In the off-season enthusiasts usually come up with all sorts of questions about what goes on in the park from the end of October to Opening Day the following year. What may be the off-season to enthusiasts, may not be an off-season to the full time employees at the park. We all know that a couple big things are happening at the park this off season, but most don’t know the details. That’s where I come in!
I had the chance to speak with Don Helbig, Public Relations Area Manager of Kings Island, on Tuesday afternoon about the exciting things that are happening to gear up for the 2014 Season! So let’s get to the conversation!
Chris: Don, thank you for taking the time to answer our questions! Let’s get right to it! We know that there are 2 major projects happening this off-season at the park, so let’s get the big one out of the way Banshee! Where is the construction standing on the timeline?
Don: The construction of Banshee is right on schedule. The last piece of track will go in mid to late January and followed by all the electrical work. We anticipate being able to begin test runs in March and the ride will be ready to go when the park opens in April.
C: How many different companies are working on the project of Banshee?
D: There are number of different companies. The ride erection and station is being done by the Adena Corporation. Foundation work is being done by R.E. Middleton. And there are some other local companies that will be involved in the fencing, electrical and other projects. The construction of the ride spurs the Ohio economy with the entire ride being built using Ohio-based companies. It brings business to local companies during the winter months when construction work usually comes to a halt.
C: Does the current maintenance staff have any roll in the current construction on Banshee or is it all done by contractors and B&M?
D: Members of our maintenance and construction teams are involved in the process but the actual building of the ride is done by contractors.
C: Banshee’s station is elevated, will there be a gift shop and on ride photo spot under the station?
D: Under the station as riders exit will be used for the ride photo area, with some souvenir items. The primary location for Banshee merchandise and apparel will be the On Location building across from the ride entrance area.
C: Speaking of on ride photos, will there be an on ride photo taken on Banshee and if so where?
D: Guests will be able to purchase on-ride photos on Banshee. The exact location has yet to be determined but a couple areas being discussed are coming out of the dive loop and after the loop interacting with the lift. Both locations would work well.
C: Where do you think the guests will be able to get great pictures of Banshee?
D: There are going to be a lot of great photo opportunities for our guests with this ride. You’ll be able to get some great views from the Action Zone plaza area, including a close up shot of the train screaming through the dive loop. There will also be some fantastic photo opportunities from Coney Mall and the Oktoberfest area of the park by the entrances to Adventure Express and Sling Shot. And of course, aerial views from the Eiffel Tower.
C: Is the Banshee sign for the “plaza” being made in house?
D: It is being designed in-house.
C: When will the park receive the trains for Banshee?
D: The trains are expected to begin arriving in February.
C: Will the maintenance staff get to put them together or will B&M and their contractors put them together?
D: Our maintenance team will put them together.
C: How will the park determine “train 1″, “train 2″ and “train 3″? We normally see numbers on the trains but we have seen recently trains having different features painted different, like Diamondback with the green, red and brown trains, will there be a similar idea on Banshee?
D: Similar to Diamondback, there will be different colored trains: Blue, Green and Purple.
C: The park is getting ready to hire seasonal associates, how many additional jobs is Banshee bringing in?
D: The Banshee crew will be comprised of 30-35 associates.
C: The restroom across from Xtreme Skyflyer is currently yellow, will they be repainted to compliment the colors of Banshee?
D: Possible that could happen.
C: Will there be any improvements in Action Zone that will come along with the installation of Banshee?
D: With Banshee and the new color scheme for The Bat, Action Zone will have a fresh new look. As for as any specifics, our guests will have to wait until the park opens in April to find out what all the improvements might entail.
C: Are any rides, stores or food locations going to be renamed?
D: The gift shop and Stunt Crew Grill could have new names. That’s still in the process of being discussed and finalized.
C: Going into transition to the next project that we all know about but sort of keeping on the topic of Banshee, will any of the queue rails from the former queue for Son of Beast be used for either Banshee or The Bat?
C: Going now into the topic of The Bat, when is the projected completion of the painting of the Bat?
D: It will be done before March.
C: Will there be any changes along the queue for The Bat?
D: No plans to change the queue for The Bat.
C: What will the sign look like for The Bat at the queue line entrance?
