Amusement Park Awards Or Popularity Contests?
The 2013 Golden Ticket Awards, presented by Amusement Today, were recently announced at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in Santa Cruz, California. The annual ceremony, started 16 years ago in 1998, presents amusement park awards that have been chosen by industry experts to be the best of the best in different categories. For example, the categories include Top Steel Roller Coaster, Best Shows, Friendliest Park, Cleanest Park, the coveted Best Park, and many more. A lot of great companies and attractions win these awards, but are they fairly chosen?
I am not a big fan of any annual award shows, or rankings in general. Not that they don’t have their merits, but I just don’t think the winners are fairly chosen. In my opinion, in order for somebody to legitimately be able to rate something as the best, then they need to have at least experienced all of the contenders. For example, when members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) are asked to vote for an Oscar winner each year, they are provided with a DVD of each movie up for the award. They can then watch each movie and make an informed decision when casting their vote. That doesn’t happen with amusement park awards. Not even close.
I can just about guarantee that nobody on this planet has experienced every roller coaster, theme park, and water park eligible for these awards. I know there are some people that have probably come close, but they are very few and far between, and they don’t visit every park every year. A park can go through a major transformation in just a year or two. With the right investment, a run down, dirty, unfriendly park can completely turn itself around for the better. Better food, better rides, better staff – it can be done. Conversely, a brand new highly rated park can be driven into the ground in the same amount of time. If somebody has only visited a park once, ten years ago, how can they honestly give it a fair annual ranking based on their outdated experience?
So if everybody voting for these awards hasn’t actually visited each and every park around the globe, within the last year, what exactly is it that they’re basing their vote on? I think it’s popularity. There is a lot of hype when something new and revolutionary comes along. For example, Silver Dollar City‘s newest roller coaster Outlaw Run, the very first roller coaster designed and built from the ground up by Rocky Mountain Construction, took home the Best New Attraction for 2013 award. Just about everyone who has ridden this ride has said it is absolutely fantastic. However, I’m sure that not everyone who voted for it has actually ridden it. They probably just read the reviews, talked to their industry peers, watched the countless POV videos, and decided that it was most deserving of the award. Is that fair? I don’t think so. It’s a popularity vote. Unless they actually go out and ride every new attraction that opened in 2013 themselves, I don’t think the vote should be counted.
This isn’t meant to be a criticism against these types of awards, because it’s not. I think they still have a value to the consumer. If the majority of people are saying that Busch Gardens Williamsburg (BGW) has the Best Landscaping, then there must be something to that and I might want to add it to my “to-do” list if that’s important to me. However, how do we know there isn’t a small park in the middle of Japan that recently added some out of this world Japanese Gardens that blow everything else away? If only a small group of voters had visited that park this past year and voted for it, then it wouldn’t stand a chance against the masses that are familiar with BGW and vote for it instead. So therefore, does BGW really have the best landscaping, or is it just the most popular?
Based on the time I spend on the roller coasters at Six Flags Magic Mountain, people often ask me to rank them from best to worst. I won’t do that for a variety of reasons. The experience one has on a roller coaster is unique only to them. It’s also affected by many outside influences, such as weather, ride maintenance, and ride operations. It’s also hard to compare two different style roller coasters to each other. For example, I really like both Superman: Escape from Krypton and X2. I won’t say that one is better than the other because they are completely different coasters, with each providing me with a completely different experience. I also enjoy Green Lantern: First Flight on occasion, while others say it’s the worst roller coaster ever designed. There is absolutely no value in my ranking of roller coasters to anyone other than me.
This is how I feel about amusement park awards. Just because Outlaw Run got the most votes (popularity) as the best new attraction, there is no guarantee that I’m going to like it at all. The same can be said for those who voted for it but have never been on it. I may ride it and say that it’s the worst roller coaster ever. That’s highly doubtful, but my point is that until I ride it myself and form my own conclusion, then the award it won really does me no good other than to tell me I might want to try riding it someday.
I’d like to hear from you. Do you put much merit into what other people think of roller coasters or do you like to ride them yourself and form your own opinions? Have you ever voted in a poll not having experienced all of the choices firsthand? I know I have, and I feel guilty about it every time knowing it’s just a popularity vote and skews the results.