Written by Russell Meyer
Published: August 7, 2005 at 5:17 PM
The summer season may be winding down, but things are starting to ramp up at Paramount’s Kings Dominion for 2006. They have begun to sell season passes for 2006 at an incredible price. A 2006 Gold Season Pass can be purchased now through the end of the year at $59.99, when you purchase two passes or more. Purchased individually, the passes cost the normal $79.99. The passes are valid for the rest of 2005, and all of the 2006 season at all of the Paramount Parks across the country, and include parking. That’s right, a season pass for a regional park that includes parking! The pass also includes a complimentary ticket good through September 2005, additional bring-a-friend-for-free days in 2006, and Gold Season Pass perks throughout the term of the pass (early entry, special discounts, and events, etc…). My wife and I couldn’t resist a good deal, and postponed a trip up to New Jersey to try again to ride Kingda Ka to head down to Kings Dominion today.
When processing my season pass, I noticed some signs advertising the new season pass deal, and those signs also spilled the beans about Paramount’s Kings Dominion’s new attraction for 2006. While it hasn’t officially been reported anywhere, it appears that the rumors are true, and the park will be getting a new roller coaster in 2006. Italian Job Stunt Track is being advertised as the new attraction for 2006, and the likelihood is that it will be similar to the other two versions at Paramount’s Kings Island and Canada’s Wonderland. The site for the coaster is where Diamond Falls used to be, and may extend into the Anaconda Lagoon or into the north side of Water Works. Basic site preparation has begun, but there’s no indication from inside the park what is on the way. I’m guessing that Paramount will announce the new coaster in the coming week, but for right now, these signs throughout the park are the only proof of the new coaster. The addition may not be what thrill seekers are looking for, considering the reception that the coasters received at the other two Paramount Parks, but it should be a big hit with families and just about everyone else.
Signs throughout the park advertising next year’s new attraction
The future site of Italian Job Stunt Track
More of the construction site
It’s difficult to tell right now if this attraction will be a direct clone of the first two versions of the coaster, but the introduction of this coaster could not have been better with the likely release of the Italian Job sequel, tentatively titled The Brazilian Job, coming in the summer of 2006. I cannot provide any specific details about the new coaster, but I would expect it to be very similar to the first two, with coaster trains made to look like Mini Coopers, multiple launch zones, and numerous special effects. While I think the coaster will be a good addition to the park, and I am encouraged by the increased theming that Paramount Parks are incorporating into their attractions, I’m not sure that this attraction may be the best thing for this park. The park already has three launching coasters (Hypersonic XLC, Flight of Fear, and Volcano). Also, the location of this new attraction makes the east half of the park (Congo area) very crowded, leaving the west half of the park with very few new attractions. This is still one of the few regional parks without a B&M, and for at least one more year, that streak will continue.
In Search of Magic
New York Times 7/31/05
The New York Times ran a very interesting story last week concerning Walt Disney World. It questions whether Disney has begun to lose their “magic” when it comes to its theme parks. Disney has been known for years to be the “Happiest Place on Earth,” and most people traveling to one of the company’s theme parks usually go home with a lighter wallet, but memories to last a lifetime. However, there are still instances of guests leaving the resorts with more complaints than compliments. The Times reporter had more than his fair share of annoyances from the newer Saratoga Springs Resort, and found a number of other guests who were equally disappointed from their Disney experience. From room problems to some other minor flaws in the resort, caused guests to have less than expected quality from a company that prides itself on near perfection. So is Disney losing its magic? Has it stretched its abilities too far? Does it no longer care about us, or are we just becoming too critical, and expect more than we should from a Disney vacation? I would tend to lean towards the latter. I do agree that the reported incidents of guests having complaints about their Disney vacation have increased over the past ten years, but like any large company, mistakes are bound to happen, and as the attendance at the theme parks and resorts increase, the likelihood of mistakes also increase. We as Disney guests have also set a standard for Disney that may not be attainable from any other company but Disney. Most of the trip reports posted to Disney fan sites analyze vacations down to every infinitely miniscule detail. From the number of towel animals folded by the maid, to the number of freebees obtained throughout a vacation are posted for all to see, and those fans compare their experiences. Everyone wants to have the best vacation, and if they only get towel animals on three days of their 5-day vacation, or if their Golden Mickey Ears are not delivered to their room on the first day of their stay, they're disappointed. Disney has become a victim of its own success, and the expectations of a Disney vacation are so high, that the probability of a guest going home dissatisfied are increased. Today’s cost of a Disney vacation also has something to do with that, as it is becoming increasingly difficult to take an average family to Disney World for a week for under $3,000. Guests are now paying first-class prices stay at the cheapest Disney resorts, and those guests are not getting first-class service. It has become a Catch-22, and I don’t see things changing dramatically any time soon. Should we lower our expectations for a Disney vacation, or should Disney raise their level of service? I would probably say both, but the reality is that neither will happen, and as more and more people visit the “Happiest Place on Earth,” the list of people disappointed with their vacation will continue to grow. However, the list of people who will love their vacation will also continue to grow, and a Disney vacation will still be the gold standard, aside from cruises, that family vacations will be judged.
Let's be honest, you sit at home and see the video or watch the travel shows about Orlando and build up your vacation plans.
You want to do this and that and you have to see this and we can squeeze in that and pretty soon you have to actually schedule time to sleep.
I am a Florida resident and I see it all the time when I go to the parks. People are miserable because they are EXHAUSTED! They are not happy even when things go perfectly.
