Tuesday, July 29, 2008

FUNWORLD Follow-up: Space Tourism

Today's IAAPA News Flash (if you don't know what this awesome tool is, look under "Communications" here), featured an Associated Press article about space tourism, specifically the unveiling this week of the White Knight Two "mothership" aircraft by Virgin Galactic.

The tech-speak surrounding this project is deep, but as I understand it essentially White Knight Two will provide an airborne launch platform for the next private spacecraft, SpaceShipTwo (pictured conceptually above, courtesy of Virgin Galactic). Here's a key sentence from the AP story:

White Knight Two's long-awaited rollout … is the first tangible sign of progress toward making space tourism a reality.

That one phrase immediately brought to mind one of my all-time favorite educational seminars from the four IAAPA Attractions Expos I've covered for FUNWORLD. When we were in Atlanta in 2005, the final keynote speaker of the week was Dr. Peter H. Diamandis of X Prize, a foundation dedicated to fostering "radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity." It was X Prize that helped bring about SpaceShipOne back in 2004, the first private spaceflight in humanity's history, and the group continues to soldier on in its desire to see space tourism become a reality.

Of the dozens (hundreds?) of educational sessions I've covered at IAAPA events over the years, Diamandis' talk back in '05 has always stuck with me, hovering right there at the back of my brain. He was so inspiring in his belief not just for commercial spaceflight, but for the creative will of humanity to always be exploring to the limits of its potential.

“The space experience is now real. It’s not a matter of watching the government do it. The public can do it," Diamandis told us that day. He predicted significant steps toward private spaceflight by 2015, and as of this week, it looks like his bold statement is beginning to prove true. (To read my entire write-up of his seminar, scroll to the bottom of this page.)

Like so many others, I've always been fascinated by outer space. Maybe it was all those visits to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum here in D.C., maybe it was watching "Star Wars" too many times, I don't know. But I do know how pleasantly shocked I was to find the outlandish idea of space tourism discussed with depth and sincerity at an Attractions Expo. I left the auditorium that week inspired, excited, and hopeful for the future—a perfect way to end a hectic trade show week.

Nice to see that hope starting to be fulfilled.

Friday, July 25, 2008

GKTW Golf Tourney: Register Online Now!

As we promised a couple months ago, consider this your official update: You can now register online for the Sixth Annual IAAPA Charity International Golf Tournament to benefit Give Kids The World (big thanks to OmniTicket for setting up the online portal for us!).

The always-popular event will be back at Mystic Dunes Golf Club this year in Kissimmee, about 20 minutes from the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, home of IAAPA Attractions Expo 2008. It's scheduled for a shotgun start at 9 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 16, the day before Expo opens. Register ASAP, because spots go fast! I was there to cover the event last year, and it was definitely the place to be that day—and for a good cause, to boot.

More information about Give Kids The World can be found here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

August FUNWORLD: A Special Issue

The August issue of FUNWORLD is out, and it's one of my favorite of the year as it features our annual New Rides and Attractions special section. This is the third year for what we lovingly call around here NRAA, and this time around the brand-new Hard Rock Park takes center stage (as you can tell from the rockin'-out version of the Statue of Liberty on the cover). I spent a few days at HRP earlier this year to report on North America's first major theme park in nearly a decade, and I was most impressed by the park's attention to detail and theming, which I cover in the story.

Also in this special issue, I have a story asking one simple question: "Is this the year of the dark ride?" I talked to several designers of some of this year's most buzzed-about attractions to get the answer. The section also includes a look at new rides and attractions from around the globe, broken up into regions for the first time: North America, Europe, the Middle East, and China/Southeast Asia. Finally, News Editor Keith Miller has a fascinating piece on the pros and cons of moving an entire roller coaster from one park to another, as there were a ton of those this year.

August isn't all about the rides, of course. There are stories that will inform FECs what it takes to run a more energy-efficient facility and how to throw a great Halloween event; one special report examines corporate sponsorships, while another addresses school start dates and the work that's going into maintaining a traditional summer vacation; and Premier Rides' Jim Seay offers up his advice on what can be learned by listening closely to frontline employees.

So as you hit the midpoint of your hectic summer season, be sure to take a trip through this month's FUNWORLD to find out all about what your colleagues are doing. And hopefully by celebrating the best and brightest of the year in rides and attractions, it'll remind you why this industry is so great in the first place.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

ADA Hearing Follow-up

On Tuesday, IAAPA FEC Committee Chair Tim Sorge and I participated in a public hearing on the new ADA regulations. I spoke about amusement facilities in the morning and Tim spoke about miniature golf facilities in the afternoon. Overall, I think we represented IAAPA's members well (if I do say so myself).

We were able to hear many diverse viewpoints during the day. Witnesses ranged from large trade associations, such as IAAPA and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, to individuals who saw the sign on the street and came in. The proceedings were webcast live, but if you would like to see them again, you can visit the ADA website. (The site is having some technical difficulties right now, but when it's up and running again I will post the times we speak so you don't have to watch eight hours of feed.)

