bolted on the support, the hole in the footer is filled with concrete so more than just the bolts support the various stresses put on the column. Every year, every nut is torque tested and a paint mark used to make sure it has not loosened during seasonal operations. According to Mr. Miller, when they have moved their coasters, the only things that changed were the supports. Nothing was changed on the track itself.

If you have followed the evolution of B & M track, you remember how it used to have ball and socket joints on the bottom of track pieces to facilitate the installation process. Now the steel fabricator has tightened the tolerances to within one millimeter for all measurements. This has eliminated the need for the joints and also eliminated the need for the customer to continue lubricating those joints for the life of the roller coaster. While this seems like a small thing, coasters can last for a long time if properly maintained so customers really appreciate any small savings that continue to add up year after year.

When we all saw our first coaster from Bolliger and Mabillard, it was very distinctive. The square box track was all the same size, and it appeared to be made from lots of small triangles. Now they have many different sizes of track, depending on the type of coaster being made for that specific project. Here are some samples of the various kinds of B & M track. The track for their first coaster, Iron Wolf at Six Flags Great America looks very similar to the track for Batman: the ride at the same park. The increase in weight of the flying coaster cars necessitated thicker tubes and a larger box. And when they introduced the dive coaster, the track and support structure took another jump is size.



Ken Miller did not allow us to see the manufacturing process of the track. Obviously, it is a very precise process that B&M wants to keep secret. Here are a few pictures we were able to take.





It takes about a week for an individual element to be completed, and usually they have many in production. “Once we get the production line full, we can crank out nearly fifteen elements per week,” says Miller. No element is sent for painting, until QC signs off on each element. Once the piece is approved, it goes through the same painting process as a support column.


But the attention to detail does not stop at the plant. Since the pieces of track are kept to very close tolerances, any dings that occur during transport and assembly could cause a problem during assembly. As an extra precaution, they even have end caps made to protect the ends of the track during transport and assembly. Of course they don’t paint them, but it is an effective demonstration of the lengths they go to striving for the “perfect” coaster. The elements are bar coded before being loaded onto a trailer.


Miller continues, “We usually can get two to three elements onto a trailer. We did have to change the bar code stickers because some coaster enthusiasts started taking pictures of them and posting them on the internet before the park had made their announcement. No more identifying information is on the bar codes.”

Once the track leaves the plant it usually is off loaded at a staging area at the park. The bar codes help identify which piece is next for the assembly process. You don’t want to bring in the last piece you need early in the process, where it can get scratched or damaged. The bar codes also list the weight of the element, which is useful to both the crane operator and the trailer loader.


So now you know as much as they publicly want you to know, and for many of you, it is much more than you ever cared to read about. But when you’re standing in line for that next ride on one of their coasters, we hope you can remember a couple of things you found interesting in this article.
Source: http://newsplusnotes.blogspot.com/2008/12/scott-carol-present.html


Roller Poster

When it comes to fun, Asia means business. In 2010, six out of the 10 fastest growing theme parks were from that region. And South Korea is next in line to help Asia steal the mantle of theme park supremacy from the United States.

Executives predict that 2.8 million people a year will visit the Robotland theme park in Incheon, which is scheduled to open within two years.

Click the link for a really interesting video...


East Coast(er) General
Staff member
Ever wonder about the German fairs & those family run rides? Here's an interesting article on their current struggles.
Bumpy times for German ride manufacturers


Ride operators are on a bit of a roller coaster themselves.

For years, thrill-seekers visiting the Oktoberfest and other fairs with amusements could expect one new ride sensation per season. But as purchase prices climb even higher than the attractions themselves, that's changed.

Who doesn't love a trip to the fair? The thrill of hurling balls at cans to win a teddy bear has never worn thin. The same goes for cotton-candy and fairground rides. But while the former hasn't been changed by time, the latter most certainly have.

The merry-go-rounds of happy horses with funny names that once dominated the scene have long been consigned to the shed to make space for bigger, faster and higher rides. But in recent years fairground operators have been forced to make do with their existing inventory because they can no longer afford to pay the skyrocketing prices for increasingly complex, state-of-the-art rides.


Shunned by adrenaline junkies, the simple Ferris Wheel is still popular with families.

As good as new

Andreas Aigner is among the many ride operators struggling to keep their customers coming back. And with a budget too tight to invest in something brand new, he decided to buy a ride that was built back in 1996 but hadn't been used for the best part of a decade.

