Entrepreneur Magazine honors Urban Air Adventure Park as top 100 franchise in the world in 2019

By | January 15, 2019

DALLAS, Texas — Urban Air, the world’s largest Adventure Park operator, receives the distinguished honor of being listed #1 in the Trampoline Park category and #97 overall in Entrepreneur Magazine’s “Franchise 500”, the most comprehensive and widely referenced guide for all franchises in existence. Urban Air Adventure Park was selected based on several key factors including growth and financial strength and stability. Placement in the Franchise 500 is a highly sought-after recognition in the franchise industry, with more than 1,000 applications this year, making it one of the largest rankings ever. To see the full list go to www.entrepreneur.com/franchise500. Results can also be seen in the January/February 2019 issue of Entrepreneur, available on newsstands on January 15th.      

“As we celebrate 40 years of producing the Franchise 500, it’s a good opportunity to step back and look at how much has changed since that first ranking in 1980,” says Jason Feifer, editor in chief of Entrepreneur. “While the franchise business model has changed little, the strongest franchise brands are constantly evolving and innovating to keep up with changing trends and technology.”

Those trends for Urban Air include an expanded offering of marquee attractions, most recently adding the first indoor skydiving wind tunnel inside a theme park, plus high-performance Go-Karts and Bumper cars which debuted at Urban Air Southlake, Texas last month.

“It is a privilege to celebrate this distinguished achievement,” said Urban Air Chief Executive Officer Michael Browning. “I founded this company eight years ago with my father Mike Browning Sr because we wanted a place where kids can be kids. Urban Air is now the leader in active indoor entertainment and innovation with 300 Parks scheduled to open by 2020.”

Urban Air Adventure Parks feature full-service cafés connected to a comfortable lounge with Wi-Fi and several big screen televisions to watch sports and topical news. All Parks offer first-class birthday parties with a personal host and a visit from mascot “Urbie” and the space is ideal for corporate events with a team-building focus. https://www.urbanairtrampolinepark.com/birthdays-and-events

Every U.S. location is proudly an active member of the community, embracing charities and organizations important to their respective franchisee owners. We employ an estimated 75 new hires at every Park location.

Urban Air is a privately-owned company and has received many accolades, including being named “Best Gym in America for Kids” by Shape Magazine. The company was recently honored by SMU Cox Dallas as one the top 100 companies in Dallas for diversity, creativity and the resolve it takes to create and sustain a successful business in today’s competitive environment. Click here to see a full list of awards and accomplishments:  www.urbanairparks.com/what-to-expect/trampoline-park-awards

2019 AIMS International Safety Seminar opens with record numbers

By | January 15, 2019

AT: Pam Sherborne

GALVESTON, Texas — The 2019 AIMS International Safety Seminar opened with record numbers on Monday, Jan. 14, according to Executive Director Karen Oertley.

Conferring prior to the seminar’s start were AIMS Executive Director Karen Oertley, current AIMS President Tim Viox and Pat Hoffman, president of The Hoffman Consulting Group, LLC, who delivered the keynote address. AT/PAM SHERBORNE

The event is being held Jan. 14-18 at the Galveston Convention Center here.

This is the second year AIMS has held its safety seminar in Galveston. Oertley said the 2018 seminar was so successful, the organization decided to go back. Official attendance at the 2018 event was 450. 

Pat Hoffman, president of The Hoffman Consulting Group LLC,  a company that offers operational, safety and security consulting services for the amusement business, kicked off the event Monday morning. He took a packed house on a historical journey looking back at some of the earliest amusement rides. He showed  a drawing of what is believed to be the world’s first carousel. It was recorded in Turkey in the 1600s.

“There is some research of a carousel dating back to the 800s, but there is no real documentation to prove that,” Hoffman said.

The first idea of a coaster came in the 1600s as well. It was an ice coaster in Russia.

“The first known coaster that was attached to a track can be dated back to 1784 in Paris, France,” he said. “The first looping coaster was built in 1901 at Coney Island. It only ran for 10 years. “

For the first time this year, AIMS has added a Family Entertainment Center (FEC) series certification program. Oertley said this series is an eight-hour schedule of classes specific to the FEC industry.

This 2019 seminar will mark Oertley’s last in the  position of executive director. She has held that position since 2014. A search is underway for her replacement.

