Investing in a roller coaster is a guaranteed way for an amusement park operator to take advantage of a great commercial visibility. As a matter of fact, these rides don't lack assets in attracting a large number of visitors, even in a difficult economic environment.
In recent years, many parks around the world have primarily focused their investments on the pure performance of these attractions. A clear trend that has led our industry to engage in a race to records, fueled with millions of euros and strong media coverage. Higher, faster, longer, steeper, not forgetting the number of inversions, there are no shortage of adjectives and arguments to boost ticket sales and push always a little further the technological limitations of these exceptional machines.
There is, however, another way to consider the design of a roller coaster among a growing number of theme park owners. A way of thinking that tends to favor the development of a number of elements surrounding the ride, rather than bet on its thrill performance. This approach is radically different: the roller coaster is seen here as an immersive experience whose first objective is to take visitors within an invented environment.
Sublimating the experience of a rollercoaster is obviously not a recent invention. The great pioneers of our industry, headed by Walt Disney himself, understood very well that it was essential to design such attractions as full-fledged experiences to stand out from competitors. Their vision was that every aspect of a ride had to be thought out, staged and built specifically for visitor experience: the theming, the sensory effects, the queue line, the boarding station, the coaster vehicles, etc. Each of these elements benefited from a thorough design to make the whole thing as coherent as possible.
Nowadays, the largest theme parks in the world have become experts in the field, rivaling each others' genius to offer their visitors original roller coasters, far away from the classic image that we have of them. Looking at some recent projects, one can thus ask the following question: is the roller coaster no more than just a means of transport, a ride system option, instead of a performance machine?
Luckily theme parks don't need astronomical financial means to enhance a roller coaster experience. Operators actually have access to a wide range of innovative tools and solutions to make room for their imagination and invent the ride of their dreams, even with a limited budget.
The integration of an onboard audio system on the train, the use of special effects when leaving the station or along the track are among the many possibilities existing to spice up the experience. Not to mention the atmosphere of the queue, a key location sometimes overlooked, yet essential to the conditioning of the visitors before entering the ride. Opportunities to sublimate the roller coaster environment are endless, both for indoor and outdoor installations.
Finally, it is obvious that this sector of our industry is now changing. Roller coasters tend to become hybrids: they adapt and evolve into more immersive experience, all supported by a set of technologies and dedicated systems. Welcome to the new generation!