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homestar92

Hartland Opening Day 4/25/15

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Just as a disclaimer before I begin here. I struggled with making up my mind as to whether I wanted this trip report to be serious or tongue-in-cheek. I would be flat-out lying if I told you that I did not have fun at the park today. They do a lot of things wrong, but there are still things about that park that I simply love. You'll find a balance of good and bad at any park, the difference always lies in the ratio, which unfortunately for this park, is not always situated where it really ought to be. Many of you may have been following the Kentucky Kingdom thread here and seen some of my input on opening day. The style in which I have written this will hopefully become apparent within the first paragraph. That having been said, here is my opening day trip report.

Here it is, the moment you've all doubtlessly been waiting for. Other KICers have tried, but to my knowledge, I am the only one who managed to make it INSIDE Ed Hart's wondrous entertainment center today. Since you are all DYING to hear about it, I suppose I should offer a report.

I left my home in Ohio at about 9AM this morning, waiting with bated breath to visit Louisville's finest amusement facility on their opening day. It was a cold, dreary morning, but that is to be expected, as I was not in the Kingdom, but here in boring Ohio where we do not get the pleasure of paying for amusement parks that are almost certain to succeed with our tax dollars. Sure, it may have failed before, but that's OK. Third time's the charm, right? After a dreary, dreadful drive, I arrived at the Exposition Center at approximately 11:15. I simply showed my season pass to the parking attendant and like a VIP, I was waved through the tolls without being required to pay a single nickel. When I pulled into the lot nearest the park, I was pleased to see that despite being there quite a bit after the official opening, they had been kind enough to save ample parking spaces right near the gate for my car. I approached the gate, the attendant scanned my pass, and I walked right in. They didn't even call security on me! As is customary, I headed straight for Professor John's Flying Machines. It seems management had anticipated my arrival, as I was met with an empty queue and granted the privilege of riding fully alone. I enjoyed a peaceful ride with no snapping of cables - and rightly so, as there is no place for those harmful shenanigans in the Kingdom! Being very near it at the conclusion of my ride, I decided next to venture to Lightning Run. Much to my delight, I entered the station without waiting in a queue for even a minute, and my favorite seat, the front seat of the rearmost car, was clear and available for me. I noticed a single purple train on the tracks, and no unsightly extra trains taking up space on the main course or the transfer track. Simplicity is key at a fine establishment as this one!

Policies on roller coasters in this park have changed since 2014. They no longer allow eyeglasses that are not secured with a strap. In the name of safety, this is an agreeable policy. It is also so very common-sense that there is no need to communicate this prior to opening in any way. Visitors to the Kingdom should be savvy enough to anticipate such obvious changes in policy without any prior notice. While it would have been nice to be able to see the ride experience, the extra safety made for an overall improved experience. Following this ride, I went to the front of the park to purchase a glasses strap. They were $4.99, which is a bit higher than at some other, lowlier establishments such as the flagship of a certain chain of FUN parks where the same product is only $1.99, but this one was emblazoned with the Kentucky Kingdom name, which I feel really justifies the extra cost. Eyeglass-securing mechanism in tow, I resumed my lap around the park. I headed next to the 5-D Cinema, which is no longer showing a boring, dated film such as Rio, and instead is showing something more timely and relevant: a 5D experience featuring everyone's favorite scenes from the classic film The Wizard of Oz. Other parks could learn a thing or two from this attraction, as one of the musical numbers offered a clear roadmap for amusement park success. I nearly wept as the Tin Man bellowed a tune almost prophetic in nature that explained how at least SIX other FUN parks could have great success. The name of this tune was, If I Only Had a Hart! This beautiful tune moved me to tears, and the rest of the audience was undoubtedly silently weeping in their seats.

