Trip Report: Paramount's Kings Island (10/21/00)
This past Saturday, NAPHA held their fall event entitled" Beastly Weekend, Father Son Picnic" at Paramount's Kings Island. According to the agendas sent out in advance, our presence is required at the park by 7:15AM. "Ya gotta wake up pretty early in the morning......"
I went to this particular event with Dave Althoff, and accordingly we left Dave's Dominion at 6:30 and pulled up to the PKI parking toll plaza at 7:00. After showing the security officer Dave's NAPHA card, we were granted free parking, and proceeded to park, gather up cameras and join the large group already assembled out in front of the gate. As we approached we were given a personal welcome by Jeff Siebert, PKI's marketing department Area Manager, who knows how to show people a good time.
Right around 7:15 we were admitted to the International Restaurant, where updated agendas, press kits, meal tickets, park "Fun Guides" and event name badges were distributed. Our first meal ticket was good for Continental Breakfast in the International Restaurant, which allows for people to get a bite to eat and mingle with friends old and new. Seeing the sunrise out the windows of the restaurant and the park slowly come into view was an equally inspiring sight. While mingling and having breakfast, I looked through the press kit, which was in the 1999 folder, and therefore has excellent photos of Face/Off, Drop Zone, and Beast, as well as inserts, like a Son of Beast wall calendar, (which conveniently indicates the days you may enjoy PKI this season), a Son of Beast press releasee, and fact sheet, and a Stealth fact sheet/press release. (Yes all you who declined the press kit saying (I already have this stuff, missed the stealth information) It was also mentioned that the attendance for the event was 93, and therefore the group would break down into 4 subgroups for the tours.
So the first round of tours commenced with a stroll down International Street, to have a look at the Carousel, hear some history of the carousel, and some time for folks to take photos videos, without dodging riders. This was an appetizer for what happened next, we were led through the Outer Limits queue line, and paused in the station and a brief introduction of the ride was given for those who hadn't seen it before, and a few stats were given as well as information on the launch technology, Then a 'secret door' was opened and we proceeded down a flight of stairs to walk underneath the launch track, which of course led to the "Spaghetti Bowl" room with full illumination for a unique photo opportunity. Some time was spent getting lots of otherwise off limits photos, and walking around and under the track work, just in awe. Then it was past the brake run, (or under the brake run rather) where a glimpse of the cabinets containing the PLC were detected each bearing a "Premier Rides" label. Then up some stairs, and out through the ride exit area, with a view of the seldom seen return track, that takes the train from unload to load. Also noted was the big bin where all the hats and stuff that they have found on the floor of the Spaghetti Bowl. We were then led down some service roads to see the Wood Coaster maintenance shop, Plush Barn, Fireworks staging area, and lastly under Son of Beast. As you may recall I took a walking tour on Son of Beast last year when it was only partially completed. You can say this puts closure on the matter, as well as some unique photo opportunities. Like being able to get up right next to the Vertical Loop and verifying that it is wood track, meeting with Ollie, the parks head Wood Coaster Mechanic. "You never finish building a wood coaster" some more unique photo ops, then we were ushered up to the station, where we could watch pre-opening testing, as well as be in the chutes for the first rides of the day. I took my first ride in the very back seat, for the first train out for the day, then immediately got back in the short line for a second ride in seat 17. Son Of Beast is still running well, with little jack hammering, and some airtime moments present. After the first Son of Beast ride we were set free to explore the park as we saw fit.
Since we were already by Son of Beast, Top Gun was an obvious choice, and since the re ride gate was open we took a re-ride, and managed to get a front and back car ride. After Top Gun, we deiced to get out of the Action Zone, and head to parts west. Besides we had these cameras and press kits which we didn't really want to keep taking on the rides. A brief parking lot visit followed to drop off un-necessary items, and hey while we are out here, there is no line for the season pass center. Time to renew our PKI SP's. An individual pass renewal comes to $69.99, and includes a free 2001 parking pass, and two Bring-A-Buddy tickets good for the rest of the 2000 season. Gee that's over $100 in value, not including the season pass itself. They are giving the passes away I tell you!