Lesley Lassiter, AIMS’s new certification program manager, is on hand at the 2019 event. Holly Coston remains the seminar manager.

AIMS International, a non-profit organization dedicated to the safety of the amusement industry, is offering approximately 200  classes this week.

National Association of Amusement Ride Safety Officials (NAARSO) testing is being offered Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 15.

Hands-on events will take place at Pleasure Pier, owned by Landry’s Inc. An evening reception is set for Pleasure Pier on Wednesday evening, Jan. 16.

AIMS testing is set for Friday afternoon, Jan. 18, after a morning of review and studying.

AIMS testing offers certification on several levels. The following is the list of testing: Certified Maintenance Technician, Levels I, II, and III; Certified Operations Technician, Levels I, II, and III; Certified Aquatics Operations Technician,  Level I; Associate Ride Inspector,  Level I; Certified Ride Inspector, Level II and Professional Ride Inspector – Level III. More information may be obtained by going to www.aimsintl.org.

Flying theater attraction The Flyer – San Francisco now open at Pier 39

By | January 15, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. —  The Flyer – San Francisco—the flying theater attraction at PIER 39—celebrated its grand opening on Thursday, January 10, 2019 in San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf. Created by award-winning global attraction developer Triotech in partnership with W.A. Alter, Inc.of San Francisco, The Flyer – San Francisco immerses guests of all ages, taking them soaring over the biggest attractions and iconic landmarks throughout the City and the surrounding Bay Area, with views that have never been seen before. Tickets for The Flyer™ ­– San Francisco are $25 for adults and $16 for children and are available now online at TheFlyer-SanFrancisco.com or on-site at PIER 39. The Flyer – San Francisco is open daily from 10 a.m.–10 p.m.

“After operating businesses at PIER 39 for many years, I am thrilled to share this unbeatable attraction that not only hosts the world’s best technology, but also highlights the many reasons to love San Francisco,” said John Alter, owner of The Flyer – San Francisco. “An experience of this caliber is right at home in PIER 39, our top destination for visitors and residents alike!”

As the City’s first attraction of this magnitude, The Flyer – San Francisco provides an experience that rivals that of the world’s best amusement parks, while also celebrating the unique character and charm of the Bay Area. The attraction features cinematic artistry and state-of-the-art HD film footage captured with the help of drones and helicopters, and blended with computer-generated imagery (CGI). Within the venue, just beyond the ticket counter sits a mural of the Bay, created by San Francisco based artist and illustrator Sirron Norris. Known for his extensive public art contributions, Norris was commissioned by The Flyer – San Francisco to create a large-scale artwork that embodied the eclectic spirit of the City that is featured in the main attraction.  

“We are thrilled to open this unique attraction here in San Francisco. Being able to see the city and the Bay Area in ways that are not possible through any other means make The Flyer San Francisco a must see attraction for visitors and locals alike,” said Ernest Yale, Founder, President and CEO of Triotech.

While embarking on The Flyer – San Francisco, guests will first be introduced to a few characters from the production through engaging projection mapping technology. Revealing a budding romance and a curious seagull (which also serves as the attraction’s mascot), whimsical vignettes will bounce across custom screens to set the scene for the ultimate experience. After the introduction is complete, guests will be ushered into the main theater where they will buckle up as the floors slip away and the 28 guests are suspended in front of the 1,100 square foot (50 foot by 22 foot) curved screen that fills their field of sight ensuring that each guest has the feeling of a front-row seat. In their motion-based seats, guests will take a immersive flight through some of the Bay Area’s iconic landmarks and neighborhoods, including the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Coit Tower, Marin Headlands, Chinatown, the Castro, and more!

“With our 15 million visitors a year, PIER 39 is proud to be the most visited attraction in San Francisco. It is the addition of new and wonderful experiences, such as The Flyer™ – San Francisco, that keep this property fresh, unique and fun,” said Taylor Safford, President and CEO of PIER 39.

Once guests return to solid ground, they will be invited to explore the one-of-a-kind merchandise in the gift shop, created in partnership with Wildlife Trading Company. Souvenir photos by Bay Cruise Photo will be available for purchase and to share via email and social media.

Watch the Runaway Tram at Morey’s Piers this summer

By | January 14, 2019

THE WILDWOODS, N.J.  — Morey’s Piers, celebrating fifty years on the boardwalk of the Wildwoods, NJ, will debut a new ride this summer on Surfside Pier: the family-friendly Runaway Tram. 

