Darien Lake Theme Park draws thousands upon thousands of visitors from all over Western New York each summer, but General Manager Chris Thorpe says Genesee County residents are going to be especially pleased with what they find at the park this season.
Two new massive rides are going to add a lot more value for season-pass holders, he said, and local season-pass holders are an important customer base.
"We are excited to present these two new attractions this year," Thorpe said. "We think it cements us as the best entertainment value in Western New York, particularly from a local perspective. For Batavia residents, local Genesee County residents, our season pass will offer so much more this year. We're excited to give them the opportunity to come out and visit the park frequently, over and over, to see what a great value we are."
The new rides are called Brain Drain and Rolling Thunder.
Brain Drain is a massive, seven-story waterslide that offers twin free-fall drops through tubes that loop and cross, with riders zooming through at 38 feet per second until they're blasted into a pool of water at the base.
Riders start in an enclosed launch capsule, with both riders dropping into the tube simultaneously when the floor beneath them gives way.
Roling Thunder is a compact steel loop that stands 73 feet at its apex and propels 24 riders at time through a closed loop on a high-speed train. The ride hangs passengers upside down and rockets back and forth through the loop.
Construction will begin soon and the rides are expected to be ready for opening day, May 9.
The expansion gives the park 47 rides for visitors to choose from, with enough variety to please all guests, Thorpe said.
"There's so much to do, but what's even better, is there's something for everybody in the family here," said Thorpe, who is originally from Buffalo and first started working at Darien Lake in 1995, rising to the level of general manager, transferring to other theme parks for the past couple of years and now returns home.
Noting how important Darien Lake is to the local economy in the jobs it creates and the tourism dollars it attracts, Chamber President Tom Turnbull said it was great to see the theme park adding rides.
"One of the things I've learned from our friends at Darien Lake -- they've kind of schooled me on the amusement park business -- is how important attractions are in driving attendance," Turnbull said. "To have not just one new attraction, but two new attractions means, I think, we can expect a banner year at Darien Lake."
Adding rides is a departure from last year's strategy to draw visitors to the park, using entertainment, such as the Harlem Globetrotters, a Latin music festival, and, of course, Nik Wallenda to draw in crowds.
To be sure, Wallenda brought guests to the park, but he's moving on to other venues this season and Thrope said the new rides are a good fit for what the park already offers.
"We'll still have our traditional entertainment in place, the magic shows and things like that, but last year's focus was Nik Wallenda, which was a very strong attraction," Thorpe said. "This year, we're going more with a hardware focus and looking at attractions that will peak people's interest."
The park will still work to maintain its identity as a destination with strong Western New York roots, Thorpe said, a branding effort begun by park management two seasons ago.
"It's important for us to be woven into the cultural fabric of Western New York and those things like the Anchor Bar and Tim Horton's and all the local vendors we work with are critically important to our success," Thorpe said.
Chris Thorpe explaining Rolling Thunder.