Manufacturers have solid IAAPA Expo, outlook supremely positive
AT: Tim Baldwin
ORLANDO — Following a prior wave of optimism from IAAPA Expo Asia and IAAPA Expo Europe, the Orlando trade show and expo followed suit. The vibe was tangible, and with a lot of uncertainty and a handful of hope leading into the show, suppliers and manufacturers ended IAAPA Expo with enthusiastic spirits.
“I think for us as ride manufacturers, our expectations could have been a little low,” said Jason Mons, executive vice president, S&S Sansei. “Looking at the aisles [attendance] could have seemed a little down, but we still had all the buyers. We have had a busy week.”
Captivating passersby was a ride vehicle from S&S’ new coaster concept, Axis. Two vehicles allowed attendees a chance to sit and experience the comfort of the vehicle, while a motorized second car demonstrated what the seats were capable of.
“There was a lot of interest in Axis. Everyone that came through wanted to hear about it,” said Josh Hays, marketing. “But we’re still the ‘tower guys.’ People who want towers come to us. That’s our bread and butter.”
S&S is introducing the Spin Shot, a modification to its tower rides that flip riders upside down to reinvent their existing towers.
S&S is wrapping up the installation of the world’s tallest Screamin’ Swing at SeaWorld San Antonio.
Larson International had a very strong week. “We’ve had a lot of attendees come by. There seems to be a lot of interest in multiple rides,” said Hunter Novotny. “We’ve had a lot more hard interest rather than walking through and chatting. It’s been all over the boards — kiddie rides to big thrill rides.”
Larson continued building during the pandemic. “It was a large risk, but our priority is our people. We’ve had employees for 10, 20, 25 years. To allow that experience to walk out the door would be incredibly hard for us. Where it put us coming out of the pandemic has been very beneficial,” Novotny told Amusement Today. “Having rides on the shelf has been great, and having the availability to build new product for the coming seasons has really opened a lot of doors for us. We’ve had a lot of interest in 2022 for spring as well as 2023 and 2024.”
“I tempered my expectations compared to 2019,” said Jim Seay, president, Premier Rides, “but there is more activity than I thought there would be. We’ve been busy. Not only conversations, we were able to book meetings virtually solid for the four days. I’m pleased by the show.”
Premier Rides’ new Ice Breaker coaster is set to open at SeaWorld Orlando next month.
“We’re known for building iconic rides. This is a ride that’s going to be experienced by generations. It’s going to be grandparents going with the father and son,” said Seay.
During the show, the an announcement was made that Kennywood’s Kangaroo ride is being refurbished and restored. Premier Rides was called upon to do the project.
There was consistent activity at the Skyline Attractions booth. “This is my 23rd show. The first two days were the best I’ve ever seen at a show,” said Chris Gray, vice president. “Coming into the show, I thought it would be a super light crowd. It has by far exceeded anyone’s expectations on what we were going to see here.”
Skyline Attractions is known for adding something new to its portfolio every year. The P’Sghetti Bowl children’s coaster garnered a lot of attention.
“As difficult as the last year and a half has been and as unpredictable as it has been, the fact that we were able to weather that storm, now at the end of the show, it looks to be a record year for Skyline Attractions,” said Jeff Pike, president.
“We’ve put out around 75 legit proposals for P’Sghetti Bowl,” said Pike. “We’re very close to at least six.”
In addition to the company’s products, companies are also turning to Skyline Attractions for engineering services and partnering with them in fabrication.
Zamperla enjoyed a fantastic show, celebrating with champagne as AT sat down to talk with Michael Coleman and Adam Sandy. Zamperla put pen and paper to a 12-ride package out of the initial 15 that will open at Biloxi, Mississippi, at the new Paradise Pier.
“This project has been ongoing for a few years, obviously, with the pandemic hitting,” said Coleman. “It was on the back burner, but we kept conversations active. We were able to work out the agreement with the ownership group, and I’m happy to announce it.”
The company brought multiple new ride concepts to the show with names like Pump ‘n Jumpz, Gryphon, Blendez and ChronoZ.
“Gryphon is a combination of traditional ride vehicle and body movements from historic attractions,” said Coleman. “It’s brought into a more modern operational concept. It harkens back to those classic movements that have been enjoyed for decades.”