The new family roller coaster is themed after the recognizable Wildwood Sightseer Tramcar, an icon of the Wildwood Boardwalk since it debuted nearly 70 years ago on June 11, 1949. Originally built for the 1939 New York World’s Fair, the trackless trains take passengers along the two-mile boardwalk while echoing the famed, pre-recorded phrase “watch the tramcar please.”

“The Wildwood Sightseer Tramcar is a beloved sight on the boardwalk, and it made complete sense to pay homage to this Jersey shore staple as we celebrate 50 years on the piers,” said Jack Morey, second generation partner of Morey’s Piers. “To keep our family business ever-evolving, we strive to create innovative new experiences for our guests that honor the history of Wildwood.” 

A total investment of four million dollars, the Runaway Tram will climb 40 feet before coasting, twisting and turning riders along 922 feet of track. The Force 280 coaster was manufactured by Zierer and features one train with 10 two-person passenger cars. Attraction Design Company JRA is custom designing the ride’s train and station. To make room for the new ride Morey’s Piers had to move seven rides and completely reconfigure Surfside Pier.

New Gardaland Magic Hotel the hotellerie solution of Gardaland Resort to reach an incredible grand total of 475 rooms in 2019

By | January 14, 2019

After a record-breaking season, Gardaland Resort is about to become the undisputed national leader in the themed accommodation market.

With the opening of Gardaland Magic Hotel, scheduled for 31st May 2019, Gardaland Resort will reach an incredible grand total of 475 rooms – 257 of which completely themed – which will make it the First Italian Hub for themed hotels.

“The first bookings for next season are already being placed, especially from outside Italy; our target is to occupy – by the end of March – 30% of the rooms, with an annual estimate of 75,900 rooms reserved across all three structures” affirms Aldo Maria Vigevani, CEO Gardaland.

This ambitious goal becomes feasible and achievable thanks to the agreements signed with the best International Tour Operators, coupled with the strong interest generated by Gardaland Magic Hotel among Italian operators and the success of the other two hotels present in the Resort, which are almost always fully booked: the figures for the last season show an impressive 85% of occupancy rate.

“Our wholly themed rooms will offer children and their families a memorable experience inside Gardaland’s world of magic, where our Guests will be welcomed by talking trees, magic mushrooms, winged unicorns, magicians and other fantastic creatures” declares Luca Marigo, Sales & Marketing Director of Gardaland.

In the Enchanted Forest rooms Guests will feel like inhabitants of a magic forest. Adults will be sleeping at the feet of an imposing talking tree while children will be spending the night under astonishing giant mushrooms, flowers and amusing vine entanglements.

Those choosing to stay in a Cristallo Magico room will be spending the night inside a fantastic castle of dazzling ice. Adults will be the king and queen of an enchanted realm inhabited by magic creatures, while children, dressing up as fearless knights, will be the guardians of enormous shields and swords to defend the castle. Everyone will be spending the night surrounded by imposing and comfortable frozen sculptures, immersed in a world where candid winged unicorns and flying dragons sail the skies.

In the Grande Mago room, on the other hand, Guests will be staying inside the Casa del Mago (House of the Magician). Adults will be sleeping under his huge, magic hat admiring fantastic suspended islands while children will be the apprentices of the great Magician and, thanks to magic spells, they will make ancient, secret books fly.

All rooms will boast two separate areas: one with a double bed and one with two single beds, allowing the whole family to experience in maximum comfort a marvellous and enchanted stay.

And while works continue to finalise the internal decoration of Gardaland Magic Hotel’s rooms, personnel is currently being recruited. The three hotels, collectively, will employ a grand total of 175 employees, full time and seasonal. The development of Gardaland Resort will also bring along positive repercussions on the employment rate of the surrounding areas, with qualified personnel being sought across the provinces of Verona, Brescia, Mantua and Trento. The search also extends to professionals specialised in booking, welcoming, reception and catering.

A stay at Gardaland Magic Hotel will be, for children and their families, like one big journey into an enchanted realm that will extend their visit to the Park, turning it into an uninterrupted, immersive experience. A unique and surreal location where they will be traveling with their fantasy, enjoying the amazing kind of fun that Gardaland always has and always will offer.

