Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Lake Compounce Trip Report June 2023: A Disappointing Visit + Floating Concert Stage Update With Everclear Concert

A photo of what heartbreak looks like. Please excuse a bunch of the photos on here, I expected to be doing a lot more riding so I mainly did phone shots in this report. I also pledge honesty on here, which is tough when that honesty has to be pretty negative. 

I am conflicted with this trip report because while the park was operated in a completely lousy way, the bones of the park are good. They put in place some good things, namely in the creation of the floating stage, and what looks to be recent sprucing up of the midways and changes with the campground. They have some good concepts going, but appear to have really dropped the ball with the fundamental structural running of an amusement park. I don't know if budget crunching has decimated the maintenance and ride operations at the park or what not, but I have never been as outwardly angry and agitated about a park before in all of my years of visiting amusement parks. I have wanted to ride Boulder Dash for decades and the ride was down. I get it, a ride being down once in a while is an inevitability. I have worked in park operations before and I get it. The operations at the park were downright unacceptable. Only one of the park's four coasters operated all day, and one other (Phobia Phear Coaster) ran for about an hour, intermittently. 

I get that Wildcat is down for the season for refurbishment, but the announcement of this was strange as well, as if it were some haphazard decision to not operate the coaster, and not have a plan to get it fixed either. No work appears to be going on with that ride.

Almost the entire upper half of the amusement park rides were closed, aside from the Carousel, Bumper Cars, and Ferris Wheel. For a park that is light on rides to begin with, this made the visit pretty miserable. If any of this was about staffing, maybe they could go down to one or maybe two "skip the line" pass cashiers and move the remaining three or four extra workers to rides, or move an extra worker or two from the fully staffed games, or move a few people from the overly staffed and mediocre food stands to get enough ride operators and attendants. On the topic of food, they should try to convince Costco to have them open up a few of their snack bars around the park. A Costco hot dog would be 100 times better than the park's food offerings.

Another fundamental thing that I do not understand with this park is why they have so few coasters and even adult thrill rides in general. If the park had another signature ride aside from Boulder Dash, the day would have been okay, though I would still be disappointed. For example, even though this has never happened to me at Knoebels, if Twister were down, I could go ride Phoenix, or vice versa, and I would have a just fine day. Even at Lake Compounce's sister park, Kennywood, Steel Curtain is an unreliable machine that is often down, but the ride collection is just fine that it is not a big deal if the ride is closed, since there are four other perfect coasters at the park. It is baffling how they have not taken the care to have an additional signature ride at Lake Compounce. If I were in charge at that park, I would have a plan to get another basic off-the-shelf design coaster like their Premier Sky Rocket II (Phobia) and their Boomerang. A Wild Mouse would be a fine addition to the park. Then get plans in place to add something big, like maybe a Chance Hyper GT-X coaster like they have at Kentucky Kingdom, or even another modern wood coaster from GCI or Gravity Group to have as a second blockbuster coaster for the park. The park has no lifeline if their main ride is down.

The new Titan Track on the epic looking Boulder Dash, which sat there as eye candy all day. We went to ride the Ferris Wheel, but no purses or bags were allowed and we were not going to leave them out. You could not leave them on the platform either, the ride ops were insistent on them being placed in the mulch patch at the bottom of the stairs. Not worth walking down to a locker to go ride the Ferris Wheel or to have a purse swiped by leaving it in the mulch on the midway. Since the park seems to love to have money spent at it, it would be a nice thing if they opened up a set of lockers at the top of the hill in the park as well. 

The new Titan Track looked pretty neat on Boulder Dash. I was very much looking forward to riding on it for the first time but it was just not meant to be. 

What I do not comprehend about Lake Compounce's approach with adding the track is that they did not appear to give any major attention to the historically problematic final airtime hills, which appeared to be the problem that maintenance was working on throughout the day. There did not appear to be a single new board within that track layering. I can't imagine that maintenance did not anticipate there being any issues in that section this year. I think maintenance needs to go on a field trip to Knoebels and Holiday World, or even Kennywood, to see how wooden coaster maintenance is done. I am sure the Titan Track will make a big difference with the ride. Upkeep the rest and I am sure that you would not have the star attraction of the park down in the prime time of the season. 

