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Competition Spurs Knott's Into $35-Million Expansion

March 07, 1998|DARYL STRICKLAND | TIMES STAFF WRITER

BUENA PARK — In an effort to stay competitive in the rapidly evolving theme park industry, the new owners of Knott's Berry Farm said Friday they will spend more than $35 million to create three new attractions and refurbish Independence Hall.

The project, which includes Orange County's highest structure, will be the costliest and most ambitious expansion at Knott's, said Cedar Fair LP, the Sandusky, Ohio, company that acquired Knott's in December.

It also is expected to add 100 employees to the payroll, the company said.

Cedar Fair executives said Knott's will retain its heritage, but the nation's oldest theme park will add pizazz with two signature thrill rides, including the 30-story Supreme Scream, opening July 4.

"We needed something people will talk about," said Jack Falfas, Knott's general manager. "We wanted to make a big splash and be noticed."

But it's getting harder for a smaller park to be noticed in Southern California, where competition is brutal.

This spring, Magic Mountain in Valencia plans to open what it calls the world's fastest and tallest stand-up roller coaster. And Disneyland, less than 10 miles away from Knott's, hopes to complete an expensive renovation of its Tomorrowland by May while it builds a second gate--a new themed attraction--at its Anaheim complex.

Knott's, the nation's 12th-busiest park, wants to raise attendance and consistently draw 4 million patrons a year with its brand of family entertainment.

* The Supreme Scream will take riders up more than 30 stories, the highest point in the county, pause momentarily and plunge down the rails at speeds up to 50 miles per hour. It then springs upward halfway as if on a bungee cord, before the ride ends. On Friday, Knott's Snoopy mascot waved to spectators from a helicopter hovering about as high as the ride will reach. The attraction is expected to cost $9.5 million.

* The Knott's NightBurst Spectacular, a $1.5-million laser light and sound show, will debut Memorial Day weekend and continue nightly throughout the summer. Viewed from the park's Reflections Lake, lights, lasers, fireworks and images projected onto a giant water screen will be blended into a 25-minute show.

* The replica of Independence Hall will be closed in May for refurbishing and reopened by mid-September.

* The Ghost Rider, billed as the tallest and longest wooden roller coaster in the Southland, will open in the spring of 1999 at an estimated cost of $23 million. The ride, built with yellow pine to blend with the park's Old West theme, will run above Grand Avenue, extend to Beach Boulevard and dominate the park's entrance.

The park plans to spend $1.5 million to convert a vacant strip of land into a parking lot to ease congestion around the area.

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