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Flash and Splash
Six Flags announces more 2023 developments
For a while there, the Six Flags chain was committed to opening something new every year at each of its parks, thereby following a tried-and-true industry maxim: Regularly reinvest and give folks new reasons to get excited about your park, and they will continue to support you. Under its latest CEO, that’s no longer the case.
Up until recently, all we knew about the company’s 2023 plans was that the long-delayed hybrid coaster/splashdown ride, Aquaman: Power Wave, would finally open at Six Flags Over Texas, and that two junior coasters, the first P’Sghetti Bowl models from Skyline Attractions, would be coming to Six Flags Fiesta Texas and Six Flags Over Georgia. With the season now upon us, the chain just announced some additional new attractions. It’s still nothing like years past, when fans could anticipate a slew of headlining coasters and rides, but at least there’s something new happening at a few parks.
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The P’Sghetti Bowl rides now have a name: Kid Flash Cosmic Coaster. Named for the pint-sized version of the superhero, Flash, they will both be located in the DC Comics-themed lands at their respective parks. For attractions geared to young children, the Kid Flash rides look quite cool. The twin-track coasters will send two yellow and red, 12-passenger trains racing against one another on single-rail tracks. The rides will feature Skyline’s Aurora LED lighting package, which will illuminate and animate both the sides and the flat tops of the tracks. Based on the concept art (see above), it appears that Kid Flash’s lightning-bolt-like trail will pulse throughout the layout. The coaster should look especially sharp after dark.
Six Flags St. Louis will also be getting a junior coaster, but instead of a P’Sghetti Bowl its latest entry will be a more pedestrian ride from Vekoma. Rookie Racer will use a booster wheel lift to ascend a 41-foot hill and hit a top speed of 27 mph. The Formula 1-themed ride will include a mild, mid-course helix.
A kiddie you-drive-it car ride that dates back to 1962 will be re-themed as Dino Off Road Adventure at Six Flags New England in Massachusetts. Animated dinosaurs, including a T. rex, will line the path of the outdoor attraction.
Six Flags may have kept a tight grip on its capital expenditure pursestrings this year, but Six Flags Fiesta Texas seems to have nabbed the biggest share of the outlay. In addition to Kid Flash, the park will also debut a 5,000-square-foot esports arena, ESIX Gaming, as well as 11 new slides geared for young splashers at White Water Bay, the water park that is included with admission. ESIX will mark the first time a U.S. amusement park will have a permanent, dedicated esports gaming center.
Hurricane Harbor, the water park that requires a separate ticket to enter at New Jersey’s Six Flags Great Adventure, will be unveiling Splash Island, a new area for young kids. It will include a tree house-themed interactive water play structure with a giant water bucket and 14 water slides. Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in California will introduce new animal exhibits, such as Shark Experience, a walk-through tunnel that will bring visitors face-to-fin with the creatures, and The Rainforest Trail, which will allow guests to encounter butterflies, a sloth, and other critters. Other Six Flags parks, including Six Flags Magic Mountain in California, Six Flags Great America in Illinois, Six Flags America in Maryland, and La Ronde in Montreal are apparently out of luck when it comes to new goodies this year.
In an intriguing development, the chain is introducing Scream Break, a haunt-enhanced take on Spring Break at select parks including Six Flags Magic Mountain, Six Flags Fiesta Texas, and Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. Along with the announcement that Universal would be establishing a year-round attraction inspired by Halloween Horror Nights in Las Vegas, it appears the industry is betting that there is an appetite for killer clowns and chainsaw-wielding zombies beyond the fall season. The nighttime event will include haunted mazes, scare zones, themed cocktails, and shows, as well as lights-out rides on the parks’ coasters.
Selim Bassoul, the company’s president and CEO, has had a checkered tenure. In addition to being stingy with new capital expenditures, he has aggressively raised prices on tickets, parking, and other offerings and done away with many of the discounts that fans had come to expect. That has led to attendance and revenue decreases steeper than the drop on Kingda Ka.
Combined with rumblings about shuttered rides (many of the coasters were not open at Six Flags Magic Mountain when I recently visited), long lines due to single-train operations on coasters, spotty customer service, and other woes, things are looking shaky at the park chain. It likely also hasn’t helped that Bassoul has dismissed many executives and other employees who had been with Six Flags for a long time. Here’s hoping the company, which hosts some of parkdom’s best thrill machines, can make some much-needed changes and find its equilibrium.
What do you think about Six Flags’ 2023 announcements? Have you visited a Six Flags park recently? What was your experience like? Are you planning to visit any Six Fags parks this year?