James “David” Dean (1955-2023)

By | June 5, 2023

James “David” Dean, 67, died peacefully in the loving care of his wife, Kristi, at their home in Lubbock, Texas on Monday, May 29, 2023.

David was born July 31, 1955 in Amarillo, Texas to James Edward (Jimmy) and Katherine Alma Webb (Katie) Dean.

David was a 1973 graduate of Tascosa High School in Amarillo and attended Texas Tech University for 2 years as an Engineering student.

In 1973, David alongside his parents acquired Mackenzie Park Playground renaming it Joyland Amusement Park. David married the love of his life, Kristi, in November 1990. Upon the passing of Jimmy Dean in 1993, David became CEO of Joyland. David’s mother, Katie, passed away in 2019 at the age of 100.

David had an amazing ability to diagnose and understand mechanical problems, and to fix almost anything. Under David and Kristi’s leadership, Joyland grew to be one of the most well-known and important small businesses on the South Plains employing generations of families.  When asked what he was proud of, the memories that guests made at Joyland was high on the list, serving as inspiration for decades of hard work.

He and Kristi made the decision in the fall of 2022 to close Joyland after 50 years of work and ownership. Even after this decision, David was closely involved with the park, working to find good homes for the rides. In 2023, he and Kristi partnered with Two Docs Brewing Company to help promote the Joyland Pilsner, continuing Joyland’s legacy of fun, but now in drinkable form.

David’s love of cars and drag racing began when he was a boy. David raced for enjoyment – he loved thinking through cars, rebuilds, and improvements. The automotive work was part of the joy, but he also loved going fast! He was a keen competitor, and once was so successful that his race winnings allowed him to buy his engagement ring for Kristi. He was a die-hard Mopar fan raced several heavily modified cars through the years. He loved to take his family with him to the races, including his beloved four-legged family members.

David is preceded in death by his parents. He is survived by his wife, Kristi, her parents Stan and Betty Blevins, his three sons, Jason and his wife Jen, James and his partner Heather, Zach and his fiancé Breeann; as well as David’s sister, Mary Haiduk, and husband, Ray, and their three sons and wives.

David strove his entire life to work hard to support his family and to be able to engage in his lifelong love of providing memories. He made a positive difference in the lives of his family, as well as thousands of guests at Joyland. David is, and always will be, intensely missed by his family, who is thankful for his life and his love. We will miss his laugh, his infectious smile and his energy. The minute he would walk in the door, his first phrase would be, “So what are we going to go do now?” He could never sit still.

David’s memorial service will be Monday, June 12, 2023 at 2:00 p.m. at Lake Ridge Chapel in Lubbock, Texas.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to:
Beyond Faith Hospice at beyondfaithhospice.com click the link at the top to donate
National Roller Coaster Museum at rollercoastermuseum.org/donate
Lubbock Sheriff’s Employee Association in Memory of David Dean/Joyland
Lubbock Police Foundation at lubbockpolicefoundation.org/donate

Miniature Golf Course in Red River Gorge predicts exceeding annual sales forecast

By | June 5, 2023

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — An 18-hole miniature golf course is the newest attraction at Thrillsville Adventure Park in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge. Designed and built by Adventure Golf & Sports (AGS), the Thrillsville Adventure Golf course has been open year-’round since it opened last Labor Day Weekend. “We didn’t get much play in the winter of course, but we had a really strong March and April this year,” says Ian Teal, owner of Thrillsville Adventure Park, “and we’re sure we’re going to hit all our target numbers and we’re very happy with it. We are on target to exceed our annual forecast by 20 percent. 

“What’s distinctive about the course is that I also own a rock quarry, so we had an unlimited supply of really big boulders. We live in Red River Gorge that has huge rock scenery with lots of rock climbing and creeks filled with rocks, so it really fit the environment here. So when you walk the 18 holes, you’re always surrounded by massive stones and then a beautiful waterway they (AGS) built that traverse six or seven holes with a couple of big waterfalls.”

