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Shark Attack : Knott's Berry Farm Baits Customers With New Ride


BUENA PARK — In an effort to shore up flagging attendance, Knott's Berry Farm on Thursday announced plans for the late-March launch of a new thrill ride called the HammerHead, which will send riders plunging and spinning 80 feet toward a grotto filled with sculpted sea creatures.

The new ride is part of a multimillion-dollar make-over of the park's faded Roaring '20s section, which will be transformed into a beach-themed area to be renamed the Boardwalk.

In addition to the new ride, the area will feature restaurants, games and entertainment all centered on ocean themes and Southern California beach culture. The shark-themed HammerHead will make its debut March 30, while the rest of the Boardwalk entertainment should be unveiled by June.

"Our research showed that a beach theme would be more appealing to our visitors," said Knott's Berry Farm spokesman Bob Ochsner of the plans to scrap the Roaring '20s. "It's one of the primary reasons people come to Orange County."

Knott's attracted 3.4 million visitors in 1995, down 10.5% from 1994 and almost a third lower than the 5 million paying guests who crossed the turnstyles in 1990, according to Entertainment Business magazine.

Industry observers say the remake is a logical decision for Knott's, the oldest theme park in Southern California, with some of the buildings dating to the '40s. The Boardwalk marks the first complete overhaul of a themed area since Knott's began charging admission in 1968.

"Theme parks must constantly upgrade their properties to keep the customers coming back," said leisure consultant Jim Benedict of Management Resources in Tustin. "Roaring '20s has been there for quite some time. It may have needed some new flavor."

The ominous-looking HammerHead is actually a modern version of a traditional European ride known as the RotoShake.

Standing 82 feet high, with 42 seats, the HammerHead will plunge riders--upside-down and sideways at times--toward a water-filled pool surrounded by sculpted sharks, mermaids and other water creatures.

Although the HammerHead is not a water ride in the traditional sense and will not dunk riders under the surface, Ochsner said, ride operators are already figuring out ways to get guests wet through a fountain mechanism linked to the pool.

"At the bottom of the ride, we can literally tickle their faces with water," he said.

The new ride even comes with its own mascot, HammerHead Hank, a frisky land shark who will stroll the Boardwalk and act as host for the new themed area.

The HammerHead is being constructed between the Boomerang and Charleston Circle on a patch of land that previously contained park benches. The Boomerang, the Parachute Sky Jump, the Kingdom of the Dinosaurs and other attractions will be untouched by the areawide renovation.

Other Roaring '20s attractions will get face-lifts to fit into the new beach theme. Knott's Cloud 9 Theater will be transformed into the Nu Wave Theater and feature 3-D images, laser, smoke and other theatrical effects.

The current Captain Kelly's food area will be remade into AirHeadz, a sort of high-tech fast-food joint where patrons can play video games and talk to each other on table-to-table telephones.

The renovation will debut in June, in time for Snoopy's Joe Cool Summer, a collection of summer shows and entertainment featuring the cartoon beagle's sunglass-wearing alter ego.


Under the Boardwalk

Knott's Berry Farm is revamping its Roaring '20s area into the Boardwalk, a beach-themed array of rides and attractions. Details on the redesigned area:

HammerHead Ride

Description: Two rotating spheres spin riders to a height of 80 feet above an ocean-themed grotto, where they are suspended upside-down and sideways. Computer-controlled fountain jets spray passenger compartments.

Duration: Usually two to three minutes, but the ride is programmable for duration, rotation direction, speed and amount of water (little or no water sprayed on passengers on cooler days).

Projected opening: Late March

Price: Included in admission

Other Features

Nu Wave Theater: 3-D images, music, lasers and other theatrical effects. Formerly Cloud Nine Theater.

AirHeadz: Interactive music, food and high-tech game center featuring the KnottHeads, an in-house band. Formerly Captain Kelly's.

Rides and attractions: Boomerang, Parachute Sky Jump, Sky Tower and Kingdom of the Dinosaurs will be incorporated into the redesigned Boardwalk area.

Source: Knott's Berry Farm; Researched by JANICE L. JONES / Los Angeles Times

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