At this point, I had worked up quite an appetite. There is just so much to do at the Kingdom that sometimes you forget that you have to fuel yourself. I was going to cross the bridge to the other half of the park anyway, so I decided to dine at Swampwater Jack's. Swampwater Jack's is an embodiment of the spirit of Kentucky Kingdom. There are no automatic doors to allow for wheelchair access, you see. While this will unfortunately exclude some people who may wish to dine here, it really is no trouble, as the building is still accessible to MOST people, and (most importantly) to Ed Hart himself. Upon looking at the exhaustive menu, I was pleased to see that pricing had remained as it was in 2014. Glad to see that the economy in the Kingdom is stable. I struggled to decide what I wanted to eat, but I eventually settled on an old favorite - pizza with a side of macaroni and cheese. I received one slice of pizza and my side, and I only needed to seek out the attention of one foodservice worker before I was able to be served. Last year, patrons ordering the pizza received two slices, but it seems that portion sizes have been cut back to one slice. I find this to be brilliant. This means higher profit margins, which means a higher ROI for the taxpayers of the great Commonwealth of Kentucky. Leave it to Ed Hart to always be looking out for the taxpayers who help make his great park possible! The pizza was actually quite tasty. I would have liked a second slice, but alas, the winds of change have blown for the benefit of the greater good and sometimes we must make sacrifices.

Leaving Swampwater Jack's, I headed toward Thunder Run. I couldn't help but notice the impeccable themeing in this section of the park. It was as if I had strolled into an authentic European Village. Busch Gardens had better watch out, because they have some stiff competition. The Frightfully Funny Fire Engine ride really complements the immersion in this section, as what sort of traditional European village would be without a firehouse in this day and age? Since last season, numerous improvements have been made to Thunder Run. Previously, it did not deliver the great Dinn coaster experience that we all know and love. Ed Hart must have seen this problem, as the ride now has the signature Dinn "shuffling" as it rounds the first turn. This greatly enhances the immersion on the ride and brings out the best of this increasingly rare breed of coaster. From the top of the lift, I caught a glimpse of the newly rethemed T3 roller coaster. T3, for those who may not be aware, was formerly known as T2. The new name really captures the forward-thinking mindset of the new management of the park. When it opened as T2, it was one of the first of the critically-acclaimed Suspended Looping Coasters from Dutch ride manufacturer Vekoma. Vekoma Suspended Looping Coasters are renowned for their thrilling, enjoyable ride experiences designed with safety in mind. The large, bulky restraints typically seen on these coasters offer great safety as they prevent dangerous side-to-side movements of the head by forming a barrier and stopping your head's lateral movement dead in its tracks. This means increased safety for the rider, and the restraints are relatively padded, which I'm sure probably results in the repeated hitting of riders' heads against the restraints becoming a non-painful, more enjoyable experience. Word is that Hart will be installing a different type of train when it reopens in May featuring a futuristic restraint mechanism that keeps riders safe without these bulky head restraints. With Hart at the helm, I'm sure it will be a great success. Also of note is the ride's new paint scheme. Hart is going back to roots with the traditional red-on-red color scheme that dazzled the world when the ride originally opened in 1995. The red color of the track really complements the red of the supports, and the result is a dazzling spectacle of color that really pops in the park's skyline.

On my way back to the front of the park, I noticed the new ride, Up Up & Away, situated right next to the bridge on an elevated platform. I may be wrong, but it appears to be a portable installation. This seems a brilliant idea, as it would allow the ride to be easily moved from place to place within the park to keep the experience fresh year after year. I also noticed the Enterprise was operational. This unique ride offers a great thrill! It may look like a Ferris Wheel at first, but don't let that fool you, as it actually offers a unique and thrilling experience that will flip you head-over-heels again and again. This ride is truly a spectacle to behold, and I'm sure that no other park has anything quite like it. Many will be quick to criticize Hart and Kentucky Kingdom due to the ride's not operating at all last year, but I'm not sure we can blame them. After all, even that obscure park up in Mason, Ohio couldn't keep one of their HUSS rides running last year. I'm sure the explanation here is similar.

After these experiences, I decided to get in a few more laps on each of the Runs. With the new visual element that had been added by my purchase of a glasses strap, I noticed from Lightning Run that the pieces for the new Cyclos pendulum ride were meticulously laid out on near the former spot of the Rio Grande children's train ride (which has been relocated to King Louie's Playland and is now sitting on a nice, stable piece of concrete without any of that pesky grass in sight). I was more than a little disappointed to see the ride was not assembled, but such operations take great care and the park should have as much time as they need. A genius of Hart's caliber takes time to work and should not be rushed. The park did just come off of a rather lengthy offseason, but no doubt many other activities of great importance needed to be accomplished before focus can be placed on something trivial like installing a ride.

