Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

TR: Paramount's Kings Island - 4/23/06

Well, April is finally here, and with it comes another coaster season in full bloom. The usual protocol was invoked, and Rideman and I arrived at PKI right around 11:30.

PKI has made some changes to its opening protocol, doing away with the practice of opening International Street at 9AM, then the main park at 10. Now everything opens at 10. Early reports had inidicated this was causing undue congestion entering the park. Well with our liesurely arrival time, we had no wait as we pulled up to the toll plaza and used our parking pass rather than paying the obnoxious $10 parking fee. Of course if the $10 parking fee isn't high enough for you, there is the Premier Parking area up close to the gate for $15. One of the side effects of the Premier lot and gold pass lots is that it makes the park look more crowded than it really is. It's also a sad commentary on Americans that we will pay $5 extra to park in the first few rows of the lot to go to an attraction where we will spend a lot of time walking around. Of course, using our parking pass we found a decent space in the regular lot and soon made our way to the front gate.

I am happy to report that the congestion at the season pass building seems to have disipated. I did note that single day ticket sales have been moved to the season pass building. A check on the ride closures board indicated that only Son of Beast and the train ride are due to be closed today, thats good news. We approached the security checkpoint, and I am glad they added some "No Bags" express lines to the far left hand side. This means I was able to breeze right through security with no troubles whatsoever. Rideman was not so lucky, and while I waited for him to clear secuirty I noted that the original ticket cages between security and the front gate have bee decommisioned as all the equipment has been removed from them, including the locksets on the cage doors. I also noticed that the exit gates on the south side of the securit checkpoint have been closed off, and the one exit gate on the north side of the gate has been reduced is size, I suppose to better control the exit.

We head to the main gate, where we find a lane with no waiting and we quickly enter the park with no troubles. I did note their new season pass verification system. When a season pass is scanned, the system pulls your photo up from the season pass database and puts it on the front gate terminal. The attendant is to verify the photo is of you, then touch on "OK". That handled we walking under the main gate where I noticed a large banner welcoming the Girl Scouts of America, as promised by the parks website this is Scout Fun Days, though I think its mainly Girl Scout days, as they have the nice banner at the front gate, the event patches available in the gift shop and so on, whereas the Boy Scouts get a nice simple sign. That said I do not recall seeing any scouts in the park dressed in scout uniform. Just an observation, nothing more.

We headed into the park, and naturally proceeded to head towards the right, where we were able to evade the Keyhole Photo ambush and start up International Street. I noticed that along with opening the park at 10AM, the gift shops do not open till noon.

The parks major focus this season has been a complete renovation of its "Little Kids Land" from "Hanna-Barbera Land" to "Nickeldeon Universe". Although, I am clearly not of the inteded demographic for Nick Universe, we decided to start the visit with a tour of the new area. We make the first right turn on International Street and take the short walk to Nick Universe. One of the first things I notice is how vivid the colors are, I must admit the area was starting to look a bit dull and subdued. before. Scooby Doo and the Haunted Castle is still to your left as you enter the area and appears unchaged from the outside. A glance at the park map reveals that this attraction is now technically in International Street, I suppose its a legal thing as Scooby is not a Nick character.
Huck's Hotrods (Hampton combo) have been removed and the area has turned into a large entrance plaza welcoming you to Nick Universe complete with a marque sign introducing the area. One of the goals of the area according to our mid winter tour was to alleviate congestion in this section of the park, and this big entry plaza is sure to do that, I wonder if they are planning on being able to add a ride in this spot in the future.

Looking to my right, I see that "Pixie and Dixie's Swingset", has been tranformed into "Backyardigan's Swing Along" It's the same ride with a new yellow/orange/green paint job and some nick character face decorative accents. Actually keeping a few of the older rides is a good move. It allows the park to focus more money and energy on getting the overall look and feel of the area established, and it provides a nice transition period as I'm sure more changes for this area are ahead in years to come, so at least the children won't be totally shocked by having everything be different.

