APSP & NSPF Boards Agree to Unify

By | April 12, 2016

Colorado Springs, Colorado — The boards of the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals (APSP) and National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF) have agreed in principle to merge the two organizations. Both boards believe that the merge will better support the present and future needs of the aquatics industry.

Rich Garbee, APSP chairman of the board, and G. Bruce Dunn, NSPF chairman of the board, jointly stated, “The aquatics industry has seen dramatic changes over the past 10 years. APSP and NSPF each have a distinguished history of service to our industry. We are excited to build a vision where we can achieve even more together.”

A process is underway to plan and implement this merger of equals.

For more information, or to arrange an interview with Bruce Dunn, President of NSPF’s Board of Directors, please reach out to Jacki Krumnow at 719-540-9119 or jacki.krumnow@nspf.org.

Kings Island partners with Fischer Homes on new Family Care Center

By | April 8, 2016

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MASON, Ohio – Kings Island has partnered with Fischer Homes to offer a new Family Care Center for parents visiting the 364-acre amusement and waterpark.

The Family Care Center, built by Fischer Homes on International Street near the Eiffel Tower, will fulfill the wants and needs of young families visiting the park to provide a safe, private, comfortable nursing and changing experience with storage areas for personal items and waiting areas for accompanying family members.

“Parents with infants and toddlers will find helpful amenities in our new Family Care Center,” Kings Island’s Vice President and General Manager Greg Scheid said. “It features all the comforts and conveniences of home for our guests.”

The façade of the Family Care Center features the unique style of a Fischer Home with a covered porch while the inside offers restrooms, electrical outlets, charging stations, Wi-Fi services, televisions, refrigeration and ice, and hot water.

“Fischer Homes has listened to the needs of families and designed a unique child and parent-friendly space at Kings Island that allows families to attend to their children in a relaxed home-like setting,” said Steve Whaley, corporate marketing manager for Fischer Homes.

Privately held Fischer Homes began operations in 1980 in Cincinnati, OH and is now the number one builder there. It has successfully expanded into the Indianapolis, IN, Columbus, OH and Atlanta, GA markets. The company has sold over 20,000 homes and has more than 150 new home neighborhoods. These beautifully designed homes offer choices for people in all stages of life. For more information, visit fischerhomes.com.

Kings Island opens for the 2016 season April 16. Daily operation begins May 13.

Kings Island is owned and operated by Cedar Fair Entertainment Company, a publicly traded partnership that is listed for trading on The New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “FUN.”

BREAKING NEWS: Cedar Fair says Great America ‘staying put’

By | March 30, 2016

California_Great_AmericaSANTA CLARA, Calif. — Cedar Fair Entertainment Company CEO Matt Ouimet appeared before local media this morning to dispel persistent regional buzz that the company’s California’s Great America theme park, a fixture here since 1976, will be sold or closed.

Ouimet further conveyed that Cedar Fair will be seeking zoning adjustments from Santa Clara that will allow the company to exceed current height restrictions and bring larger and different types of attractions to the 116-acre property.

For example, the addition of a smaller-scale Downtown Disney-style entertainment district is one concept being considered.

That the Cedar Fair executive felt compelled to fly to the Bay Area from the company’s Sandusky, Ohio, headquarters to perform rumor control is telling. The park sits on increasingly valuable leased land adjacent to the two-year-old Levi’s Stadium (home of the San Francisco 49ers NFL football team and site of this year’s Super Bowl) — and developers have been circling for some time in the red-hot Silicon Valley real estate market.

The Great America parcel was formerly owned by the City of Santa Clara’s redevelopment agency, with which the park negotiated its long-term lease. The land is now held by the Successor Agency to the Santa Clara Redevelopment Agency, which — under a state mandate — will be putting it and other former redevelopment holdings up for sale later this year.

Amusement Today obtained the following statement from Cedar Fair clarifying its local business position:

“We believe that Great America has compelling potential for future development as an amusement park and entertainment venue. Consistent with our long-term vision for Great America, we have filed a rezoning application with the City of Santa Clara that would allow for the addition of new attractions, shows and events that will enhance the guest experience.

“In light of the fact that our ground lease runs through 2074, we have the necessary control of the property to pursue our long-term vision. In addition, we have created enough financial flexibility to exercise our right of first refusal for the purchase of the property and that option will be considered as the land sale process moves forward.”

Cedar Fair’s major investment in Great America’s new, soon-to-open Mass Effect: New Earth 4D Holographic Journey attraction and Winterfest, a new annual holiday celebration that will extend the park’s operating season for the first time this year, further appear to affirm the company’s commitment to remaining in Santa Clara. The park launched its 40th season March 25.

