Theme Park, Amusement Park and Attractions Industry News

Industry unites to focus on growth and recovery

After a time of what IAAPA described as “incredible challenge and incredible resilience”, the global attractions industry reconvened for IAAPA Expo in the US for the first time since 2019.

Attendees cheered as the Expo – which took place from 15-19 November 2021 – welcomed thousands of industry leaders, decision makers, and visionaries to the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida for the opportunity to network, learn and buy.

As the Expo drew to a close, Hal McEvoy, president and CEO said: “The successful turnout for IAAPA Expo 2021 is a testament to the resilience and continued growth and strength of the global attractions industry. It’s been a phenomenal week, bringing together the innovators who are moving our industry forward and building the future of attractions.”

Over the course of five days, more than 870 exhibiting companies from a variety of industry sectors displayed their latest products, services, and experiences on the expansive trade show floor, which spanned over 375,000 net square feet of indoor and outdoor exhibit space. As of 3:19 p.m. EST, on Friday, Nov. 19, the Expo’s preliminary registration numbers were exhibiting companies: 878, qualified buyers: 21,026, total registration 28,229. The event was also estimated to have an economic impact of approximately $79.6 million in Orlando*.

From advanced ride engineering and virtual reality experiences, to ticketing and security, the show was filled with new products and technologies that represented 25 product categories. Throughout the week, more than 20 companies made announcements directly from the press conference booth on the show floor, including Merlin Entertainments, Sally Dark Rides, Fun Spot America, Extreme Engineering, Zamperla, JRA, Altitude Rides and Attractions, SPREE, LAI Games, and RWS Entertainment Group.

“We were very happy to be able to participate at the show,” said Christopher Kössler, Sunkid. “For us as European manufacturers it was a long time since we were able to travel to the US. Finally, we could meet our clients again and were happy to share our latest and newest product with them, the Sunrider.

“The product has been very well received by US Amusement Parks and Farms – especially the latter, since it is made for smaller parks with a lower budget spending. The theming option of the vehicles seams really appealing to them.

“We also shared our latest projects, including the loading conveyor belt at AinDubai. This innovative concave loading conveyor can be used for various applications such as loading conveyor for coasters, people mover, dark rides, museums or zoos.

“We also had interesting talks about our new train which is in use at the park in Avonturenpark Hellendoorn, Netherlands.”

Ifat Caspi, P&P Projects said: “It was wonderful to finally have the industry together in one building again. After two years, this expo provided us at P&P Projects with many interesting conversations; once again, it gave us a great insight to the current shape of the industry and the exciting prospect of our role in this as a turnkey, design-build partner.

“From familiar clients to new faces, the expo consisted of lots of concrete plans ready for execution – but also many fresh, original ideas that are eagerly awaiting further development. This resulted in a great balance of topics for us to take part in. Themes that stood out to us included the ever-evolving art of combining modern technology with tangible assets in attractions, as well as brand development opportunities and reimaginations of existing concepts and destinations.

“Moreover, as a company we continue to innovate our products as the ‘experience economy’ keeps extending its reach across the entire leisure industry, continuously covering new market segments. This also resulted in many interesting conversations at the expo, which we thoroughly enjoyed. We are ever so excited to continue working on these developments with those clients and partners in the future.”

Kiran Karanki, CEO, Semnox Solutions said: “It was clear how much the industry missed IAAPA in 2020! For us, IAAPA 2021 was undoubtedly Semnox’s most successful show! While it was great to meet with customers/suppliers/friends, the quality of leads was mind blowing.”


Innovation leads the way

In 2021 media-based attractions company Brogent Technologies celebrated 20 years of business, together with the 20th anniversary of its flagship project, the flying theatre – plus of course, the opening of 21 rides in 13 global locations, despite all the obstacles presented by the pandemic. At a packed press conference, the company’s Stefan Rothaug reflected on this success and took the opportunity to talk about “Rise NY” a flying theatre that gives the experience of soaring over New York.

Phil Wilson, vice president of Extreme Engineering, announced four new attractions to the press. First to was Cloud Coaster Storm – achieving speeds of up to 20 mph, the family coaster is on a side-by-side new coaster track called Poseidon and takes up to 500 riders per hour. It is also designed to be sustainable. Two of these coasters will be opening at two separate major theme parks in 2022 and 2023.

The second product to be announced was “the world’s only standup, surfboard roller coaster” Surfin Tsunami, which simulates the feeling of riding a wave. With speeds of 10-15 mph, it can support guests from 45 pounds and will open early this year.