We then reentered the park, and headed over to Beastie, for a nice classic wooden coaster ride. While in Hanna-Barbera land we took a look around the Howl-O-Fest kids halloween event, we noted the Taxi Jam line would probably be a bit long to try to get a ride in. Instead we headed to Coney Mall, where we first rode the Racer, another great wooden roller coaster, and today featuring a nice amount of airtime in seat 3. I also got to witness Dave get torque locked. Heading down Coney way, we attempted to ride Outer Limits, but after repeated 'downtime events' coupled with an overly hot queue area, we bailed. Especially since every time they experienced downtime, the pre show reset. We must have seen the beginning of the pre show a dozen times today, and only saw it complete a cycle once.
We then headed on down to the Vortex. where we noticed a strange absence, the entire third train was nowhere to be found. Vortex was running fast but a bit rough, and from Vortex we noted no line for the Flying Eagles. time for a Flying Eagles, that was mildly entertaining, and jostling, but no where near the snap-o-fest at Knoebels.
At around this time we were getting a but hungry for lunch. We opted for Skyline, but found an obnoxious line at the Lunch Basket, so we headed down and noted the fried foods stand was open, had a short line, but nothing there sounded appetizing. What did sound good was the Oktoberfest Gardens. The time being about 12:40, only 20 minutes till our meeting time. Walk up to Oktoberfest Gardens , in what should be the height of lunch hour to be informed, that they were not ready to serve lunch yet. ???!!!?? What are they waiting on Christmas? We headed down to the Stunt Crew Grill, which also did not sound appetizing, but by then it was time for the afternoon tour. We met at 1pm under the water tower (Could you have picked a more crowded spot to meet?) There we were led as a group up to international street for a backstage look at the parks operations. Stuff like the operations building, administration building, HR, resale, receiving, rides maintenance, where we saw not only the missing Vortex train, but also had we been more observant missing trains from Adventure Express, and Outer Limits. The process of winterizing the park has begun. What is winterizing? I'm glad you asked, according to Jeff, every ride gets taken pretty much apart, the coaster trains come off and are pretty much disassembled beyond the point of recognition, the other rides get taken apart, like all that is left of the Scrambler during the winter is the center spindle. All the building get boarded up, the flags and canopies removed, leaves are left alone to collect on the midways, and then the various maintenance shops get to do a thorough rehab on the main park, by which time it is time to reassemble everything. To give us an example of what a winterized park looks like, we were given a tour of WaterWorks, the parks water park, and saw the park as very few get to see it. all the pools drained, drains covered over, leaves filling the Lazy River, the buildings boarded up, any non-durable signage removed and moreover a erie quiet atmosphere. Attention was also given to the parks train as it came rolling past, the fact that there were only 3 passenger cars on it, and only 1 train in service. The second train, and the rest of the cars being sent to maintenance already. Hey, that would make it the Short Line, right? A trip past the fiberglass shop to see a piece of 'eye candy' an interactive piece that is to go in to the 2001 attraction. As well as seeing some remnants of the current Nickelodeon area already making their way to the bone yard. We traveled through the picnic grove, to get to Nickelodeon, which apart from some midway games, and a show venue is pretty much closed for the season, and due to the good weather they have already started retheming it from Nickelodeon Splat City to Nickelodeon Central, a wise move that will update the Nick area to the Nick shows of 2000, rather than the Nick shows of 1995. The "water maze" has pretty much been striped, except for a few pieces, the former Slime Derrick has been repainted in a new color scheme, the special exhibit area where the bawl crawl climbing structure was has been boarded off BUT the fence separating that area from Rivertown has been removed. Why, lets go to Rivertown to find out.
