Bob Cassata and Dick Knoebel inducted into IAAPA Hall of Fame

By | November 19, 2014

IAAPA_TransparentORLANDO, Fla. – The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) announced that rides and carnival games developer Bob Cassata and legendary amusement park operator Richard “Dick” Knoebel were inducted into the IAAPA Hall of Fame. The IAAPA Hall of Fame honors individuals for their significant and lasting contributions to the worldwide attractions industry. The inductions were announced during the Kickoff Event for IAAPA Attractions Expo 2014 in Orlando, Florida, the premier annual conference and trade show for the global attractions industry.

“We are excited to welcome Bob Cassata and Dick Knoebel as the newest inductees to the IAAPA Hall of Fame,” said Ron Gustafson, 2014 chairman of the IAAPA Hall of Fame and Archives Committee and director of marketing and public relations for Quassy Amusement Park in Middlebury, Connecticut. “The products and guest experiences they have created have thrilled and delighted amusement fans for years. Their passion for our industry is profound and they both deserve this prestigious recognition for their contributions.”

Games Innovator: Bob Cassata, Bob’s Space Racers, Daytona Beach, Florida, United States

Bob Cassata and his company Bob’s Space Racers (BSR) revolutionized the carnival games business and adapted it to the worldwide theme park business. The first game Cassata developed was a three-pin bowling alley game at the Daytona Beach Boardwalk. From there, he built “Pitch-Til-You-Win” and “Balloon Dart” games that he mounted on a burned out house trailer he assembled in his garage. In 1970, Cassata developed one of the world’s first electronic group games, the “Space Racer,” just after the first Apollo lunar mission. The game was so popular people began asking for Bob’s “Space Racer” games, which led to the name of his company. In 1972, BSR sold the first mechanized group game, which for the first time, allowed players to compete against each other instead of against the operator. Throughout the 70s and 80s, BSR created several games including “Whac-A-Mole,” a game that’s still popular today. Cassata’s company is also credited with inventing and developing a built-in accounting and diagnostic system that allows park operators to know the number of games played, the number of players, revenue per location and per employee shift, price optimization, system faults, and more. BSR holds 22 patents and more than 50 trademarks and is currently doing business in 120 countries. Cassata earned the respect of the industry by developing games that were reliable, fair, and, most of all, fun.

Amusement Park Legend: Richard “Dick” Knoebel, Knoebels Grove Amusement Resort, Elysburg, Pennsylvania, United States

Dick Knoebel was raised in the attractions industry as his parents founded the Knoebels park in 1926 in Elysburg, Pennsylvania. In 1971, he was elected president of the Pennsylvania Amusement Parks Association and in 1984 was instrumental in the development and adoption of the Pennsylvania Ride Inspection Act. Since 1988, Knoebel has served as the president of the family business and has been at the forefront of preserving and restoring vintage rides ever since. Legendary projects include rebuilding “The Phoenix” roller coaster, which debuted in Texas in 1947 and was reopened at Knoebels park in 1985, and saving “The Twister,” which was purchased in Colorado and made its debut at Knoebels in 1999. He has also built first-of-their-kind attractions such as a flume ride with wood supports and the “Flying Turns,” the only wooden bobsled-style roller coaster in existence that was inspired by a similar classic attraction of the 1930s. In addition, Dick Knoebel has been an active IAAPA volunteer, including serving as a member of the Board of Directors from 1999 to 2002.

Bob Cassata (left) and Dick Knoebel  – Courtesy of IAAPA

Photos courtesy of IAAPA

IAAPA Hall of Fame Honors Those Who Have Made Lasting Contributions to the Global Industry
The IAAPA Hall of Fame was established in 1990 to honor legends and pioneers for their significant and lasting contributions to the growth and development of the attractions industry. In the past 24 years, dozens of industry pioneers from around the world have been inducted to the Hall of Fame including P. T. Barnum (founder of the American Museum); Walt Disney (Walt Disney Company); Milton Hershey (Hersheypark); Bo Kinntorph (Liseberg); Will Koch (Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari); Franz Mack (Mack Rides/Europa-Park); Bob Rogers (BRC Imagination Arts); Jay Stein (Universal Studios Florida); Geoffrey Thompson (Blackpool Pleasure Beach); and Antonio Zamperla (Zamperla).

Six Flags Over Texas settlement agreement reached

By | November 19, 2014

SFOTARLINGTON, Texas — Six Flags Over Texas and the Esparza family announced that they, along with the manufacturer of the Texas Giant’s trains, Gerstlauer, have reached an agreement to settle the claims related to the death of Rosy Esparza. The terms of the settlement agreement were not disclosed.

“Our deepest condolences, thoughts and prayers will forever be with the Esparza family,” said Steve Martindale, park president. “We are thankful that all parties could reach an agreed settlement.”