"We knew it was there gathering dust, so we went to look at it," Aigner told Deutsche Welle. "The steel construction was in mint condition, so we decided to use it as the basis for our new ride."

Aigner had the gondolas, which dangle from the ends of the contraption's five long arms, remodeled by the Bavarian fairground ride company, Gerstlauer. The machinery was then given a thorough technical examination and a facelift profound enough to hide its old age.

The work cost a total of 1.2 million euros ($1.6 million), which is half the price of buying a completely new ride. And in light of rising electricity, transport and ground rental prices, it was a saving worth making.


The Power Tower has been thrilling Oktoberfest visitors for two decades.

Power Tower

The 66-meter-high Power Tower has been standing tall over fairgrounds for just over eight years. Few competing rides offer such a dramatic free-fall experience, so its advancing age has done nothing to harm its popularity.

"I'm sure the Power Tower will still be around in 10 or 20 years," operator Ewald Schneider told Deutsche Welle. "There don't seem to be many new rides in this category."

Schneider bought the tower in 2002 from Munich-based company Maurer-Söhne for the tidy sum of 2.5 million euros. These days it would likely set him back around 5 million.

A sum of that magnitude is beyond the financial reach of the average traveling fairground operator, so the Bavarian ride maker has become increasingly dependent on permanent amusement parks for their survival.

"We have to serve both amusement parks and fairground operators," Horst Ruhe of Maurer-Söhne told Deutsche Welle. "If we only sold to fairs, it would be extremely difficult."

The dilemma facing fairground operators is that their customers are not willing to pay astronomical prices for an adrenalin rush, yet they want increased quality, security, comfort and fun. All that comes at a price.


Large rides like the Monster are expensive to transport and assemble.

Hidden costs

The largest transportable roller coaster in the world is the Olympia Looping, which belongs to Rudolf Barth. It takes fifty trucks to transport and costs something in the order of 45,000 euros to move from Hamburg to Munich.

The 71 year-old operator invests an annual sum of 200,000 euros in the upkeep of the 20-year-old ride. Barth would like to modernize the roller coaster, but an upgrade would mean he'd need even more vehicles to transport the ride, pushing his operating costs up even further.

So for the time being, the Olympia Looping will keep going as . And others like Andreas Aigner and Ewald Schneider and have no choice but to keep their old rides ticking over for as long as possible - or to buy smaller, less expensive machines.

What that means for fairgrounds is a slowing of pace and perhaps, one of these days, a resurgence in the popularity of those happy old horses with the funny names.

Author: Marco Müller / tkw
Editor: Sam Edmonds

Mysterious Sue

Strata Poster
An article I randomly found about Merlin by some people called MediaTainment Finance
Mostly basic stuff, but it has some data on visitor numbers, revenue, and future plans for Australia and possibly South Korea.
(sorry about the text being a bit squiffy, I had to try and alter it to put it on CF and might be better viewed direct - link is at the bottom)

Merlin Entertainments Group, UK/Global

The UK-originated Merlin Entertainments
Group is a family-entertainment company in the out-of-home attractions business. The group,
which specialises in location-based, branded entertainment, received more than 41 million
visitors last year at its 77 attractions worldwide. It is second only to the Walt Disney Co, which
boasts the more formidable 120 million-plus visitors globally but the Disneyland parks have
been around since the 1950s. Merlin only launched in 1999.
Merlin’s attractions, which include theme parks and resorts, are ventures that it owns or manages on behalf of third parties. Its other properties are amusement parks, aquariums, waxworks
museums, horror-themed dungeons and the London Eye, the iconic observation wheel,
among others.
It is already the leading European company in the sector and it has embarked on an extensive growth strategy that includes North American and Asia-Pacific in the next two years.
The brainchild of CEO Nick Varney, Merlin’s launch was followed shortly by the opening of its
first Sea Life-branded aquarium and a couple of ‘dungeon’ museums.
Its expansion rate has been recession-proof and rapid, with the company reporting growth after the 2008 economic downturn. It aims to achieve its formidable global goals by building and rolling out its brands in short periods of time as cost efficiently as possible.
Its existing international brands are led by the Legoland theme parks, the Madame Tussauds waxworks and the Sea Life Centre aquariums.

