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SFNE 8/7 ( . . . or, I think I hate Six Flags)


pashacar
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After a pleasant enough trip a few weeks ago, I found myself back at SFNE with some friends yesterday. The park was very busy, and the crowds were handled about as poorly as possible at nearly every turn.

 

I know I was (justifiably) throwing shade at GAdv after my last visit, and said it felt like SF was trying to occupy the "bargain basement" category of the industry. Turns out that may be too high of a compliment.

 

Of the many, many issues, in vague order of importance:

  • Pathetically slow and inadequate ride operations, with crews that are too small, too slow, and at times just completely confused or incapable of basic math (i.e., when assigning rows and grouping riders)
  • Inane and absurdly inefficient procedures across the board
  • Pathetically slow and inadequate tram operation
  • Pathetically slow and inadequate Guest Relations operation (one window open, with about 25 people in line both times I saw it)
  • Pathetically slow and inadequate front gate operation (lots of line cutting, clueless ticket takers, and ineffectual security staff leaning on racial profiling)
  • Pathetically slow and inadequate food service
  • Bad food (the "natural" fries at Baystate Fries were being poured out of a bag from the freezer, and were underdone to the point of being mushy and inedible)
  • Poor or no communication between staff on platforms, behind food counters, and elsewhere
  • Dirty eateries
  • Dirty restrooms
  • Nonexistant landscaping
  • Poorly managed machines (the Coke Freestyle machines in Take 6 Cafe offered about 20% of the beverage options they are supposed to)
  • Air conditioning run as weakly as possible, or not at all.

Overall, this day was a huge bust. We made it on three rides, one major, in over four hours at the park, and I was visiting with first-timers (not enthusiasts) who were flabbergasted by how poorly thought out, and even more poorly executed operations were in every department, everywhere we looked. We entered eager and excited, and left thoroughly disgusted.

 

Our first impression came from the near-zero tram operation. Clearly, Six Flags wants to run as few as possible, because heaven forbid they spend a dime to make the guest experience anything less than complete s***. That meant a 20-minute wait for one of the two (two-car) trams that was running, even when guests were forced to park in the far back lot, about a 20-minute walk to the gate. It meant that 95% of guests choose the walk to the gate, which is one thing in a continuous lot like at GAdv, and completely another when you have to park across the street, up a hill, past the entire main lot, over a bridge, and at the rear of the overflow lot. But it sure seems to be what they were looking for to happen.

 

The issue was just as bad leaving the park, when only ONE tram was running for both lots! Let's just go through that again: ON A DAY WHEN THEIR OVERFLOW PARKING WAS FULL, THEY THOUGHT IT WAS ACCEPTABLE TO RUN ONE TRAM, TOTAL. This was, of course, in a cracked, weed-infested parking lot without any directional signage, let alone employees directing traffic like you might see at a Cedar Fair facility, or really anywhere with a parking lot and management that cares a lick about their guests' experiences. Although I must say there was one great guest experience feature, at least: they made sure to drive right by the additional trams and busses they had just sitting there, to give guests that extra refreshing slap in the face. I submitted a comment card telling them they may as well just spit in your eye when you arrive at the parking toolbooths, too, so we'll see what happens there.

 

After a short ticket booth line, a 20-minute wait for the bathroom, and 10-minute line to get into the park, we were on Main Street 55 minutes after we pulled into the lot. Say what you want, but that, to me, is a completely unacceptable amount of time.

 

Once we were in, we tried to start riding rides. . . .

 

It's amazing to me how Six Flags lets slapdash procedures stay in effect all season, and sometimes beyond. On Thunderbolt, for example, the operator has to yell to get the grouper's attention every cycle to tell them how many Flash Pass and disabled riders are on the next train. There's no moment in the activity flow where they routinely connect on this number, and there's no digital sign or other mechanism to convey this number to the grouper, so it usually happens while the grouper is letting riders into the station, and is on the verge of letting too many in. The operator will yell something like "Lisa! Lisa! Lisa!" and once she has the grouper's attention, will tell them the number. But often, the grouper has already let too many people in. Then, instead of telling a few people on the standby or FP/disabled side to please wait one more train, they just let everyone onto the platform, and whoever loses the musical chairs game starts getting upset and further delays the dispatch, as happened repeatedly yesterday. If this sounds confusing and laborious, that's because it is. Nevermind that they're too cheap to buy a second train for the ride, so we're looking at 11-minute dispatch intervals, with an average of 9 standby riders per train. It's an utter joke. And while Thunderbolt was the most egregious efficiency-wise, the same lack of communication happened on most rides where folks had to board through the exit, which is certainly not an uncommon enough occurrence for there to be no real procedure for it.

