Last updated: 07:00 AM ET, Sun January 03 2016

Travel 2015: Top Amusement Park Stories of the Year

Entertainment | Donald Wood | January 03, 2016

Travel 2015: Top Amusement Park Stories of the Year

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

As the 2015 calendar year comes to a close, it’s time to take a look back on the amusement park industry and be reminded of the biggest stories from the last 12 months.

Between the news of the industry as a whole thriving, the morale amongst those who work in the theme park field climbing and those who visit the facilities coming back year after year, there is a buzz surrounding theme parks heading into 2016.

Add in the hype surrounding Twentieth Century Fox’s announcement of plans for a theme park in Dubai and new attractions based on popular brands such as “Walking Dead” and “Hunger Games,” and it’s been an eventful year for amusement parks.

The Most Awesome Water Slide Ever is in Texas

Social media was a huge part of the success of the amusement park industry in 2015, and few attractions received as much traffic as The Royal Flush water slide at BSR Cable Park in Waco, Texas.

Through an organic advertising campaign and a video that received over 29 million views on YouTube thus far—as seen above—The Royal Flush became one of the biggest attractions for 2015 with good reason.

With the longest of the three slides reaching over 100 feet long, guests are launched high into the air before landing in the awaiting pool. When the slide re-opens in 2016, anyone making their way across Texas should stop at BSR Cable Park.

Amusement Park Industry Thriving

Amusement parks are a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States and abroad, with an estimated 260 million customers spending around $10 billion each year. In 2015, the industry found even more success than usual.

Thanks to a renewed focus on building new attractions that makes customers want to return every year, many parks saw a major boom this year. While it had been a strain on theme parks to build new, high-priced steel roller coasters, more and more facilities are adding the must-visit rides.

There were also outside factors at work, like favorable weather and low gas prices, but the organic movement from within the industry to focus on better advertising for the newest and biggest attractions has helped spur a resurgence.

The hope from many within the amusement park business is that the success from this year carries over into 2016.

“Walking Dead” and “Hunger Games” Developing Attractions

In television and on the big screen, the “Walking Dead” and “Hunger Games” brands are two of the most popular, and now theme park guests will be able to live vicariously through their favorite characters in new planned attractions.

For those who love the thrills of the zombie-based TV show “The Walking Dead,” amusement park ride company Sally Corp. unveiled its latest project, "The Walking Dead: Battle for Survival" at the 2015 IAAPA Attractions Expo.

While it’s unclear which theme park chain will add the attractions, the excitement is already building for their eventual debuts.

On the other hand, the anticipation is through the roof for the amusement park rendition of the “Hunger Games” movie franchise.

Lions Gate Entertainment announced it will join forces with AVATRON USA Development to build a 700-acre entertainment complex featuring a “Hunger Games” theme park. It’s a good time to be a fan of amusement parks and pop culture.

Fox Building a Theme Park in Dubai

In November, Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products and Al Ahli Holding Group made the announcement that the companies had plans to build a Fox-branded theme park and resort in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

The project will be the second 20th Century Fox World theme park and the first Fox-branded resort, but the deal is much bigger than just that. The contract allows for a roll-out of up to three additional Fox-branded resorts outside Dubai.

Some of the brands expected to fill the new amusement park include “Ice Age,” “Rio,” “Planet of the Apes,” “Aliens,” “Predator,” “Night at the Museum,” “Titanic,” “The Simpsons” and “Sons of Anarchy.”

While the park won’t open until 2018, travelers planning on visiting United Arab Emirates can enjoy the Ferrari World theme park in Abu Dhabi, as long as they’re willing to take their taxi driver on the rides with them.

A Bounty of New Roller Coasters in 2015

Looking back, 2015 can be classified as the year of the roller coaster in the amusement park industry.

During the year, the Fury 325 at Carowinds in Charlotte, North Carolina; the Thunderbird at Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana; the Impulse at Knoebels Amusement Park in Elysburg, Pennsylvania; and Cannibal at Lagoon Park in Farmington, Utah, all made their debut to the roller-coaster crazy travelers.

Looking forward to 2016, there are even more amazing rides coming. Some of the top roller coasters to watch for this year include the Lightning Rod at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee; the Valravn at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio; and a plethora of new coaster thanks to the Six Flags parks across the United States.

After a bountiful year for the amusement park industry, it’s time to look ahead to the fun in 2016.

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