Today, it is a quiet but major force in the creativity sector, using the best in waxwork sculpture, edutainment (the melding of entertainment and education) via its aquariums, roller-coaster
design and manufacturing, 3D and 4D movies and theatres, and architecture for the hotels at
its theme-park resorts. Its parks are used as venues for concerts by some of today’s highprofile pop stars. Although it eventually wants to be listed on the stock exchange, Merlin’s current accomplishments have relied on private equity.

Private equity thrills
With an estimated valuation of US$2.5bn-plus, Merlin is jointly owned by private-equity firms.
They are the US-headquartered Blackstone Group, which bought the company in 2005 and
now has 34%; UK-based CVC Capital Partners (28%); and Kirkbi A/S, the privately held familyowned investment company that owns Lego Group, the Danish maker of the world-famous
construction-toy bricks. It holds 36%. In addition, Merlin CEO Nick Varney and various employees have shares in the company. Past investors have included Hermes Private Equity and Dubai International Capital.

Revenues and income
The attractions business relies significantly on paying visitors. In 2010, Merlin saw the number
of visitors grow to 41 million-plus worldwide. This boosted group revenue to £800.8m, a
4.1% jump from the previous year. EBITDA (earnings before interests, taxes, depreciation
and amortisation) rose 8.5% to £255.8m. Merlin invested about £104m last year alone
on expansion; it had also spent more than £100m in 2009. That year, Merlin’s revenue
leaped 16% to £769m despite the global economic implosion in 2008. Ultimately, however, its expansion ambitions and the recession bit into Merlin’s strategy last year. The company postponed plans for a stock
-exchange flotation to raise a reported £1bn to slash debts. According to Bloomberg News,
that was when CVC Capital came on board and acquired a 28% stake.

The theme-park business
Operating theme parks and other types of amusement and leisure complexes is a capitalintensive business. Marketed effectively and operated efficiently, however, attractions lure in
repeat visitors.
Investors and operators need to consider various factors, including the hundreds of acres of expensive real estate for the sites. The locations should be easily accessible to
visitors and constructed to allow for structural expansion. Merlin’s sites worldwide are built on
either its own freehold real estate or leased lands. Other costs include the creation, design,
theming and marketing of rides, in a sector where operators are competing to have the
tallest roller coasters with mind-blowing drops, dizzying vertical loops and Formula-One
speeds. This inevitably requires impeccable health-and-safety standards.
Also needed are scalable ticketing systems to cope with long queues, retail outlets for selling
merchandise, restaurants and the need to constantly install new rides to retain the attractions’ unique source of excitement. A recent trend has been the addition of highquality hotels and other types of accommodation to create vacation destinations. This aims to encourage family visitors to spend more than
one day at the parks.

Merlin has publicly positioned the Legoland parks to be central to its international ambitions
to compete against the Disney juggernaut. With more than 400 billion pieces of the iconic
Lego bricks sold worldwide since their creation in 1949, it seemed a no brainer to extend its
application to outdoor theme parks for young families with pre-school and school-age kids.
Denmark-based Lego Group opened the first Legoland in the Danish town of Billund in 1968.
Billund’s success motivated the group to roll out the concept abroad.
Billund was followed by Legoland Windsor in the UK in 1996. Legoland California opened for business in 1999, followed by Legoland Germany in Gunzburg in 2002. Seeing a demand for a water park, Merlin added one to the California site in 2009. Designed to entertain and educate, the parks’ rides and shows are either built from Lego bricks or made to look as if they are. Each Legoland has a miniland,
which comprises miniature but precise reconstructions of national and international landmarks, such as the England’s Big Ben clock and New York’s Empire State Building, made of Lego bricks. As these buildings are in the public domain, no copyright permission is required.
But negotiations with Hollywood’s Lucasfilm would have been necessary for the Star Wars miniland at Legoland California, which has six scenes from the Star Wars movies and Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the animated TV series. The parks feature interactive activities such as the ‘driving schools’ and the ‘fire academies’, where kids and parents drive Lego-designed cars or put out imaginary fires with Legothemed fire engines.
Additionally, there are the Lego Knights Kingdom, which re-enact the world of medieval
knights and castles. Other Lego-built ‘towns’ have Vikings, pirates, and ancient Egypt’s pharaohs for themes and the Duplo Gardens feature play areas made of huge Lego bricks for preschool children.
However, the Lego Group found it was out of its depth in the parks’ business and the
Legolands were sold in 2005 for a reported £250m to the Blackstone Group. Their operation was handed over to the enlarged Merlin , in which Lego retains shares. Since then, the vision for Legoland has
developed. Merlin has introduced Legoland Discovery Centres, which are smaller indoor
interactive versions of the parks. The Discovery Centre was first launched in Berlin, followed by
another in the German city Duisburg, in Schaumberg near Chicago in the US, in Grapevine, Texas, and in Manchester, north England.
Merlin’s strategy of streamlining its brands efficiently can be seen at Legoland Atlantis by Sea Life, a new attraction at Legoland Windsor. The £8m attraction combines the Legoland model with the Sea Life aquarium brand. Launched this year, it features the Legoland
Atlantis Submarine Voyage, which has a Legoconstructed submarine carrying up to 14 passengers travelling in a 1 million-litre water tank filled with 50 species of tropical fish, sharks, and rays. Merlin hopes to roll out the Legoland Atlantis concept to the other parks.
As part of a £30m refurbishment at Windsor, a 150-bedroom hotel will open in 2012 on 2.7 acres of land next to the park. The land is
leased from the Aprirose property-investment fund for 35 years, with the option to renew for
another 35 years. A fifth Legoland, costing more than US$100m, opens in the US state of Florida in October this year. It is expected to be Merlin’s biggest operation to date. Located in Winter Haven on the
now defunct Cypress Gardens park, the new 150-acre Legoland Florida will have 50 rides,
shows and attractions when it opens for business. It is a few minutes’ drive from Tampa and
Orlando, both popular vacation destinations.