“A lot of people say it’s the best (mini golf) course they’ve ever played. It’s really amazing. It’s held up extremely well. It still looks brand new. There’s like no wear and tear. All we have to do is take a leaf blower every morning and blow off all the fallen leaves on it and that’s all the maintenance we have to do besides treating the water. Now in a couple of weeks we’re going to get some koi (carp) fish and put in the pond for the kids. The pond connects to multiple holes so you’ll be able to see them from three different holes, including the first hole.”

Teal says part of the Thrillsville mini golf appeal is that the AGS design presents some challenges to even seasoned golfers and pays homage to some local landmarks. “The 17th hole is one of the longest holes,” say Teal. “It’s over 100 feet. And a couple of the holes match up with other local attractions. Like we have a giant arch like Gray’s Arch, which is a famous natural bridge, so AGS was able to mimic a couple of those kind of features in the design.

“We have a gift shop and a reservation desk for all our other businesses at Thrillsville, including the Red River Gorge Zip Lines, the Gorge Underground, and we also have a couple of hotels and we have about 150 cabin rentals in our management program, so you can book any of those.”

According Teal, the 18-hole mini golf course replaced a nine-hole mini golf course built in the same location in the 1960s. “We were giving refunds to people who were upset with that one,” says Teal. “It was so bad.

“I went to IAAPA, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions conference in Florida and that’s where I met Adventure Golf & Sports.”

Teal said he had considered bumper cars and go-karts but settled on mini golf  because “it seemed to have the highest income potential and it’s not a noise nuisance like the other two.

“I felt really comfortable talking with them (AGS) on the phone. Then they came down and did a site visit and that went very well so I was very excited to work with them.

“What was neat about them is they subcontracted the waterfalls and other water features…and brought in an expert on water features. I think that was a very smart move on their part.

“AGS brought their own crew out of Michigan and then the water features expert brought his own crew. Then I had a local crew here that was behind the scenes doing some of the real hard labor work like transporting the boulders. We also have a hillside where we had to do a lot of landscaping so we kind of drew up a plan together and then our crew went through and did the landscaping.”

According to Teal, the location of the course presented several installation challenges. “Tearing down the old course and doing away with that concrete was the first task,” says Teal. “We also had a pretty good root system we had to deal with since we cut-out and put in brand new trees that were already 10 or 20 feet tall. And we had a big lighting plan. We had a lot of light poles, I think like 16 poles or thereabouts, which all had to be wired. We also had a main water line to deal with. And we had a watermill feature that was made locally and that took a little bit of time to get that fine-tuned for rotating.

“It was a great experience working with AGS and I would recommend them to others.” 

Adventure Golf & Sports (AGS) is a global leader in the design and installation of fun, interactive, cost-effective entertainment attractions like Miniature Golf, Pickleball, Shuffleboard, Bocce Ball, Croquet & other recreational courts. Besides traditional concrete-poured permanent installations like Thrillsville Adventure Golf, AGS has long term experience installing interlocking panel system versions, like the Modular Advantage Mini Golf system and Bunkers & Bumps for a variety of  indoor and outdoor applications for retail centers including restaurants, hotels and resorts, family entertainment centers, amusement parks, as well as on rooftops and cruise ship decks.

Face Amusement Group recieves great place to work certification

By | June 5, 2023

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. — FACE Amusement Group today announced that it has received the Great Place to Work recognition for its company.  The prestigious award is based entirely on what current employees say about their experience working at FACE Amusement Group.

“I extend my heartfelt appreciation to each team member for their dedication, collaboration, and incredible efforts they invest in our shared goals.  Together, we have created an exceptional workplace that fosters innovation, creativity, and personal growth.

Congratulations to everyone on this well-deserved recognition.  We will celebrate our success and look forward to an even brighter future as we continue to grow and make a positive impact for our team members and the industry.” Great Place to Work is the global authority on workplace culture, employee experience, and the leadership behaviors proven to deliver market-leading revenue, employee retention and increased innovation.  The certification recognizes employers who create an outstanding employee experience.  Certification is a two-step process that includes surveying associates and submitting a questionnaire about our workforce.