By this point, I had done so much in the Kingdom that I was worn out. I contemplated visiting Santa Claus to ride that new Turkeybird contraption, or whatever they are calling it, but I feel I should visit that park on a day in which I have not first been to Kentucky Kingdom, so that my expectations are not unfairly raised and I can enjoy it more. So I decided instead to just journey home. As if like magic, the rain started again just as I left. It is possible that my timing was simply just perfect so that I missed the rain for the entire duration of my stay, but I think there's a better explanation. It just never rains in the Kingdom!

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ROFL!!! This is awesome! :lol:

On a more serious note, this reinforces the fact that I need to get in another visit this summer. Because while I had a few doubts before, I now believe that there is less than an even chance of this park opening in 2016. The only thing I'm going to wait on is the opening of the waterpark and hopefully T3 as well (because I need the credit :P). Once both of those are open, I'm taking the next day with good weather and making the trek to Louisville. And I will also make sure to bring cash for everything, since they apparently no longer understand how to take credit cards.

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Bravo!

I do believe my experience at Kentucky Kingdom may have been different than I had at first thought.

I have been advised by several that I may have been purposely and exclusively and intentionally denied entry to forestall just such a report. To the extent that apparently a visual depiction of this author along with his name was distributed.

If true, that is remarkably dumb.

To put it mildly.

I wish I could say I am surprised.

I'm not.

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I'm laughing so much reading this trip report, Bravo! Bravo!

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^^ Just to be safe, I removed the bit where I name my hometown. I would not be surprised if I'm the only passholder with an address in my particular city and I don't want to make it too easy to identify and ban me...

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 But they may calculate your time of departure, and arrival and narrow it down to your location. :ph34r: Since we all know an unfavorable trip report, could be the sole cause for not achieving their attendance goals. And they have no other problems to worry with. 

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I have been advised by several that I may have been purposely and exclusively and intentionally denied entry to forestall just such a report. To the extent that apparently a visual depiction of this author along with his name was distributed.

If true, that is remarkably dumb.

 

That actually makes more sense than the situation presented at face value.  Going through three employees "attempting to charge a credit card" only to have none of them be able to?  To attempt to escalate the situation and have them respond by calling security?  Perhaps the plan all along was to call security and they were merely stalling.  I wonder..

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You should laugh that they feel so threatened by your presence.  Why cry?  It's hardly your loss, other than the opportunity to get one last trip to the park before its inevitable demise, as some would predict.  That, and a partially wasted trip out to the good ol' state of Kentucky.

 

Just have Hart, and know that you're not the Hartless one in this situation.

 

Uh oh, are these comments going to get me banned from the park as well?

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Wow. Guess we have to be careful what we say about KK around here. Well, if we want to go to that mess of a park anyways.

 

Part of me is not surprised by this at all. I mean we do have one of Mr. Hart's Minions on site, ready to pounce upon any detractor, especially one Mr. Interpreter. That Minion did not fail to show up the moment Terp talked about his experience at the park. Blasting him for driving from another state just to visit Kentucky Kingdom. The audacity of someone coming from another state to set foot inside one of Kentucky's greatest assets.

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Grass is just so over rated! More concrete please as it's so much more wonderful to look at. :wacko: I live in Louisville and will not be visiting this year. I got my one time visit in last year. Enough for me. I will be heading across the river this year.

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Loved every second of this trip report and I hope for a follow up report on your next visit.  I highly doubt things get much better if at all.

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Homestar92, this is an absolutely wonderful piece of satire. I really, really enjoyed reading this. Thanks for putting it together!

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"satire |ˈsaˌtīr| noun

the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues."

 

Yep, still satire!

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Speaking of which, I feel like I should offer some more clear, non-satirical, black-and-white opinions of opening day. This post won't be as long, but for those who are legitimately on the fence about visiting, I hope to be able to shed some light.