European thrills and screams
In addition to the Legoland brand, Merlin owns and operates other parks. These include the
Alton Towers and Thorpe Park theme parks in the UK. They are popular among adrenalinedriven teenagers and young adults because of the death-defying roller coasters. With the family still in mind, however, visitors are given the option of staying at two hotels, a water park and a spa at Alton Towers. Other Merlin UK parks are the more family-oriented Chessington World of Adventures, and Warwick Castle.
On continental Europe, there is Germany’s Heide-Park in Soltau, Lower Saxony; it has one
of the world’s steepest wooden roller coasters Colossos, which was built by Intamin and designed by Germany-based Werner Stengel; and several family-oriented shows. Gardaland is
arguably Italy’s biggest outdoor park with 32 rides including the new Raptor roller coaster
made by Switzerland-based B&M. In Italy, Merlin also owns the Aquatica water park in Milan.

Creativity in attractions
A significant amount of creativity and design goes into the development of an attraction.
Merlin, which has a creative director for its Making Merlin Magic division and plans to appoint a
creative director for the whole group, operates its own creative studios.
They commission or oversee some of Merlin’s most popular rides: Oblivion (made by B&M),
Nemesis (B&M),Thir3teen (Intamin) at Alton Towers; the KOBRA ride (by Zamperla) and the
Vampire roller coaster (by Arrow Dynamics and Vekoma) at Chessington World of Adventures;
Mammut (by Vekoma), described as Italy’s largest coaster, at Gardaland; the bloodcurdling Saw (by Gerstlauer) based on the horror movie, plus Stealth (Intamin) and Nemesis Inferno (B&M) at Thorpe Park.
The creative departments have to consider ticketing systems that can cope with the tens of
millions attending attractions. Like most park operators, Merlin installs “second-gate” attractions. These are smaller adjacent attractions that keep restless visitors fully occupied until the parks’ queues grow
shorter or are designed for those seeking alternative entertainment.The Merlin Annual Pass tickets cost between £156 and £684, depending on whether it is a premium or standard annual pass for individuals
or families of up to five. They allow unlimited access to any Merlin attraction for one year,
with some restrictions for the standard-pass holders. Ticket pricing has become a controversial issue for the industry. UK research by Gocompare.com in August indicated that more
than 50% of British consumers felt theme parks are overpriced. On average, a family could
spend more than £105 on tickets alone for a day out at a UK attraction. This does not include
the costs of food, drinks or merchandise. Those surveyed voted Merlin’s Alton Towers the most popular park, costing a family £100.80 in tickets a day. It was followed by Disney World
in Florida (£823 for five days); Merlin’s Thorpe Park (£105.60 a day), Universal Studios in Florida (at £597.96 for four days) and Disneyland Paris (£194 a day).
Merlin offers fast-track options for the most popular rides and privileges are given to hotel
guests. Visitors are always encouraged to plan in advance by using the websites where online
ticketing is also available. To retain the interest of demanding teenagers and rides aficionados,
Merlin is gradually installing interactive elements in its attractions. A video system has been added to Raptor, Gardaland’s new roller coaster in Italy. Users can capture their every scream on video and collect it when the ride ends.
At a time when developments in home entertainment are dominated by 3D TV, most park
operators, including Merlin, offer 4D cinema. This combines large-screen 3D formats with 7.1
surround-sound audio. 4D also incorporates sensory experiences where elements are injected into the theatre so that the spectators’ senses can feel the weather (snow or rain, for example), feel the earth move and smell a variety of scents based on the on-screen content.
The company works with specialists such as Centre Screen Productions, Sharp Cookies and
Principal Large Format to produce dedicated 4D films. In the UK, one Merlin 4D cinema is near
the London Eye while another is at the newly refurbished Blackpool Tower. The films’ narratives feature spectacular aerial shots of London as seen from the Eye and from the iconic Blackpool Tower respectively
While digital interactivity is gradually being introduced to Merlin’s activities, animatronics is not
new. The oldest exhibit at Merlin’s Madame Tussauds waxwork museums, made in 1763, is
Sleeping Beauty, a ‘breathing’ animatronic replica of Madame du Barry, the mistress of
France’s Louis XV.
Since then, the waxworks museums have featured a blushing Jennifer Lopez, Brad Pitt’s
squeezable backside, a dancing Kylie Minogue and the chance to stand on the ceiling with
comic-book superhero Spider-Man.

