The American Coaster Enthusiasts southeast organzation met at the Dollywood Dreammore Resort on Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016 for their annual “Winter Warmup” event. The event brings in parks from all over the southeast region which ranges from Alabama to Virginia. The parks in attendance this year included: Alabama Splash Adventure, Carowinds, Dollywood, Kings Dominion, Six Flags Over Georgia, Six Flags Over Texas. There were park representatives from each park talking about the success of the 2015 season and what to look forward to in 2016.

The event began with a presentation from Alabama Splash Adventure communications manager Byron Hughes. Byron talked about the success of the 2015 season and the new rides announced for the park in 2016. Byron introduced a special guest at the event. Dan Koch, park president, made an appearance from the audience and all of the attendees were excited that he was able to make the trip. Dan Koch expressed appreciation for those who wished his mom, Mrs. Pat Koch, a best of wishes after a recent surgery she had.

Courtesy: Brian Mitchell

Alabama Splash Adventure delivered a great presentation talking about all of the different things that can park guests can look forward to in 2016. The park is opening up new attractions from Drop Zone to Teacups. The General’s Diner will also open in 2016 along with an expanded Pepsi Oasis and a new misting station. After the presentation, all attendees received a comp admission ticket to enjoy Alabama Splash Adventure in 2016. Six Flags Over Georgia continued next with their presentation of what is new in 2016 and a recap of 2015. Park communications manager Gene Petriello spoke to the attendees and said thank you for a successful 2015 season. As the park looks forward to 2016 with the addition of DC Super Friends and Bugs Bunny Boomtown, Gene spoke about all of the different events currently taking place at the park and answered questions from the attendees.

Courtesy: Brian Mitchell

Six Flags Over Georgia was kind enough to hand out superman capes at the end of the presentation to the attendees. Gene did a great job at presenting minus a few hiccups to begin the presentation. The park is looking forward to a great 2016 season with the debut of DC Super Friends and Bugs Bunny Boomtown kids areas opening up. After Gene talked about Six Flags Over Georgia, he gave some updates on the other east coast Six Flags parks. Continuing with the presentations up next was Sharon Parker from Six Flags Over Texas. Six Flags Over Texas is currently gearing up for another exciting season in 2016 after a successful 2015 season that debuted Justice League: Battle for Metropolis. In 2016, the park is opening up three new rides: Harley Quinn Spinsanity, Catwoman’s Whip and Ridder’s Revenge. Sharon showed attendees some construction update videos on the rides and talked about some of the other events going on in 2016 and recapped a successful 2015 season.

Courtesy: Brian Mitchell

At the end of the presentation, Sharon gave all the attendees a fireball spinner from Six Flags Fiesta Texas. She also talked about many of the other park attractions throughout the west coast and the midwest. Continuing on with the next presentation, Laresa Thompson from Carowinds was up. Laresa spoke to the attendees about Carowinds coming off one of the biggest years in the park’s history. Fury 325, the world’s tallest and fastest giga coaster, was the new in 2015 attraction, and delivered over 1.5 million rides and garnered a lot of national attention. Laresa was also excited to talk with the attendees about all the big news in Charlotte at the current time with the Carolina Panthers being in the super bowl. As the park grows into 2016, there is still a lot of work to be done. 

Courtesy: Brian Mitchell

The Carolina Harbor waterpark is currently under construction and the park is planning to have it open on May 21. In addition to the waterpark rebranding, Plants Vs. Zombies “Garden Warfare” is coming to the park in 2016. There will also be a new Starbucks at the front of the park, and all the other events from 2015 are returning in 2016 to the park. At the end of the presentation, Laresa showed a video recapping the 2015 season including Fury 325, which was named best new ride by the golden ticket awards.

Taking the next presentation is Katelyn Sherwood from Kings Dominion. The park is coming off one of the biggest seasons yet and is finishing up celebrating their 40th anniversary celebration. Katelyn began the presentation talking about the removal of Shockwave after 29 years of service. The park is gearing up for the debut of Delirium, a new spinning ride that will replace Shockwave. The ride is being manufactured by Mondial of the Netherlands.