 

Wicked Cyclone is a great ride, and it was nice to see two trains on it this time around, even if they were stacked every cycle. (I expect this from SFA or parks that don't get a lot of guests, but when did it become the norm at ALL SF parks? What a mess.) Also, as on my last visit, all of the lockers were sold out, yet they wouldn't let you in line with loose articles. What's the solution here? INSTALL MORE FREAKING LOCKERS. It's simply not that hard. This was an issue a month ago (and likely before that), and it still is today. It amazes me how instead of addressing guest experience issues, Six Flags just seems to look the other way as if they'll disappear. It's a free-for-all.

 

Like at GAdv, the park infrastructure is quickly deteriorating without any apparent mind paid to it by maintenance. Fading or cracked paint is everywhere, queues, eateries, and bathrooms are dirty, and in the case of the latter, far too small and few. I was also a bit surprised to see next to no landscaping, like the budget had been cut completely -- most spaces that could have held grass held dirt, and I know I didn't see a single flower all day.

 

Of course, the small details have long since evaporated from SF's view; on Houdini, the brush-like linings on the bottom of the doors have completely disappeared, letting far too much light into the preshow room. That's in addition to the majority of effects not working, and air conditioning that kept the building maybe one degree cooler than it was outside.

 

We tried Bizarro, dealt with a broken locker kiosk, and the ride broke down two minutes after we arrived. We waited it out for a bit, but soon decided it was smartest to give up on the ride and the whole day. This park sucks, and I'm afraid from what I've seen at SFNE, GAdv, SFMM, and SFFT in recent seasons that most SF facilities do, too. (I'm not joking when I say that SFA has become a bit of a diamond in the rough.)

 

And it's important to note that I'm not saying this as a "hater" -- read my old TR's and you'll see that while I approach parks with a critical eye, I have had plenty of good things to say about GAdv, SFNE, and elsewhere. But as someone who truly loves amusement parks and the power that a good day at one can have, I find it maddening to see an entire chain of them run with this level of apathy and inefficiency.

Edited by pashacar
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That's disappointing to hear so many things were wrong.

 

I'm not familiar with the park's setup, would it be possible to reconfigure the queues for rides where Flash Pass loads at the exit to avoid not having enough seats? I like how at Great Adventure, the reconfigured every coaster with Flash Pass except Runaway Mine Train and Skull Mountain where the Flash Pass line merges at the station so Flash Pass don't need to use the exit. I remember on crowded days Scream Machine would sometimes have to devote an entire train to Flash Pass users instead of just the 1 car they had set aside for Flash Pass because the Flash Pass line would be halfway down the exit ramp. That sometimes happens at Skull Mountain as well.

 

If there was only 1 tram running, I guess the wait for it at closing must have been horrible.

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That's disappointing to hear so many things were wrong.

 

I'm not familiar with the park's setup, would it be possible to reconfigure the queues for rides where Flash Pass loads at the exit to avoid not having enough seats? I like how at Great Adventure, the reconfigured every coaster with Flash Pass except Runaway Mine Train and Skull Mountain where the Flash Pass line merges at the station so Flash Pass don't need to use the exit. I remember on crowded days Scream Machine would sometimes have to devote an entire train to Flash Pass users instead of just the 1 car they had set aside for Flash Pass because the Flash Pass line would be halfway down the exit ramp. That sometimes happens at Skull Mountain as well.

 

If there was only 1 tram running, I guess the wait for it at closing must have been horrible.

 

Sorry I wasn't clear -- I think they all do have merge points other than Thunderbolt. When I said rides where any people boarded through the exit, I was referring to disabled riders and others with exit passes. Every time, there was confusion, and delays as a result.

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SFNE has always been hit or miss. I have had a handfull of great visits but countless visits that were horrible beyond belief. I didn't go back for 7 years and finally it's been a couple years since that visit.

 

As for the tram they only own 2 or 3 and one is down because their modified truck messed up and it jackniffed and crashed in to the guard rail. So that one is out fo commission.

 

Maybe make a vacation out of it and check out Compounce and Quassy, or go a bit further and visit Canboie.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I just got back from SFNE. it was my 3rd visit. the operations are terrible, and it sucks that on 4 rides that I encountered, you are not allowed to wait for a specific row. WC, Goliath, the crappy boomerang, and thunderbolt. just a sad park.its like they treat you like elementary school kids.

 

and my visit like 2 months ago, the flash pass attendant who fills in the 7 rows at batman the dark knight, she was so brutal and clueless, the ride ops were sending trains out half full with a 45 min wait. just terrible.

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