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Apr 9, 2013
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I was thinking about this on the way in to work today because it seems like within the last year or two, maybe more, we've seen an uptick in ancient or classic rides being sent to Amusement Heaven (where Coaster Jesus lives). The debate in the Volcano thread alone is interesting albeit dizzying, at times. The back and forth about the history of Volcano, the ride enclosure, the aesthetics, the rides that came before it, and the effort to preserve history.

For an average person, I can see getting lost in the weeds fairly easily. Often in the forum, we talk about a ride (pick a ride - any ride), and it's (sometimes untimely) demise, in painstaking specifics - and rightfully so, we forum members are ride enthusiasts and park-goers. When a ride is determined to be closed permanently, everyone has their personal history and individual memories attached. This had me thinking: when is the right time to cut rope on an attraction? Is there a right time? Do you, as a park-goers, have a given philosophy on this? Maybe a generalized feeling on the subject not tied to any one ride?

So I started thinking about those questions. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I really don't know what the answers are, if there are any answers , nor how I can verbalize what fragmented thoughts I have currently up in this wet brain of mine. Let me be upfront and repeat what I've said in the past: I'm not particularly nostalgic. I see rides as semi-temporary and I have no problem, usually, when it's time to build up and on. But at the same time, I see value in keeping around traces of the past. Nessie is a good example of this. However, contrary to that point of view, there are only so many resources available for so many rides at a given time. Specifically picking on LNM, how many riders (besides Zimmy) go to BGW specifically for a ~40 year old coaster? Then think about real estate in places like Disneyland or Knott's - there's only so much liquid the cup can hold. Is it a better philosophy to constantly keep the audience coming back for new experiences versus banking on trips down memory lane? Is there a balance?

Speaking of Disney, when my thoughts focus on dark rides, the question(s) at hand become even more murky. Dark rides seem to have far more moving parts in keeping these attractions open, yet elicit a stronger emotional response (at least from my perspective) which leads to a stronger attachment from some riders. Disney knows this - BGW, not so much. Disney seems not so shy when it comes to shelling out to keep attractions and experiences going past what would be an average ride lifespan (whatever that number may be). However, Disney also has a fresh set of new customers being born every 5-7 years coupled with their nostalgic parents in tote. It's obvious, at least to me, that dark rides are much harder to maintain. Is it fair to demand regional parks burn resources keeping these kinds of attractions going in an effort to have Disney/Universal kinds of experiences? I tend to think not which is why I see dark rides at regional parks as far more special yet fleeting opportunities.

So anyway, I wanted to have a discussion about this. And like I said, I certainly don't have any answers - I'm more curious what other forum members think. As I type this now, I kind of think for a good roller coaster, a life span of 15-20 years seems to be enough time for a ride to run it's course. But I can see merited arguments going in both directs. Dark rides are harder to gauge at least from where I sit.

Thoughts?
 
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Zimmy

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The greatest roller coaster man has ever and will ever devise, my beloved Nessie aside I too am not particularly nostalgic. When ride no longer is cost effective to operate, any 1 of a kind niche it may have filled is gone, and it does not bring in customers on it's own merit, in general I think it may be time to consider removing it.
As much as I hate the idea of tearing down one of the last remaining Arrow coasters I see Anaconda is a good example. Presumably it is not terribly expensive to operate but I suspect no one (or very few at any rate) come to KD for her. I would guess that the swamp could be used to better effect with a different ride, but gods knows if they can build in it now.
Big Bad Wolf is another excellent example. She became to expensive to maintain.
Nessie gets a pass here, not just because she is still fun but because she is an icon.

Now here is an interesting twist, bringing rides back. We have seen in the past few years CF going as far as Europe to find classic flat rides. How does this fit into the equation?
 