 

First, the good. Parking associates at the Exposition Center had clearly had the KK season pass policy communicated properly, as I was waved right in when I showed it. I see potential for abuse here, which I'm sure is part of why the attendance requirement is part of their deal with the park. Despite rain being in the forecast, all of the rides that were up ran the whole day pretty consistently barring a short hiccup with the brakes not wanting to release on Thunder Run and a motor stalling on the Tin Lizzies. Both issues were taken care of quickly. What little lines they had were moving pretty well. Lightning Run was hitting a better interval with one train than it did with two when I visited in September. Ride associates were enthusiastic, welcoming, and efficient. They were every bit on par with what I've seen at KI this year, and that's not a knock on KI crews, it's a compliment to KK crews. Spiels were concise, and limited in scope to safety instructions ONLY. As it should be. The ride ops who were spieling were never the same people as the restraint checkers. Quite a few rides were down, mostly the mid-level rides (Breakdance and Roller Skater being the notable examples). Kiddie rides seemed to be doing pretty well. In person, T3 doesn't look that bad. Fresh paint in an ugly color is still better than faded, chipping paint that at one time looked good. Toward the end of my visit, they brought out the King Louie costumed character and he was interacting enthusiastically with the few people who were there. There was an issue processing my season pass for the $1 soft drinks at the funnel cake stand near the flying scooters, and they decided to err in the customer's favor and just gave me my drink gratis rather than waste a bunch of time trying to get my pass to scan or charging me the full amount. Their carousel has a band organ (which may not be new, but I never noticed it last year) and it's working AND in tune.

 

Of course there's also the bad... Foodservice employees at Swampwater Jack's seemed a bit disgruntled. I had to seek out their attention to be served as mentioned above. Food portions were considerably smaller as explained above. I hope this was just bad training and not a new policy, but considering that the worker who served my food asked a manager whether to give one slice or two and were instructed to give one, I'm not hopeful. Still no wheelchair access to Swampwater Jack's. Also, now that I think about it, I'm not sure there is for the BBQ place near Lightning Run either, but I've still never been in there. most of the new rides were not ready. The ones that were did not impress me. Wizard of Oz 5D is frankly a waste of the motion seats, and the post-processed 3D is among the worst I've ever seen. I  realize that the park did not design this attraction, but to choose that particular movie is a questionable decision at best. Associates on the ride were saying that this year is the 75th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz. It's not. The Rio Grande kiddie train ride has been relocated and somehow even more de-themed than last year. Loose article policies changed with no notice. Had I had prior notice, I would have known to bring the glasses strap that I already owned and saved $5. Lightning Run down to one train, and the other is not on the transfer, which indicates to me that either it's gone or its offseason maintenance is not yet complete. No live entertainment. At all. Not even the Sea Lion show. Thunder Run is shuffling around the first turn. It did late last year, too but I had hoped that would be resolved after the offseason. Not a new thing, but the park is incredibly difficult to navigate when the waterpark is closed. Getting to Thunder Run was a chore. Some horses on the carousel were missing their tails, which left a hole in the horse in an...erm... inappropriate location. And finally, landscaping is still really barren. Give me something to look at. The park is just a mess of concrete right now, and that's really boring.

 

I could have overlooked a lot of this stuff, but to still see wheelchair access missing at the park's largest eatery (which has been pointed out here and elsewhere many times and I can't imagine Hart being ignorant to this fact) and to hear of Terpy's experience, and to see so many attractions not ready for opening day, it really is kind of a mess right now. The sad thing is, so much of this is fixable, but I have little confidence that it will be fixed. I really don't think the park is  inherently doomed, I just think that Hart is running it in a way that isn't conducive to success.

 

Oh, and Lightning Run's wheels are still squeaking on the track. At first I thought this was due to the paint being fresh, but The Bat stopped doing that a few weeks into the 2014 season, so I'm not sure that's it. It's not something that worries me (even if I don't trust Hart, I trust Chance rides when things aren't in a state of Chaos) but I'm a bit curious as to what would cause that noise.

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My eyeglass straps (yes, I have three) live in the console of my car and pair up with my sunglasses on any and all park visits, regardless of park policy.  I already have them, they take up little space, and why not be in the habit of always wearing them?

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^ That's a smart thing to do regardless of policy. Back when they had Chang, I rode with an friend in high school and his glasses fell off. Luckily they stuck to the floor of the train, somehow, and he didn't lose them for good.

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