—Dean Lamanna

The First VR Arcade Conference Announces Important Partnership

By | March 24, 2016

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LONDON, UK, March 23, 2016 – The inaugural VR Arcade Conference scheduled for May 2-4, 2016 has announced the signing of an auspicious partnership with Kevin Williams, Founder and Director of consultancy firm KWP Ltd., Publisher of The Stinger Report, Chairman of the DNA Association. He is a renowned specialist in the Digital Out-of-Home Entertainment (DOE) sector. In addition to presenting a keynote on developments in this emerging sector at the conference, the DNA Association and The Stinger Report will respectively become sponsor and media partner for this ground breaking event.

The first VR Arcade Conference will be taking place in Mountain View, California, during May and has been designed to be the first ever event that addresses the emerging application of Virtual Reality in the out-of-home entertainment sector. It has already gathered an auspicious lineup of speakers and sponsors that will present developments in this highly auspicious market sector. The conference has been designed to bring together VR hardware and software developers, venue operators and investors, with major names in the sector, who’ll expound on their plans in this key market.

Along with inspirational keynote presentations and specialist panel sessions covering the major topics impacting the growth of this attractive market, the event will include a boot camp for developers to learn how to develop content on each VR hardware platform. Many of the latest VR amusement and attraction systems will be exhibited. The deployment of VR entertainment hardware in the public-space will be defined during the three days of the conference, and the event organizers are working towards establishing licensing partnerships between hardware and software developers and the creation of a foundation to establish industry standards.

This unique conference will gather a highly exclusive audience of industry leaders and specialists, along with a number of the most influential corporations working in this sector. Tickets for the conference have gone on sale via the VR Arcade Conference website: http://www.vrarcadeconference.com

Commenting on KWP’s affiliation with this brand new conference, Kevin Williams stated “We are greatly honored to be approached by VR Arcade Conference, to be able not only to present and moderate at this ground breaking event, but also to have our trade association and media outlet promote what will be seen as a must-attend gathering for those hoping to endure and prosper in this emerging new sector”.

The need to gather the leading lights in this new sector was an essential objective for this first event. VR Arcade Conference organizer Jeremy Lam commented, “Welcoming KWP, along with the DNA Association and The Stinger Report to the mix offers us the ability to build a fantastic first event. Kevin’s considerable knowledge of this sector, and extensive contacts greatly help consolidating the event.”

This is planned to be the first of a series of regular conference events focused on the emergence of VR amusements, attractions, and facility development. Proceedings from the event will be recorded and circulated to help build a library of knowledge for those starting off in the sector or those looking to build on their existing experience. The full lineup of speakers,
panel sessions and topics to be covered will be disclosed in the coming days, as well as the initial list of supporting exhibitors.

World’s Largest Swimming Lesson™ set for Friday, June 24, 2016

By | March 24, 2016

WLSLlogostacked_2016_300dpiOVERLAND PARK, KS– Registration for the 2016 World’s Largest Swimming Lesson (WLSL) is now open. This year’s WLSL event will take place over the course of 24 hours at an estimated 500 locations in more than 20 different countries. The new time format allows individual host locations to conduct the 30-minute lesson anytime of day on Friday, June 24th. Organizers have restructured the program to make it easier for aquatic facilities to participate.

Aquatic facilities can be a part of the global, life-saving event by registering as an official 2016 WLSL Host Location at www.wlsl.org.

Tragically, drowning remains the leading cause of unintended, injury related death for U.S. children ages 1-4, and the second leading cause for children under 14. Drowning is an even greater threat in other countries around the world. Research shows participation in formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by 88% among children aged 1 to 4, yet many kids do not receive formal swimming or water safety training.

Since its inception, more than 155,000 children and adults have participated in WLSL lessons generating more than half a billion media impressions about the vital importance of learning to swim. The 2015 WLSL event took place on June 18, 2015 and included 38,170 participants from 22 countries.

Facilities of all kinds, shapes and sizes are encourage to join Team WLSL™ in their mission to spread the message Swimming Lessons Save Lives™ to help prevent childhood drowning.

About The World’s Largest Swimming Lesson™
The World’s Largest Swimming Lesson was created as a platform to help aquatic facilities and the many different regional, national and international water safety organizations work together to communicate the fundamental importance of teaching children to swim. Visit www.wlsl.org to learn more.

Boysenberry pie-chomping champ named at Knott’s

By | March 23, 2016

BUENA PARK, Calif. — Knott’s Berry Farm’s Calico Stage became a “berry” World_Boysenberry_Pie_Eating_Championship__March_19__2016___winner_Joey_Chestnut__COURTESY_KNOTT_S_BERRY_FARM_messy scene March 19 as pie eaters from across the nation competed for a $4,000 prize purse and the title of World Boysenberry Pie-Eating Champion.