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Interesting topic. I think the short answer is yes, there is a balance, and it's different as a function of park and time, so there's no discrete rule set to go by for even one park. In a culture where every generation comes into its respective nostalgia on a rather predictable schedule, nostalgia is nevertheless a much bigger aspect of (e.g.) the BGW experience today than it was many years ago. At least, in my experience there is much more of it now than three once was (park anniversary placard series, references to prior rides within existing rides, pins, retro merch, etc.). Advancing park age begets more attraction history and more 3- or even 4-generation family memories, and that naturally drive an attendant guest desire to enjoy those same 3-5 rides they and their parents, and maybe their parents, have enjoyed regularly for decades. Technology has enabled nostalgia growth to a great degree during our lifetimes.

One difficulty in judging the "right" time for a ride's removal is that the notion of a discernible "so long" epoch, or even a concrete framework for making such a decision, is problematic. Some factors include the manufacturer's designated ride service life, ongoing ridership, recurring cost of operation, known step-function costs like major refurbs to keep the ride operating, uniqueness, other parks' experiences with similar ride systems, appetite/funding for a new attraction in the wake of the old, and the desirability of the ride systems or attractions on the market. These are all, to varying degrees, soft factors, in that they typically don't doom a ride on their own. If the willingness and money are there, typically a ride can be kept running. (Yes, there are some exceptions.)

And there are other considerations that may be obvious only in retrospect, making them largely useless for predicting a ride's end-of-life in advance. I doubt BGW deliberately set an explicit goal of having one of the last remaining early-gen Arrow loopers (as @Zimmy mentions above), but that slow rollover to classic status might have added decades to her life. Rides often go through a stage of life that is between "new and shiny" and "old and classic," which I think we could call "middle-aged and surpassed." Neither young enough nor old enough to justify extra attention. At that stage of life, the notion that almost any individual ride is destined to be a classic is in many classes not at all cut-and-dry. (Again, there are some exceptions.) If there's a "right time" to pull the plug on a ride, it would have to explain the starkly different fates of very similar rides in different parks.

I think in the big picture, it comes down to a constantly shifting combination of finances, popularity, appetite for something new in a particular space, a bit of a hand-waving "it's time" sentiment among park leadership, and sometimes also a dose of irrationality from the people who either run the park or hold the purse strings (or both).

An aside: As Disney parks get many times the annual attendance of BGW, and as they are open year-round, and as their "rack rate" for a single day's admission is well over $100, and as a great many visitors in a given day are also pumping money into Disney hotels and meticulously planned meals and etc., to the point where reservations for some workaday aspects of a park visit have to be booked several months in advance, I'm not sure Disney's ability and willingness to maintain and upgrade their older rides is a fair comparison to any regional park or chain. By virtue of their empire, they can make decisions others can't. But I do think the question of "when is it over for a ride?" is an interesting one.
 
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I kind of think of it like video games or movies - records need to be kept publicly but that doesn't necessarily mean we are going to have subjects readily available - although that would be an ideal (yet impossible) situation. A library of blueprints or a virtual themepark would be an excellent resource for future generations to learn from. When Kevin Perjurer started his YouTube channel, I loved his idea of buying back old rides and setting up a theme park called Defunctland. Though obviously sarcastic, I think this would be the most idealistic end state for historical documentation.

The flat ride resurrections are somewhat outliers in the total view of the situation, if you ask me. It's kind of like restoring a Vespa versus restoring a Cobra: it'll be easier and cheaper to get the Vespa going, but in doing so fewer people will ultimately care. But if you want to do it, cool.
 

Nicole

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I would argue that there is more reason to maintain classic dark rides than most other attractions.

Unlike modern, technology-driven dark rides, the old-school boat/train/invert/etc through a series of scenes seems to age gracefully. Things like VR seem outmoded fairly quickly, as technology advances. Flying through a classic children’s tale, however, is essentially the same experience now as it was 40 years ago.

Many (not all) coasters also lose their appeal, as they become rough and/or passé. Once a bigger/faster/random static-er ride comes along, it seems cost prohibitive to maintain an old coaster past its normal service life. Obviously, there are exceptions, including iconic and classic coasters.