“The Esparza family is very pleased with the settlement and appreciates the condolences offered by Six Flags and Gerstlauer,” said both Frank Branson and Garret Chambers, attorneys representing the family.

Gerstlauer is also very pleased with the settlement.

Don Burkholder of Morey's Piers has passed away

By | November 18, 2014

BurkholderMorey’s Piers, Beachfront Waterparks & Resorts is sad to announce that Don Burkholder, Assistant Director of Attractions Maintenance recently passed away after a short battle with cancer. Don joined Morey’s Piers in 2006 and was an industry veteran having previously worked at Six Flags Great Adventure and Universal Orlando. Several of Don’s immediate family members also work for Morey’s Piers in different capacities including his wife Karin, his daughter Samantha, and brother Rus. He will be missed by all of his colleagues in the industry and at Morey’s Piers.

Chance Rides announces new sales manager for the carnival market

By | November 12, 2014

Jeff MillerWICHITA, Kan. — Chance Rides recently hired Jeff Miller as Sales Manager for new rides in the North America carnival market. Jeff comes to Chance Rides with over 25 years experience in the amusement ride industry.

“We are very pleased to have Jeff on board as we grow our new portable ride production including our new one-trailer Freestyle ride as well as old favorites such as the Zipper, Pharaoh’s Fury and Century Wheel.” said Chance Rides’ President, Michael Chance.

Interested parties will have the opportunity to meet Jeff at the IAAPA Expo in Orlando, November 18 to 21, booth #5124, and at the Showmen’s League of America Exhibitors Lounge on December 8 and 9, in Las Vegas.

Chance Rides’ long-time carnival and used rides expert, Duane Wiechman, will continue to serve Chance Rides in his current role. Wiechman will also be at the Chance booth at the IAAPA Expo.

Workers begin demolition of Cedar Point Breakers Hotel

By | October 29, 2014

SANDUSKY, Ohio — Construction crews began demolition on 10/29 of a major portion of Cedar Point’s Hotel Breakers. This historic section of the hotel is being torn down to make way for a grand new entrance portal as a part of the two-year renovation project at the property. Among the many changes and upgrades coming to the popular vacation destination will be newly-furnished and remodeled rooms with LCD TV’s, new furniture, bedding and décor, a new Starbucks and the Surf Lounge bar inside the famous rotunda, an outdoor water play area and much more. Originally built in 1905, the hotel’s legendary main entrance has welcomed millions of guests during its 110-year history.

Part of the newly designed lobby will pay tribute to the resort’s history with photos and other exhibits, said Public Relations Manager Brian Edwards. “When it opened it was one of the biggest hotels in the Midwest, we want to recognize its historic roots.”

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—images courtesy of Cedar Point

Alabama Splash Adventure to host special American Coaster Enthusiasts event

By | October 22, 2014

Attendees Will Ride Newly-Restored Rampage Roller Coaster

Birmingham, Alabama — Alabama Splash Adventure is pleased to announce that it will host a special event for American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE), in which participants will be able to ride the newly-restored Rampage roller coaster.

The event – “Rip Roarin’ Rampage” – will be a private event on Saturday, October 25, 2014, for members of ACE. The park will be closed during the event.

Rampage, a 3,500-foot-long wooden roller coaster, was originally constructed in 1998. Reaching a height of 120 feet and a top speed of 56 miles per hour, Rampage was a fixture at the park’s previous incarnation, Visionland and later Alabama Adventure. When the park’s previous owners decided three years ago to transform the amusement park into a water park only, Rampage was closed down.

Over the past six months, the Koch family, owners of Alabama Splash Adventure, have overseen an extensive restoration project to replace virtually the entire track – including over 1,400 boards and supports — and restore the 28-seat train.

Now, Rampage is scheduled to undergo final testing and preparation over the fall and winter and is scheduled to reopen to the public in May 2015 with the coming of the new season. Prior to that, though, ACE members will get to preview the renovated ride courtesy of the Koch family.

“We’re very excited to bring Rampage back to the public,” said Dan Koch, owner. “It’s a great ride, and it’ll be a thrill to see Alabama’s signature roller coaster entertaining our guests once again.”

Added Koch, “We’re excited to bring another dimension to our park and turn Alabama Splash Adventure back into Alabama’s leading amusement park.”

The Koch family has already made extensive progress as new owners. The owners have introduced free wi-fi, free sunscreen, free parking and free tubes, and have also added six new children’s rides. The Rampage renovation is only a part of the $10 million in capital improvements the Koch family has brought to Alabama Splash Adventure.