We continue on and come upon what was "Boulder Bumpers". Gone is the bedrock themed building and the Fred Flintstone cars, in is a more modern looking building with a couragated blue metal roof with grey and red decorative accents, which look to suggest a scientific motif, as do the cars which are now grey and look like little robot vehicles. The rides new name is "Jimmy Neutron's Atom Smashers" Again, same ride as before with an extensive retheme. The little concession stand that uis adjacent to the kiddie bumper cars now sports an orange couragated metal roof and a very generic name "Snow Cones". Sounds like a stand you would find at Cedar Point, home of the famous "Chicken Patio" and "Burger Patio"

We continue on past a more gneric looking ride photo boof as the Mystery Machine theme is gonewhich brings up to what once called "Scooby Doo", then "Beastie", now its " Fairly Odd Coaster". (1972 PTC/ John Allen junior wood coaster). We decide to take a ride and find the ride to be just a two train wait. This coaster may have had the most color schemes of any wood coaster. I believe it started with a yellow structure with orange trim and yellow trains (as confirmed in the 1978 park guide I just looked at), then it turned dark blue with orange trains for the most of its Beastie years, then towards the end of the Beastie era it was purple with orange trim with multicolored trains, now the ride has a lavender structure and one green train and one pink train. Both trains have decorative accents on their fronts and sides. We take a ride in the back car, one per bench, and note some more decortive accents on the turn out of the station, as well as a new themed "Do not stand up" lifthill sign. Thie bigger change in this ride, however, is that the first drop tunnel has been removed. Other than that it is pretty much just like the old ride. The trim brake on the third turn was on hard.

We happily exit Fairly Odd Coaster and continue touring the area, looking at the car ride next to Fairly Odd Coaster which is now the "Nick Jr. Drivers" This is another nice retheme as the cars have been freshly painted and some scenery panels have been added to the bridge so that they form what looks like a stone tunnel underneath. So overall I have looked at four rides now, and they all seem to have come out a little better for the retheme, I mean they have nice new vibrant color schemes and look fresh and new even if they are actually a few years old. Yeah I miss the tunnel on Beastie, but such is life in the name of progress.

We walk over to where "Boo Boo's Baggage Claim" (Junior Tumble Bug) was, that ride has been replaced with "Blue's Skidoo" This ride is Nick's answer to "Dumbo, the Flying Elephant" at that other chain of theme parks. The ride feautres a number of tubs that look like the dog in Blue's Clues, available in both pink and blue. It looks like the ride was built on the existing Zamperla mini jet center from the removed "Red Baron's Bi Planes" ride. The Blue's Clues cars, however have SBF nameplates. The traditional lever to raise or lower your car has been replaced with a single push button. Press the button in, your dog goes up, let go and the car lowers. The button does not look labeled, so I guess we'll have to see if the children figure it out. Overall I think the ride looks very nice, and is actually right in the center of your view if ou enther the themed area the way we did.

Next to Blues Skidoo is the entry ramp to "Lazytown Sporticopters" which is the retheme to "Yogi's Sky Tours" This ride looks the same except the track ans station area have been repainted, and it looks like the copters have been recolored. A facade has been added in front of the base of the ramps up to the station. I noticed a problem with the entry way to this ride. The entrnace consist of two identical looking ramps that go up to the loading platform. To add to the confusion, there are no "Entry" or "Exit" signs or arrows to indicate which side is the entrance, and there are ride safety signs on both sides. You know, a gate blocking the exit, and entry sign or even nice large arrows painted on the ramps would help in thsi regard. Maybe this is a detail that isn't quite finished yet.

Speaking of things that don't look quite finished yet, we next walked over to the Nick Go Round, and said "We HOPE this ride isn't finished yet!" The ride was the Hanna Barbera Carousel, featuring carousel figures that look like HB characters. Therefore I expected the Nick Go Round to be a similar ride except that it would feature carousel figures that look like Nick characters. The canopy is orange and green, as is the ride center, however the ride is featuring plain generic carousel figures and chariots. It has a few horses, zebras (shout out to RRC! it has Zebras) It is only a one-abreast carousel, so forget about riding next to your friend. I'm really hoping this is only a temporary figure set to fill in until the custom nick characaters are ready. I mean the role of park carousel has already been filled by a much more majestic machine on International Street. The Nick Go Round as it stands now looks pretty pathetic as carousels go.
We looked back next to the dark ride building, the Scooby Doo Meet and Greet has been moved from the walkway down to the old Enchanted Theatre to the 'lawn' in front of the Haunted Castle. At least this will allow easier access to the Enchanted Theatre should they ever decide to use that space again. Top Cat's Taxi Jam is now Little Bill's Giggle Coaster, with a new color scheme for both track and trains, as well as some 2d statues of nick characters in the center of this kiddie oval coaster. The ride photo booth for it also got a nice retheme, it looks sort of like the facade of It's a Small World before its recent retheme.

