The 2019 IAAPA Expo was held in Orlando, FL, from November 18-22. With Sponsor Highlights introduced along with a full line-up of press conferences, things were very busy, and the show attracted a record crowd. As of the time of editing, 27,800 qualified buyers attended the event; in total, 42,600 people participated in the largest attraction expo in the world.
Park Vault was able to attend the 2019 IAAPA Expo Europe as well, so we will talk about that event throughout our recap as well to showcase exhibitors that attended that event.
SeaWorld had a massive presence during IAAPA Expo, holding four press conferences and highlighting another new ride vehicle at another vendor’s booth. First, Iron Gwazi will roar into Busch Gardens Tampa in 2020. It is the reimagined rebirth of Gwazi, a wooden roller coaster that used to operate in the center of the park. Rocky Mountain Construction (RMC) is bringing its groundbreaking I-Box track to the ride, and the first car of one of the trains was unveiled. Featuring an impressive crocodile made of steel as its headpiece, it is the second generation of car that RMC uses, with double road wheels and an improved safety restraint.
Wooden roller coasters are still an essential part of SeaWorld’s parks, with SeaWorld San Antonio unveiling the front car of Texas Stingray, a new Great Coasters International (GCI) creation opening at the Texas park in 2021. Blending the familiar shape of a stingray with the Texas flag, this ride will be the first wooden coaster to open in Texas in five years and the tallest operating one in the state.
During that time, two Roman characters were present at Intamin booth, standing next to the head car of Pantheon, the fastest multi-launch roller coaster in North America. It is the first new-generation Intamin roller coaster to feature the incredible ride vehicle that was created for Taron at Phantasialand (Bruhl, Germany) to open in North America. The layout is a creation of Camiel Bielsen, an essential part of the new generation that is bringing a new way of designing exciting and comfortable layouts that think outside of the box. Bielsen also created the fiberglass front piece of Pantheon ride car, a challenge since the new train is more capable and requires larger clearance for the front axle.
Premier Rides held a formal train unveiling, accompanied by an ice sculpture, and a large media presence for Ice Breaker. Opening just down the road from the Orange County Convention Center at SeaWorld Orlando next year, it will feature four launches along with a unique 100 degree back spike that the train will travel on during the launch sequence. To boost capacity and to save space, the ride will start with a sliding track switch that will take the train from the station to the main ride path. The ride is currently under construction near the Wild Arctic simulator attraction, and the seats feature Comfort Collars in addition to the lap bar restraint.
And, while Ice Breaker was being presented, SeaWorld San Diego revealed at the Bolliger & Mabillard (B&M) booth that the Dive Coaster announced a few months ago was changing its name. Originally called Mako, it is now referred to as Emperor. The ride is meant to simulate an emperor penguin diving into the cold arctic water, and it is the first six-across dive coaster to open in the United States.
Bolliger & Mabillard also had a front car of Orion, the Giga Coaster class roller coaster that will open in 2020 at Kings Island in Mason, OH. Featuring bright colors, it also features seat belts in addition to the comfortable signature B&M lap bar restraint.
Alterface Projects held a press conference, talking about how the Popcorn Revenge attraction was received at Walibi Belgium and where that innovative IP will go. According to park surveys, amazingly, nine guests out of 10 want to ride Popcorn Revenge on a future visit, an incredible number for a dark ride experience.
As a mischievous popcorn was in charge of booking their booth, they were located inside Exploration Station this year, and they provided a cute map to help IAAPA guests find them. Concept art for an indoor Popcorn theme park was shown, along with a walkthrough version of Popcorn Revenge.
Benoit Cornet, CEO of Alterface Projects, discussed how they also helped bring Reese’s Cupfusion to life at Hersheypark (Hershey, PA), providing the interactive system, able to detect and handle the largest number of targets on a dark ride ever.
Park Vault loves to walk the show floor and find first-time exhibitors and unique booths to highlight. One such company was HaiHong China Enterprise. Located in the first time exhibitor section of Exploration Station, we saw their amazing artificial tree and attractive grass carpet. They design artificial plants and landscaping, with an emphasis on jungle and cave environments.
While in Paris at IAAPA Expo Europe, we came across a unique stand that showcased innovative mobility solutions for those who need assistance and the many guests with disabilities that enjoy theme parks and recreation areas. Scooters or ECV’s, depending on where you live, are now a common sight in public spaces in North America and the United Kingdom. Their use is also increasing throughout western Europe, so a vendor from France is offering innovation in that market.
Hervé Macke founded Mobily Park as he is an inventor and as a wheelchair user himself, sees challenges and issues right from his own first-hand experiences. He rents out to parks around Europe wheelchairs and ECV’s that were designed specifically for that use, and that can be customized. For example, the wheelchairs he provides to the Puy du Fou in France feature the park logo on the wheels, adding a marketing element visually that will also appear in photos that guests take. The wheelchairs are considerably more comfortable and more robust than the average one, increasing guest experience and satisfaction. They can also be provided with switchable seating pads, a significant concern when it comes to cleanliness. The scooters are also designed and built in the same optic, increasing safety for other guests and reducing damage to facilities.
In addition to that, a thought-provoking prototype was showcased at IAAPA Expo Paris. It is a trailer-platform that a wheelchair user would roll onto, which then lifts and provides sufficient ground clearance. The platform is hooked up to a bicycle, allowing someone to tow the trailer without the need for costly motor equipment. The possibilities are fascinating: what if it was rented at a large campground or vacation resort? What if the disabled parking lot was far from the main entrance and ground staff could help bring guests to and from the main gate? We will keep a close eye on this innovation and see what creative ways it can help the park experience for a large segment of guests in the future.