Monday 29 December 2014

2014 Year in Review - Australian Parks

It was another quiet year in Australian Theme Parks, with sadly little happening across our major parks.

Movie World was the Gold Coast park to see the most change this year, although compared to recent years like 2012 it was still a quiet year. Early in the year (February, I believe) they opened a new version of the Stunt Driver show called, Hollywood Stunt Driver 2. I haven't seen the show, but from all reports it has minimal set changes, a new (but thin) story and some new stunts. In September, Movie world opened a new kids ride (in the show building that was the Looney Tunes River Ride) called the Movie World Junior Driving School. This attraction is designed for kids taller than 90cm, as they drive around a miniature version of Movie World. This attraction was due to open much earlier than it's September opening, but progress on this stalled with the arrival of the Henry the Polar Bear Cub at Sea World in 2013. This arrival changed a lot of planning within the VRTP company, however it is good to see that this attraction made it largely unchanged. Movie World offered it's traditional Fright Nights and White Christmas events with moderate success, as well as adding a new event Carnivale to their arsenal. This new event ran in June and July, with a theme of the New Orleans/Rio Carnivale. There was a distinct focus on food, with a large number of pop-up food stalls filling Main Street. Movie World has confirmed that Carnivale will return in April 2015.

Over at the big competitor Dreamworld, there was probably the largest ride opening of the year, when it opened Tail Spin (a Sky Fly from Gerstlauer) on Ocean Parade in September. This was a replacement for the very aged and unpopular Reef Diver. Dreamworld has counted this as the ninth of it's Big 9 Thrill Rides. Readers of my earlier posts would know that I wasn't exactly thrilled with the addition of another flat ride to Dreamworld, however I can't criticise the ride itself as I am yet to ride it. In December 2013 Dreamworld opened the Dreamworld Corroboree re-theming of the Australian Wildlife experience, which continued to get good press for the park into the new year.

It was a complicated year for Sea World. Riding high on the back of (finally) replacing the Bermuda Triangle with the Storm Coaster in 2013, there was mostly bad news from Sea World. The biggest news for the year was the closure and demolition of the Sea Viper roller coaster, one of the oldest steel roller coasters in the country. The ride itself had been reportedly having structural problems for some time, and eventually the cost of maintenance and repairs must have gotten to high. Once this closure was made a official, Sea World wasted no time in ripping down the ride. It was gone within a matter of weeks. Another slightly quieter change at Sea World, was the removal of advertising for the "Wild" attraction that was originally slated for 2014. It had been suggested that the land which as being reclaimed behind the lighthouse was to be used for this attraction, whatever it was going to be. It is likely that the arrival of Henry the polar bear cub, and the rapid construction of the Polar Bear Pre School habitat changed at the very least the timeline for Wild. It is possible that they likely (and now completed) removal of the Sea Viper on land adjacent to the reclaimed land may also have altered plans. It is hard to predict what will happen with the Wild at this stage, as we have had no further news on this project. This year also marked the end of the Dinosaur Island attraction, which was always known to only be a temporary addition while the Storm Coaster was completed. In some good news, the end of the year (literally boxing day) has seen the opening of a new version of the Dolphin Show (called Affinity) and the addition of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to the park, as part of the Nickelodeon licencing deal.

In other parks around Australia, Aussie World on the Sunshine Coast continued to grow opening a wave swinger called Ballroom Blitz. They have also closed down the Town Hall and are working on a new attraction called the Illusionarium, which will open in 2015. Aussie World have also run Halloween and Christmas events (for the first time that I know of), which a great thing for this little park. Adventure World in Perth had a quiet year, after opening the Abyss last year. They added new theming to two existing rides (Rampage and The Black Widow), and a new kids show stage. Adventure World are also adding a temporary Dinosaur Island exhibit, which is a walkthrough of animatronic Dinosaurs. Hmm.. that sounds vaguely familiar. Let's hope that this little park keeps on improving. We've heard rumours that another big Abyss style addition is on it's way in 2015 or 2016, so let's keep our fingers crossed.

The strangest Australian theme park news from this year has to be from Luna Park Sydney, which in December 2013 opened Hair Raiser, it's first new permanent ride in a decade (that is from my recollection). The ride is a Larson International Super Shot drop tower with beautiful views of Sydney Harbour. The only bad news about that is that they might have to tear it down. The ride is still operating at the Sydney park, and hopefully this mess has all been cleared up, but I haven't heard any official word about it yet.

So, that is a full round up of happenings in Australian theme parks in 2014. To be honest, I'd hoped for a little more investment in the Gold Coast parks.  My expectation would be for a quiet start to 2015 but hopefully we'll start to see a bit more action towards then end of the year. I'm looking at you Sea World. Hopefully, Adventure World and Aussie World will both continue to grow and reinvest in their parks.