California's Great America

California's Great America

Infobox Amusement park
name = California's Great America

caption =
location = Santa Clara
location2 = California
location3 = United States flagicon|USA
opening_date = 1976
previous_names = "Marriott's Great America" - 1976 to 1984 "Great America" - 1985 to 1992 and 2006 to 2007 "Paramount's Great America" - 1993 to 2006 "California's Great America" - 2008 to Present
area = 364 acres (1.5 km²)
season = March through October
rides = 55
coasters = 8
water_rides = 3
owner =Cedar Fair Entertainment Co.
slogan =
homepage = [ California's Great America]

California's Great America is an amusement park owned and operated by Cedar Fair Entertainment Company, located in Santa Clara, California, USA. Great America is one of four major amusement parks that operate around the San Francisco Bay Area, the other three being Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in Santa Cruz, and Gilroy Gardens in Gilroy. California's Great America is the only theme park in northern California that has a water park built in.


1970s and 1980s

Marriott's Great America, built by Marriott, a hotel operator, was opened in 1976 along with a sister park located in the Chicago area bearing the same name. A third park was originally planned but was not constructed due to local opposition in Washington DC area. The Chicago park became Six Flags Great America in 1985.

The park, although profitable, was still an earnings disappointment for Marriott, leading the company in 1983 to agree to sell the park to Caz Development Co., which valued the prized land appraised at US$800,000 to $1 million per acre. But Marriott also gave a first option to the park to the city of Santa Clara, which was already partially involved in the park, leasing 55 acres for parking space for $75,000 per year. Fearing development of the land would aggravate congested roads, on 31 January 1984 the city council approved a $101 million deal by a 4-3 count on the condition that the electorate authorize the agreement. City voters approved the sale by a margin of 3 to 1. Caz Development sued the city and Marriott in Santa Clara County Superior Court to block the transaction. The court nullified the sale, forcing the city to attempt to salvage their deal through negotiations with both other parties. Unable to broker a timely agreement, the city council voted 6-1 to scuttle the sale on February 5, 1985, although the city was still interested in owning the park. After Marriott refunded a $20 million down payment to the city, negotiations were started afresh. Finally all parties worked out a compromise, which was signed in marathon sessions taking place over June 4-5, 1985. The city for $93.5 million acquired the park and inventory from Marriott, which retained 20 acres for development. Caz Development settled its lawsuit and in exchange the city allowed the developer to build a hotel and an office on land near the park.

During the 1980s the park conducted a number of environmental analyses, many related to acoustical impacts of proposed new rides. Examples of these studies include the "Grizzly" ride and a proposed steel coaster. [Ballard W. George, "Acoustical Study for New Steel Roller Coaster Great America Park, Santa Clara, Ca.", Earth Metrics Inc., Report 10029 prepared for the city of Santa Clara]

Kings Entertainment Co., an operator of other parks, was hired to manage the park for the city. As planned, the city ended its ownership and sold the park structures to Kings in 1989 for $22 million but not the land, which would be leased for $5.3 million a year. In addition, the city earned 5 percent of revenue over $56 million.

1992 - 2006: Paramount Parks era

Three years later Paramount Communications, then owners of Paramount Pictures, sought to join other entertainment companies as a theme park owner. The company acquired Kings Entertainment, owner of three parks including Great America, and two other parks for $400 million and created Paramount Parks. Viacom, the parent owner of MTV Networks and Nickelodeon, then bought Paramount in 1994, allowing Nickelodeon theming and merchandise into the park as well. During the Paramount Era, attractions from the Action FX Theatre, Nickelodeon Splat City (Now Nickelodeon Central), Drop Zone Stunt Tower giant drop, Invertigo inverted boomerang, and many more modern thrill ride attractions were added in. Unfortunately because the park was literally landlocked being in the center of Silicon Valley, several rides including the classic train ride and the Triple Wheel Ferris Wheel, a Marriott's Great America signature attraction, were removed to make way for newer attractions.

ummer 2006 & Beyond: Cedar Fair

After Viacom and CBS Corporation split, Paramount Parks became part of CBS. The merger did not last long as CBS announced plans to sell the theme park division.

In May 2006, it was announced that Cedar Fair Entertainment Co. would be acquiring the entire Paramount Parks chain for $1.24 Billion USD. [ [ Cedar Fair to buy CBS park unit for $1.24 billion - International Herald Tribune ] ] On June 30, 2006, Cedar Fair announced it completed the acquisition of Paramount Parks, including Great America. [ [ Press Releases :: Cedar Fair Entertainment Company ] ] The transaction includes licensing agreements with Nickelodeon and Paramount, providing the park the option to retain its Nickelodeon and Paramount theming for several years. [ [ EDGAR Filing Documents for 0000811532-06-000054 ] ]

