Now that I’ve moved back to the Midwest, I find myself anxiously awaiting the start of the regional theme park season. As the cold fall air smacks my face as I walk between Indianapolis skyscrapers, I dream about being able to ride the great coasters at Cedar Point, Kentucky Kingdom, and more! It is so weird moving from an area where I could go to theme parks year round (Orlando and Tampa), to a place where theme parks have a season and are closed for 5 months out of the year. I have no choice but to be patient and prepare myself for what should be an awesome 2014 theme park season. This was a relatively slow week when it comes to theme park news, but we managed to grab a few Nuggets for you all so here you go.

9 News Nuggets You Need to Know

Story 1: Sea World Orlando has made the official announcement that they will be opening the largest water slide of its kind in Orlando. Opening next year, Ihu will top out at 100 feet and send riders plummeting to the depths below in their Aquatica water park. Let me be the first person to say how excited I am to watch Eric Davis ride this slide! Maybe we can start a campaign to get Eric to be the FIRST official rider of the slide when it opens…?

Story 2: More news from Sea World this week as we learn that the Blackstone Group is selling off 15 million shares of their Sea World stock. I am not going to pretend to be a Wall Street analyst, but I would think that this can not be a good thing for Sea World. The Blackstone Group will be giving up their controlling interest in Sea World and the company will have to create an independent board of directors to govern the company. I for one, am happy to see the Blackstone Group continue to exit the theme park business.

Story 3: A Disney bus driver has been awarded $970,000 for injuries he suffered in a crash in 2010. While driving on Epcot Center Drive, the driver ran into a tour bus that was stopped in the middle of the road. He suffered broken legs is still unable to work three years after the crash. The driver of the stopped tour bus says she was out of the vehicle problem at the time and taking care of a “mechanical” issue. Some passengers on the Disney bus were treated for minor injuries but the drivers injuries were more severe. While the jury did find the Disney driver at fault, they still felt that, somehow, Disney should be held liable for his damages.

Story 4: I am so excited to hear that Knotts has mad the official announcement that Garner Holt will get a chance to touch up and enhance the figures inside of the Calico Mine Train Ride. After seeing what was done on the Log Ride by Garner Holt, KBF fans should be overjoyed with this news. I can only think that the already amazing Mine Train Ride will look and feel so much better once new figures are inserted.

Story 5: We have news of more layoffs coming from Disney Parks. Three executives were let go this month. Rick Continelli, who was the senior VP of park sales and services has been let go. He was in charge of the Disney Institute, sports programming and more. Two other VPs from the technology department were let go. I am not sure if this is a financial or operational decision, but Disney seems to be trying to get as flat as possible when it comes to their layers of management in the theme park division. Could this be because they are looking at a $1.5 billion bill from NextGen projects….?


Story 6: There are some well-educated but unofficial reports that Camp Minnie Mickey in Disney’s Animal Kingdom could be seeing its final day of operation on January 5th of next year. Festival of the Lion King will be having its last show in the land on this day before it goes away for 6 months (and then opening in its new location), and character meet and greets are being phased out of Camp Minnie Mickey and moved to other areas in the next few months. Honestly, if the last Festival of the Lion King is on January 5th, is there really any reason to keep the land open? Lets close it up and start the long, long construction phase for Avatar.

Story 7: Nikon is now the new official camera of U.S Disney Parks. Is this a big deal? Maybe photo genius Fishbulb can help us out, because I am not sure how to take this news. I highly doubt the fact that a Disney Photo Pass photographer is taking your picture with a Nikon camera instead of a Cannon will have that big of an impact on your family vacation….

Story 8: I do not want to delve too much into this topic, but it is a very important story for theme park fans. Diane Disney Miller passed away last week. She was the last surviving daughter of Walt and Lillian and she did a lot of work to keep the legacy and vision of her father alive after he passed. To express your thoughts and sympathies, you can visit this thread on the MiceChat forums.

Story 9: The annual THEA award recipients have been announced. This year the association is recognizing some really great attractions like Enchanted Takes with Belle, Mystic Manor in Hong Kong Disneyland, and more. Also this year, Garner Holt is receiving the Buzz Price lifetime achievement award for all of the great work he has done and his massive contributions to the theme park community. You can see the full list of award recipients here.   

Here is Episode 55 of the Wakefield Report Podcast!

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Chris Wakefield lives in South Florida and spends most of his free time traveling across the country looking for the best thrills that theme parks have to offer. Growing up in the Midwest,Chris is used to the high and fast coasters offered up at parks like Cedar Point and Kings Island, and moving to Florida four years ago was a bit of theme park culture shock. With twice a month visits to Orlando, Chris works hard to keep his finger on the pulse of the ever expanding theme park community in Central Florida. Outside of the Orlando parks, Chris also visits California twice a year and isnt above going to a good haunt or two! Chris created the Wakefield Report website in the fall of 2011 to bring theme park and themed entertainment fans closer to the latest news, and opinions in the community. Each week, the Wakefield Report Podcast goes on the air to provide an unbiased, open, and honest look at the latest in Disney and theme park news. You can reach Chris at: [email protected]