New ride screams onto park scene
As the bustling summer season approaches, Six Flags Fiesta Texas is ready to unveil its newest attraction, a 200-foot-tall swing ride that park officials say is unlike anything else in the park.
“It's a totally different kind of ride experience for our guests,” said park spokeswoman Sydne Purvis about SkyScreamer, the twirling ride that will be open to the public Sunday.
The towering new feature is an open-air swing for two that lifts riders beyond the park's quarry walls 200 feet into the air. It will swing visitors around in a circle to the top, where it will soar at 40 mph in a circle 98 feet across at full whirl.
If the excitement of the ride weren't enough, the views offered of the park landscape and — once the swings clears the quarry walls — of the surrounding area make the ride splashier.
“From the vantage point of these thrilling, open-air swings, guests will have an unusual bird's-eye perspective of the San Antonio skyline as they soar to new heights,” said park President Martin Bozer.
Fiesta Texas already has a 20-story tower drop ride called Scream, but it features a nerve-rattling plunge to the bottom rather than a swinging experience.
Theme park analysts said SkyScreamer should be a popular attraction for thrill-seekers and possibly families who are intrigued by the retro feel of a swing ride.
It's seen as a key addition for the park because it's new and will give the all-important repeat visitor another reason to come back to Fiesta Texas this year.
Nima Samadi, senior analyst with IBISWorld analysts, said Six Flags Entertainment Corp., the company that owns Six Flags Fiesta Texas, has the reputation “as being the ‘go-to place' for thrill rides.” But if it and other theme park companies did not invest in new rides, attendance could fall, he said.
“It's smart to keep improving rides,” he said.
Gary Slade, editor and publisher of the monthly trade magazine Amusement Today, said SkyScreamer won't make as big an impact as a high-speed roller coaster, which he called the “star attraction” of theme parks. But it's a high-impact ride that parks must add periodically to keep visitors interested, he said.
“It's got that thrill factor working for it because of its height,” Slade said. “I think it's really going to be a huge hit for them.”
It gives Fiesta Texas something new to boast about in a summer that will be filled with new attractions locally.
SeaWorld San Antonio opened a redesigned water park Aquatica last Saturday, and Schlitterbahn New Braunfels Waterpark added a major water ride, the Falls, lodging units and other features last year.
Dennis Speigel, president of International Theme Park Services Inc., said the industry probably will see more building this year than any since 2005. But it makes sense, he said, with indicators suggesting park attendance could grow by 7 percent in 2012.
Speigel said Six Flags is spending about $90 million on improvements across its 19 parks. In San Antonio, Six Flags faces a highly competitive market but is making improvements that should help it grow, the analyst said.
On Saturday, season ticketholders to Fiesta Texas can ride the new feature before the ride is open to the public the next day.
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