Starting up the other side of Nick Universe we come to what was the Huckleberry Dairy, which has a new facade and goes by the generic name "Ice Cream" Purists will be happy to know they still offer blue soft serve ice cream. Next door is the Central Grill which in all honstly looks a lot plainer than the old Busytown Grill. I noted they have added more seating by creating a new seating area alongside the Nick Go Round. Going towards the back of Nick Universe, we walked through the old Animation Station, which is now a store simply called "Nickelodeon", whcih features all the Nick merchandise one could want. A new exterior treatment has been added to this building as well. Outside the shop the game booth that was in front of the restroom building is still there. Now its decked out in lime green, and we were a bit disconcerted when we lookt at the game where you try to flip a rubber chicken into a roasting pot on the grill. They had Care Bear plush sitting directly on the 'grill'. We also noted the restrooms in this area aren't quite ready yet.

We continued to tour the area and noticed that "Atom Ant's Airways" has been repainted and rethemed into "Timmy's Airtours". Next to Timmt's Airtours a new snack bar has been added called "Soft Drinks and Snacks". I'll let you guess what they sell. This means we head into the area that was Nick Central, and here is where the new Nick Universe gets interesting.

Sitting front and center is the first of the entirely new rides, Plankton's Plunge. This ride is billed as a Drop Zone for children. Its a very trendy ride where up to 12 children are seated in two rows of 6 using shoulder bars. The carriages go up to the top of the tower, then sort of gently bounce up and down a few times before coming back to the ground. No sudden drops here, the ride is all about the bouncing. The ride has a blue tower with a green seaweed motif on the sides. This ride should prove very popular, as it has been a success for many parks and carnivals. In fact, Ohio's Coney Island installed a similar ride just last year. I was a bit surprised that there is no "Adults must ride with a child" rule on this ride, at least not yet. I did notice that the cars have a clearly posted weight limit of 990 pounds per side. Split between 6 riders per side, that average out to 165 per person, and yes the ride does weigh the carriage, as we saw this take place. Yes, the park was professional in handling the akward situation.

We decided not to ride. We were also disapointed that the Green Slime Maze attraction is still around. Sure the attraction has been rethemed to Spongebob Squarepants Bikkini Bottom Bash (does that not sound like it belongs in the waterpark), and we did get a small victory in that the attraction has been made smaller as Plankton's Plunge sits on part of the former site, and yes the slime derrick has been replaced with a huge statue of Spongebob himself, and a ginat pineapple facade greets guests at the entrnace. At least it will when this attraction opens in May.

We were reassured that Rugrat's Runaway Reptar seems to have stayed the same, we deicded to save it for later. At Winter SOAR Maureen indicated that they were going to solve the continuity problem of not being about to get a Krabby Pattie at the Krusty Krab. They have, that stand is no longer called the Krusty Krab. We noted the former Slime Bowl ampitheatre is still being used at the Meet the Nicktoons meet and greet area. We headed over into what used to be South Pie or Woodlands. This is an area that recieved a total makeover. The landscape has been flattened, the service gate by Fairly Odd Coaster has been moved inward so you can no longer walk right up alongside the track. Most imortantly the areas is dominated by a big blue wavy W shaped ride. Avatar's The Last Airbender.

We first noticed that the short shot basketball kiosk survived intact, with a new green paint job. You enter Avatar through a pagoda then through an opening that runs underneath the hump in the middle of the track. There is also a wider midway passage that goes back to Dora's Explore Zone, as denoted by a Dora statue holding a flag welcoming you to the area. We did actually see a Dora character walking this area.

Besided Avatar this backmost area of Nick Universe also contains the relocated Hampton car ride, now called Go Diego Go, and featuring jeeps and ATV like vehicles instead of firetrucks, schoolbusses and sports cars. The colorful umbrella top is now kahki and green. Go Diego Go is about where the entrance to the handcars was, the handcars having tragicallly been removed, alongwith Scooby's Ghoster Coaster which used to run overhead in this area and the remote control cars and boats. In the center behind Avatar is "La Adventuras De Azul" (The Adventures of Blue??) This is the former Quickdraw's Railway, featuring newly rethemed blue train engines, a yellow stucco facade, and for at least today onyl two cars. There seems to have been no theming added out on the trackway at this point.