WhiteWater strikes historic $29-million deal in China

By | October 21, 2014

Zhengzhou Yinji Kaifeng Waterpark order of WhiteWater products is largest single order in waterpark history

WhitewaterWestHENAN, China — Yinji Dynasty’s Zhengzhou Yinji Kaifeng Waterpark in Henan, China, has purchased in excess of $CAN 29-million worth of WhiteWater products, the largest-ever single order for the global waterpark sector. The colossal waterpark boasts an indoor and outdoor portion, and anticipates a peak day capacity of 15,000 guests indoors and 32,000 outdoors. Guests can expect to see nine separate waterslide complexes, nearly 50 waterslides, three custom themed AquaPlay structures, a Shoot the Chute water ride, three wave pools, two types of Wave Rivers and a FlowRider Double.

“This is a remarkable project for WhiteWater,” says Geoff Chutter, the company’s CEO and founder. “Since 1980, we’ve been committed to creating world-class, entertaining waterparks. Yinji Dynasty’s recent order is a testament to that commitment and to our growth.”

Estimated to finish in summer 2015, Zhengzhou Yinji Kaifeng Waterpark will be China’s largest waterpark.

“This deal demonstrates how WhiteWater doesn’t just provide waterslides. We deliver a complete customer experience,” says Phil Zhong, Regional Vice President of Operations in Asia. “With this client, we designed an entire park, with engineering services, construction management and after sales service and maintenance.”

IAAPA Board of Directors elects Greg Hale vice chairman

By | October 16, 2014

Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Executive to Lead Worldwide Attractions Association in 2017

IAAPA_TransparentALEXANDRiA, Virginia — The board of directors of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) has elected Greg Hale second vice chairman. Hale is vice president and chief safety officer for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts worldwide. He will be IAAPA’s second vice chairman in 2015, first vice chairman in 2016, and then lead the association as its chairman of the board in 2017.

“Greg Hale is passionate about the global attractions industry and about IAAPA,” said Bob Rippy, chairman of the IAAPA Governance Committee that is responsible for nominating the second vice chairman to the board of directors. “His industry knowledge combined with his proven track record of leadership on safety-related issues and other complex industry matters make him an ideal second vice chairman for IAAPA.”

Hale is a 26-year veteran of the Walt Disney Company. He joined Walt Disney World in 1988 as manager of electrical and electronics engineering, ride and show engineering in 1989. He was named director of facilities and attractions regulatory compliance in 1995 and promoted to vice president of design, engineering, and regulatory compliance in 1999. In 2002, he was promoted to vice president and chief safety officer for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts and leads a global team of ride design, operations, and maintenance professionals that keep Disney on the leading edge of theme park safety, accessibility for guests with disabilities, and technology advancements. Hale currently holds 63 patents around the world that have contributed to numerous innovations and inventions in the amusement industry.

Hale has been an active volunteer with IAAPA for more than 15 years, including serving on the Government Relations, New Technology Awards, Nominating, and Strategic Planning Committees. He has also been a member of the IAAPA Safety Committee including serving as its chairman for several years. He has been a speaker on industry safety-related topics at IAAPA events around the world and was a member of the IAAPA Board of Directors from 2003 to 2005. He received the association’s Public Affairs Award in 2003 and its Outstanding Service Award in 2010. He also plays a key leadership role in the association’s efforts to develop and harmonize industry safety standards around the globe, facilitating safety standards meetings in more than 16 countries in Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. Hale has also been the chairman of the ASTM International – F24 Subcommittee on Standards Harmonization since 2008.

Hale has been a member and past officer of the ASTM F24 Committee on Amusement Rides and Devices since 1989. He is a former member of the board of directors and currently serves as a board of delegates member for the National Safety Council. He has received the National Safety Council Distinguished Service to Safety Award, the ASTM International Dr. Richard H. “Doc” Brown Memorial Exceptional Service Award, the ASTM International William T. Cavanaugh Memorial Award, and the FIRST Orlando Volunteer of the Year Award.

Hale holds a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from the University of Mississippi.

Developer announces Texas indoor ski resort

By | October 15, 2014

GrandAlps-3GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas — At a press conference held Tuesday, October 14, 2014, Levi Davis and Sherman Thurston of Grand Alps Resort DFW Inc. announced plans to build an indoor snow ski facility and resort. To be located on Belt Line Road across the entrance from the Verizon Theatre in the city of Grand Prairie, Texas, located between Dallas and Fort Worth. The resort is expected to cost $140 million for the 350,000-square-foot indoor ski facility and another $75 million for the Hard Rock International hotel. The complete resort will include a sports bar, wine bar, coffee & tea house, movie dinner theater with family entertainment center, and gifts & accessories stores.