I'm not sure there is much reason to keep a flat, once it ceases being cost-effective to run.
 

belsaas

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Many (not all) coasters also lose their appeal, as they become rough and/or passé. Once a bigger/faster/random static-er ride comes along, it seems cost prohibitive to maintain an old coaster past its normal service life. Obviously, there are exceptions, including iconic and classic coasters.

I heard MMXX is going to have the most Statistics of any coaster.
 
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SLC Headache

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The greatest roller coaster man has ever and will ever devise, my beloved Nessie aside I too am not particularly nostalgic. When ride no longer is cost effective to operate, any 1 of a kind niche it may have filled is gone, and it does not bring in customers on it's own merit, in general I think it may be time to consider removing it.
As much as I hate the idea of tearing down one of the last remaining Arrow coasters I see Anaconda is a good example. Presumably it is not terribly expensive to operate but I suspect no one (or very few at any rate) come to KD for her. I would guess that the swamp could be used to better effect with a different ride, but gods knows if they can build in it now.
Big Bad Wolf is another excellent example. She became to expensive to maintain.
Nessie gets a pass here, not just because she is still fun but because she is an icon.

Now here is an interesting twist, bringing rides back. We have seen in the past few years CF going as far as Europe to find classic flat rides. How does this fit into the equation?
I would add historical value. And of all of the Cedar Fair Arrow Loopers, Anaconda has the least historical value. The others set inversion count records (Corkscrew CP, Carolina Cyclone, and Vortex KI being first to three, four, and six respectively), opened with the park (Demon albeit altered from its original form, and Dragon Fyre), or are the only regular looper in their respective parks (Corkscrew VF and Corkscrew MiA). Anaconda's first was, I think the underwater tunnel, not a major stat.

Anaconda's role of regular looper is also being filled by Dominator and now Twisted Timbers. Oh, I'm not calling for Anaconda to be scrapped. I'm just saying I'd be surprised if one of the others gets scrapped first.

I know I'd get an eye-roll from you and many others if I mentioned a certain other coaster this could apply to, and I can understand, because said ride is not even ten years old.

Big Bad Wolf and Volcano filled roles no other coaster in the park could. Unless the Wolf was as temperamental as Volcano in its final days, I will reject the "maintenance" claim.
 

b.mac

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Oh boy a discussion on something in my wheel house and something I have actually had a hand in influencing.

It is pretty much accurate what everyone has said above in this thread. Parks look at a variety of factors in the operation of a ride which makes a case for whether the ride stays or the ride should go, but the big thing to keep in mind is that every park is different and every park looks at things differently. I have two unofficial stories pertaining to that kind of discussion from my ex-home park Great Adventure at the end of this post.

The list of factors that parks look into for the basic idea of when to retire a ride are ridership, cost of operation, and uptime. Now all 3 have their own unique aspects that affect the ride as well which I will expand upon below.

Ridership:
This has been elaborated already within this thread but there's multiple minor factors within the general sentiment. I have a spreadsheet going of annual ridership numbers from a few parks, which sadly I won't be able to share but I can give general ideas of how rides perform within specific parks.

Daily / Annual Ridership is a great way to judge the immediate popularity of any attraction in the park, and a good thumb print objective varies depending on the park and the types of rides they run. A good objective for a major coaster within a park is anywhere from half to two-thirds of daily and annual visitors riding or experiencing the attraction. However, guests behave differently in every park so the objectives can stray around slightly. There's one particular park where none of the major coasters achieve more than 25% ridership of annual visitors but there's more than 15 rides with similar ridership numbers on an annual basis.