Next up between Azul and the walkway to waterworks is Swipers Sweepers, which is a retheme and relocation of the Alley Cat 500 (kiddie whip ride). There is another acces s point to this area as the walkway leads back next to Spongebob's WAter Maze thing.

We get in line for Avatar, and the line is about halfway through the queue. We note that it looks like the park is planning for shade canvas to be placed over the queue, which will help as for the first few years, there is precious little shade in Nick Universe. Before we even get on the ride, I can make some suggestions to help make things more efficiant. Flush loading would help, but the bigger problem is that for 6 rows of 6 seats, they only have 2 queue gates up in the station. Gate 1 is lined up with row 1, gate 2 is lined up with row 2. The proceudre calls for those in lane 1 to fill in rows 1-3, and for lane 2 to fill in rows 4-6. Of course no clear directions are given, then instead of letting people fill in naturally they try to move people who have already been seated from the left hand side to the right hand side. I know it's a new ride, but it seems like the loading procedure could use a little refinement. Ideally would be flush loading and 6 queue gates, one for each lane like a rollercoaster.

Avatar, by the way, is NOT a rollercoaster in my book. The ride is a custom Zamperla Skater, the ride features a W shape layout instead of the more traditional U shape, and the ride also looks to be a bit taller. We take seats in the back row, and there is already an anouncement that the person sitting on the end seat on the load side must be at least 16 years of age. I think part of that has to do with the design of the safety restraints. When you board the car you look down and see what appears to be an individual T shape lapbar for each rider. When you are instructed to lower the lapbars you learn that all 6 bars in a row function as a unit. This means the bar only comes down as far as the largest rider in the row. You can now see the potential issue with small kids sitting in the aisle seat. (The other aisle seat has a grate blocking that side exit.) Small riders will be forced to ride with unduly loose lapbars, and some larger riders may get nasty surprise when one of those smaller riders, or the parents of said smaller rider try to zealously ram down the childs lapbar. What genius came up with this? I thought the current shcool of thought for amusement rides, especially rides destined for Little Kids Land that use shared lapbars are a BAD idea.

A better idea in my mind would be to have a functional door on the loading side of the row (Look at Italian Job for an example) that would prevent riders from sliding out sideways, then since the lapbar functions as one big long unit replace the individual t-bars with one long lapbar for each row, just like on many pendulum pirate ship rides. This will ensure there are no breaks bettween bars that a rider could squeeze between and come out. This would also mean they could remove the seat moldings between each seat, and also between your legs which are there to ensure that you can't slide along the seat bench into an empty seat.

Okay, now that I have overanalyzed the ride, and lets take it for a spin. Quite literally. The ride has a big blu cloud shaped car wth a huge statue of Avatar on top. It really does look nice. The ride starts out a bit like a small Viking Fury just rocking back nad forth in the one dip. Then the car starts spinning. Then once it gets up to full power it traversed the entire W shaped track about 4-5 times spinning all the way. General reactions that I saw are parents were shocked "We thought this is a kiddie ride" Nope, its sure not a kiddie ride, and I think the park missed the mark on where to put this ride. I mean its a great ride, but it belongs in Coney, not Nick Universe. What they seem to have done is to ensure that the young teens who would love it won't ride it becuase its not cool to walk into kiddieland at that age, and the parents who ride it will think that all rides in kiddieland are suitable for everyone. That said, lets enjoy what may be the parks best spin ride, and a super fun ride as well. Did I mention that they have installed a hose nozzle at the exit ramp?

Having had a lot of fun on Avatar, we decide to see the rest of the park. We ext Nick Universe by Reptar, and note that Wild Thornberries River Adventure also looks to be unchanged. What is new is next to the restroom building they have added the "Phantom Flyers" a ride commonly known as a Kite Flyer. Its a ride where you around in circles while laying down in the classic super hero pose, and the car gently goes up and down, similar to a yo-yo or wave swinger. We'll talk more about this ride later.

