Tuesday, April 29, 2008

More from May's FUNWORLD: Pinball

As I mentioned earlier this month, for FUNWORLD's May issue I wrote a piece
on the possibility of a pinball comeback. I talked to several experts in the field and received tons of great quotes and insights, many of which couldn't fit into the article. So, here are some additional observations from the people who know pinball best:

The Appeal of Pinball
“The appeal for many players is that it’s real. There’s a real time to it. You see the ball, you can control the ball … if you know what you’re doing, you can even stop the ball.”
—Michael C. Getlan, Amusement Consultants

"People believe you get your money’s worth and anybody can play it. The idea is so basic—you hit the flippers. Even if you don’t understand what you’re doing, you get value back; you go to play a video game today and you don’t know what you’re doing … you’re dead. It’s over.”
—Garry Foreman, The Pinball Shoppe

“It’s a ball game like any other,” Stern says. “There’s a skill to it, sweaty palms, predictability and unpredictability, the same as any other sport.”
—Gary Stern, Stern Pinball Inc.

“We have a saying: Everyone loves pinball, they just don’t know it yet. That rings true with almost everyone.”
—Zachary Sharpe, International Flipper Pinball Association (IFPA)

Is a Pinball Resurgence in the Offing?
“I don’t know the answer to that question. I can tell you what I hope: I hope pinball becomes more popular, and that more pinballs are made. But I don’t know if that’s going to happen anytime soon, unless the IFPA can generate some enthusiasm.”
—Michael C. Getlan, Amusement Consultants

“My hope is that we will continue to demonstrate and grow our audience to numbers that will be undeniable and unavoidable, so location owners and operators will step up and acknowledge that maybe there is an opportunity to generate more revenue if they expand the scope of what they’re offering and how they’re maintaining it.”
—Roger Sharpe, IFPA

“Nostalgia plays an important part in people’s lives. As they age and remember things they used to play, perhaps the cycle will come back. I’m not saying it’s around the corner, but anything’s possible.”
—Steve Epstein, IFPA

“We’re all here trying to make a living, but at the same time we’ve all been around pinball for all of our adult lives. We have a mission to keep pinball going. The world would exist without pinball, but a little of the fabric of life would be gone.”
—Gary Stern, Stern Pinball Inc.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Get Involved in Safety Week!

The inaugural Attractions Safety Awareness Week, May 31-June 8, will provide an excellent opportunity to showcase the extraordinary importance of safety in our industry. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Here is a letter from IAAPA Government Relations Committee Chairman and member of the association’s board of directors, Will Morey, president of Morey’s Piers in Wildwood, New Jersey:

Dear IAAPA Member:

As you know, the attractions industry in America is very safe. IAAPA’s leadership in instituting mandatory reporting for all United States members has yielded solid data for us to confidently support this claim. However, while surveys show the majority of our guests “feel safe” about their park visits, most know little about the lengths we all go to earn their confidence. Additionally, a substantial number of key government officials on federal, state, and municipal levels know little about the science and operational practices that make our parks and attractions a safe family recreational activity.

To enhance the knowledge base of both government officials and interested park visitors, at the recommendation of the IAAPA Government Relations Committee the association has officially established an industry-wide “Attractions Safety Awareness Week” to be held May 31-June 8, 2008.

The week is designed to follow a multifaceted educational approach to informing legislators and the public about our safety record and amusement park safety practices. To reach a broad geographic audience—and because there is no substitute for on-location visits to fully understand the industry’s commitment to safety—we ask that you participate in this initiative in this inaugural year. To help you organize your week, we have created a Safety Awareness Week tool kit, which serves as a guide for planning your facility’s week. Ultimately, though, the extent to which your facility participates is entirely up to you.

All items in the tool kit are available for download on the IAAPA safety web site. Additionally, IAAPA staff is available to assist you in planning your activities before and during Safety Week. You can reach both Randy Davis and Stephanie Thienel in the Government Relations department at gr@iaapa.org or +1 703/836-4800.

Please join us in communicating our industry’s safety record and practices. Even if you provide a briefing and behind-the-scenes tour to just one governmental official or interested visitor, you will be assisting IAAPA and yourself in building a solid base of information among the industry’s constituent groups.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. We very much look forward to your participation in Attractions Safety Awareness Week.


Will Morey
President, Morey’s Piers
Chairman, IAAPA Government Relations Committee

Several IAAPA members have already agreed to participate, including those present at the NEAAPA Annual Meeting. Planned activities include hosting meetings with federal, state, and local officials; inviting interested guests on behind-the-scenes tours of facilities; and providing fact sheets detailing the industry’s safety record and/or tips for safely visiting an attraction. If you are interested in participating, please e-mail me for more information or visit the Industry Safety page. Also, if you choose to participate, be sure to send us your feedback!