The 24-passenger circular ride undulates in dynamic wave patterns and criss-cross motions.
One of the big new rides introduced was the Zetta Swing. Zamperla boasts that it is the world’s tallest pendulum ride at 200 feet. The iconic thriller comes in 16- and 32-passenger versions.
Iowa has two parks with Zamperla packages going in, Waterloo and Adventureland.
“People have really responded to what we have done over the past five years,” said Sandy regarding the evolution of Zamperla’s coaster arsenal. “I’ve been pleasantly surprised that all the traveling we’ve done educating our customers on the investment in talent we have made in recent years with people coming to the table this week and having serious conversations about coasters that five years ago we wouldn’t have been having.”
The company’s postponed coaster/flume ride at Luna Park in New York is now on track for a 2022 debut and another heavily themed installation is to follow at a North American park in 2023.
“I think it will be a great example of what you can do when you take one piece of land and want two different experiences of a dry roller coaster and a log flume and have them meet together,” said Coleman.
Zierer enjoyed a healthy show. “It was unknown how much traffic there would be,” said Bill Ossim, North American sales. “There seems to be strong interest.”
“We had meetings set up beforehand and this was very positive for us that potential customers were showing up,” said Marina Ernst-Weidner, marketing. “We’re satisfied.”
Projects the company could speak toward were Lost Island and SeaWorld San Diego in the United States, which have had a Flying Fish and Force 190 coaster delivered, respectively.
Abroad, Legoland Korea will open with a coaster, Duplo Planes and a double unit Jet Skis. Zierer is about to close contracts on ongoing projects, but a Family Tower is headed to Germany and a Custom Force Coaster to England for next season.
Lars Hartmann, international sales manager for Huss, said, “We brought out the fifth version of the Breakdance. There was a demand for a bigger and faster version than those in our portfolio. This one can be a white-knuckle thrill ride.”
The new version has an operator in the middle of the ride, much like a DJ.
“We call it the operator center stage,” said Hartmann. “It is part of the ride and part of the show. He’s a show master. Since we have speakers in the gondolas, you can synchronize movements to the music.”
Hartman explained the ride comes with six different ride programs, so a queue can be divided between families and thrill seekers. The capacity is 40 passengers in pairs within 20 gondolas. He told AT that there is 25 percent more room in the gondolas.
“We were surprised in Barcelona how many showmen were interested in a mobile version,” he said. “Because of the great interest, we are building it as a mobile version and a park version.”
The Condor is still a sought-after ride in the U.S.
Sally Dark Rides gave two press announcements from the show floor. One was for Lost Island in Iowa, the other was in partnership with Daniels Wood Land for Treasure Hunt: The Ride, which will be located on historic Cannery Row in Monterey Bay, California.
“We’ve never done two on a show floor,” said Lauren Weaver, marketing. “Both were very different.”
The Monterey Bay attraction is intended to extend the length of stay to visitors in the area, offering families more to do. The stand-alone dark ride embraces the region’s local lore. This is the first time that both Sally Dark Rides and themed fabrication experts Daniels Wood Land have partnered on both ownership and production of an attraction.
The ride will feature six, four-passenger vehicles and riders travel through six ride zones. The ride area is 8,145 square feet. The tale is that visitors board cavern cars and use interactive “treasure collector” devices on their quest for treasure in the subterranean tunnels, which, of course, will include danger around every corner.
“When the location for the ride became available, I discussed it with my team. It took about 30 seconds to arrive at the conclusion that we need to build a world-class dark ride down there,” said Daniels Wood Land President Ron Daniels. “It’s an honor and privilege to partner with Sally Dark Rides and make it happen.”
Alterface was pleased to receive the Brass Ring Award for Best New Product Concept for Action League: The Interactive Revolution. Including the queue line, the attraction footprint is 21 meters by 23 meters.
Product Manager Etienne Sainton said, “Up to now, Alterface has concentrated on interactive dark rides with storytelling. We wanted to add something different in our offer that was game-based. This [ride] is really a tournament. Six teams of six people compete on screens, and then the ride rotates, and you compete with another team.”
In addition to that new concept, Alterface announced working with Sally Dark Rides on two upcoming projects.
“It is always great working with Sally. It is a great partnership,” Sainton said.
Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters, Inc. is the longest-running IAAPA member. In this past year, they have provided services to Clementon Park, which was recently rescued by owner Gene Staples.
