I started to write this months ago but never made time to fully flesh it out. Now I will. So here it is…
It had been a couple years since I had trekked up to Magic Mountain. I love roller coasters, and SFMM has some good ones, but I am not one of those hardcore enthusiasts. I have never been to any other of Six Flags’ parks, which I have always wanted to visit… though this most recent experience doesn't enthuse me much.
It was July 27th, a Sunday. I wasn’t really sure what to expect; my most recent visits had been on weekdays. We parked ($15 now, outrageous) right about park opening.
We had bought our tickets online, wise because the booths (half of them closed) were swamped. Going through the metal detectors was slow. Though all were open, the staff got terribly trumped every time they had to stop to scan someone and this, of course, stopped the line. Once past, we headed to pick up our Flash Passes. Flash Passes are Six Flags’ version of Fast Pass, only you have to pay for it; $20 for 4 rides of your choice… excluding two of the park’s most popular rides, X2 and Déjà Vu.
I decided our first stop should be X2. I’ve been on X (what it was called before the makeover) and I remember it being a pretty sweet ride, despite the rotations of the vehicle being noticeably jerky. This was way back in 2002 during a pass holder preview. This preview was not without its headaches; launch problems that had the sole working train sitting loaded in the station for upwards of 10 minutes. During this preview, we went on X twice and I remember the second outing having only four patrons in front of us and waiting more than a half-hour to board. Upon boarding, we had to set and reset several times before launching, which we witnessed happen to those before us. At the time, I attributed this to opening jitters… but this never went away. Any time visiting the park after that, wait times were three/four hours, launches taking forever.
X2 was supposed to change that. Newly designed trains that would be more efficient and allow smoother operation. Hardly. We arrived at the queue and it was like nothing had changed. Backed up all the way to that ominous three-hour marker (though the sign warning of making that point two hours before park closing to guarantee a ride has been removed), launches still taking far too long (I timed two, one took five minutes, the other seven) and from what I could tell only one vehicle in operation. We gave up shortly thereafter, returning a few times during the day to check up. It never changed.
We moved onto Viper. Short line here yet it took us more than twenty minutes to board. One train running; upon loading it, the restraints would be checked and then the train would sit… and sit and sit for about a minute before launch. Procedural? While in line, I noticed some employees doing what looked like checks on a second train (this was an hour after park opening) and eventually moving it onto the track. They cycled it through empty twice before we boarded the one actually in use. This made the queue all the more slower, of course. They ran it through empty at least once more, I noticed as we exited.
We moved on through the park and wait times were hit and miss, but mostly miss. From my standpoint, this was largely due to staffing; the lack of it and terrible managing and training of what there was. The ride ops were slow and often seemed confused.
Tatsu, the park’s newest, has the benefit of two loading areas but despite a two hour + waiting time, only one was utilized. For a change, this was one of the few coasters running more than one train, however, constant resetting before every launch were most to blame for the long delays. This one was particularly annoying as the seated position for this coaster is highly uncomfortable and best described the closest you’ll ever come to feeling like a pig on a spit. We ‘sat’ hanging for several minutes at ride’s end waiting for the next train to launch so we could get off. The flume rides were only loaded with single parties, launching mostly with only two people resulting in longs waits. On Superman, one of the restraints wouldn’t go green so the op push and tugged on it trying to make it co-operate. After quite a bit of struggling, the other op climbed over the vehicle and proceeded to do a similar tug and pull routine before going back and resetting the restraints after which all was fine and we were on our way.
It was only due to the ‘benefit’ of having Flash Pass that we were able to get on all the noteworthy attractions in the laborious eight hours we spent at the park. We lucked out on Goliath in that we happen to pass by it as it re-opened after being down. Even with Flash Pass the shortest wait we experienced was twenty minutes, the longest was just over an hour for the Log Jammer.
Now let’s talk about aesthetics… or the lack thereof. As the years have worn on, the overall looks and feel of SFMM has gotten worse. All their attempts of theming have always resulted looking half-assed and have gone onto to be unmaintained and looking completely brokedown… along with the general state of the park as a whole. I was completely disgusted by the fundamental maintenance of the park; smelly bathrooms, overflowing trash, huge dusty cobwebs hanging from the rafters. It was unsanitary, gross and just added to our overall frustration of the day.
Superman queue This was towards the end of our day. Had I spent the whole day taking pictures of the park's decrepit state, I would have a better pictorial.
If I never go back to Magic Mountain, it’ll be too soon. I’ve read the recent press releases that have made reference to a new focus on revitalizing the overall look and feel of the park. Good luck. File me under ‘skeptical’. I heard from some friends who were there recently. It was an off-peak day so they didn’t experience nearly the same misery we did. However, they echoed many of my complaints. I also made sure to ask if they had seen leaves on the ground. They saw plenty.