Friday, April 18, 2008

May FUNWORLD on Its Way

The May issue of FUNWORLD should be in the mail and landing on your proverbial doorstep any time now.

The focus of this issue is games and entertainment, and I have a story about the current state of pinball. This was a fascinating piece to report on and write; when I started it, we just thought it would be a nice little story on a longstanding game. What I found out, though, is that pinball is experiencing a bit of a resurgence right now, capped off by a big tournament last month in Las Vegas hosted by the International Flipper Pinball Association and the Pinball Hall of Fame. I spoke to a bunch of pinball experts, so check out the article to read what they have to say on the current state of pinball.

Also in this issue:

• Brazilian cartoonist Mauricio de Sousa explains how his characters led to the creation of his own FEC in our cover story from South America.
• Industry experts in stagecraft weigh in on the latest in makeup and costume design.
• A review of the hottest new games from last month's ASI show.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

IAAPA Attractions Expo 2008: The (Education) Planning Continues

In the same way last month's Space Allocation Meeting was an important planning step for IAAPA Attractions Expo 2008 from the exhibitor side, Monday saw another important behind-the-scenes procedure with the education planning meeting for 2008. I was an observer for the day during a critical gathering that sets the tone for the attendee experience this November in Orlando.

In preparation for this big meeting, every winter each of IAAPA's committees meet individually with their respective IAAPA staff liaison to identify sessions and events for the upcoming Expo. As volunteers, our committees do a lot: They identify trends and important issues to cover, contact speakers for the event, write the session descriptions, and moderate the sessions during the Expo.

Fast-forward to this week, when 17 committee representatives along with IAAPA staffers met yesterday down the street from the association's Alexandria, Virginia, headquarters to painstakingly walk through each and every session and networking event planned for each discipline (FECs, marketing, museums, etc.). The goal is for all the committees, the staff, and the education committee chair (Ted Molter of the San Diego Zoo) to work through any conflicts in scheduling; any problematic overlaps in content; or any other gaps in the education offerings.

Then there are the more subtle things they watched for: The room was full of some of the top-level people in our industry from many of the most well-known attractions in the world. In a few cases, when someone had a question or was struggling to come up with alternative speakers or programs to include, invariably there was someone else in the room who could help. The meeting wasn't just a gathering of committee members speaking for their own interests, but a collaboration of information, ideas, and perspectives.

By the end of the meeting, thanks to Cameron Kiosoglous, IAAPA's education program manager, a draft schedule for the entire week's offerings was complete—by 2:30 p.m.!

By all accounts, it was a successful meeting, said Molter, who asked that each committee representative spread the word to the rest of the committees. Additionally, Eamon Connor, IAAPA's senior manager of education, added that in his 10 years with the association, the committee and staff was further along in education planning than it had ever been.

In the end, those who benefit the most from a strong collaboration like the one that took place on Monday are the attendees, as they're in for a stellar line up of speakers and sessions this November.

For more details on education, tour, and event highlights, keep checking this blog and FUNWORLD magazine.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Survey Says …

In January we commissioned a readers' survey for FUNWORLD; we recently received the results and I want to share them with you.

One of the biggest things we learned was how much our readers pass FUNWORLD around within their respective companies (we always thought this happened, but it's nice to have confirmation). On average, one of our issues gets passed to two people, which makes our circulation approximately 29,000 per month.

Here are some other juicy tidbits from the survey:

• FUNWORLD reaches a high-level audience. Nearly half (49%) of subscribers describe
their job title/function as executive management, and an additional 34% are in
managerial positions.

• Subscribers are influential within their organizations. Nearly nine in 10 (88%) have
purchasing involvement for products and services within their organizations,
including three in five (60%) at the highest level of involvement—approving/
authorizing purchases.

• Subscribers are engaged with FUNWORLD. The typical recipient has read or looked
through all four of the last four issues and spends 45 minutes with a typical issue. The
vast majority (96%) at least skim a typical issue, including more than three in five (61%) who
read about half or more of a typical issue.

• Issues are retained. About three in five (58%) save their issues.

• FUNWORLD prompts subscribers to take action. In the last 12 months, 85% of
subscribers have taken at least one action as a result of reading articles or columns and
68% as a result of reading advertisements.

So we have thanks to hand out on several fronts here: Thank you to our loyal readers, thank you to our loyal advertisers who already recognize the value of our magazine, and thanks to those of you who took the time to respond to the survey. We're glad so many people find value in our work and are excited to keep improving the magazine.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Notes from NEAAPA

I recently attended the 82nd Annual NEAAPA Meeting to participate in a Government Relations panel and discuss issues such as availability of H-2B visas, school start date legislation, international travel promotion, and regulatory issues facing amusement rides.