Fiesta Shows’ Gene Dean going into NEAAPA Hall of Fame

By | January 11, 2019

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Gene Dean, owner of Fiesta Shows/Dean Enterprises, Seabrook, N.H., will be inducted into the New England Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (NEAAPA) Hall of Fame on Tuesday, March 19.

The ceremony will take place during NEAAPA’s 106th Anniversary Education Conference & Annual Meeting at the Sheraton Springfield Monarch Place Hotel here. 

“It’s a nice honor after all of these years in the amusement business,” Gene said of the accolade.  With more than a half-century in the industry, Gene got his start at Salisbury Beach, Mass., where the family once operated 38 games and a few rides at the seaside resort community. 

“Dad (late Gene Sr.) got his start there in 1935,” he recalled. In the 1967, Gene’s father branched out into the carnival industry with the purchase of Fiesta shows with business partner, the late Jack Flynn. “I joined the carnival operation in 1970,” Gene said of that venture.  

Today the show, touted as New England’s largest carnival, carries more than 70 rides and plays a regional route spanning 35 weeks. “I can’t wait to get out of bed in the morning and go to work,” he said of the industry he came to admire as a youngster. Yet, he readily admits “the amusement park was my first love” of his career. 

“One thing in the park business is that it took them three to four days to set up a Tilt (Tilt-A-Whirl ride), whereas on the carnival it takes only four hours,” he said in comparing the two businesses. While he still enjoys visiting the midway operation and carrying on the show’s tradition with son, E.J., Gene is also known for his charitable work in local communities as well as daily tennis games while wintering in Florida.  

E.J. and his wife, Norma, also operate the famous Cream Puff Bakery at the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, Mass.  Gene and his wife of 52 years, Mary, enjoy spending time with their family, including grandchildren now being groomed in the family’s enterprises.

CEC Entertainment, Inc. expands international footprint in Central America and Middle East

By | January 11, 2019

DALLAS, Texas — CEC Entertainment, Inc., the leader in family dining and entertainment, announced today that it has signed development agreements with franchisees for 25 new Chuck E. Cheese’s restaurants across Mexico, Egypt, Kuwait, El Salvador and Bahrain. 

The company has been actively growing its international franchise footprint and currently operates 65 Chuck E. Cheese’s restaurants across 13 foreign countries and territories, with the biggest concentration in Mexico and Saudi Arabia. Over the coming months, the company will look to expand further by pursuing new development deals across other countries in the Middle East and Central America, as well as Asia and South America. 

“It’s an exciting time to join CEC internationally as the business is growing rapidly and driving great expansion results in new international markets,” said Thomas Leverton, CEO of CEC Entertainment Inc. “I am pleased to welcome these franchise partners to the CEC family. With our momentum and more opportunities on the horizon, I look forward to working together to bring Chuck E. Cheese’s to new areas of the world.”

Earlier this year, CEC Entertainment appointed Arun Barnes as Senior Vice President of International Franchise to lead the expansion and development of franchise operations abroad. In his role, Barnes helps franchisees ramp up new operations and provides support across operations, marketing and culinary.

“Chuck E. Cheese’s is an iconic brand that resonates strongly among kids and parents all around the world, and we’re proud to bring the experience to more communities in 2019,” said Barnes.

Sunkid becomes a provider of mountain coasters

By | January 11, 2019

Sunkid and Brandauer agree to continue the summer toboggan run business as a part of Sunkidworld.

Summer toboggan runs of the Brandauer brand are among the most-frequently used facilities world-wide. Brandauer GmbH, founded by Ing. Josef Brandauer in 1980, opened its first run in Abtenau, Austria, in 1996. More than 50 facilities have since been installed in many countries around the world and have become a complete success for all operators. 

Continuing this successful path and transferring the company into reliable hands were decisive points for Ing. Josef Brandauer in the decision of relying on Sunkid as a successor. With the beginning of this year, the Brandauer summer toboggan runs have now become part of Sunkidworld.

“This solution truly was a win-win situation for everyone involved,” Sunkid’s managing directors Dipl. Ing. (FH) Herbert Zopf and Mag. (FH) Emanuel Wohlfarter said, clearly content. “The summer toboggan run fits us outstandingly well and enables us to further improve our position as a provider of year-round leisure experiences for the entire family.”
The direct proximity to the main production site of Sunkid-Bruckschlögl in Bad Goisern brings about plenty of synergies. The production site and previous employees of the summer toboggan run section will continue to remain in Rußbach near Salzburg. 