Internationally top-ranked competitive eater Joey “Jaws” Chestnut successfully defended his ownership of the title, which he first claimed at Knott’s last year. Chestnut set a new world record by shoveling down 14.5 pounds of pie in eight minutes. That bested his record of 14 pounds — or seven whole pies consumed — set in 2015.

Chestnut nabbed a $2,000 prize for his gluttonous gamesmanship. Steve Hendry, with 10.25 pounds of pie stuffed, took second and a $1,000 prize. Landing in third and fourth places by gobbling 9.5 pounds and nine pounds of pie, respectively, were Miki Sudo ($600 prize) and Michelle Lesco ($300 prize).
Rich LeFevre and Justin Mi tied for fifth place with each scarfing down 8.5 pounds of pie, sharing a $100 prize.

The event, which took place during the park’s 16-day Boysenberry Festival, was sanctioned by Major League Eating — a global organization that has developed and oversees the sport of competitive eating and conducts about 80 contests annually. —Dean Lamanna

Six Flags to develop parks in Vietnam

By | March 21, 2016

SF Ent. logoGRAND PRAIRIE, Texas — Six Flags Entertainment Corporation, the world’s largest regional theme park company, announced a new strategic partnership with NaVi Entertainment, a private company based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, to build a theme park and a water park in Vietnam using the Six Flags and Six Flags Hurricane Harbor brand names, respectively. Both are expected to open in the next three to four years.

“Our international licensing strategy is gaining momentum and provides strong long-term upside for the company above and beyond the growth opportunity of our North America properties,” said John Duffey, president and CEO of Six Flags Entertainment.

“We are excited to announce our third international licensing partnership and are honored to work with the highly-qualified team at NaVi Entertainment as we continue expanding the Six Flags brand globally,” said John Odum, president of Six Flags International Development Co.

“We are delighted to bring the Six Flags brand to Vietnam through the development of these two parks, and confident we can offer guests unique and thrilling experiences like no other in the country,” said Tin Nguyen, Chairman of NaVi Entertainment.

Terms of the arrangement were not disclosed.

Busch Gardens to debut new wooden coaster in 2017

By | March 21, 2016

BuschGadensWB_P_CMYKWILLIAMSBURG, Va. — Busch Gardens announced a new wooden roller coaster is coming to its collection of world-class thrill rides in spring 2017. The family thriller will be the Virginia theme park’s first wooden coaster and eighth roller coaster in total – and will be designed as the world’s first “crowdsourced” ride.

In an unusual industry move, the park is announcing the new attraction much earlier than typical so that fans will be able to help “decide the ride” including opportunities to vote on attraction details, contribute to theme elements and shape the marketing campaign. The first such opportunity kicked off today, inviting fans to select the ride’s name.

“Busch Gardens has a reputation for creating unique ride experiences, and our new family coaster will certainly continue that tradition,” said Larry Giles, vice president of engineering. “The dynamics of a wooden coaster, combined with the many ways it will interact with the terrain and nearby attractions, will make this a one-of-a-kind thrill.”

Giles said the roller coaster will have a minimum height requirement of 46 inches for riders. A coaster with the lower height range rounds out the park’s portfolio and has been developed in response to guest requests for a roller coaster that adults and children can ride together, he said.

“This will be a great ride for families, but make no mistake: this will not be a kiddie ride,” Giles said. “This coaster will feature an exciting drop of 74 feet and will have nine airtime hills, the same number as Apollo’s Chariot. It’s going to be a wild ride.”

While the coaster’s track will be wooden, it will be supported by a steel structure. Great Coasters International has been contracted for the new ride. “Riders will get the best of both worlds: the stability of steel supports with the classic feel of a great wooden coaster,” Giles said.

The ride will be located in the New France village of Busch Gardens. It will take guests on a trek of more than 2,100 feet through wooded terrain, underground through a tunnel and in close proximity to the Le Scoot log flume and Busch Gardens Railway. Neither of the neighboring attractions will need to close for extended periods during the construction of the new ride.

The attraction’s theme will be based on a fanciful legend related to the exploration of North America by Vikings. The coaster will invite riders to join the battle between a band of invading Vikings, who have survived for generations looking for new territory, and the residents of the New France trappers’ village, who are fighting to protect their outpost.

SeaWorld announces last generation of Orcas in its care

By | March 17, 2016

PrintORLANDO, Fla. — SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc., a leading theme park and entertainment company, announced that the killer whales — or orcas — currently in the company’s care will be the last generation of orcas at SeaWorld. The company will end all orca breeding as of today.