According to Great Place to Work research, job seekers are 4.5 times more likely to find a great boss at a Certified great workplace. Additionally, employees at Certified workplaces are 93% more likely to look forward to coming to work, and are twice as likely to be paid fairly, earn a fair share of the company’s profits and have a fair chance at promotion. 

Water Country Water Park opens for 40th season with a celebration

By | June 1, 2023

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — Opening Day is just two days away at New England’s Largest Water Park. With an Opening Weekend jam packed exciting celebrations highlighting the park’s 40th anniversary, the two all-new water slide experiencesHyperlight and massive park-wide transformation.

To kick off the 2023 season, Water Country will host an exclusive Season Passholder party and early ride time on Saturday, June 3 from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. All Passholders are invited to be among the first to amp up the fun on Hyperlight, the park’s two reimagined water slides featuring dynamic lights and sounds. The celebration on opening weekend continues with the park’s Glow Up party beginning with the official park opening to all guests at 10:30a.m.  The party will highlight the park’s “glow up,”highlighting the park-wide refresh for its 40th season with music, treats and games.

“In 2023, we look forward to building on our long history of 40 years while introducing a refreshed look to the park,’’ said Water Country General Manager Matt Hehl. “We’ve kicked our slides into overdrive with the opening of the reimagined Hyperlight water slides, guests will race down to four different light and sound installments in each attraction.”

All-new for 2023, visitors will be delighted by a fully redesigned main entrance featuring vibrant colors, newly paved pathways and a new photo opportunity as they enter Water Country. This season, the park will also add new wayfinding signage, murals from the parking lot to the main entry, a new Water Country road sign and fully redesigned parking booths. Several water slides and attractions have been repainted with stunning colors for the start of the season including the park’s two new water slide experiences, Hyperlight

Guests can take a ride all season long on, Hyperlight. The two reimagined attractions take the place of the park’s most intense water slides, Black Hole and Warp Eight. Both tube slides have been fitted with iSlide technology, sending riders on an immersive journey complete with vivid lights and pulsing sounds.

To continue the celebration of 40 years of fun, Water Country is now offering single day tickets over 40% off when purchased online.

Classic Miramagica Amusement Park in Romania goes cashless with Intercard

By | June 1, 2023

ST. LOUIS — Intercard has installed a cashless technology system at Miramagica, a family amusement park in Bucharest, the capital city of Romania. The venue is owned by Britta Trading, the leading operator of FECs in the country. Miramagica is located in the heart of celebrated Herastrau Park, the most popular park in Bucharest.

Intercard’s Austin Lacy did the installation on-site in May 2023. Miramagica offers visitors more than 30 rides and attractions including bumper cars, bumper boats, a mini train, a carousel, a drop tower and a Ferris wheel. The new cashless system replaces an outdated token system.

“Miramagica Park draws large numbers of families with children and the new cashless system will make it easier for them to enjoy the rides and attractions,” says Lacy. “It’s a classic amusement park with a great mix of old and new rides in a beautiful park setting.”  

June 2023

By | May 30, 2023

The June 2023 issue includes:

  • Dollywood’s Big Bear Mountain roars to life
  • Intamin delivers iconic Toutatis to Parc Astérix
  • Fresno’s Playland Amusement Park set to reopen
  • Hershey’s Great Candy Expedition opens
  • IRM tapped by Joyland Park to find homes for rides
  • Europa-Park and Mack Rides announce huge expansion
  • Interactive gaming relaunched on The Wheel at Icon Park
  • Five Star Parks acquires Scene75, Fun Land FECs
  • Pima County Fair recap
  • Fiesta Texas expands water park, rebranded as Hurricane Harbor
  • Great Wolf Lodge continues commitment to inclusion
  • Embed’s Mobile Wallet proves successful
  • Ellis & Associates celebrates 40 years in industry
  • Amusement Today opens nominations for industry Golden Ticket categories
  • Focus on the Horizon: L3DFX’s Jess Thuer, EIT
  • Six Flags Magic Mountain to run on solar
  • Kings Dominion’s Grizzly comes back with a roar
  • AIMS International welcomes new Executive Director Amy Lowenstein
  • Amuse, Gravity Group keep multiple woodies in top shape
  • IAFE helps members prepare for season focusing on safety … and much more!