The music element
Recording artists and concert promoters use Merlin parks as concert venues. This year
alone, the Black Eyed Peas performed at Alton Towers. The park also hosted the Alton Towers
Live extravaganza with UK hit-makers JLS, McFly, The Saturdays and Eliza Doolittle, while
Peter Andre played at Thorpe Park. The X Factor winner Alexandra Burke and
runner-up Olly Murs had gigs at Warwick Castle in the summer and the Soul Sunday event had
the cast of Thriller Live, the London West End theatrical show, perform Michael Jackson songs
in a tribute.

The Merlin Midway
Realising that not all family members would want to participate in the tall, fast and steep
rides and roller coasters, Merlin developed a series of stand-alone Midway attractions. Smaller in size than the theme parks, they tend to be indoors, interactive and educational and located
at a region’s recreational district. The Legoland Discovery Centres mentioned above are a
typical example; a new one opened at DallasFort Worth, Texas, at the Grapevine Recreation
Mall this year.
Additionally, the Midway ‘second gates’ can be placed next to large theme parks to occupy
visitors not remotely interested in the parks and hence generate a second entry-gate revenue
stream at the same location. An example is the one planned for Legoland Florida, which is
scheduled to open in October. Future Discovery Centres include installations
in Tokyo, at the US cities of Atlanta and Kansas City next year, followed by New Jersey later on.
The popularity of the Madame Tussaudswaxwork museums, another Midway brand,
confirms that even today’s young video-games and social-media addicts are drawn to the tactile
and tangible in entertainment.
The waxworks’ entertainment value has been their ability to allow visitors to get up close and
personal to some of the world’s famous contemporary and historical personalities without the
intervention of body guards and other security.
Merlin employs waxworks sculptors, who are
mostly based in London and are part of the Merlin Magic Making division. They invite the real
-life personalities to be measured, photographed and analysed for their unique physical qualities.
The personalities often supply the required clothing or designers are hired to make replicas.
Using wax, clay and chicken wire, among other materials, the sculptors create virtual doppelgangers. And since fans are encouraged to touch these figures, the sculptures need to be as
physically sturdy and robust as possible. Each waxwork costs about £150,000 and takes up to
four months to produce.
There are now 12 of Madame Tussauds globally: in London, New York, Hollywood, Las
Vegas, Amsterdam, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Washington DC, Berlin, Bangkok, Vienna and, in
September 2011, the UK’s Blackpool. A 13th opens in Sydney, Australia, next year.
The personalities selected are a combination of the world’s state figures, including presidents,
Hollywood stars and local luminaries. For example, the Vienna museum features replicas
of Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein and Mozart, while the Sydney edition will have doubles of
actors Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman.
In terms of copyright, Merlin has needed no
image rights to recreate the rich and famous who consider their selection an honour. The only time
an image-rights issue might crop up is if the subject is portrayed as a well-known fictional
character in a specific setting from a movie, for example.
Last year, Merlin introduced the Madame Tussauds Award with London’s Wimbledon
College of Art to support student artists and sculptors showing great promise.
The Sea Life Centre brand is one of the first attractions Merlin launched when it was still a
small operation located in the coastal town of Poole, in Dorset, south England.
Each Sea Life Centre comprises a large aquarium filled with rare species of sea life and
mammals to offer the best in ‘edutainment’.
There are now 36 sites worldwide. These are installed in either fixed locations at Merlin’s own
parks or a third party’s theme park like Disneyland Paris. London’s Sea Life is the result of
Merlin’s acquisition of the popular London Aquarium in 2008. After a £5m refurbishment, it
was reopened in 2009 and is marketed with another Merlin attraction, the nearby London Eye.