“We’ve been busy,” said Tom Rebbie, PTCI president. “We brought on Joe James as senior sales executive. He came on board a couple of months ago. He has 30 years of experience in the amusement industry working for Haas & Wilkerson Insurance. He will be representing us going around to parks and seeing what they need and what we can do to help them. We can assist with training or anything at all.”
Rebbie was pleased with the show traffic, commenting as if 2020 never happened. “And next year, it’s only going to get better.”
Ride Entertainment, which represents Gerstlauer, announced a second Infinity Coaster going into the U.S. for next year, Palindrome at COTALand in Austin. [See December 2021 issue of Amusement Today].
“We’re thrilled to not only bring these rides to the United States but to be able to install them,” said Kris Rowberry, communications manager. “It’s great to show off the skill and talent of the entire Ride Entertainment team.”
“We represent Funtime, which produces Slingshots and the Star Flyers. Now they are about to open the world’s largest drop tower at Icon Park here in Orlando,” said Ed Hiller, CEO.
The tower stands at 430 feet, and riders plunge at 75 mph. During the IAAPA Expo, the tower was illuminated for the first time, as it was approaching its official debut.
Although prohibited by NDAs from talking about future projects, Hiller said, “We are exceptionally busy. I think it was part luck and part skill that we got to the point of getting those two coasters and installation. We think we have the No. 1 installation team in the whole industry. In the U.S. we do everything. Our operations division had a historic 2021. We had a very good 2019. We were shuttered in New York in 2020, but 2021 was twice what 2019 was.”
ETF was promoting the Aqua Mover trackless dark vehicle.
“We regularly get the question whether our people movers are also available for water applications, and from now on we can wholeheartedly say ‘yes,’ thanks to our new ETF Aqua Mover,” said CEO Ruud Koppens.
Tiki Splash Roulette is a new concept launched at the show in which riders aboard boats are equipped with water guns that help build scores. The gaming aspect of it determines whether passengers stay dry or get soaked. While suitable for theme parks, ETF feels it is an ideal fit for water parks as well. The trackless vehicles can move randomly, and a storyline involving a tiki god in the center of the ride creates an additional interactive element. As riders score, they collect more water.
Rocky Mountain Construction enjoyed heavy traffic at its booth during the show. With a giant announcement of ArieForce One going to Fun Spot America Atlanta [see page 10], the vehicle was a real eye-catcher. Wonder Woman going to Six Flags Magic Mountain is another major installation for 2022.
“We’re seeing interest in both the Raptor and IBox track,” said Jake Kilcup, COO. “Different customers have different needs, so it is nice we have different products to meet that. It’s great that we have different product to keep working with these great partners.”
Also in the mix of offerings for RMC was a junior-sized IBox coaster. “We haven’t pushed it really hard,” said Kilcup, “but we’ve gotten some requests on that. We’re looking to get down to a 42-inch height category. I’ve got young kids who are starting to ride now, and there isn’t a great step up from the Wacky Worm. It tends to go straight to the bigger stuff in most parks. We thought we could give them the nostalgia of a wooden coaster with a 70-foot height but still be something the family can ride together.”
The Gravity Group booth sported a vehicle from Tonnerre 2 Zeus, a redesign of a 1990s wooden coaster at Parc Astérix in France.
Engineer Brian Kosmac told AT, “They had a couple sections of track that their third-party inspectors wanted them to upgrade some stuff. It was about a three- or four-year project. We’ve retracked the first drop into the tunnel and we rebanked the first turns, and it went off really, really well. The following year they were tinkering on redoing the helix or just going in another direction. They went with the option to rebrand it and go crazy.”
The second phase lowered and rebanked a couple of turns and placed more airtime in them. The final turn “needed some love” said Kosmac.
“It’s a fantastic ride. For the final phase, they are going all out and doing fun and different things,” he said. “It’s going to be a lot faster and feel completely different.”
The Gravity Group is supplying two new trains that seat 26 passengers, with the last car facing backward.
Of the companies in the Intermark Ride Group, Fabbri has several major projects in the works in the U.S. market. Giant Wheels are in demand in addition to major/spectacular rides for the park and carnival markets.
Gosetto had good meetings with both new and existing customers at the show. Its walk-through funhouse attractions continue to be success stories around the world. Currently, Gosetto is also working with TrioTech.