I would like to comment on what we, the people of Florida see when tourists come to our parks. Yes, we tend to call them our parks. We invest in them all year round and for residents who really get in to the Disney experience, it tends to cost many times that of the average vacation!
My wife and I have no children and our passes for all the parks run about $1250 per year. We try to stay on property once every 3 or 4 months to keep the "vacation feel" to our lives. We do the Christmas Parties, Halloween Nights, etc.
Back to what we see:
We see tourists who go to Typhoon Lagoon, smoke cigarettes in the non smoking section and put them out in the sand. We see this EVERY TIME we go!
We see tourists throw trash down on the ground when a trash can is three feet from them or toss empty water bottles in the water areas of MK, Epcot and MGM!
I have heard first hand accounts of tourists WRECKING rooms at the best resorts.
We have seen behavior at restaurants SO bad that other guests had to get up and leave because Disney workers just endure it as the ill mannered guests would pitch a major fit if you brought their unwanted behavior to their attention.
We have seen people bitch and moan over anything and everything they could to try and get something extra free. Nothing is good enough for them and that's the way they plan it so maybe they will get a percentage off their food bill or a front of the line pass or ANYTHING just to shut them up!
We have even heard on many occasions "hey, if it weren't for the tourists this place wouldn't even exist". While that may be true to a great extent, it doesn't give the vacationer the right to act like an animals!
Hey, stupid behavior goes right down to the animals here! Does anybody feed their birds and squrrels french fries at home? For some reason people are compelled to do it here! They throw their food onthe ground at the parks and the birds go nuts over it and what a lovely poopfest it creates for the rest of us to enjoy our meals! Thank you!
Hey, we know tourists are needed here for our parks to grow and evolve. We LOVE tourists! For the most part tourists are fairly well behaved and show our parks respect. Unfortunately, you can see 1000 perfect tourists and 5 bungholes and you will remember the 5! I feel sorry for the cast members who go through this each and every day. It has to get old and the magic must really wear off for them too!
Are the parks losing their Magic? Absolutely not! We see it every day and it is great! We see the new rides being built, the special events, the marvelous resorts. It truly is MAGIC just to think all this happens each and every day.
People need to keep their expectations realistic! People need to plan properly. Five days worth of activities do not fit very well in three days, especially in the summer when it rains down here pretty much every day for an hour or two.
And finally, treat the parks like you own them! You wouldn't let anybody trash your house, so remember that when you come down to ours.
From today's (8/10/05) Orlando Sentinel:
"Strength at ESPN, improvements in the ABC television network and steady performance at Walt Disney World in Orlando helped Walt Disney Co. post a surprisingly strong 41 percent boost in profit in the third quarter."
I live in Florida as well (Tampa) and recently my family (wife, two kids) stayed for several days at Disney and I certainly noticed a difference this year than previous years. The staff seemed slightly more run down and exhausted. They seemed a little more testy and there was slightly less attention to detail. Were the differences huge - absolutely not, but still noticeable.
Disney did cut their training slightly in order to reduce and they have juggled with staff stability (cutting hours with some but then hiring new people, etc.). I think that Disney still does a great show but are a little too big to get it all right. They may have grown too big to provide that Disney "magic" in every area of the resort.
On the other hand, it seems that there is a growing trend in the US (and perhaps others) to expect perfection. Our technology level has grown so advanced that we have lost touch with the labor and time it takes to produce a ride, a show, or even an ice cream. All we know is that we want it NOW.
We live in an age where we can order a Siamese monkey diaper from China without any regard for what it takes to get it to your door. This seems to create a dangerous mix of irresponsibility, apathy, and entitlement that is easily seen when you gather thousands of people together (such as at Disney).
"Walt Disney (DIS ): Reiterates 4 STARS (buy)
Analyst: Tuna Amobi, CPA, CFA
Before one-time items, June-quarter earnings per share of 42 cents, vs. 31 cents, is 4 cents above S&P and Street estimates. The third quarter rode a solid ESPN and rebounding ABC, plus improved traffic and margin expansion at U.S. parks, and we think all should continue through at least fiscal year 2006 (September). September-quarter film results could be pressured by theatrical marketing costs on accelerated Miramax titles, but these should later drive incremental contributions to home video and pay TV. Disney confirms at its June-quarter call that it is mulling strategic options for radio assets (ex-Radio Disney/ESPN Radio), which we think could fetch over $3 billion."
It coulda been a lot worse too..
"DreamWorks Animation (DWA) tried to reassure Wall Street on Thursday that the DVD market is fine - and so are the company's prospects. After the market closed Thursday, DreamWorks posted a net loss of $3.7 million, or 4 cents per share, compared with net income of $146 million, or a $1.89 per share, for the same period last year."
"Prudential Financial expects (Disney's) operating momentum to remain above that of its other large entertainment peers in the near future due to continued expansion in domestic theme park margins and a substantial recovery in ABC’s revenues and profits."
I'd really appreciate it.
When it comes to ABC predictions - the division driving profits this quarter - I'll listen to real experts, who actually watch TV, or I'll make my own! I'm sure they'll all be better predictions than those made by some WorldCom backer who will make a bundle if his "expert" opinions get people to buy the stock.
You can check out all of the details and stats at Kings Dominion.com.
Thanks for the heads up on the PKD passes and new attraction, Russ. Might just have to carry two passes in my wallet for next year (PKD and BGW).