We continue through the more desrted part of Rivertown. Judging by my park guide, Internaitional Showplace, Back Porch Stage, and the Enchanted Theater will all sit dark this year. In addition if the park guide is to be beleived the gift shop in Coney Mall, and the gift shops in Rivertown will not operate this year, except for the old time photos. We note the refrehsment stand in upper Rivertown is open, the rivertown age and weight is not an analog (read real mechanical high striker), the Skyline Chilli in this area is now a funnel cake stand, and Wings seems to have remained the same.

White Water Canyon was open, but the train ride was not. The peach basket game in Rivertown has been subdivided into two game booths, and Tomb Raider had a line stretching outside the cave. We opted not to ride Tomb Raider. We did opt to ride Beast. Beast was a walk on so we walked right onto row 6.1. The good news is the park has fixed up the lapbars, at least cosmeticaly, and added new strong return springs. The range of passenger accomodation, however remains the same. Out on the course, you can see new wood, and stacks of more new wood alongisde the ride. That suggests the park is trying to maintain it, but the ride stiff shuffles through the helix and jackhammers on the segment between the second tunnel and the second lift hill. In other words it is running pretty much the way it did last year.

We did get a delayed ride as we sat on the back of the ready brake for a few moments as the ride decided to setup all three trains. There was a virtual parade of ride managers and the safery dpeartment on hand to observe the ride being reset. After a 5-10 minute delay the train was brought into the station and unloaded. Must not have been a big deal as the ride was back open by the time we walked down the exit ramp.

We noted still no pinball in Beast arcade, so we headed to Italian Job. The line for Italian Job was just backed out of the queue house, whih only had one switchback open. The line for this ride really does move swiftly. We got a dash of good luck as the seat assigner sent us to row 1. We took our places in the front row, lowered the lap bar, closed the car door and waited for launch. We noted the on board audio is still broken, and the decal that shows the instrument cluster has one 'light' lit, the icon for "Fasten Seatbelt", there are no seatbelts in the car. The ride takes off and its runnng consistent with last year. The lightbars on the police cruisers were on, and Row 1 gets some nice airtime pops after the DIP, before the subway stair drop, and on the hill up into the mid course (show) brakes. We did note the subway stair special effect still hasn't been installed, and I never have felt the cars fishtail. We came to the show scene, and that seems to work pretty well, then we went throught the escape tunnel (sewer?) where the cars headlights failed to come on. The final dip through the billboard into the auaqduct is still priceless, and the fake splash effects are on. All in all its a good fun ride, its a shame the added special effects rate a "Needs Improvement"

We continued our park tour as we took a moment of silence at the Flying Eagles Memorial Lawn. Taking up too much space my left nostil. We proceeded to take a nice ride on Shake Rattle and Roll with no waiting. Its a solid performer for the park. We turned the corner and found the line for Vortex to be at the bottom of the stairs as you enter the house. Vortex moves a lot of people so the line moved pretty quickly, and soon we were in row 7.1 Vortex is runnng its usual self, Vortex is one ride that you can generally rely on to be a consistant solid performer, and yes the first drop float is still there.

After Vortex, we headed to the Paramount Action EFX Theatre to watch Funtastic World of Hanna Barbera, unfortunately the ride was closed and only the SPongebob movie was playing. We headed back up Coney Mall, we noted the lazer tag and the two story water race game are both gone, while the Euro Bungy is still there ($8). We proceed past a large size but disued concession area, looked in the Skeeball building, again no pinball. I rather like the name I recently read for redemption arcades such as the Skeeball buildng "Kiddie Casinos, as they are full of quarter falls, dozers, Colorama, and other luck based games that masquarade as games of skill.

We passed by the Zephyr and commented that it looks way to small. Of course when your last chair swing ride was a really tall Funtime Star Flyer, the garden variety models just don't compete.

We made the turn towards Flight of Fear. I notice more and more games space being taken up by skill cranes of all shapes and sizes. I almsot wonder if the skill crane market has been saturated at that park yet. We enter the Flight of Fear building. The bad news is the inside hangar is completely full, the WORSE news is the preshow is not running, there is little to no light on inside the queue area, and much worse there was no air conditioning and no ventillation. There is no way I am going to suffer through these kind of conditions. The park should really be appalled at the state of this queue area, this is something that Six Flags has done. Dark cramped crowded spaces with no ventilation are just asking for guest injuries, I myself witnessed guests pass out in an overheated Batman queue at SFoG. I 'yelled' in my trip report on Six Flags over Georiga over this issue, so fair is fair, and I am yelling at PKI for this. "Your guests deserve more humane treatment than this, the condition of this queue area shows the park has no regard for the health, safety and well being of its guests. They can cut costs by not opening the Lemon Chill cart, but when they start cutting costs on items like light bulbs and air conditioning, the park is started down the slippery slope to negligecne.