SeaWorld also will introduce new, inspiring, natural orca encounters, rather than theatrical shows, as part of its ongoing commitment to education, marine science research, and rescue of marine animals. These programs will focus on orca enrichment, exercise, and overall health. This change will start in its San Diego park next year, followed by San Antonio and then Orlando in 2019.

SeaWorld also announced today a broad new partnership with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to protect our oceans and the animals that call them home. The company is committing to educating its more than 20 million annual visitors on animal welfare and conservation issues through interpretative programs at the parks and expanded advocacy for wild whales, seals, and other marine creatures.

“SeaWorld has introduced more than 400 million guests to orcas, and we are proud of our part in contributing to the human understanding of these animals,” said Joel Manby, President and Chief Executive Officer of SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. “As society’s understanding of orcas continues to change, SeaWorld is changing with it. By making this the last generation of orcas in our care and reimagining how guests will encounter these beautiful animals, we are fulfilling our mission of providing visitors to our parks with experiences that matter.”

“SeaWorld’s commitment to end breeding of orcas is a long-held goal of many animal advocacy organizations, and we commend the company for making this game-changing commitment,” said Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of HSUS. “Today we turn a corner, working together to achieve solutions on a wide set of animal issues including sunsetting the use of orcas at existing facilities; maximizing SeaWorld’s focus on rescue, rehabilitation and advocacy for marine mammals in the wild; and sourcing food for animals and customers from humane and sustainable sources, including cage-free eggs and crate-free pork.”

“We are pleased to join with HSUS on the significant issues facing marine mammals and their ocean homes,” said Manby. “The work done by zoological facilities like SeaWorld is critical for the protection of animals in the wild, especially marine mammals. To that end, SeaWorld has committed $50 million over the next five years to be the world’s leading marine animal rescue organization, to advocate for an end to the commercial killing of whales and seals and an end to shark finning.”

The current population of orcas at SeaWorld – including one orca, Takara, that became pregnant last year – will live out their lives at the company’s park habitats, where they will continue to receive the highest-quality care based on the latest advances in marine veterinary medicine, science, and zoological best practices. Guests will be able to observe these orcas through the new educational encounters and in viewing areas within the existing habitats.

SeaWorld reaffirms its commitment not to collect marine mammals from the wild. It has not collected an orca from the wild in nearly 40 years, and the orcas at SeaWorld were either born there or have spent almost their entire lives in human care. These orcas could not survive in oceans that include environmental concerns such as pollution and other man-made threats.

Live Oak Bancshares officially launches eLending initiative

By | March 11, 2016

Live Oak Bank-Red-Secondary-Horizontal2WILMINGTON, N.C. — Live Oak Bancshares (“Live Oak”) announced that it has officially launched its eLending initiative. This initiative offers expedited loans from $75,000 to $350,000 that are perfect for the purchase of games and equipment in an industry that has historically struggled to find financing. The process has been streamlined with quick approvals and fast closings, generally within 30 days, so borrowers can get the funds fast and get back to work. Additionally, the program offers competitive rates, 10 to 15 year terms, no prepayment penalties, no balloons or covenants and no fees charged by or paid to Live Oak.

“We plan to compete with bank and non-bank lenders with a completely transparent lending experience. Customers can expect to get a loan decision within 48 hours of a completed application, with a dedicated eLender to work with along the way. As a bank, we have the advantage of a lower cost of funds than non-bank lenders, which we pass on to our customers giving them a lower monthly payment,” said Neil Underwood, President, Live Oak Bank.

Jason Lumpkin, formerly a senior loan officer within Live Oak’s Emerging Markets division, has been tasked with leading the eLending team as General Manager. Lumpkin joined Live Oak in 2011 and has served in multiple capacities within the company, from portfolio management and servicing to loan origination and new vertical business development. That development includes helping establish the FEC lending team with Live Oak Domain Specialist, Ben Jones.

“Live Oak will continue to provide loans up to $5 million, but this new eLending initiative helps meet a need in the FEC industry that was currently unfulfilled. With 10 year terms and low rates based on the borrower’s cash flow versus collateral, Live Oaks eLending platform makes small business loans accessible and affordable. This is truly a game changer for the Amusement industry,” said Ben Jones, Live Oak FEC Domain Specialist and GM.

Live Oak will be at the AAMA Amusement Expo International 2016 booth #333 where an eLending expert will be available to answer questions about the new expedited loans. Amusement Industry professionals interested in loans from $75,000 to $350,000 can stop by the booth to be prequalified in as little as 10 minutes with their social security and tax ID numbers. Live Oak will also have loan specialists available to discuss financing needs up to $5 million.