On October 25, 2007, Cedar Fair renamed the park California's Great America and announced that it would also receive a 14 million dollar investment over the next two years. For the 2008 season, the park saw the addition of a new Huss Rides top spin ride called FireFall, a new ice show in the renamed "Great America Theatre" (formerly The Paramount Theatre), and the addition of the Halloween Haunt event to the park. [ [ Great America | San Francisco's Themed Amusement Park (Santa Clara) ] ]

Rides and attractions

Current rides

The park's current rides and attractions include:

*The Demon. Built by Arrow Dynamics, the Demon is the park's oldest roller coaster, opening with the park in 1976 and originally named Turn of the Century.
*Flight Deck. A B&M built Inverted roller coaster, Flight Deck is Northern California's longest Inverted coaster. Formerly known as Top Gun".
* Invertigo. A Vekoma Invertigo shuttle coaster, Invertigo was North America's first inverted face-to-face roller coaster.
* Vortex. A B&M Stand-Up roller coaster, Vortex is Northern California's only stand-up coaster.
* Drop Tower. A Giant Drop model drop tower (2nd generation Intamin freefall ride). Eventually replaced the park's original 1st gen. Freefall ride, The Edge. Stands convert|224|ft|m. Drops at convert|62|mi/h|km/h|abbr=on. Formerly Drop Zone Stunt Tower.
* Carousel Columbia. A Double decker carousel, is one of the world's tallest carousels, along with the clone at Six Flags Great America.
* . A Zamperla Disk-O.
* Action Theater. A motion simulator attraction featuring SpongeBob SquarePants in 3D. Formerly known as Days of Thunder
* Grizzly. A wooden roller coaster designed by Curtis D. Summers and built by Kings Island Construction, Maintenance & Engineering Dept., Grizzly opened in 1986. According to one poll, this rated as the worst wooden roller coaster in the United States consecutively from 2005 to 2007. [cite web|url=|title=Detailed Wood Roller Coaster Poll Results 2005] [cite web|url=|title=Detailed Wood Roller Coaster Poll Results 2006] [cite web|url=|title=Detailed Wood Roller Coaster Poll Results 2007]
* The Orbit. An Schwarzkopf Enterprise (ride). The Orbit Re-opened in 2007.
* Centrifuge. An Schwarzkopf Scrambler, formerly known as Fiddler's Fling.
* Berserker. An Schwarzkopf Bayern Kurve.
* H.M.B. Endeavor. An Intamin Space Shuttle/Looping Starship, formerly known as The Revolution.
* Whitewater Falls. A Shoot-the-Chutes.
* Flying Eagles. A Larson Flying Scooters.
* Delirium. A Chance Revolution.
* Xtreme Skyflyer. convert|170|ft|m|abbr=on tall skycoaster flying 17 stories at convert|60|mi/h|km/h|abbr=on. Upcharge attraction.
* Psycho Mouse. An Arrow Wild Mouse.
* Loggers Run. An Arrow Flume Ride.
* Celebration Swings. A Zierer Wave Swinger.
* Rip Roaring Rapids. An Intamin River rafting ride.
* Barney Oldfield Speedway. Classic style car ride for everyone of all ages.
* Nickelodeon Central. Nickelodeon themed area based on the popular Television channel. Rides include Rugrats Runaway Reptar Family Coaster, Wild Thornberry's Rain Maze, Comvee, and SpongeBob Boat Mobiles and more.
* KidZville. kiddie themed area.
* FireFall. New for 2008. Relocated Huss Top Spin, Texas Twister, from Geauga Lake. The ride officially opened May 17, 2008. The ride also contains water, fire, and fog effects to enhance the ride experience.
* Star Tower. An observation tower, Star Tower was formerly Sky Tower.
* Rue Le Dodge. Bumper cars.
* Thunder Raceway. Go-karts. Upcharge attraction.

Past rides

Past ride and attractions include:

*Stealth. A Vekoma Flying Dutchman, was removed for construction of the Boomerang Bay Beach Club, and relocated to Carowinds as Nighthawk.
*Great America Scenic Railway. A custom-built railroad around the perimeter of the park.
*Yankee Clipper. An Arrow Dynamics Hydro Flume that used to interlock with Logger's Run.
*Greased Lightning. A shuttle loop roller coaster known as Tidal Wave. Manufactured by Anton Schwarzkopf.
*The Edge. The first original free-fall ride in the world and a first-generation Intamin AG Freefall.
*Skyhawk. The pilot ride with the barrel rolls around the tower, known as an Intamin AG Flight Trainer.
*Sky Whirl. The three armed Ferris wheel, made by Intamin AG, was removed to make room for the Invertigo.
*Lobster. An octopus/spider ride.
*Bottoms Up. The classic carnival ride known as the Trabant.
*Triple Play. The Huss Troika ride that was next to Vortex.
*Willard's Whizzer. The original steel family roller coaster, made by Anton Schwarzkopf.
*Trolly Cars. In early years trolly cars traveled in Hometown Square and other parts of the park.
*Dolphin Show/ Seal Show. During the Marriott years Dolphins and Seals were kept to do daily shows. Removed when Paramount took over to make way for a large amphitheater.
*Smurf Woods. Smurf themed, small kids area equip with small Smurf mushroom houses. Was changed eventually into KidZVille.