The hotel will contain 300 rooms, 28,000 square feet of open meeting space, 20,000 square feet of divisible meeting space, at least two restaurants, an exercise facility, luxury spa facilities, resort style rooftop pool complex, and structured parking. The developer has committed to building a second hotel of comparable quality or expanding the existing hotel by 300 rooms within two years of the initial opening of the first hotel.

The indoor ski resort will be a year-round, world-class fourth generation indoor facility with restaurants and specialty retail, and will be integrated with the Hard Rock hotel. The snow dome will offer indoor ski slopes measuring nearly 300 feet tall and 1200 feet long, an indoor ice climbing wall, luge track and winter wonderland play area. Skiers will enjoy pristine conditions on 7 different slopes, including: beginner runs with 4 slope angles, Green runs with slopes from 6º to 10º, Blue runs to slopes from 10º to 12.5º, Black runs from 12.5º to 28º, Forest runs with trees and slopes from 12.5º to 28º. The Grand Alps facility is temperature controlled at 28º at all public times.

The city of Grand Prairie’s investment includes the land, a three-year Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds for infrastructure, 100% real estate tax abatement for seven years, and a 75% rebate of hotel motel tax for ten years after opening.

GrandAlpsThe developer anticipates ground breaking in first quarter 2015, contingent upon full financing. The project will take 34 months to construct and is scheduled to open in early 2018. The resort will create over 1,900 jobs upon full operation. The total multi-phase project is estimated to be $400 million at completion

Thurston said the group has raised $100 million to finance the project through the U.S. State Department’s EB-5 program, in which qualified foreigners can receive visas for investing in job-creating projects in the U.S. In addition, the project has received $68 million from private-equity investors and $35 million from Grand Alps itself.

Grand Alps’ is also planning indoor ski resorts in Brazil, Malaysia and China. The Grand Prairie resort would be the company’s first.

A similar indoor ski resort announced in 2009 for the city of Grapevine, Texas, never got off the ground. A 2007 proposal of the $700-million Bearfire Resort man made mountain covered with an artificial surface, and 600-room hotel near Alliance Airport in the city of Fort Worth, has been put on ice.

NFPA and Legoland Florida Resort promote Fire Prevention Week

By | October 10, 2014

Smoke alarm pledge sweepstakes winner announced, with grand prize trip to LEGOLAND Florida Resort or LEGOLAND California Resort

legoland-genericWINTER HAVEN, Fla. – As a national sponsor of Legoland Parks, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) joined Legoland Florida Resort today to celebrate Fire Prevention Week (Oct. 5-11) with a special fire safety day in the park. Fire safety day featured live performances by PBS personality Steve Rosnolek of “SteveSongs” fame. NFPA teamed up with SteveSongs this year to help educate children about fire safety, including the release of a children’s music video, “Little Rosalie” which informs children about what to do when they hear the sound of a home smoke alarm.

The fire safety day was held at Legoland Florida’s longest-running live show “The Big Test,” an acrobatic comedy in which the Fun Town Volunteer Firefighters try to become “real” firefighters. The event also included a number of learning stations with key safety messages from NFPA, highlighting smoke alarm testing, and meet and greet sessions with local firefighters.

NFPA also announced today the grand prize winner of its smoke alarm pledge sweepstakes in partnership with Legoland Florida Resort and Legoland California Resort. The winner, Laura Patterson, Woodland, Wash., will choose a prize trip for up to four people to either park. The pledge, which ran September 2 to October 5, encouraged the public to test their smoke alarms each month, and was created to reinforce this year’s Fire Prevention Week theme, “Working Smoke Alarms Save Lives: Test Yours Every Month!”. Additional prizes are being awarded to 10 smoke alarm pledge participants who win free tickets to Legoland Florida Resort or Legoland California Resort.

“Getting the word out about the importance of working smoke alarms is so important to help save lives from home fires,” said Lorraine Carli, NFPA’s vice president of Outreach and Advocacy. “Teaming up with our Legoland partners to sponsor the smoke alarm pledge and hold special events around Fire Prevention Week is a great way to inform children and their families through fun and entertaining time together.”

“Combining fun with learning is a key part of Legoland Florida‘s mission,” said Legoland Florida Resort General Manager Adrian Jones. “We’re excited to team up with NFPA and actively support Fire Prevention Week, and help educate children on the importance of smoke alarms and fire safety.”

This year represents the third year NFPA and Legoland Parks have joined forces to promote Fire Prevention Week and its home fire safety messages. NFPA and Legoland California Resort teamed up recently to reach families about testing home smoke alarms during an appreciation day for local firefighters.

According to NFPA statistics, about 3,000 people die in U.S. fires each year, with the majority of those deaths occurring in homes. Three out of five home fire deaths occur in homes where there are no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms. Meanwhile, working smoke alarms cut the chance of dying in a home fire in half.

For more information about smoke alarms and this year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign, visit