Disgusted, we keep on our course, one more arcade to check for pinball, and none found. We decide to take a ride on Monster. Monster has recieved a new safety feature in the form of a clip that secures the lapbar release knob against accidental release. The crews are still gettingused to the new clips, and so operations are a bit slow. It was a fun and bouncy Monster ride.

We headed to the end of Coney Mall and onto to recaR. The line was just down to the bottom fo the ramp, so we found seats in row 1.3. Okay, Racer crew is intent on stapling this year. Its a shame, as recaR is running nice and smooth, but due to the overtight lapbar instead of nice pops of air, I recieved painful thrusts into the lapbar. Being a glutton for punishment, we tried Racer. Row 6.1, same tight stapling, but for many years forwards Racer has not run nearly as well as backwards Racer, and this year is no exception. Ya know if the ride stops being fun, what is the point? Any why the tight stapling on Racer and not on Beast. It seems this seaosn we have ride crews who interpret "Make sure the lapbar is down as far as it will go" as "Forecfully shove the lapbar into the riders lap until they yelp ouch" Oh and the icing ont he cake was the preteen in the row in front of us, talkign loudly using very sexually explicit language regarding parts of the female anatomy, while 'talking' on a cell phone' Looking at the rows behind me I could tell the more mature riders behidn us were havng an awkward moment.

Can you tell our day is going downhill? We next take a ride on Adventure Express, which is a walk on. Adventure Express is still one of the better riding coasters in the park, certainy one of the most fun coasters in the park. Which is good, becuase the ride has to be able to stand on its own merits when it is forced to endure the lack of upkeep to the theming that this ride gets. Early reports this season were that Adventure Expresses theming had been restored. Well the train crossing bell on tunnel 1 didn't work, the mechanical spears on tunnel 2 didn't work, and lift 2 was a disgrace. Sveraly lights out, the side door was open which is how we could see some of the figures not beating their drums, no audio. Lovingly restored? Yeah, right.

It runs in my mind that this park needs to develop a "Show" department. By that I am NOT talking about live entertainment, I am talking the Disney sense of the word "Show". I suggest the park establsih a crew whos job it is to regularly walk the park and ride the themed rides to ensure that themeatic elements are maintained, audio tracks play, the volume is adjusted correctly, animated characters function properly and so on. Down to making sure the decorative themeatic items in queue area, gift shops, midways and food stands are in good condition. I mean I saw peeling paint and faded out signs and walls, and this is only Apiril. What happened to off season rehab and renewal?

We walked past the Cyber Sez attraction (a Ham on Rye virtual reality experience), it must be a quality attraction at only $2.We next walked past Slingshot which was running a special of only $15 marked down from the regularly posted price of $20. We entered into Action Zone, and got in line for Delirium, Delirium had a full queue house, all the way back to the soft drink machines, the $3.25 soft drink machines. Totally uncalled for and outrageous. We were about to be admitted to the ride bull pen area for the nect cycle when it looked light the crowd was turning ugly, and a fight was about to break out. There was already screaming, and profanity and it seemed like a fight was imminant. We were admitted to the ride, and had a wonderful Delirium ride. I am happy to report that the ride has been resturned to its original program, whcih gives a nice intense ride. The ride parked and I noticed they had not filled the bull pens for the next cycle. I didn't make much of it and exited the ride. This was right around 4:00.