Wheels, eyes and towers
Merlin owns the world-famous EDF Energy London Eye, Europe’s tallest Ferris Wheel 135
metres (443 ft). With more than 3.5 million visitors annually, the London Eye is considered
the UK’s biggest paid-for tourist attraction.
EDF Energy, the utility company, has sponsored the London Eye for three years
starting this January. It will synergise the Eye’s high profile with its role as a sponsor of next
summer’s Olympic Games in London.
The London observation wheel’s popularity is now crucial to Merlin, which has trademarked
the use of the word “Eye” with attractions.
Authorities in Kolkata discovered how protective Merlin can be of the trademark when
they announced plans to launch a Calcutta Eye observation wheel in India. Merlin’s lawyers
have written to the authorities pointing out the “Eye” is an observation-wheel brand that
belongs to only Merlin.
In northern England, Merlin recently joined forces with Blackpool Council to help revitalise a
declining Blackpool after many failed attempts, and to reposition it back to its roots as a seaside
family-holiday destination. Blackpool is now undergoing a £350m regeneration programme
that is funded through a mixture of government grants, European funding and private
At the strategy’s heart is the £40m restoration and redevelopment of the iconic Blackpool
Tower and surrounding buildings.
This involved the Council taking the Tower into public ownership in 2010, the first time its 117
year history.
Originally completed in 1894, the Tower stands at 158 metres (518 ft) tall and is one of the UK’s
most famous landmarks. Merlin has taken over the management of the Tower and this project.
This includes bringing three more of its global brands to Blackpool: Madame Tussauds
Blackpool opened in April 2011; in the Tower itself is Merlin’s Blackpool Tower Dungeon; and
the Blackpool Tower Eye observation deck comes complete with a 4D preview cinema and
its new floor-to-ceiling SkyWalk giving a bird’s eye panoramic view of the coastal town.
They join the Tower’s famous Ballroom, circus and Jungle Jim’s , the kids' adventure
playground. In addition to the existing Sea Life aquarium, they give Merlin eight attractions in
Blackpool, the most in any one of its markets worldwide. In September, the Tower’s new look
was unveiled to coincide with switching on Blackpool’s famous winter illuminations.
Merlin’s biggest competition in Blackpool is the Blackpool Pleasure Beach theme park, one of
the biggest in Europe, which recently added a kids area called Nickelodeon Land, based on
Viacom’s global children’s TV network.
Another Merlin observation tower, the 425-ft Orlando Eye, is planned for the US$100m
I-Drive Live tourist complex being built to boost tourism in that part of Florida from 2013. It will
be joined by a local edition of the Sea Life Centre and Madame Tussauds. Legoland
Florida will be nearby.
Merlin’s other future plans include hotels at Legoland California and Thorpe Park in two
years’ time, another Legoland in Dubailand and a Pepsi-sponsored Globe Observation Wheel in
New Jersey.

The Asia-Pacific connection
To kick start its long-term presence in the AsiaPacific, Merlin recently acquired a portfolio of six
attractions from Australia’s Village Roadshow. Completed in March, the acquisition comprises
attractions that complement Merlin’s Sea Life and Eye operations.
In Australia, the attractions are the Sydney Aquarium, Sydney Tower Observatory and
Skywalk; the Sydney Wildlife World; Manly Oceanworld, and the Hamilton Island Wildlife
Park. The New Zealand element comprises Kelly Tarlton’s Antarctic Encounter &
Underwater World.
Cash will be spent to bring them in line with the Merlin branding strategy. Moreover, the
company will add new entertainment such as the Sydney Madame Tussauds next year.
In other parts of Asia, Merlin has opened a temporary Madame Tussauds site in Tokyo to
be followed by Legoland Malaysia next year. There is also going to be a Legoland Discovery Centre in Tokyo in 2012.