Ride Engineers Switzerland closed the sale of a Roller Ball vertical coaster to Adventureland Long Island. This will be the first Roller Ball coaster in North America.
“The show is exceeding my expectations. I think the important clients are here,” said Mark Rosenzweig, 3dx. “I truly feel like the industry is seeing a rebirth from what we saw in 2020. All of our meetings have had meaningful conversations.”
3dx creates scenic experiences. “I wanted the message to be very high quality, deliverable and the full capabilities of what our talented staff can do,” said VP of Scenic Experiences Nate Thieme. “I think we’ve done that well with the video and the pieces we have here.”
“It has been a mix of intellectual property and generic projects,” added Rosenzweig. “We’re very pleased with the reception to our presence at the show.”
MVR is preparing to open its newest big project in Australia in 2022. “We had some transportation delays,” said Chuck Bingham. “Thankfully, we had all materials ordered before the pandemic.”
Leviathan will open at Sea World in Australia, standing at 105 feet tall.
US Thrill Rides has sold a Sky Blazer to COTALand and is partnering with Skyline Attractions on the engineering. This first-of-its-kind ride is the brainchild of inventor Bill Kitchen.
“Sky Blazer is something I’ve been working on for a couple of years,” said Kitchen. “It is the natural evolution of the Skycoaster. We wanted to overcome some disadvantages. One was the flight harness which required two extra people. The loading platform and the loop you had to grab to slow down were also disadvantages. With Sky Blazer, we are able to increase capacity.”
A pendulum dampener is designed to slow the ride down, and a mechanism at the top raises and lowers the ride platform. The Sky Blazer seats 18 flyers at a time. It will stand 220 feet.
“It puts groups and families on the ride at the same time,” said Kitchen. “Architecturally, we wanted something to be the centerpiece of the park and truly be beautiful.”
One of the most active locations at IAAPA Expo is the Rides 4 U complex of booths that allow for attendees to enjoy riding attractions. Several options from SBF Visa were available, including an operating roller coaster that featured spinning cars and a so-called “hamster wheel” car. Rides 4 U brought in six rides.
“The show has surpassed our expectations,” said Len Soled, owner, Rides 4 U. “We’ve seen so many great folks. We’re thrilled to be back after COVID. I put my neck on the line to bring in all this equipment. We’ve sold triplicates of everything here and the opportunity to sell a prototype road model of an existing ride. This is the first time we’ve exhibited the Reverse Time — here we called it the Wipeout — and we’ve had interest from the park, carnival and FEC markets. That was phenomenal. The week has been unbelievable. We’ve never seen such great traffic coming through.”
Soled was thrilled that sales from the show floor were through the roof. He estimated 20 contracts generated by the show. All the rides on the floor were pre-sold prior to the Expo.
North America is the market for Rides 4 U, so the decrease in international attendees didn’t affect the company’s traffic. Rob Agostino was brought on to work with the Mexico and South American markets.
Chance Rides was enthusiastic with the trade show’s response. “Things that were on the back burner were put on the front burner,” said Dick Chance, founder. “Our leading sales were the electric CP Hunting. We sold 11 this year. I don’t think we’ve ever done 11 in one year. I think it’s because [many places] are going green. We got the St. Louis Zoo at the show.”
Carousels have been strong sellers too for Chance. In addition, two roller coasters are going into a new Mattel Adventure Park in Arizona.
Mack Rides was still developing its Brass Ring-winning Rocking Boat ride concept. Booked solid with coaster projects through 2023, the company is still developing new ideas.
“A new project I’m able to talk about is a new restaurant at Europa-Park, opening next June,” said Christian von Elverfeldt, CEO, Mack Rides. “It’s a restaurant where you sit on stools and then the restaurant moves trackless. You go from one room to the other for different courses of the meal. Everything is themed — you go from Asia into space.”
The new restaurant will be located between hotels and the Rulantica water park.
“The industry is absolutely strong. During the pandemic we were happy that Mack Rides didn’t have to close anything,” he said. “We have some challenges with projects in China, but restrictions in bringing people over require five weeks of quarantine. We are glad that America is open again.”