For analytics parks look into the previously mentioned data, "Rides per guest" (How many rides an average guest experiences on a given day, hourly capacity efficiency (how close the operations of the ride is to its projected hourly capacity), and the overall guest's opinion of the rides (how important riding the ride is to them every visit). For Great Adventure back in 2017, there was a daily RPG goal of 8.5 and a primary focus on the operations of 10 rides listed below:

  • Safari Off Road Adventure
  • Kingda Ka
  • El Toro
  • Bizarro
  • Runaway Mine Train
  • Superman
  • Green Lantern
  • Nitro
  • Batman
  • Skull Mountain

Of these rides listed, 7 of them have hit 1 million riders since 2013. Nitro has the highest ridership in the park, the chain, and is one of the top 3 rides in North America for ridership in seasonal amusement parks.

For other parks like Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Kings Dominion not all of the rides in their "top 10" will be coasters like Great Adventure. For example Kings Island has a particular fondness of attention for their Drop Tower, Boo Blasters, and their train. Kings Dominion likely focuses on their Log Flume, Delirium, and Drop Tower for flat rides.

Rides also naturally have a floor in terms of annual ridership, where they will eventually decrease in popularity until they either hit that floor or the cost of operating overrules the ridership and the ride gets shut down. Outside of its past 4 seasons, Volcano had a natural floor of 600,000 riders when it wasn't down for 30%+ of the season. Great Adventure has naturally had 5 or 6 rides fighting for 1 million riders every single year, and have been for many years at this point. Those being Batman, Bizarro, Skull Mountain, Skyway, Nitro, and El Toro. The top 3 has pretty much consistently been Nitro, Skull Mountain, and El Toro since 2006 outside of some weird years for downtime and VR.

Fun Fact #1: Shockwave at Kings Dominion had 4 straight years of ridership increases prior to being removed at Kings Dominion.
Fun Fact #2: Backlot Stunt Coaster at Kings Island had more riders in 2018 than Dominator, which had the highest ridership in Kings Dominion.
Fun Fact #3: Skull Mountain holds the Six Flags hourly ridership record, with over 1,640 riders in a single hour.


Cost of Operation:
This is the hardest one to gauge for someone who doesn't have the tools to calculate the actual cost to run a particular ride, but every ride has a different cost to one another and different reasons for potentially being so expensive. Some particular examples are that LIMs cost more per cycle than any other coaster due to the energy inefficiency of the launch systems. Intimidator 305 is expensive to maintain because it wears through wheels at a quicker rate than any other coaster in North America (to the point where it's been reported that maintenance doesn't keep an allotted budget for wheels).

As analytics expand and start to make more of an impact in the amusement industry you'll likely begin to see more rides begin to get replaced (not to mention that most of them are already hitting the end of their projected lifespans now that the bulk of the coasters are past 20 years old). Some parks actually calculate the value of the ride based on a specific value per each guest that rides the ride. This leads to some operators and managers to refer to rides as "profiting" even though they don't actually generate any money outside of merch and photo sales. This of course is easier to calculate for parks and venues that charge on a per ride basis like Knoebels or individual paid attractions found in some parks like Go Karts and Skycoasters.

Fun Fact #4: Outside of the added benefits of promoting a safe operating environment, Skycoasters can bring in an annual gross earnings exceeding $350,000 in some parks. Which is enough to pay for annual maintenance, wages, and an entire set of flight suits with less than $100,000 of annual costs. Y'all wonder why parks aren't willing to get rid of them.
Fun Fact #5: The most popular rides in Great Adventure in terms of daily photo sales are Green Lantern, Log Flume, Nitro, El Toro, and Kingda Ka. In that order.


Back on hand, Cost of Operation is a very vague and muddled area of operating an amusement park. As parks have a variety of ways of addressing high costs of operations (most easily by cutting staff and/or maintenance budget for the ride). For most cases of removal of rides typically the cost of operations is the official death nell of a ride.