The Korean connection
Merlin is in talks with private investors and the national and local governments to extend its
brands to South Korea. A possible site for a new Legoland could be in Chuncheon City, 40 miles
away from the capital Seoul. It is well-known for its reliable public transport system and popular
resort islands on lakes.

http://jaykaymediainc.com/uploads/portf ... 3final.pdf


Strata Poster
Quite a lot of interesting stuff in there, Sue. Especcialy the Sealife in Disneyland and the Hotel at Thorpe.


Giga Poster
Not sure if this is old news or not but I just recently saw this article about Six Flags and their financial situation and thought it was interesting. Nothing too in depth, but good to see articles like this.

Record Profit Ends Six Flags Financial Roller Coaster

GURNEE — Great America was one park of 20 under the Six Flags umbrella when its parent company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in June 2009, but that didn’t stop the rumor mill from churning out worries that the gates would close for good on Grand Avenue.

Park President Hank Salemi acknowledged Tuesday that he heard all the gossip, even after Six Flags emerged from Chapter 11 in May 2010. With the company announcing this month that it enjoyed record earnings in 2011, Salemi said that Great America “was never in any danger” of going the way of Riverview.

“We were never going to close the doors. We’ve been here since 1976, and always will be here,” Salemi said. “With the restructuring of our debt, since that has happened, we have had tremendous financial (growth). We had a great 2011 as a company and as a park.”

Six Flags Entertainment Corp. reported last week that it recorded $350 million in adjusted income before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. The consolidated income from continuing operations was reported as the highest total in the history of the Texas-based company, which purchased Great America from the Marriott Corp. in 1984.

“That’s the first time we’ve ever done that kind of net profit,” Salemi said. Asked how much of that total can be credited to Great America itself, Salemi said, “We don’t break it down park by park, but we’re a big park in our system. We shared a lot of that growth in 2011. It was a great year for the entire company.”

One perceived measure of Great America’s overall health is seen in park additions. Following a modest 2010, when the Little Dipper roller coaster was imported from Kiddieland, Hurricane Harbor expanded by four acres and four rides in 2011. Salemi credited that specific development when asked how the park contributed to Six Flags’ reported income.

“I think it was a couple of things. The first thing I would say is we put in a tremendous new water park addition with Riptide Bay, and though it was a little cool at the beginning of the year, as the summer went along, our guests loved it,” he said. “One of the things our guests told us when we did it was that it was getting tight (at Hurricane Harbor). On really hot days, we were jamming so many people into that water park, and we needed a bigger space for them.

“So we accommodated that, and we saw a great growth in season passes, and we had a really, really strong year as a result of that. I think on the flip side, even though the economy hadn’t fully recovered, regional theme parks tend to do better in tougher economic times — it’s that whole ‘staycation’ mentality.”

For 2012, the new Bolliger & Mabillard wing coaster X-Flight is scheduled to open in early May, representing Great America’s biggest thrill-ride addition since Superman: Ultimate Flight in 2003. As with attendance figures, Great America keeps its cards close to the vest when it comes to how much is invested in rides, but Salemi said the arrival of X-Flight “is really a sign that we’re taking that success and reinvesting it in our parks.”

“In this business, you want to keep things fresh and new, and this is a state-of-the-art coaster,” Salemi said as he walked past the now-assembled track in the park’s County Fair section. “It’s a dream as a park president to get to build this kind of roller coaster.”

X-Flight is expected to start assembling trains in late March and running safety tests in early April. Salemi said the goal is to open the ride shortly after Great America starts its 2012 operating season on May 5.

Source: http://newssun.suntimes.com/news/10...-ends-six-flags-financial-roller-coaster.html


Strata Poster
This is in no way worth a topic of its own, so I'll bung it in here.

These guys apparently went into administration yesterday - http://www.taylormadeplay.com/

They're based in Cornwall and made a variety of indoor and outdoor play equipment, like climbing frames and astro-glides and stuff. They mostly sold to small scale places like farm parks etc. It's a shame, because some of their designs are pretty cool (the slide in the shape of a campervan is probably my favourite). Apparently they've run up MASSIVE debts they can't afford to pay, and have had troubles in the past meaning that this is almost certainly the end of the company.

This has come from word of mouth from a reliable source at the moment, but if I see anything online, I'll add a link.


Strata Poster
LOL! No. Someone at work who's niece has worked there for years and is "basically part of the family". Not anymore she's not.