Third and priced to be affordable for smaller attractions, Phil announced Sky Tag. On the side-by-side coaster track, guests have phaser guns to battle one another while suspended in mid-air.

The final product to be announced was Parkour Around a free-running attraction which simulates the extreme sport of parkour. Guests will be given an “adventure video game” experience as they move through an obstacle course while within the parkour assist system, allowing them to jump great heights and long distances.

Gerstlauer revealed to a very excited audience that the first Infinity roller coaster to be built by the company in the United States would be built at Cotaland in Austin, Texas. Called Palindrome, it will feature a 95-foot vertical lift hill, 51 m.p.h. top speed, two inversions and a vertical “hop[1]stall” before riders experience the ride again, only backwards.

Triotech and Clifton Hill used the global stage to announce a major new attraction to be installed in Niagara Falls, ON, Canada. Set for opening this summer season, the brand-new attraction will be called “Carnival Chaos Hyper Ride”. The experience will showcase Triotech’s Hyper Ride, an award-winning innovative interactive media-based dark ride that features a world’s first in motion technology. Hyper Ride provides an anchor attraction with a best-in-class guest experience that fits a smart budget and a much smaller footprint than conventional dark rides. Hyper Ride was recognised by IAAPA receiving the Brass Ring Award for Best New Product in the Rides & Attractions category.

Located just steps from majestic Niagara Falls, Clifton Hill is the centre of the Entertainment District in this world-famous destination. Serving as a regional entertainment centre as well as a tourist destination for visitors from around the world, Clifton Hill hosts millions of guests twelve months of the year. “We have worked with the team at Clifton Hill for many years on several successful attractions”, said Ernest Yale, president and CEO of Triotech. He added: “For us, it is only fitting to deploy this Hyper Ride, with its unique motion technology, working alongside a solid partner in one of the world’s most iconic site.”

“As a long-standing partner with Triotech, Clifton Hill has introduced many new attraction technologies to the visitors of Niagara Falls over the years”, said Harry Oakes, president of HOCO, Clifton Hill’s parent company. He added: “I am personally very excited to be deploying this new attraction that will complement our wide offering.”

Carnival Chaos Hyper Ride will feature seven fully interactive scenes, five carts, as well as programable digital theming inside the attraction which will occupy approximately 6,000 square feet. The building exterior will be fully themed.

Sally Dark Rides, a leading creator of family ride experiences around the globe, unveiled plans for “VOLKANU — Quest for the Golden Idol,” one of the first major attractions to debut at the new Lost Island Theme Park, currently under construction in Waterloo, Iowa.

The dark ride will be housed inside the park’s large, iconic Volcano structure, just west of the park entrance. Volkanu is the park’s anchor attraction. The powerful storytelling seamlessly intertwines with Lost Island’s mythical island theme, showcasing the element of fire in “tremendous grandeur.”

The new attraction features state-of-the-art, multi-level gameplay technology that has something for everyone. Riders will experience a four-minute showtime full of interactive 3D imagery, dynamic scenery, animatronic figures and special effects.

“At Sally, we strive to create immersive, engaging experiences for families. That’s what made our partnership with Lost Island Theme Park a perfect fit,” says John Wood, CEO/Chairman of Sally Dark Rides. “There’s incredible thematic storytelling in this park. It’s truly going to transport families into a magical land. We’re focusing on every detail ofbVolkanu to bring that story to life for guests to enjoy for years to come.”

“The team at Sally is the best of the best. They’ve created a thrill-packed adventure ride with Volkanu that’s sure to become a fan-favorite at Lost Island,” said Eric Bertch, owner of Lost Island Waterpark. “The new theme park builds on the magic we created with our waterpark for an all-new, immersive experience. With rides like Volkanu and many more to come, we can’t wait to see the excitement on families’ faces on opening day.”

In a separate announcement, Sally Dark Rides also revealed that it had teamed up with Daniels Wood Land on a new pirate-themed interactive dark ride. Said to take adventurous storytelling to a new level “Treasure Hunt: The Ride” opens this year at 700 Cannery Row, Monterey Bay, California.

Hand-crafted set pieces, animatronics and special effects will blend with interactive media, making this unique, stand-alone attraction a must[1]experience for those visiting Monterey Bay. “Families, competitors, and thrill-seekers alike will soon enjoy an adventure that embraces the region’s local lore,” said the company’s Lauren Wood Weaver.

