Can you remember your first amusement park ride? Close your eyes for a moment – can you feel it? The wind in your hair, the smell of cotton candy, your friend screaming next to you, and the lurching metallic clicks underneath you as you feel yourself pulled skyward.
You reach the top and for just a moment everything is peaceful and serene…and then you fall. Suddenly you’re moving faster than you’ve ever felt before, you’re upside-down and sideways, rocking against the restraints as you hope that this human-created marvel holds together.
And then, just like that, it’s over and you’re stepping – maybe staggering – off the ride, with a sense of pride that you lived to tell the tale.
Welcome to 2016, where a new generation of supercharged amusement park rides are ready and waiting. You may remember your first wooden or steel coaster from decades ago, but it’s not enough to just thrill anymore: New rides these days have to be innovative, daring, and willing to take risks.
An article published by Canadian magazine Maclean’s in January declared that a roller coaster arms race is taking place as 2016, with a record number of new attractions released. Several are vying for the title of being the fastest, tallest, and most innovative ever built.
Taking cues from several top attractions lists from USA Today, the LA Times, and UltimateRollerCoaster.com, MediaMiser examined US print media coverage for twenty of the most popular new attractions for the first quarter of 2016.
The result? The new “Wizarding World of Harry Potter’ at Universal Studios in California was the top mentioned amusement park attraction.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a themed area that opened on April 7 at Universal Studios in Hollywood, California. The New York Times noted that analysts expect this new attraction to increase overall attendance “immediately” by more than 20 per cent. And the new small children’s coaster to be included in the attraction, Flight of the Hippogriff, received 26 mentions just by itself.
Skull Island: Reign of Kong was the second top mentioned new attraction, and the ride scheduled to open this summer at Island of Adventure in Universal Studios Orlando. The attraction’s marketing is connected to the coming big-budget 2017 film “Kong: Skull Island”, and the Orlando Sentinel praised Universal’s strategy of “slowly, surely, and methodically” releasing details on the new ride.
Mako was the third top mentioned attraction, with 56 mentions, and also the first roller coaster on the list. Released to coincide with their new shark attraction, SeaWorld Orlando is using the tagline of “hyper-coaster” to refer to this new thrill ride, and with promised speeds of up to 73 mph, that labeling definitely works. According to Fox News, when completed it will be Orlando’s longest, tallest and fastest coaster.
Valravn, Cedar Point’s new roller coaster, was fourth most mentioned attraction. Having just released intense new footage of the new coaster in action, Cedar Point is hoping that breaking 10 world roller coaster records (including the record for being the longest, at 3,415 feet, the tallest at 223 ft, and the fastest at 75 mph) will draw big crowds.
As Ohio’s Akron Beacon Journal notes, Cedar Point is capitalizing on the hype by partnering with NBA star Lebron James to auction off the first rides in May.
So as Spring warms up and amusement parks open their doors to excited crowds, it looks like 2016 is going to be an excellent year for new attractions — and for the theme parks that have invested big dollars into creating them.