Having the hearing under our belts, we are now working on the written public comments, which we will submit to the Department of Justice before the Aug. 17 deadline. We hope IAAPA members will take time to review the proposed regulations and submit comments both to IAAPA and DOJ. To participate in this process, please visit the IAAPA ADA information web page or send me an e-mail.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Important ADA Hearing Tuesday to Be Broadcast Live on the Web

An important hearing on proposed changes to the Americans with Disabilities Act will be broadcast live on the web Tuesday, starting at 9 a.m. EDT. While the all-day hearing will cover a wide range of issues, there are several critical topics specific to our industry that will be under discussion.

Our own Government Relations Manager Stephanie Thienel will be on the Hill to testify before the U.S. Department of Justice; her five-minute presentation on ADA issues regarding amusement parks and waterparks is scheduled to begin at 9:35 a.m. EDT.

Later that afternoon, IAAPA FEC Committee Chair Tim Sorge, owner/president of Swings-N-Things Family Fun Park outside Cleveland, Ohio, will provide testimony concerning ADA and miniature golf. Tim is scheduled to go live at 2:20 p.m. EDT.

We encourage you to follow the proceedings Tuesday, as the proposed ADA changes will have significant affects on many of our members throughout the industry.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

New Rides and Attractions 2008

Yesterday was a big one for me, as the August issue of FUNWORLD was sent to the printer late in the afternoon. As it has since 2006, this particular issue is a big one for us, as it includes the now-annual New Rides and Attractions special section. I manage this particular project (and write a good amount of the copy), so the day it goes to press always feels good.

More on this in a week or so once the magazine is printed and mailed, but just wanted to let everybody know that one of our most exciting installments of the year is getting ready to head your way. We're doing it a little different this year, so I can't wait for everybody to see and read it!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

More Registration Information

So on Tuesday I wrote about registration being open for this year's GKTW 5K, and maybe there were one or two of you out there thinking, "Well, that's nice. What about the Expo itself?"

Uh, yeah, probably should have mentioned that, too, as it does stand to reason if you can sign up for an event associated with the Expo, you should be able to sign up for the actual trade show—which, in fact, you can!

So, let's make it official, shall we? [ahem] Registration for IAAPA Attractions Expo 2008 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Nov. 17-21, is now open. For those early-bird types, feel free to head on over here to find out all you need to know about signing up, either online, via fax, or through snail-mail.

And what do you get for registering? Thanks for asking: Only access to the biggest and best amusement industry conference and trade show in the world. Seriously, I'm not exaggerating. Want proof? Check out this page with some preliminary details about what's in store for the education program (the full rundown will be available in a couple months, and we'll keep you updated on that here at "In the Queue" as soon as the Conference Brochure hits the mail).

Just to whet your appetite, let me tell you the tours to Orlando-area facilities look insanely cool this year. These tours are always a highlight of any Expo I've attended (this year marks five!), and the 2008 roster offers up sweet trips to Disney's Hollywood Studios, SeaWorld Orlando (Lunch with the Sharks!), and a return engagement of one of last year's most popular outings, a behind-the-screams look at Universal's Halloween Horror Nights. I covered the latter last year, and it was excellently scary (and informative).

Other helpful attendee information can be found here. And once you check all that stuff out, there really is not reason not to sign up. See you in Orlando!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Registration Now Open for GKTW 5K

The Give Kids The World 5K Run/1K Fun Walk is back again this year at IAAPA Attractions Expo 2008 in Orlando, and registration is now available online. The event will once again take runners and walkers through the gorgeous, serene scenery provided by SeaWorld Orlando.

This event was new last year and drew a surprisingly large crowd of more than 80 entrants. I was there to cover the run for FUNWORLD, and the excitement beaming from both organizers and participants was obvious. After such a successful first outing, there's a good chance this year's return engagement will be even more popular.

Scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 20, the 5K arrives at the perfect spot in the hectic Expo week. After a couple busy days on the show floor, the run offers literally a breath of fresh air as you pass by SeaWorld's famous animals and horticulture. It might even give you the endorphin jolt to carry you through the rest of the show.

And, of course, there's the core of the whole thing: Supporting a tremendous organization. Just in case anyone needs a reminder about what that $25 registration fee will be used for, here's a note from 10-year-old Alyssa GKTW gave me to pass on to you here:

“My name is Alyssa. I am a cancer survivor and a former Wish child for Give Kids The World. I had kidney cancer and I got so sick mommy and the doctors got very scared. Then I got to go to Give Kids The World where I could be happy again. I believe that being at Give Kids The World made me better. I told all my doctors and nurses to send all the sick kids there. Mommy says Give Kids The World made me strong and happy again. When you are little, sick, tired, and scared being lucky enough to go somewhere where no one hurts you and mommies don’t cry is the most special gift in the world! Thank you for helping other sick children have the gift of Give Kids The World too. Some day you should make a special trip there to see just how magical Give Kids The World really is.”

More information about the 5K can be found here (check out even if you don't want to run—maybe you could be a "Silent Runner" and still be a part of the fun). You can also e-mail my colleague Angela Albertini with any questions. More info about GKTW is here.