We were then admitted to the Kings Mill Log Flume area. And at first glance nothing seems wrong. The big drop is there, the station house if there, the trough from the drop to the station is there, the old souvenir stand and queue line all there. It looked as though the ride could spring to life with the flip of a switch. After a bit of a historical speech for the ride, we were informed that yes the Kings Mills Log Flume has given its last rides. In a sense. It seems that this ride is to receive the Pippin treatment, just like the Steel Phantom. Though Jeff wasn't quite sure who was involved he believes that OD Hopkins has been called into to retrofit a new waterway onto the existing station. To be called the Wild Thornberry's River Adventure, the ride is to be turned into a modern era flume ride, which bears extensive theming to the Thronberry's from the station building to a themed first lift, to characters all along the route. We were then walked back along a service road to see that in reality a lot of the old trough work is GONE, survived only by the supports.. It should be noted that workers could be seen working on the attraction while we toured. We were then shown the blank spot of land that was the Dinamation and Bugs Life exhibits this summer. We were told that there are some rumores going around about a new roller coaster 'of some type' rumors that are being spread by the parks own season pass newsletter. However, he said that all that information is extremely tentative, and that we should all wait for the official announcement in mid November. Sounds like second thoughts maybe? Or the deal hadn't quite been sealed yet? When asked about the 2002 attraction, all he could say is it will be something that no one has seen before. Really he read it on the internet :) He quipped so we'll all sit back and surf the internet to find out what we're getting next year. Translation: He aint' telling!.
Then an open Q&A session ensued, and then we were again released onto the midway to have some fun, Have some fun involved finding that lunch, and hey Oktoberfest Gardens is open this time. Time for a BBQ sandwich and Coke, that'll be in excess of $7 sir. Then it was off to ride Adventure Express, followed by a trip to reveal that Racer Backwards was down, so after a run to the car for refreshments it was over to Face./Off for a nice smooth G-Force inducing ride in the front seat. Then declining King Cobra for "Rider Discomfort Issues" We headed back to Outer Limits. Both Face/Off and Outer Limits had rather lengthy waits which meant that after we received our headaches, we discovered we had less than 10 minutes to make the dinner bell.
We returned to International Restaurant for dinner, consisting of Fried Chicken, BBQ, hot dogs green beans, tossed salad, dinner rolls, cookies, and unlimited soft drinks. After dinner there was the ceremonial awarding of the plaque to the park commemorating the event, then a very special presentation by the park, displayed on video monitors located in the International Restaurant was a 30 minute tribute film, detailing the parks history from its roots in Coney Island, to the opening of Kings Island, to the major milestones in the parks history, including Winterfest, Timberwolf, major ride openings, major special events, celebrity appearances, the carousel, a very up to date tape that even included footage on FearFest. Also in the tape was a segment detailing every roller coaster the park ever had, including those that are no longer around. I'm talking color footage of the Bat, I'm talking partial Bat POV footage. The promotional TV spots for the rides were played, and great footage was shown. I know you are thinking a rather fine park PR video right? Well as the opening title says "Welcome NAPHA", to several direct mentions of the event in the tape, like the various personalities addressing the NAPHA audience. Yes, that's right the park produced this video just for the NAPHA event. After the video presentation, were some spoken words of wisdom from both the park and NAPHA, then the traditional Heritage Fund auction was held to raise funds for the NAPHA Heritage Fund. Auction items included:
2 Son Of Beast Media Teasers (These were black wooden crates, with Son of Beast eyes visible between the slats, containing candy and a Son Of Beast media day invitation.
2 Son Of Beat Promotional Posters These posters similar to the ones you see in area LaRosa's stores. Also went out to VIPs with the media day teaser. The posters at auction were special in that unlike the ones sent out these were still unfolded.
2 Face/Off Media Teasers, basically a tabletop mirror, engraved with a roller coaster image. Remember the slogan was "Face your fear"
1 2000 season Park Directory, one of the big signs that hangs in the map cases. This particular one came from the map case in WaterWorks. It came laminated.