Red Panda Ridge to open, Saturday, May 27th at 9 a.m.

By | May 30, 2023

FORT WAYNE, Ind. — When the front gates open on Saturday, May 27th, guests will have the opportunity to visit the all-new Red Panda Ridge, one of the largest Red Panda habitats in US Zoos.

“We can’t wait for guests to meet our newest red panda friends,” says Executive Director, Rick Schuiteman. “We are excited for guests to say hello to Anne and her new Red Panda friends Aurora and Paula.”

Red Panda Ridge is the first addition to the reimagined Asian Trek area of the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo and guests can start their trek at Red Panda Ridge. This new exhibit area is also home to Zoji, a Chinese muntjac deer and five Asian birds including a white eared pheasant, Gretel; Victoria crowned pigeons, Penn and Teller; and a pair of red-billed blue magpies, Jingwei and Dallas.

“As one of only eight self-supporting zoos in the country, these new additions and reimagined spaces couldn’t happen without the support of our community, our members, but especially our generous donors,” said Schuiteman.

Guests will not want to miss this new exhibit during their Zoo visit. The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo is open daily 9 am to 6 pm.

Noble Leisure goes cashless with Semnox Solutions

By | May 30, 2023

EDINBURGH, U.K. — Noble Leisure, an arcade located on Portobello Beach has recently modernized its facility with the latest RFID technology from Semnox Solutions, a leader in holistic solutions in the entertainment industry, to help better manage and automate key processes while offering a better user-friendly experience for its guests.

With the installation of Semnox’s cutting-edge technology, Noble Leisure has embraced a cashless environment, ensuring a seamless and convenient payment process for patrons. The cashless solution includes the deployment of 90 Lumin card readers for “tap-to-play” functionality throughout the arcade, allowing visitors to easily make transactions using contactless payment methods.

“We have been up and running for a few weeks now, and responses from customers and staff alike have been better than expected,” said Mark Noble, owner of Noble Leisure. “From a customer’s point of view, the system is so intuitive and easy to use. Tickets are all automatically saved and stored on their card.”

Additionally, three self-service kiosks have been installed, empowering guests to effortlessly manage their arcade gameplay. The intuitive kiosks enable users to top up their arcade cards, check balances, purchase game credits, and redeem prizes, providing an interactive and user-friendly experience.

“We are delighted to announce the successful implementation of the Semnox Cashless System at Noble Leisure. After conducting a thorough market analysis, Noble Leisure chose Semnox as the ideal cashless solution. The implementation was meticulously planned and executed, resulting in a seamless transition. With features like Self Service Kiosk, Redemption & Inventory Management, Online Reporting, Electronic Tickets, and more, Noble Leisure is already reaping the benefits of a complete cashless system. We look forward to working closely with Noble Leisure, supporting their journey towards achieving even greater levels of success through our comprehensive business management solution.” – Vinayaka Kamath, Business Head, MEA & Europe, Semnox Solutions.

The system also offers real-time monitoring and reporting, enabling Noble Leisure’s management to gain valuable insights into customer behavior, popular games, and operational efficiency. For visitors, the cashless system provides a secure and convenient payment method, allowing them to fully immerse themselves in the fun-filled environment without the hassle of carrying cash.

Five Star Parks & Attractions continues impressive growth with acquisition of Fun Land Entertainment Centers

By | May 26, 2023

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Five Star Parks & Attractions, one of the leading owners and operators of family entertainment centers in the country, proudly announces its recent acquisition of two Fun Land locations in Northern Virginia. This strategic move marks an exciting milestone in Five Star Parks’ expansion into the vibrant Virginia market. This acquisition comes on the heels of Five Star Parks’ recent purchase of Scene75 Entertainment earlier this month. Fun Land expands the company’s portfolio to 27 locations in 13 states.