Now for the positives at the park:

The setting at the lake is beautiful and the wooded property at the bottom of a mountain is terrific. This is a special park that is just not being managed well at the moment. The potential for this park is sky-high, with it being in the midst of one of the largest markets in the country, within two hours of Boston and New York, and in the middle of a bunch of cities in Connecticut, there is no reason that if they did not do some expansion and effective advertising, this park would be booming.

The carousel is breathtaking. It had no particular visible style to it that tipped me off to who the manufacturer was. It is relatively plainly adorned but still beautiful and unique. The horses had great details that would look great if it were refurbished. It lacked the flamboyance of the Coney Island style that Looff put into his later machines. This Looff machine was relocated to the park in 1911 after opening at Savin Rock Park in CT back in 1890. It also has a Wurlitzer organ. Sadly, the paint is sadly in disrepair on the horses. WRF Designs and the Carousel Museum are located within 15 minutes of the park in Plainville and they do world class carousel restorations. I feel like the park should give them a call. 

The historic trolley ride is awesome. To have a historic machine like this running in the park, along the water and Boulder Dash, is truly something special. 

The newer Chance produced train with a long course around the lake is nice. These were probably my favorite rides in the park.

Some good attention has clearly been given to refreshing and beautifying the midways. I like when attention is given to these kinds of fundamentals. Let's put that same focus into ride maintenance and operations. As I look at the photo above though, I am reminded that it was a few minutes after opening time that they actually opened the gates. Not that there were many open rides to run to anyways. Of the three rides in view in this photo, only Phobia ran, and that was intermittently for about an hour.

We did snag a ride on Phobia Phear Coaster, which is the park's Premier Sky Rocket II coaster. I was fortunate to catch it in the hour or so that it ran on this day. It is a fun ride, but by no means a signature ride. 

We also caught a ride on their Boomerang coaster, which was just fine and ran relatively smooth for this model of coaster that can be notoriously rough, though there was a little bit of head banging in the cobra roll. I didn't ride 8 hours to ride these coasters that can be ridden anywhere though. 

The campground was cute. The cabins were a tad expensive, but not terrible, but I figured the premium that they charged would be more than worth it for the opportunity to ride Boulder Dash, though my hopes were dashed on that and I was thoroughly heartbroken. 

Seeing Everclear play on the new floating stage was the clear highlight of the day. The idea is decent and will definitely help to bring in more people, though the chorus of angry people I heard exclaim "I am never going here again" is probably going to balance that out. Hearing Everclear play "Santa Monica" helped salvage the day at the end. I can just imagine if one or two more things went right on our visit, that it would have been an excellent and memorable day, maybe even one of my best. 

The park needs to get their maintenance and operations in order. Palace should send management on trips to well run independent parks like Knoebels or Holiday World, and to other chains to get an idea of how to run a park. I would hate to see this park nearly slip away again like it did in the past. I would really like to take another trip to this park, but to blow hundreds of dollars on lodging and day passes again to have it be wasted without a ride on Boulder Dash gives me huge hesitation, though that coaster has been on my bucket list for a very long time. I hope I get back someday and the coaster actually runs for it looks like one of the best in the world. 

I always pledge honesty on here, and the downside of that is when you have to be negative. Seldom has a park visit let me down as hard as this one has, scratch that, no park has ever let me down as hard as this, but that's life. One of the other things that got on my nerves is that the park did not say "hey, I realize a bunch of our rides are closed, here is a pass to get a free meal or something." If three of your four main coasters are down for the day, you should give a 75 percent refund for a day pass. I passed by a guy who was walking into he park entrance with his two little kids. The dad asked the kids what they wanted to do first and they excitedly yelled "Wildcat!" I did not have the heart to break the bad news to them, or about the other disappointment they were set to see with the bulk of the other rides being closed. Lots of people were upset around the midways all day. I spent a good chunk of change for us to have a good day at the park, and that is nothing compared to what a large family paid for a day out.  They did not even have an attendant out at the end of the queue of Boulder Dash all day to give updates. Lake Compounce knows what it has to do to be adequate. If this keeps up, they will be losing a good chunk of their repeat attendance for years and they will need to be earned back. 

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