The Brandau Mountain Coaster
The trademark of the Brandau summer toboggan run “Mountain Coaster“ is its unique monorail system that not only offers unique ride dynamics but is also particularly cost-efficient and easy to remove. 

The low weight of the toboggans also permits simple mountain transport even using the existing infrastructure of T-bar, chair and cabin lifts. This not only clearly saves on construction costs, but also permits year-round use of facilities already built. 

Route design of the Mountain Coasters is customized to the situation on site and the customer’s wishes. The system must be constructed on a minimum slope of 5 to 7%. The Mountain Coaster can be set up on any substrate, however, no matter if it is rock or earth.

After many years of experience in the provision of summer adventures and in the theme park industry, Sunkid can now also offer many solutions around the subject of toboggan runs and turn them into a truly unique experience with a special power of attraction. 

Little Engine Playhouse, presented by Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, expands 2019 tour

By | January 10, 2019

PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. — The Little Engine Playhouse Tour, presented by Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, brings another delightful children’s book to life with expanded dates and new locations in 2019. The Playhouse Tour, which traditionally runs for two months in the spring, now begins Jan. 15 at the Nashville Public Library.

Audiences will enjoy the theatrical adaptation of “Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon,” which delivers a positive, anti-bullying message. When Molly Lou Melon starts a new school, Ronald Durkin, the school bully, makes fun of her on her very first day. He mocks her teeth, clumsiness and small frame. With advice from her grandmother, Molly Lou shows Ronald her perceived flaws are really her talents. Molly Lou is an example of overcoming obstacles and self-acceptance.

“The anti-bullying message in this book is so important in today’s world,” said Natacha Hylton, Dollywood Entertainment Manager. “We all felt like this was a great time to expand the tour, especially with the subject matter of the selected book.”

The 2019 expanded tour is made up of two actors and a stage manager. Stops at familiar children’s venues in Middle and East Tennessee, along with new areas including Memphis, as well as Arkansas, South Carolina and Ontario, Canada are scheduled for the tour.

“Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon,” is written by Patty Lovell, with illustrations by David Catrow.. The stage adaptation of the story is engineered by long-time Playhouse director, Brian Hull. The cast features Melissa Lawler and Jonathan LeGallais, and Joshua Stewart is stage manager. The Little Engine Playhouse tour is funded by Penguin Books in partnership with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and the Dollywood Foundation.

Tour dates kick off at the Nashville Public Library 2nd floor Children’s Theater, located at 615 Church Street. The Little Engine Playhouse Tour continues in Tennessee with stops in Sevier County (weeks of Jan. 28 and March 4), Knox County (week of Feb. 4), Chattanooga (week of Feb. 11) and Anderson County Schools (week of Feb.18) before heading to Asheville, North Carolina (week of Feb.25) and Memphis (weeks of March 18 and March 25)..

Other dates include Sevier County Schools (March 4), Greenwood, South Carolina (March 11). The tour heads to Arkansas (week of April 22) and wraps up in Ontario, Canada (weeks of May 20 and May 27).

Firestone Financial announces plans to expand carnival and parks finance team to meet increased demande

By | January 10, 2019

NEEDHAM, MA — Firestone Financial, a subsidiary of Berkshire Bank, announced plans to expand their Carnival and Parks Finance team to meet increased customer demand and industry growth. Sal Cifala, one of Firestone’s most experienced lenders, will join Rich Gockelman on the carnival and parks team. Cifala will also continue to lead the amusement, vending, and gaming industries.

“Sal has been a trusted advisor to his amusement and vending customers for over 20 years,” said Tom Varriale, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing. “He’ll bring that same level of expertise to his carnival and parks customers, helping them to grow their businesses.”

Cifala joined Firestone in 1996, working in credit and asset management before starting in sales in 2002. As the Assistant Vice President of Sales for the amusement, vending, and gaming industries, he manages strategic relationships with customers, manufacturers, distributors, and operators. With his expanded role, Cifala will bring that same service level to carnival and parks customers.

“I look forward to working with new and existing carnival and park customers,” said Cifala. “Rich has done a tremendous job helping his carnival customers with their financial needs and I look forward to partnering with him to meet the increasing demand.”