IAAPA 2003 Trade Show Report
I have just returned from the 2003 edition of International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions' annual trade show, and, once again, I have a serious case of sore feet from trodding aisle after aisle of exhibitors -- about 1,300 of 'em. Every product -- from amusement rides to zoo supplies, that you could possibly use in an amusement park, theme park, waterpark, FEC, or other attraction, was on display filling the huge new Orlando Convention Center expansion.
IAAPA has picked their choices for best new products in their Exhibitor Awards, and we'll get to those in a minute, but first, here's my own picks in a few categories not covered by the awards:
Still the most high tech looking piece of machinery: Robocoaster. RoboCoaster Ltd. and KUKA Roboter GmbH's adaptation of an industrial robot arm into a programmable way to turn riders every which way but loose was first shown at IAAPA a couple of years ago, but it still attracts plenty of attention. It now serves as the ride behind the Power Builders attraction at Legoland Billund.
The demo that most made me want to jump on a prototype ride: the Screaming Squirrel roller coaster from S & S Worldwide. This imaginative new take on an old favorite, the wild mouse style roller coaster, puts a three inversion ride in an incredibly small footprint: as small as 144'(44m) x 31' (9.5m).
Picture an 89' (27.13m) tall italic capitol E (with an extra arm such that there are three bars stacked over each other in the air and one as a base on the ground). The lifthill is steeply sloped up the back, then the car crosses over the top of the first arm, gets to the end, and drops right around the end, so passengers are now riding upside-down along the bottom of the arm in the opposite direction. The cars then curve upright again, traveling across the next lower arm until they go around the end again and are again upside-down. Then it's upright again into a small camel hump and you go around the end again one more time.
The most fun new portable ride: Zamperla's Disk'O. Similar in concept to their Rocking Tug but with a new twist, the Disk'O's action is simple but disorienting. Basically, It's a broadly "U" shaped frame with a spinning disk-shaped car, with 24 riders arranged around the circumference of the disk, that starts spinning in the middle and then rides up and down inside the sides of the U like a skateboarder in a half-pipe. What makes this ride different from similar spin and swing rides is that here the riders face the outside of the spinning car -- you straddle a molded motorcycle-like pedestal seat, somewhat like sitting backwards on a kitchen chair, with a grab bar in front of you. A padded backrest swings up and rests in the small of your back, comfortably holding you in while the ride does its dizzying thing. (I was idly speculating if the passengers outward-facing position made clean-up easier in the case of motion sickness, but let's not go there.)
Best news for sore... riders: Great Coasters International was showing off Thunderhead, now under construction at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. In addition to a model of the coaster they were showing off their Millennium Flyers coaster train, a design that harks back to the early days of roller coasters, when seats were padded and lap bars weren't designed to staple you to the seat and beat you up every time the coaster twisted or turned. Having recently exited a few new wooden roller coasters with too many bruises to make re-rides a sane option because of unforgiving, unyielding, unpadded new molded coaster trains -- I applaud GCI's efforts to consider the comfort of their riders as well as their safety. Roller coasters are supposed to be fun, after all. They're also of a trailered car design, so they can negotiate curves without the rough, track trampling shuffle of some other designs.
That's my take on the show, now here are the Winners of the IAAPA Orlando 2003 Exhibitor Awards (IAAPA selects the honorees from hundreds of show floor exhibitors. The number following each honoree refers to booth number):
Best New Product
The product or service must have been in use in an amusement facility during 2003, and not eligible for Best New Product Award consideration during IAAPA Orlando 2002. Criteria for entries include: product or service benefits and features to the prospective buyer; product or service originality or distinctiveness; product or service design and construction quality.
Major Theme or Amusement Park Ride/Attraction
Family Entertainment Center Ride/Attraction
Coin-Operated Kiddie Ride
Technology Applied to Amusements
Arcade & Redemption
Revenue & Admission
Production & Entertainment
Displays & Sets
Equipment & Supplies
Impact Award Winner
Same guidelines as “Best New Product.”
ProSlide Technology (3415; Ottawa, Ont., Canada) for “ProSlide Tornado”
The Amusement Park Suppliers Index from Theme Park Company.
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