D: The ID sign will look like the logo, similar to how it was before.
C: With the removal of the lower level of the queue for the former Top Gun/Flight Deck theme, will there be any changes to that area?
D: No changes. It wasn’t in use so we just wanted to clean that area up.
C: Will the station look any different for The Bat compared to the past?
D: The look of the station will remain the same.
C: It was mentioned that the trains will be painted black, will there be any decals or special artwork featured on them?
D: There will be a logo on the front of each train. It will look sharp with the black trains. It will be the same cars (as Top Gun/Flight Deck) for the trains.
C: Now let’s go into another section of the park experience, entertainment, will Snoopy’s Starlight Spectacular be returning?
D: No. Its run at the park is over.
C: What entertainment shows are being brought back next year?
D: Rock and Roll Never Forgets and Playlist Live! will be the only returning shows. The full entertainment lineup will be announced in March.
C: Now, let’s talk about general improvements in the park this off-season, what is on the agenda for this off-season?
D: Work is being done in the parking lot and outside the front gate. Buildings on International Street were painted in the fall. Other buildings around the park will be painted and/or remodeled. We also looking at better ways to communicate with our guests information as to how long wait times may be, or which rides may be down to help better plan their day. There will be more detailed information about each ride on our website – not so much in terms of the statistical information but detailing what the ride experience is like and what rides they can experience with casts and things of that nature. The benefits that Gold and Platinum passholders receive will also be more defined, making it easier to take advantage of them.
C: The park just obtained an executive chef, what changes can we expect in the food department next year?
D: Hiring Nathan Gushulak as executive chef will bring a more defined culinary experience to the park. The dining expereince will continue to improve. We want that (the dining experience) to be as memorable for our guests as our rides. The new menu items we’ve added the past couple seasons, including healthier choices and gluten-free items, and the Reds Hall of Fame have us headed in the right direction. Chef Nathan will add new and exciting ideas to the list of menu items.
C: Are there going to be any upgrades to the International Street Restaurant?
D: The walls were repainted this past season in the International Restaurant. It will continue to be used as it has in recent years for special events.
C: The International Street Fountain is rumored for an upgrade per an interview with Matt Ouimet (President and CEO of Cedar Fair) , any idea when that will be?
D: A lot of rumors and speculation, but nothing going on with the fountains at this time.
C: We have seen that the roller coaster trains come off the tracks to be worked on every off season, what trains get worked on first and last?
D: For wooden roller coasters, the Beast trains are dismantled first, followed by the Racer and Woodstock Express. With the steel coasters, the trains are removed from each car right after the season ends except for on Diamondback. They’re the last ones removed from the ride location. It’s more of a process to remove those trains.
C: What is timeline for off season maintenance of the trains for the roller coasters?
D: The process begins the night the season ends and takes until March to have all the ride vehicles ready for the new season. They start bringing them back out to the rides in March.
C: Do the trains get repainted each year? Or do specific ones get painted?
D: The wood coaster cars are totally dismantled and rebuilt over the winter, which includes being repainted. The steel coasters cars are touched up and painted where necessary and the fiberglass buffed and polished.
C: What other ride vehicles get taken off the rides to be worked on?
D: All the ride vehicles are removed from the rides and worked on.
C: What kind of maintenance goes on for the actual trains and passenger carriages?
D: They are completely disassembled and rebuilt from the ground floor up. It’s fascinating to watch the process and all the work that goes into it.
C: Are any rides other than The Bat being painted this off-season?
D: Outside of The Bat no rides are being totally repainted. Some may be touched up in spots.
C: Are any wooden roller coasters having any re-tracking done? If so where?
D: There is always track work that gets done over the winter on the wood coasters but to date it has been the routine off-season maintenance.
C: What goes on in Soak City during the off-season?
D: Cleaning and repainting of buildings. Landscaping work begins in the spring.
C: What are the other departments, other than Maintenance, doing this off-season?
D: All the departments are preparing for the 2014 season. There really isn’t an off-season. As soon as the season ends work on the next season begins. And it gets here quick!
We would like to thank Don for taking time out of his busy day to talk with us and answer our many questions! Hopefully you know a little bit more about what’s going on this off-season at Kings Island!!