Uptime:
Uptime, uptime, uptime. The most important thing for a park and for guests experiencing amusement parks in general. The opposite of it is downtime. Rides that are down lead to less ridership, less money, and unhappier guests. There are multitudes of factors that go into the uptime of a particular ride, some being as simple as weather to as complex as whatever the hell happened to Volcano. Parks try to keep rides as up as much as possible within safe reason, but most of the time things outside of their control like weather and guests failing to keep their lunch down have an affect on the running time of the rides.

In simple terms a ride should not spend more than 15% of its annual operating calendar down, but some rides are capable of getting away with more than 30% downtime throughout the year and still manage to kick the next season.

Parks often factor in different varieties of downtime in order to properly gauge how efficient a ride is, since like I mentioned before a lot of things can bring a ride down outside of tossing an error or fault. At Great Adventure we had operations downtime (cleaning up vomit, transferring trains on and off, lack of staffing), scheduled downtime (operating calendar, special events), maintenance downtime (faults, errors, traditional ride maintenance), and weather downtime (temperature, storms, fog, wind, etc.). Generally maintenance and operations downtime were the most important parts of a ride's annual downtime. As weather is something that cannot be controlled, and scheduled downtime is something intentionally factored into the daily operations of the park. Weather downtime can also have a different effect on different rides, as some cannot operate in winds (Windseeker, Skyways) or rain (literally anything with uncovered drive tires). I don't particularly like using weather as an excuse, because some people in management at multiple parks have used it as an excuse to cover all the factors above in order to avoid the wooden spoon.

Fun Fact #6: Windseekers cannot operate in winds above 26 mph, and have had a special evacuation platform created by Mondial in the event of the gondola not being able to return to the ground after the incidents at Knott's Berry Farm and some other parks.
 
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Fun Fact #6: Windseekers cannot operate in winds above 26 mph, and have had a special evacuation platform created by Mondial in the event of the gondola not being able to return to the ground after the incidents at Knott's Berry Farm and some other parks.

I have questions. LOL. Mostly how the hell does that work!?!
 

b.mac

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I have questions. LOL. Mostly how the hell does that work!?!

Give me a moment lol I'm in the middle of a second post, so I'll edit it in as a third story.

EDIT #1: At least based on the info I have in hand. Kings Dominion is most likely going to remove Anaconda or Crypt next. Great Adventure will likely remove another flat ride. Kings Island will likely remove Invertigo.

EDIT #2: Adding a further edit because of the stories I was supposed to tell but forgot. So -

Story number 1: Originally Great American Scream Machine was supposed to be retired in 2011 for the addition of X-Flight.

This is frankly the weirdest string of events I have ever heard about from Six Flags and I love telling this story because it shows just how much can change at the drop of a hat. Initially Great Adventure was supposed to get a retrofit to their 4D theatre for the new 5D technology that was making the rounds at the time. For 2011, they were supposed to get the 5D theatre, and in 2012 they were supposed to receive X-Flight. Great America was originally intended to receive Green Lantern in 2011 and operate it alongside Iron Wolf for a few years before Iron Wolf either was retired or relocated. The biggest physical proof for this original plan of events was that Great America filed for height permits specifically for a ride of Green Lantern / Chang's height, and had some pieces of track arrive at the park before getting shipped away.

Story number 2: The RMC Rolling Thunder Blunder and the Curious Case of Replacing Batman and Robin: The Chiller

Before Twisted Colossus there was supposed to be RMC Rolling Thunder. Prior to 2013 the original plan was to have a duelling / racing RMC conversion of Rolling Thunder but due to the exceedingly poor condition of the wood, it was a better decision to just tear the ride down instead. Now this kicked off a wave of planned ride relocations from their original intended spots, notably the old footprint of Chiller.

