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Creating a Family-Friendly Environment at Six Flags

A new attraction based on Thomas the Tank Engine is scheduled to open the first week of June.

Posted: February 26, 2008 12:45 p.m.
Updated: April 27, 2008 5:03 a.m.

From left, General Manager Tim Burkhart, Six Flags CEO Mark Shapiro, and park President Jay Thomas survey one of the three new racks of cars for the X2 ride, which underwent approximately $10 million in upgrades.

 
As Six Flags Magic Mountain gears up for the spring and summer seasons, park leaders hope to create a family-friendly park that still includes the roller coaster thrills that have become a staple of the Valencia theme park.

With the roller coaster X2 in the background, CEO Mark Shapiro of New York-based Six Flags, Magic Mountain and Hurricane Harbor President Jay Thomas and General Manager Tim Burkhart explained the details of the ride's upgrade.

Shapiro said the five-year-old X will be turned into X2, Xtreme to the Second Power, through a $10 million revamp that includes new trains that are 10,000 pounds lighter.

Shapiro added that they are "adding a whole bunch of tricks," which includes a tunnel and other audio and visual effects.

Before closing at the end of 2007 to undergo its changes, X reached speeds of 76 mph, included a 200-foot drop and was 3,610 feet in length.

Additionally, the ride, set for a Memorial Day opening, will tell a "story," giving coaster lovers a way to feel more connected to the ride, Shapiro explained.

Shapiro said a roller coaster is being planned for 2009, but would not offer details about the design.
For youngsters, Six Flags is currently constructing Thomas Town, a train ride based on the character Thomas the Tank Engine. Park officials said Thomas Town, the second children's area following Looney Tunes, will be open the first week of June.

Along with the addition of new attractions, the three explained that the Valencia park will not be closing anytime soon and that the company is updating all the rides and performing maintenance on all aspects of the park, from the signs outside the park to the actual rides. The overall cleanup of the park has totaled $100 million so far, according to Shapiro.

Shapiro pointed out that it's not just about introducing new rides to the park, but also about "taking out what doesn't work."

Most recently, Six Flags closed and later removed the Flashback roller coaster.

Thomas said the famed red Sky Tower will be converted into a Magic Mountain Sky Tower Museum.
A cyber cafe, a Cold Stone Creamery and a second Johnny Rockets are also being added.

But in order to draw a crowd, especially during a troubling economy, the park is depending on its 2008 "Play Pass," which offers new perks to draw visitors.

Shapiro explained that when guests purchase a one-day ticket to the park, they are also buying a season pass that works at all Six Flags locations across the nation.

The season pass also includes a booklet of coupons and five one-day passes for friends and family.
The Valencia park is also taking advantage of marketing opportunities as Six Flags' plasma TV screens will be placed throughout high-traffic areas of the park and they will be showing commercials in between programming.

Although the park's demographics already include families, Six Flags is hoping that its location will continue to create an environment ideal for families.

For instance, the park has installed code of conduct rules at the entrance to rides and popular destinations, prohibiting the use of smoking, profanity and other inappropriate behavior.

Thomas, who was appointed park president in 2007, lives locally in Santa Clarita and sees Six Flags as a place for local residents to visit and work.

Recently, he said the park had the most successful job fair, which brought in 540 applicants. Close to 300 were hired and for the first time, there was a wait list for people applying to the rides department, according to Thomas.

Additionally, Thomas said, as a parent he understands the importance of creating a family environment.
Although he admits the park didn't do a good job creating a family logo, he said officials are now fixing the park to create something the "folks from Santa Clarita can be proud of."

Six Flags Magic Mountain is currently open on weekends and during school holidays. Starting March 15, the park will be open for seven-day operation.


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