Vekoma Rides is always busy, and bookings continue to demonstrate that. In addition to two coasters going into Energylandia [see page 14], the company has what it terms a Wildcat Looping Coaster at Fårup Sommerland in Denmark. In total, Vekoma has no less than 14 coasters opening in 2022, 11 of which are landing in Fantawild parks across China. Those range from Family Boomerang Rebound coasters to launched Space Warp and Top Gun coasters.
“This was my first time to the Expo in America. This show is different than Europe,” said Bramm Geerlings, marketing, Vekoma. “The market is wanting custom-designed coasters and the quality that we offer.”
“We have expanded our portfolio, so we can now proudly say we have 50 different models,” said Peter van Bilsen, executive vice president. “We are strong with our own local factory and local warehouse. We were able to retain all our employees.”
Extreme Engineering announced a new direction for its company with its Parkour Around. The recreational activity uses a patent-pending assist device to allow participants of any age or ability to engage with the attraction and test their abilities on the fun course.
“We’ve actually been working on this for about a decade,” said Phil Wilson, vice president. “The market wasn’t ready. We’ve been watching parkour, which the sport is basically free-running play, and there is risk in that. What we’ve done is make that sport inclusive and, most importantly, safe. It’s like being in the middle of video game. The technology we’ve designed is lifting the weight off the users. There is this weightlessness to where you can jump 15 feet, you can soar 20 feet over obstacles. It’s like that Peter Pan moment. There’s a lot of interactivity to it.”
The footprint is a 20-foot radius. Extreme Engineering says four in a 40 by 40 space can still be in a condensed space.
Although unable to disclose the location, Extreme Engineering’s Surfing Tsunami is opening in 2022. The stand-up suspended coaster concept will debut in North American and garnered Extreme Engineering its 16th Brass Ring Award, this time for Best Product Concept. “The restraint system is very breakthrough,” Wilson said.
Altitude Rides and Attractions brought its new product to join Soaring Eagle to the expo. Called Hammered, the ride has 10 modes that can be interactive or fully programmable. In interactive play, the weight of the player adjusts the level of force needed to strike the game, so smaller kids can still send friends up to 30 feet.
“It can be thrilling with a negative G ride, which goes faster than a regular drop ride. The very next rider may want to go more slowly,” said President Logan Checketts. “The person can select their ride mode from a menu.”
Checketts had high interest as people rode the model on the show floor, with two contracts being signed at IAAPA Expo.
Intamin Amusement Rides, fresh off its Golden Ticket win for Best New Roller Coaster with Universal’s VelociCoaster, reintroduced its Dome Ride. As an alternative to the standard flying theater, the domed theater offers 80 seats in a circular configuration, 30 degrees of tilt in each direction, a 16-channel audio behind the screen, stereo and vibration in the seating and images in a full sphere 360 degrees of observation.
“The first unit will be pleasing guests in the Middle East late next year,” said Sascha Czibulka, executive vice president. “A major change is the video portion. The original concept had projection. When in the development phase, we realized LED has more advantages.”
The company’s Hot Racer launched single-rail coaster prepares to open at Luna Park in Australia very soon. The highly anticipated Pantheon at Busch Gardens Williamsburg will also debut in 2022.
Another new concept for Intamin is a launched flume, which Czibulka says is in the execution phase.
Clair Hain, Jr. of Great Coasters International Inc. was clearly enthusiastic about the show. “Awesome,” was his first reply to AT. “I had already gone through two shows, and they were absolutely fantastic.”
Even though the pandemic made it more difficult to get workers out of the country, Hain said his team was already in place working on two projects.
“One is finished, and one is about finished,” he said at the show. “We also have refurbishing, and we developed new ideas.”
Ongoing projects are in Dubai, Vietnam and two in China.
Tobo Zoo in Japan will receive new trains, new lift hill mechanisms and new brake system. Retracking in multiple areas and other structural work will make the ride smoother.
“Right now we are going to be very busy with the Titan Track,” Hain said. “I’ll be installing a good portion this year.”
He was expecting a finalized contract in early 2022 with a complete overhaul of a ride with Titan Track. Others are in the works.
On display at the show, GCII had lights within the vehicles exhibited. “This is what the customer wants,” Hain said. “They will be installed on a project in China. I’m working with a company called Lagotronics.”
Summarizing the feel of the show, Hain said, “Keep your eyes open and your ears open because a lot of things are going to be happening.”