2014: Zumanjaro was originally intended to be an Intamin Ring Drop or prototype Sky Jump tower at 300~ feet tall. With the removal of Rolling Thunder Great Adventure decided it was more feasible to build an even taller drop tower on the structure of Kingda Ka, utilizing some of Rolling Thunder's old footprint to put in the queue.
2015: El Diablo. Originally intended to be placed somewhere in the Olde Country along with a small collection of flat rides. This got changed due to Rolling Thunder's removal, and the additional flat rides were added elsewhere in the chain.
2016: Joker / Total Mayhem. Originally intended to reuse Chiller's station, and was teased by the park a few times in 2014 and 2015 prior to the removal of the Lake Grandstands and Fort Independence due to structural deficiencies.
2017: Battle for Metropolis. The actual ride to replace Chiller.
2019: Wonder Woman. Long rumored to be going in the area since Six Flags started adding Zamperla Giant / Supergiant Discoveries at various parks around the chain. Eventually placed a stone's throw away.

Now for Windseeker.

So when the rides were originally built back in 2011 and 2012. Neither the parks nor Mondial had a plan in place to evacuate guests from heights. After various incidents on multiple rides, most famously Knott's Windseeker...

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MIMrnjh_kzE


... The state of California condemned the ride and it had to be relocated to another park. As apart of the safety concerns with the rides Mondial designed a two piece evacuation platform that attaches to the tower itself and can travel up and down the tower with the aid of powered motors on the center ring of the apparatus. The arms are yellow, and feature platforms with 6 foot tall cages on each end. I passionately refer to them as the "Evac Cages of Doom."

Kings Dominion's are visible from the top of Twisted Timbers, or from the station of Grizzly.

Carowinds' are located behind Nighthawk.

Kings Island's are located behind the Windseeker by the turnaround of the Racer.

Cedar Point's were located between Wicked Twister and Windseeker prior to the removal of the Stadium.

Canada's Wonderland's are located behind the Coaster Drive-In and are visible from Sledgehammer.

Worlds of Fun's are located behind their Windseeker, named SteelHawk.
 
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SLC Headache

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Great America was originally intended to receive Green Lantern in 2011 and operate it alongside Iron Wolf for a few years before Iron Wolf either was retired or relocated.
How would that have worked? That was before Mantis was converted into Rougarou, would they have been the first to convert a stand-up then? Or would they have operated both as stand-up?
 

b.mac

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How would that have worked? That was before Mantis was converted into Rougarou, would they have been the first to convert a stand-up then? Or would they have operated both as stand-up?

They both would've operated as Stand-Up coasters for at least a season. Whoever was in the board room and brought up how bad of an idea this was hopefully got some sort of bonus for Christmas that year.
 

SLC Headache

The Spirit of the Forest is a raging Karen
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They both would've operated as Stand-Up coasters for at least a season. Whoever was in the board room and brought up how bad of an idea this was hopefully got some sort of bonus for Christmas that year.
I used to think Green Lantern going to Gadv was one of the worst decisions a park has made this decade, but it prevented something even stupider. And I have a bad feeling Iron Wolf would have been just scrapped. At least as Firebird it fills the sit-down lift-hill looper role for SFA.
 

SLC Headache

The Spirit of the Forest is a raging Karen
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Oh, I'm not calling for Anaconda to be scrapped. I'm just saying I'd be surprised if one of the other [Cedar Fair Arrow Loopers] gets scrapped first.
And so Vortex is the one on its way out now, despite still having somewhat decent ridership and great capacity - and on top of that, the year before a major addition.

Either they have a replacement planned they're confident will have a better ROI than continued maintenance, or they must have discovered damage more extensive than originally thought.

That said, Vortex did not use the terrain well, so the replacement could fix that.
 
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And so Vortex is the one on its way out now, despite still having somewhat decent ridership and great capacity - and on top of that, the year before a major addition.

Either they have a replacement planned they're confident will have a better ROI than continued maintenance, or they must have discovered damage more extensive than originally thought.

That said, Vortex did not use the terrain well, so the replacement could fix that.

Or C) they figured this was a good way to boost KI 2019 attendance before the season is over (with everyone flocking there to get a last ride in). I'm not sure they think all smart like....
 
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