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O.C. BUSINESS PLUS | HEARD ON THE BEAT / TOURISM

Is the Rocket Rods Attraction Headed Way of Mir Space Station?

September 20, 2000|E. SCOTT RECKARD

Back at the Magic Kingdom, Tomorrowland's notoriously unreliable Rocket Rods ride apparently will get a long, long rest and overhaul after a final spin this weekend. Guest-relations workers say the attraction, which buzzes riders around the former People Mover track in vehicles that resemble dragsters, won't be back in action until April--seven months from now.

"That is a very long time for a planned closure," a Disneyland ride expert said. "It's really unprecedented at Disneyland, and probably at all Disney parks."

"They really need to do some enhancements," added a guest-relations employee, citing complaints about frequent breakdowns. "This has been a thorn in our sides."

Rumors continue to fly among employees that the Rocket Rods, installed in 1998 as part of a $100-million Tomorrowland update, may head to Yesterland, never to return. But unofficial Disneyland historian Dave Koenig finds that hard to believe.

"They have too much invested to just scrap the attraction," said Koenig, author of the "Mouse Tales" books of Disneyland yarns and trivia. "But no matter what they say in public, the ride is too expensive and time-consuming to maintain in its current form. If the coming rehab doesn't work out most of the kinks, I can see them shipping the Rods to Orlando."

Koenig said the attraction would function better on a custom-made track than on the elevated People Mover track, and there's room to build one at Walt Disney World in Florida. "In the meantime," he added, "the debate is raging between Disneyland and [Disney ride designers] over who will pay for the upgrades."

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E. Scott Reckard covers tourism for The Times. He can be reached at (714) 966-7407 and at scott.reckard@latimes.com.

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