California's Great America's Timeline

*2008: Firefall; ice show at the Great America Theatre; new “mine shaft” theaming added to The Demon; Halloween HAUNT
*2007: Great Barrier Reef added to Boomerang Bay
*2006: SURVIVOR: The Ride
*2005: Boomerang Bay expansion
*2004: Boomerang Bay
*2003: SpongeBob SquarePants 3-D in the Action Theater; Nickelodeon Central (expansion of Splat City); Stealth (flying steel coaster) is removed and sent to Carowinds as Nighthawk
*2002: Delirium; Flying Eagles; Greased Lightning (steel coaster) removed
*2001: Psycho Mouse; Celebration Swings
*2000: Stealth (flying steel coaster); Scenic Railroad removed
*1999: KidZville; Taxi Jam Coaster
*1998: Invertigo
*1997: Xtreme Skyflyer
*1996: Drop Tower
*1995: Nickelodeon Splat City
*1994: Action Theater, with "Days of Thunder"
*1993: Flight Deck
*1991: Vortex
*1990: Whitewater Falls
*1989: Skyhawk
*1988: Rip Roaring Rapids
*1987: Rugrats Runaway Reptar; Smurf Woods; Fort Fun; HMB Endeavor
*1986: Redwood Amphitheater with the "Miami Sound Machine"
*1985: The Grizzly
*1983: The Edge
*1980: The Demon
*1979: Star Tower
*1978: IMAX Pictorium Theater, with film "Man Belongs to the Earth"
*1977: Greased Lightning (steel coaster)
*1976: California's Great America first year of operation

On film and television

*Though appearing under the name "WonderWorld", California's Great America was used as the theme park in the 1994 film "Beverly Hills Cop III".
*California's Great America was also used as the theme park Macauley Culkin visits in the 1994 film "Getting Even with Dad".
*California's Great America was featured in a 2007 Excedrin commercial with the park's inverted steel coaster, "Flight Deck", as the main star.


California's Great America fans often criticizedFact|date=August 2008 the park during the Paramount Parks era for the removal of several "Marriott-era" rides without any replacement attraction, including:

*Pictorium (standing, but has not shown a film since 2001)

*Great America Scenic Railway (was to be replaced by Hypersonic XLC)

*Triple Play (Huss Troika)

*Tidal Wave/Greased Lightnin' (Schwarzkopf Shuttle Loop)

Injuries and accidents

There have been a number of notable injuries and accidents at California's Great America, some of which are listed below. Please see Incidents at Cedar Fair parks for additional information on these and other incidents.

*In 1980, a 13-year-old boy was killed and several others injured on the Willard's Whizzer roller coaster.

*In 1989, two boys intentionally jumped out of the Loggers' Run ride. One was killed and the other fell safely onto a platform. [ [ 7/12/07 ] ]

*In 1991, two couples were injured on the Yankee Clipper as their boat hydroplaned then capsized, leaving the riders temporarily trapped under the upside-down boat. The attraction was later modified to include a bump at the bottom of the drop in order to prevent hydroplaning.

*In 1998, after riding Flight Deck, a 24 year old Spanish man, who could not read the English-language warning signs, entered a locked, gated area underneath the ride to retrieve a hat. He was hit and killed by the foot of a passenger on the Flight Deck train. The passenger suffered a broken leg. [ [ - 1998 Accident Reports and News ] ]

*In 1999, a 12-year-old boy fell out of the Drop Tower and died. [ article]

*On July 12, 2007, a 4 year old boy drowned in the Boomerang Bay's Great Barrier Reef wave pool. [ [ 7/12/07 ] ] [ [ 4-Year-Old Drowns In California's Great America Wave Pool - News Story - KNTV | San Francisco ] ]



*Michelson, Herb. (June 7, 1984). "City will purchase Marriott's". "Sacramento Bee", p. A.
*"Santa Clara drops Great America pact". (February 7, 1985). "San Francisco Chronicle", p. 4.
*Ewell, Miranda. (June 6, 1985). "Santa Clara assumes ownership of Great America". "San Jose Mercury News" (CA), p. 8B.
*Kava, Brad. (March 15, 1989). "Great America reopens". "San Jose Mercury News", p. 1.
*Eng, Sherri. (August 1, 1992). "Paramount to buy Great America owner". "San Jose Mercury News", p. 1E.

External links

* [ Official Park Website]
* [ Great America Parks] Unofficial History Site
* [,+CA&ll=37.395551,-121.972082&spn=0.010254,0.014473&t=k&hl=en Satellite view of the site]
* [ NorCalCoasters.Net] Unofficial Site

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