This is the first time Sally Dark Rides and Daniels Wood Land have partnered on both ownership and production of an attraction. “We have always been impressed with the scenic style and capabilities of the incredible artists and craftsmen from Daniels Wood Land. To work with them to create a one-of-a-kind pirate adventure in Monterey is something we were excited about from the moment we heard about the opportunity,” said John Wood.

International themed attraction designers, Katapult and Simworx, a leading manufacturer of media-based attractions, launched the Ferrari Experience media-based midway attraction concept at IAAPA. The Ferrari concept features immersive simulator rides, an esports adrenalin hub and exclusive themed dining experiences for all the family to enjoy.

Speaking at the launch, Annabel Rochfort, director, Location Based Entertainment & Esports, Ferrari said, “The Ferrari Experience concept will allow us to connect with our global fans like never before. We know consumer demand for a Ferrari midsize concept is high, and we are delighted to bring this exciting opportunity to the market to provide guests with the true Ferrari experience.”

Plans are also in place for the Ferrari Experience to feature a frictionless, connected experience using state of the art guest experience technology. Attraktion!, an innovation leader for media based attraction formats and Intamin, a world leader for amusement rides revealed they had “joined forces to develop the world’s most immersive amusement ride.” The Dome Ride Theater allows it’s guests to have a unique ride experience with an uninterrupted 360 degree view in any direction, in a fully media covered LED sphere, which has a fully rotating and tilting seating ring inside.

The LED sphere from Attraktion! is 17m in diameter and includes a moving floor which reveals the full spherical experience only after start of the show, adding a great surprise-effect to the ride’s experience.

The dynamic platform from Intamin can rotate up to 6 rpm and tilt 30 degrees in every direction. Furthermore, the ride features floorless seats with a full range of special effects.The first Dome Ride Theater attraction is now under construction for an undisclosed site in the Middle East.

There was also news from Merlin Entertainments that the world’s first Peppa Pig Theme Park (opening 24 February 2022 in Florida) will be designed with all children in mind as a Certified Autism Center. The company shared this commitment along with a reveal of one of its attraction’s ride vehicles, designed specifically for increased accessibility for children with wheelchairs.

Fun Spot America announced the largest investment in any ride or attraction ever at its Atlanta, Georgia location, with the addition of Arie Force One. On this steel roller coaster, riders will soar over 3,400 feet of track, towering 15 stories and “flying” at speeds up to 64 miles per hour.

Zamperla, meanwhile, announced a new Family Thrill Launch Coaster, designed with a 105-centimetre height requirement. “We want to get kids on coasters,” said Adam Sandy, Zamperla’s roller coaster sales and marketing director. He added: “We think it’s going to bring a new generation of coaster riders to the table, and they’re going to love what this ride has to offer.”

Zamperla also revealed the Zetta Swing. Designed to be the tallest pendulum ride in the world, it promises to provide real flying and free[1]fall sensations with each swing. Both 16-passenger and side-by-side 32-passenger models will be made available, it said.

Garner Holt Education through Imagination, LLC (ETI) revealed that it is to design and build a customised hands-on animatronics learning space for Give Kids The World Village. The Give Kids The World AniMakerspace will be a gift from ETI and parent company Garner Holt Productions, Inc., complete with high-tech machines and tools and special animatronic construction kits. Inside, visitors can experience interactive design and production demonstrations where they can create their own animatronic characters, decorate them, and even programme shows.

There was also a “hair-raising” and jaw-dropping moment as the president of Ripley’s Believe It or Not! shaved his “pandemic beard” and added it to the Guinness World Records contender for Largest Ball of Human Hair – while raising more than $34,000 for Give Kids The World (GKTW) Village.

Other Expo highlights included the sold-out GM and Owners’ Breakfast on Wednesday 17 November, featuring Richard A. Zimmerman, president & chief executive officer of Cedar Fair Entertainment Company and the Opening Reception on Tuesday 16 November where the 2021 IAAPA Brass Ring Award recipients and IAAPA Award winners, including IAAPA Hall of Fame inductees, IAAPA Service Awards and the IAAPA Young Professional of the Year, were celebrated.

Attendees were also able to learn from industry experts at the “Lunch and Learn” featuring Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, and Game Changer – From Spectator to Participant: The New Paradigm of Immersive Entertainment featuring Winston Fisher, CEO of AREA15 and partner, Fisher Brothers. With more than 90 educational experiences, attendees participated in classroom sessions and behind-the-scenes tours events at local Orlando attractions throughout the week.

In 2022, IAAPA Expo returns to the Orange County Convention Center from 14-18 November.

*Economic impact figure from the Orange County Convention Center.

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