“The acquisition of Fun Land furthers Five Star Parks’ impressive growth in the attractions industry,” said Joseph Silvestri, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Court Square Capital Partners. “This is a great fit for us and marks new territory as we expand into Virginia.”

“We are so excited to welcome Fun Land into the Five Star Parks family,” said John Dunlap, CEO of Five Star Parks & Attractions. “Fun Land is known for delivering exceptional experiences and we are thrilled to build upon that foundation.”

Fun Land has been a staple of Fredericksburg for more than two decades, delighting generations of families. In 2020, a new location opened in Fairfax County and has quickly emerged as a local favorite. Both locations feature Tailgater’s Sports Grill restaurant offering great food, drinks, and fun to foodies of all ages.

The Five Star Parks & Attractions portfolio includes the Track Family Fun Parks, Adventure Ziplines, and Xtreme Racing in Branson, Missouri; LazerPort Fun Center, SpeedZone, and Xtreme Racing in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee; Celebration Station with locations in Florida, Louisiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Texas; Craig’s Cruisers with three locations in Michigan; Malibu Jack’s indoor theme parks with locations in Indiana and Kentucky and Scene75 with five locations in Illinois and Ohio.

More splashes coming to The Funplex East Hanover Water Park this June

By | May 26, 2023

EAST HANOVER, N.J. — The Funplex East Hanover is growing again with the addition of The Island, an interactive water play structure. Located in the back of the park and opening in June, The Island will add something for everyone to the already popular Splashplex Waterpark.

A staple in water parks across the country, this multi-level, interactive water play structure offers a hub of fun for young families.

Manufactured by WhiteWater and reaching 26 feet at its highest point, The Island will engage families all summer long with over 13 interactive features including:

  • 3 slides,
  • 7 splash toys,
  • 3 spray cannons,
  • and an iconic, 264-gallon tipping bucket towering 22 feet above the beach themed play area.

“We are excited to offer our guests a new opportunity to create memories this summer,” said Funplex CEO Brian Williams. “This play structure will open up an underutilized area of the waterpark, creating more space for guests to spread out and enjoy the park this summer.”

In addition to the new 3,380 square foot attraction, The Funplex will add additional seating, deck space, and 6 new, private cabanas. Starting at $150, cabanas offer an exclusive, luxury resort-like experience where guests enjoy a little R&R while their kids soak up water park thrills. Each cabana features:

  • Private seating for up to 7 guests with a dining table, and two lounge chairs,
  • A shade structure,
  • Wifi and a flat screen TV,
  • Bottled water, a refrigerator, and preferred food and beverage service.

Also new for 2023, The Funplex will add a full-service Dippin’ Dots kiosk featuring eight flavors, a glow- in-the-dark bubble wand cart, and new menu options including corn dogs, a Jumbo Nathan’s Hot Dog, fried pickles, and assorted chicken sandwiches. Additionally, the park added a new snack cart with items such as Hershey’s ice cream, chips, fudge, and other prepackaged sweets.

Last week, The Funplex introduced its new summer prices offering three great ways to visit the park.

  • Day tickets provide unlimited access to all rides, the water park, bowling, and more starting at just $45 Monday-Friday; Saturday and Sunday are $52 when purchased online and $55 at the park.
  • Memberships offer unlimited access all-year access plus extra perks like free wristbands, birthday party discounts, and more. Memberships start at $214 and are ideal for guests planning to visit The Funplex 4 times.
  • Available Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day, a Summer Season Pass offers unlimited opportunities to ride, slide, splash, and play all summer long. Summer Season Passes normally start at $119 and are ideal for guests planning just 2 visits. Now through Memorial Day, buy 4 Summer Season Passes for $396 and get a $100 arcade card.

The Funplex East Hanover waterpark, The Splashplex opens for the 2023 season on May 27 with The Island expansion scheduled to open in June. Visit thefunplex.com for hours and tickets today.