Other panel participants included Jim Seay of Premier Rides, Jason Freeman of Six Flags New England, Greg Cheicko of the Big E, and Bob Johnson of OABA. David Daly, president of NEAAPA, moderated the panel.

The meeting was held at Jiminy Peak resort in Hancock, New Hampshire, which boasts the only mountain coaster in the Northeast. The year-round attraction is thousands of feet long and goes up to 25 miles per hour as it twists down the mountain. I took several rides on the coaster, and then unintentionally grilled the operators about the safety mechanisms (I can’t help it—safety is the basis for our industry and I want to learn as much as possible). The operators knew their stuff cold and provided an enjoyable afternoon for all of us.

Also during the meeting, NEAAPA inducted James and Eleanor Brady of Six Gun City into the NEAAPA Hall of Fame. The story of James and Eleanor and how Six Gun City came to be, coupled with the slideshow showcasing their 50 years in business was truly touching.

Congratulations to NEAAPA on another successful meeting!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Asian Attractions Expo 2008 Preview: The Contrasting Culture and Excitement of Macau

One of the most amazing things about working for IAAPA is that I have had the chance to do some great traveling, including my first trip to Asia for IAAPA Asian Expo 2007 in Bangkok. It was a terrific show and I was in awe of the sights, sounds, people, food, and cultural spots I was lucky enough to visit. One of the highlights of the nine-day working adventure was a short site visit to Macau (10 hours to be exact … we arrived at 5 a.m. and left in the late afternoon—no comment on our moods) with my colleagues Pete Barto and Diane Vidoni to see the Venetian Macao-Resort-Hotel, home of Asian Attractions Expo 2008 in July.

Before we talk Macau, you may be wondering the same thing I was … so I asked Augustus, our wonderful host from the Venetian: “What’s up with the two different spellings of Macau?” Check out our Macau FAQ for the answer. And, no, IAAPA hasn’t fallen into editorial laziness.

Back to the trip, and what you can expect from Macau. We arrived very early in the morning and were thrilled to find the hotel and other sites quite close to the airport. You can see the Venetian rising in the background of this photo from the cab stand at Macau International Airport.

Our first step off that cab stand was to the resort for a hard-hat tour of the exhibit floor, ballrooms, and registration and entrance areas. What a property! It was amazing to see all of the detail and interior design work going into perfecting this new hotel. We were immediately struck by the size of the facilities and the opportunity to have an “all under one roof” experience at the expo. The hotel, which is twice the size of The Venetian in Las Vegas, features 350 shops, more than 30 restaurants, three canals, a theater and sports arena, and, of course, the casino.

Now that our site visit was complete, it was time to indulge the “foodie” in me. There is little more enjoyable to me than a new culinary experience … particularly in Asia! To wrap up our business discussion, Augustus took us over to The Sands and we retreated to a private board room for what can only be described as the most amazing and exquisite lunch of my life, a six-course Cantonese extravaganza. And this was just the beginning of all the dining delights, cultural adventures, and retail therapy Macau has to offer. Here is your guide to some of the best treats of the city …

You can, of course, find food choices from around the world in Macau. However, you should be sure to treat yourself to the cuisines famous in the region, including Cantonese, Portuguese, and Macanese, which is Macau’s unique blend of Portuguese, Chinese, Indian, and Malay cooking.
Augustus, recommended A Lorcha and Ristorante Litoral as two of the most “rightfully famous” Portuguese restaurants in Macau. In the mood for Cantonese instead? We dined with Augustus at the Sands Golden Court and I can’t recommend highly enough the light, delicious, and distinct flavors of the Cantonese dishes we sampled. Canton in the Venetian is also getting great reviews. Looking for more? Here are more restaurant options than you’ll ever need.

With its cross-pollination of Portuguese, Chinese, and Las Vegas culture, you will not be bored during your free time in Macau. From casinos to beaches, Chinese temples and monuments to the Portuguese settlement, and Fisherman’s Wharf, the first theme park in Macau, the only thing you need to worry about is finding the time to do what suits your fancy. Here’s a look at just some of the things on offer.

Thanks to its free port status, which means no sales tax and duty-free prices, Macau is loaded with great finds for the shopping enthusiast. Gold, clothes, Chinese antiques, Portuguese wine … take your pick of small markets in quaint piazzas, Red Market, Fisherman’s Wharf, Avenida Almeida Ribeiro, and more than 300 shops at the Venetian. Here are more things to buy than you’ll ever need.

For more on Macau, visit the Macau Government Tourism Office site.