We passed the Days of Thunder go-karts and noticed the Cornhole game has been moved from "The Flying Eagles Memorial Lawn" to the former location of the Jacob's Ladder game in Action Zone. Cornhole, for those unfamilar with the term, is the local name for a popular summer picnic/party game. Generally played out in the backyard or in picnic groves, it is a safe version of horseshoes or lawn darts. The game consits of bags full of corn, which you try to get to land in the hole of a target box placed some distance away. Thus, Corn in the Hole, or Cornhole. It also plays like shuffleboard/curling in that you can also score by getting bags to land on the target, even if they don't go in the hole, and you can knock others bags (or yown own bags) off the target box, rendering them out of play, or you can knock previously played bags closer into the hole. Also like Curling, the team that scored in an end, throws first the next end, so the other team gets the advantage of last bag (hammer). PKI has made a carnival game out of Cornhole. Using standard scoring rules, you must get 7 points to win any prize at all, and a perfect 12 for the large prize. (each bag in the hole =3, each bag on the target =1)

We then passes the Extreme Skyflyer (Skycoaster) which was running a special for only $10, a check at the regular posted price shows the special was $10, down from the regular price of $10.
We see than Son of Beast is closed until late spring. We head to Top Gun, Tp Gun is another ride whose theming has gone past "Needs Improvement" to "Pathetic" The model fihter planes and rader in the queue are missing, paint is peeling, the aircraft arrier themed queue area continues to be closed off. At least they still fly the flag on the yardarm flagpole at Top Gun, which is more than I can say for the flagpoles at the entrance to Fort Cooper.

Top Gun, is as usual a walk on. The most interesting thing about Top Gun now is you get a sneak peak at Great Wolf Lodge, which is coming along nicely, with one wing recieving its fake log cabin exterior, and it looks like they may be starting work on the indoor water park itself. Should be a great resort. Back to Top Gun, the ride is running as good as always, the back car was having a nasty squeal, but other than that the ride was running pretty good.

We exited Top Gun and backtracked into Action Zone. Drop Zone had a full queue house, so we skipped it, FAce/Off had 2 of the BIG switchbacks full so we skipped it as well, and we weren't interested in getting soaked on Congo Falls.

We headed to International Street. It looks like the Paramount Theater will have the parks one live show this season "School of Rock: Live in Concert", only in the high season however, the other'live entertainment' indicated in the park guide are the character meet and greets, and special events like the Nick Parade (6/9-7/9), the Star Spangled Spectacular (7/1-7/4), FearFest and WinterFest. Oh, and there looks to be one concert at Timberwolf this year, the Spirit Song event in July.

The next thing I noticed is when I noted they have installed more lockers which mostly block the old season pass entrance, which would not have been an issue in the past, but this year they are using tat entrance for Gold Pass early ride times and the ACE walkback. We headed to Greater's Ice Cream. Let's see I can have soft serve for $3, or a dip of gourmet hand dipped Greater's ice cream for $3. I think I see a dip of Graeters Black Raspberry Chip in my future. Yummy a good refreshing snack which I washed down with water from the nearby water fountain.

We next headed to Eiffel Tower, there was no wait and soon we were up top admiring the view. From up top Dave pointed out some interesting things about Italian Job, then we spend a while looking at Nick Universe from above. Here is where you can really appreciate how enourmous Avatar is. We head back down to the ground and head towards Flight of Fear. We stop to check the Grand Carousel. It still looks magnificant, Scrambler and Dodgems appear to not have been changed. Skyline Chilli recieved a minor facelift.

We tried to ride Flight of Fear, but the ride was closed when we arrived. We instead headed to Italian Job. We noted the music has returned to Happy Days, we verfied tthe rumours of the $12 burger basket, and I looked at the jukebox. I need to check the make of that jukebox, becuase if I ever buy one, I don't want that model based on how much skipping it was doing, and this was a CD based jukebox. I think I looked at it wrong and it stopped the current song mid song, and went to the next song.

We make our way to Italian Job, and the line is more or less how it was this morning. And, shock of all shock we get another front seat ride. The ride is pretty much just like the first ride, except that I think you get more airtime in the driver side of the car than the passenger side. Italian Job is another one of the parks fun rides.