1 Season pass promotion poster of unknown vintage, but it has a coaster car on it with Kings Island in the old pre-Paramount logo. It came framed and matted.
1 Kings Island sign. Again unknown vintage and old Pre-Paramount Logo. Its merely a small white sign that reads "Kings Island". Even its former purpose to the park is unknown.
1 1996 Park Directory - again one of the large park maps. In 1996 this map hung in a map case in Coney Mall by the Vortex entrance, then it sat in storage, in 2001 it hangs in my billiard room. :)
We were then told to please stand by, and we would be escorted to the Beast for Beast ERT. the restaurant lights were then dimmed so we could watch the park transform from PKI to FearFest. A couple windows were opened for the photo op. At around 8:30 Jeff came back and ...
Well, it's official the Beast is taking revenge on the enthusiasts. Remember all the comments made that the Beast is a mere shell of its former self, that it is over braked and too slow, that it has no interesting forces, that its basically an overrated mine ride?
Well so far this season the Beast has taken revenge, it says "So you badmouth me in public, then you want an ERT session????" "I Think NOT!"
That's right, on
June 3 the folks over at Ultimate Roller coaster had scheduled Beast ERT. The Beast refused to run.
On June 24 the American Coaster Enthusiasts had scheduled Beast ERT. Again the Beast refused to run.
Then on October 21, the National Amusement park Historical Association had scheduled Beast ERT. And again, completing the Trifecta, the Beast refused to run.
While we waited for them to give the Beast a motivational speech, a few kicks in the old lift hill, and give it an attitude adjustment, Jeff distributed free wristbands for FearFest.
Our group decided to do the rethemed Museum of Horrors, ala "Phantom Theater" Much to our horror the line stretched back to International Street, and yes all the inside queues were in use. After about a 40 minute wait we finally got to ride through the Museum of Horrors. (See my earlier FearFest TR, as the ride was much better then. tonight the park and Fearfest were much too crowded for its own good, and to compensate, they were using all the cars and had the speed turned way up. I have never seen the cars move through Phantom Theater so fast. By that time we could see that the haunted house lines had gotten ridiculously long, folks were crammed onto International Street, but in all this there was a bright spot. Traffic Engineering. Since PKI still operates the park in normal mode during the day, and then have FearFest with a separate admission charge, they have a peculiar challenge in the amusement park industry. Get all the PKI guests OUT at the same time you are getting all the FearFest Guests IN.
To the parks credit it starts admitting guests with Fearfest tickets in around 7, 7:30 pm So that all the early birds are already in the park. Then they don't kick out the PKI guests. Instead FearFest guests are givin wristbands and those without bands will be turned away from all rides and attractions after 8pm. Leaving them no option but to leave the park. (Well they are still allowed to play games, buy gifts and eat) Then they make every ticket lane available to Fearfest guests, to get a large mass in the gate quickly. What about the mass leaving? All exiting guests are directed to an alternate park exit. Those who remember the old Season Pass Entrance, that becomes the park exit, until the front gate dies down. Great traffic engineering. To help this the front gate is barricaded except in a few spots where greeters issue park guides and admit people, with big sings directing those leaving to the alternate exit.
Then we thought about checking out the rides. Except for Top Gun, the ride lines were equally backed up. Drop Zone was seen to have a line spilling out of the Action Zone altogether. After a Top Gun ride, we were stuck, Not really enough time to get through any ride queue, so the group just mingled under the water tower again, to await a news briefing at 10.
10 came and the news came, and no one was too surprised when ERT was then canceled, but we were welcome to enjoy the rest of the night at Fearfest. Disappointed maybe, but no outward hostility. A trip past Guest Relations was in order to pick up auction winnings to thank Jeff personally for the good time. And then probably because of the outrageous crowd at Fearfest, a mass exodus of NAPHA members was seen heading to the parking lot.
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