Scene75 Dayton

8th August 2021

Day four of my trip began with an audible colourful metaphor as I realised that I'd significantly overestimated how long it would take to drive to Scene75. The root cause was a last minute change of hotel made for cost reasons that put me around twenty miles closer to Dayton than originally expected. In the interests of not being too early I set cruise control in my rental car to a leisurely fifty-five and camped out in the right hand lane of the interstate, but even with that I arrived at my destination a good fifteen minutes before opening.

The official history of the park records that it was named after the adjacent I-75 interstate as a place to make a scene, and one was indeed made if not quite of the type that the developers intended. On 27th May 2019 a series of tornadoes tore through Dayton, causing an estimated one billion dollars worth of damage. Scene75 lost much of its roof and several walls, and damaged sprinkler pipes flooded what was left. A number of air conditioning units from the roof were never found.

November 2020 November 2020
May 2019 May 2019

The facilities were rebuilt in time for Christmas 2020, and as an added bonus a previously unused area of the building became home to a forty thousand square foot expansion with several new attractions, including a 300-seat banquet center, a two storey drop tower, indoor batting cages, and a next-generation spinning coaster from SBF Rides.

Tsunami (#2909) is the second American installation of the MX612 v5.0, a relatively new production model that made its park debut at Clarence Pier and Jenkinson's Boardwalk in April 2019. The ride footprint is broadly equivalent to a standard Wacky Worm, though it stands roughly fifty percent taller and also features a diagonal lift hill. While unequivocally a family coaster I found the experience to be surprisingly lively, particularly when facing backwards down the main drop. A four lap cycle cost $7 in smart card credit, though readers should be aware that cards are only sold in multiples of $5; I used the difference on a few arcade games.

Though the coaster was fine I found the park as a whole to be a bit soulless; to be blunt, it looked like a warehouse filled with rides and arcade machines. Murals on the walls represented the total extent of the theming, which fell quite a way short when compared against some of the more elaborately decorated indoor parks I've visited over the years. This is going to sound very silly, but I think the biggest thing for me was the unadorned black flooring; a little bit of colour and/or carpet would have made a world of difference, as indeed it did at my second stop.

 

Scene75 Columbus

8th August 2021

The Mall at Tuttle Crossing is an enclosed shopping mall that opened in 1997 in the north-western suburbs of Columbus. It was successful in its first few years, but has been in decline for some time as consumer behaviour has changed. It is currently owned and operated by Deutsche Bank following a foreclosure earlier this year.

Scene75

In 2019, Scene75 took over an anchor unit that was previously home to Marshall Field's and Macy's. The official website claims the 227,000 square foot space to be the largest Family Entertainment Center in the United States, which set me thinking: at what point does a FEC become an amusement park and vice-versa? Some have suggested that the distinction is the existence of things such as arcade games, bowling, karting, and mini-golf – but at the risk of being a bit silly, three of these could be found at Cedar Point until relatively recently. An alternative proposal is for the category to include adjuncts to shopping malls, but for that case I'd note that the two Nickelodeon Universe installations are both larger than Scene75. Maybe I should ask simpler questions. Maybe no one cares.

SBF Visa offer a number of standard themes for their figure eight spinning coasters, and many of these pop up over and over again, such as the black and white race car design that I've encountered half a dozen times over the years. Scene75 is home to one of the relatively few examples of the genre to borrow nothing from previous installations, and it is better for it. Nuclear Rush (#2909) uses a sparse colour palette centered around four hues: black, white, yellow, and orange – and its distinctive appearance is if anything amplified by the mural on the wall behind, which portrays an imagined spinning coaster built without regard for the laws of physics. A six lap cycle cost me $6 in credit, which required a new $10 card; as with the Malibu Jack's chain Scene75 smart cards are branch-specific.

 

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

8th August 2021

Twenty years ago the park now known as the Columbus Zoo stood directly next door to Wyandot Lake, a nineteenth century amusement park that had been acquired some years earlier by the Six Flags chain. At the end of the 2006 season the zoo purchased the entire property, and the two have since been amalgamated into a single gate. The prices have been creeping up ever since; admission today required $10 for the privilege of parking a third of a mile from the entrance, as well as a combined $40 for zoo admission and a ride wristband.

One of the best things about counting coasters is the friendships built up over time with those who are similarly inclined. As of this writing there are eight people listed on Coaster-Count with more than two thousand ticks to their name, and I've met all of them over the years at enthusiast events and the like. Occasionally our paths cross unexpectedly, and so it was today; I'd just made it through the gate when a Facebook message arrived from Martin and Cheryl, who noticed that I'd been at Dayton earlier in the day. Less than ten minutes later we met for real in what definitely isn't one of the most mainstream amusement parks in North America.

Sea Dragon

Tidal Twist (#2910) is a compact form Zamperla Twister Coaster, more commonly known as a spinning mouse. The ride almost was almost certainly second hand, evidenced by the way that its bottle green track showed several areas of bright pink where the newer paint had rubbed away. Those tiny visual incongruities were however the only minor negative to what was a perfectly respectable ride and a solid addition to the line-up. Over the course of the afternoon I enjoyed three pleasant laps.

The other coaster in the park is of far greater import, both for ride experience and for historical value. Sea Dragon is the oldest surviving coaster to be designed by John C. Allen, the one-time president of the Philadelphia Toboggan Company, and a man who did more than anybody else to develop the modern wood coaster. I had only the vaguest memories of experiencing this back in 2003, and as such today felt almost like I was riding for the first time. My three laps in the back seat were an unmitigated joy; though not particularly tall or fast it was nevertheless perfection in wood coaster form. Buzz bars, sections of new track, and a completely manual braking system constituted icing on what was already a delicious cake.

The other stand-out ride at Columbus Zoo is the Grand Carousel, a Mangels-Illions machine that dates from 1914. The original hardware was given a $1 million dollar overhaul at the start of the millennium, and ongoing work since has kept the fabulously intricate horses looking in as-new condition. While I was glad to ride, I'm sorry to report that the experience was a bit of a let down today because the Wurlitzer 153 band organ was out of service. Replacement music was being piped over the PA, but it just wasn't the same. I've since discovered a video that shows a laptop driving the system in place of the original paper rolls, making me wonder whether an inconveniently-timed Windows Update might have been been the root cause of today's problems.

With everything on my agenda complete I started wandering around the zoo with my camera, but after about ten minutes I gave up and decided to head for my car; the exhibits were crowded and I was overheating. The weather in the United States in August is definitely not suitable for someone accustomed to Ireland.