We backtracked back to Flight of Fear. It was reopened, but the friendly greeter informed us that it would only be running one train. We walked inside and did not see any people, in fact it was so dark we didn't see much of anythign including the queue rails. As Rideman said "It would be helpful if they would turn ont he lights, particuarly above the OOOOFFF, as he tripped on the first stair up into the UFO, luckily he caught himself before he fell. Not having any lights on + stairway = accident waiting to happen. The line was back to the second room of the UFO, which really wasn't bad. We chose seat 2.1 In the fall of 2005 I was rejected from this ride because the seatbelt would not reach, a check of that seatbelt showed that it was so short the bar had to be four nothes lower than the adjacent seat. One of the rides many flaws the park won't admit to, much like the raised floor panel in the load side front seat of each car. Well its a different looking train this year. Instead of black seats and ornage seatbelts, it has orange seats and black seatbelts. Unfortunately the seatbelts are still of uneven length. Yes, I was able to ride this time, but my lapbar was a minimum of 2 nothces lower than the adjacent lap bar. Now why does this ride need the idiotic belts when Italian Job, which I just rode, uses the same style lapbars and does not have that belt. That and the Flight of Fear trains are so hard to get into that if am sittng on the far side, I find it easier to step onto the seat cushion, then down to the floor of the car. Yes, Flight of Fear provides a lapbar only ride, and it is closer than MGM Rock N Roller Coaster, but right now I must give Rock N Roller Coaster the nod for being a lot easier getting into and out of the train, and for not running a hard mid course brake. Flight of Fear has its mid course brake on hard, and its photo stand removed amongst the rides many other faults, including the butt ugly exit hallway that used to be themed. I don't know how the hangar theming looks these days since all the lights were turned off.

We headed back to Nick Universe, I noted Chick-Fill-A was closed on Sunday per their tradition, and we headed to Reptar. Reptar is the same as it was last year and was a walk on as a bonus. I also noted that I had a lot more slack in the seatbelt on this than I did last year. Why is it I fit into the KIDDIE rides better than I do the parks adult rides, and I am a large person? Reptar was devlopeig a case of the shuffle but overall is still a quick fun ride. We next headed to Avatar, and the line was just to the ramp. Row 2 this time, and I think this ride is the most fun I had at the park today. Avatar is a hidden gem, I hope they don't wimp on the spin cycle.

We then backtracked back to Phantnm Flyers, It was a 2 cycle wait. Only one adult per tub so we had to ride seperate. As I mentioned this is a circle ride where you lay on your stomach, assuming the classic super hero pose while the ride turns and the cars so gently up and down. I have ridden the American made Dartron version which is commonly called a Cliff Hangar, I had not yet ridden the Italian made Zamplera verison, commonly called a Kite Flyer. This is the Zamperla version. Where the Cliff hangar has three abreat tubsm the Kite Flyer is only two abreast, but the Kite Flyer has 12 tubs to the Cliff Hangar's 10, and since most people don't go to parks in threes, the Kite Flyer is actually usually carries more riders per hour. The tubs are similar to the Cliff Hangar in that you have to sort of crawl into them, belly down, so that you are lying on the 'couch', there is a long thin block between your legs to prevent you from sliding backwards, and the top of the car comes down and locks forming a cage around you that has bars on the sides, several cross bars that go on top of you, including one hat comes right down on the leg block forming 'leg loops', bars also go down on either side of your neck and you are encouraged to put your arms out superhero style which will prevent sliding forward. I think the Cliff Hanger is a tad bit roomier than this ride.

The ride starts, and first the center lift straight up, then it starts to turn, then the wave-swinger like motion starts so you do gently cycles of soaring upwards, then diving downwards. The transitiions between the up and down feel jerky almost like a yo-yo. I much prefer the smoothness of the Cliff Hangar, whcih also has more pronounced soaring and diving due to it being based on a Paratrooper ride system. Kite flyer though has one advantage over a Cliff Hanager in that the Kite Flyer is a much more polished looking ride, wherea the Dartron ride has much of its sturcure on clear display.

We headed next to International Street to walk right onto Scooby Doo and the Haunted Castle. I see another stairway in the dark. Scooby had I guess about 95% of its stunts working, and Dave and I had a very competiitve game with only 60 points difference in our score (a matter of two targets) It was a fun dark ride and as we exited the dark ride there were only 5 minutes left before park close.

We looked through this years souvenir selection in the Emporium, and I wound up buying the Paramount's Kings Island-Opoly game ($30), the parks custom themed monopoly style game. Not much of interest in the way of coaster shirts this season. We cruise the gift shops then head out to the car.

Dinner at Culvers (Hmmm, Cheese Curds!)

Overall I had a fun day at the park today, the new Nick Universe looks like it should be a winner, the new rides are generally good improvements for the park. I hope the park remembers to maintain its older rides, particualrly the theming which right now rates "Needs Improvement" in my book.


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