Courtesy: Brian Mitchell

In addition to the Delirium update, Katelyn was kind enough to touch base on some of the other events happening at the park in 2016. The annual Spring Bloom Festival returns in 2016 and will feature a lot of different activities for all families. Coastin’ with KD will be the new enthusiast event that will take place in June. The park will invite out all the coaster enthusiasts for some exclusive ride time on many of their attractions, food, drinks, and much more. The Bands Brews & BBQ festival will return in late summer, and Halloween Haunt returns in September. 2016 is gearing up to be another exciting year for Kings Dominion, and the park looks forward to having guests visit.

Courtesy: Brian Mitchell

The final presentation of the morning concluded with Pete Owens from Dollywood. Lightning Rod is the new attraction for Dollywood in 2016. The park announced on Aug 7, 2015 that they would be building the world’s first launched and fastest wooden coaster. Pete was gracious enough to touch base on the current state of construction for the ride, and gave the attendees some additional information as to what Lightning Rod is all about. At the end of the presentation, Pete took questions from the audience and gave some great responses to many of those questions. As many are looking forward to what Lightning Rod will deliver, the park is planning to have the ride up and operating before opening day which is March 19. 

After the presentation by the parks, a lot of the attendees participated in watching a “signature video” presentation about roller coasters. I did not participate in watching this as I took this opportunity to socialize with many of the park representatives present. After the video presentation, it was time for lunch. The lunch spread consisted of fried chicken, potato salad, beans, rolls, cole slaw, and lots of sweet tea. It was a very nice lunch and at each table Dollywood put down some Lightning Rod license plate covers and a few other goodies for the attendees.

Courtesy: Brian Mitchell

After lunch, a lot of the attendees went over to the main park via shuttle transportation from the resort. There was a big surprise awaiting those that were on the tour of Lightning Rod. The park had covered in a red tarp the front of the train for Lightning Rod. Pete talked about the first train arriving the day before the event. The train will be able to seat 24 riders and is the new 2nd generation train from Rocky Mountain Construction, builders of Lightning Rod. Pete was able to talk a bit about the history of Lightning Rod to the attendees and what goes into preparing the ride for opening day. There were also many photo opportunities for those to get a picture with the front of the train, and many could not wait for opening day to get a chance to ride.

Following the unveiling of the first train for Lightning Rod, it was time for a backstage tour of the actual ride area. Pete advised the attendees that for those who did not wish to participate due to the muddy conditions that they were welcome to take the shuttle back over to the resort. The long walk up the mountain by the County Fair section of the park was a lot of exercise.

Courtesy: Brian Mitchell

Everyone in the group managed to get to the top and it was a very muddy situation. The views at the top were breathtaking and it was time to get an exclusive look at Lightning Rod. I managed to get a few good shots of the first wave turn into the back portion of the ride. The top of the first launch hill has a unique feature that Pete talked about. The park is going to see how the bees that nest under the lift hill can build their nests higher up. They are constructing a special bee hive roof on top of the first launch hill to see how it will work.

The tour on top of the mountain lasted approximately 45 mins and then it was time to head back down to the shuttles. After all the attendees arrived back at the resort, David Lipnicky, VP of ACE, gave a presentation called “Legacy of Arrow”, a documentary from ACE about Arrow Dynamics and the history of the Arrow coaster. I did not participate in seeing this as it was getting late for myself and a few others so we decided to head back up to my room at the resort and participate in some social time.

I would like to extend a big thank you to the following people: Josh Herrington (ACE Southeast Regional Rep), Chip Sieczko (ACE Southeast Asst. Regional Rep), Robert Urlich (ACE Southeast Asst. Regional Rep), David Lipnicky (VP of ACE), Byron Hughes and Dan Koch (Alabama Splash Adventure), Gene Petriello (Six Flags Over Georgia), Sharon Parker (Six Flags Over Texas), Laresa Thompson (Carowinds), Katelyn Sherwood (Kings Dominion), Pete Owens (Dollywood).

For more information about ACE Southeast, visit:

For more information about American Coaster Enthusiasts, visit:

Logo and image credits:

Logo courtesy of ACE Southeast

Feature image courtesy of Brian Mitchell / The Amusement Wire

Article prepared by: Brian Mitchell – Site Operator / The Amusement Wire

Disclaimer: The Amusement Wire is not affiliated with or endorsed by the park mentioned in this article. All photos and video are courtesy of the individual parks or outlets and used for publicity reasons. The Amusement Wire does not own the rights to photos or video used unless otherwise noted.

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