Kings Dominion’s opening day is more than a month away, but behind closed gates, the park is buzzing with activity to prepare for a surprisingly action-packed season. 2017 might be a bigger year for Kings Dominion than anyone initially thought; an expansion to the Planet Snoopy area is the main project, but beyond that, we’ve uncovered details about thrill ride renovations, an augmented reality experience, new special events, new shows, and more. In this article, we’ll take a look at everything new in 2017, lay out construction updates, and even reveal some never-before-released information. There’s a lot to cover!
Planet Snoopy Construction Update
Undoubtedly the main project for 2017 is a massive expansion for the Planet Snoopy area. “The world’s largest Peanuts-themed area” is growing larger with the construction of three new family rides, a covered event pavilion, and new dining opportunities.
Planet Snoopy has become a hard-hat zone as construction on the new rides goes underway. To make room for Sally’s Sea Plane, a swinging “flying carpet” attraction, the old Snoopy’s Moon Bounce inflatable has been removed, the land surrounding it has been leveled, and the ride’s concrete foundation has been poured in its place.
Down at the outskirt of Planet Snoopy by Flying Ace, two more rides are being built. The foundation for Peanuts 500, a miniature whip ride, is being cleared in a flat space previously occupied by nothing but a swath of sidewalk. Just next door, the old Peanuts Meet-and-Greet building has been demolished after over 20 years of serving as the park’s hub for character photos. Its footprint has been leveled to make room for Kite Eating Tree, a miniature drop tower.
Back near the site for Sally’s Sea Plane, a new sheltered event space is also under construction. To make room for the new event pavilion, the westernmost portion of the roadway for the Joe Cool Driving School attraction has been demolished and flattened. Fortunately, about two-thirds of Joe Cool’s roadway have survived the demolition, but the remaining section has turned into a flat concrete pad.
Although no official announcement has been made, Busch Dominion can now report that a new restaurant will join Planet Snoopy’s lineup. Called Snoopy’s Snack Shack, the new restaurant will make use of the shuttered concessions building that has sat dormant near Flying Ace for a handful of years. In addition to serving fresh popcorn, Dippin’ Dots, ICEE beverages, and fresh-spun cotton candy, we hear the new restaurant will serve specialty waffles!
But, the Planet Snoopy expansion is just the beginning of what’s in store for 2017.
Rebel Yell Renovations
Rebel Yell is one of our favorite roller coasters at Kings Dominion, but the classic coaster’s first drop was jarringly rough last season. The unbearable roughness may no longer be an issue in 2017, as construction crews have completely redone the ride’s first hill on both sides of the coaster. The international coaster design firm Gravity Group was brought in not just to retrack Rebel Yell, but to totally remove and rebuild the entire structure from the top of the lift hill to the second drop. While nothing has been said officially, we believe Gravity Group will also retrack both sides of the final hill before the turnaround.
Kings Dominion has been gradually renovating its wooden coasters with moderate track work, most recently having retracked Grizzly’s first drop in 2016. However, this may be the park’s most ambitious renovation yet, which hopefully means guests can expect the modified portions of Rebel Yell to feel like a new coaster when it opens in 2017.
Volcano, The Blast Coaster’s fiery mountain is one of Kings Dominion’s most iconic features, but it has seen better days. In 2014, the park launched a multi-year project to restore and rebuild the aging artificial mountain, but the project came to a halt after its first season. Three years later, the project has finally been resurrected! The backside of the mountain has received a massive amount of concrete work, with the entire visible back half of the volcano (viewable from the Flight of Fear midway) being rebuilt with new concrete. Plus, this part of the mountain has gotten a desperately-needed paint job.
Much of the front side of the volcano still needs more concrete and paint work, but at least the most crumbled and decayed part of the mountain, the backside, has finally been tended to.
Battle For Kings Dominion – Augmented Reality Experience
An intriguing new concept is brewing at Kings Dominion: an interactive in-park augmented reality game. Though it has yet to be officially announced to the general public, we know the experience will be called “Battle For Kings Dominion” and will be a second-generation version of the “Battle For Cedar Point” that was released at Kings Dominion’s sister park last year.
The experience could best be described as a Kings Dominion-themed version of Pokémon Go with added interactive features. Guests participate in the game by downloading the yet-to-be-released (and presumably free) Battle For Kings Dominion smartphone app, which takes advantage of the phone’s GPS and camera features. Guests then join one of five virtual “teams,” each led by an animated character based on some of the park’s roller coasters: Avalanche, Dominator, Flight of Fear, Intimidator 305, and Volcano: The Blast Coaster.
Image of concept art provided by Coaster Addict (@Coaster_Addict)
From there, guests are sent armed with their smartphones throughout the park, prompted to search for virtual gems and Kings Dominion-themed characters hiding and wandering along the paths. Much like in Pokémon Go, the app uses GPS to locate the player’s precise location in real time, then uses the player’s phone camera to make the gems and characters look like they are in the real world.
Guests can visit certain rides and locations in the park to virtually “battle” in real team with players from the other four teams, using the gems and characters they’ve discovered as tools to win the battle. In Cedar Point’s version, the best battlers for the day could earn free Fast Lane passes, souvenirs, and even a shout-out at one of the park’s nighttime shows.
The game will also roll out a collection of merchandise in the park’s gift shops. Guests can use their phone cameras to animate the graphics on Battle For Kings Dominion-branded t-shirts, or purchase medals and cards that give players in-game bonuses and privileges.
We’re skeptical of how popular the experience will be, but intrigued nonetheless. At the very least, the augmented reality experience will provide a totally new dimension to interact with the park and a fun way to pass the time while waiting in line. Plus, in an industry dominated by movie- and television-based characters, we’re pleased to see the park basing the game on their own original theming and attractions.
Origins: A Cirque Experience
A new show is debuting in the Kings Dominion Theater this season. Replacing Cirque Imagine, Origins: A Cirque experience will provide guests with a decidedly more adventurous and “exotic” take on the cirque genre. Unlike its predecessor, Origins is not expected to have a specific plot, instead devoting all of its energy into a dramatic, rewatchable showcase of athleticism and flexibility. It will, however, feature a brand new set, new characters and costumes, a completely different variety of acts, and possibly live music.
Origins will be produced by Quebec-based Les Productions Haut Vol, who also produced Cirque Imagine. Thus, you can expect a similar level of high production quality, and don’t be surprised if you recognize a few returning performers.
Traditionally, the park’s show in the Kings Dominion Theater does not open until late June, but Origins is being advertised on social media with a springtime opening. The exact date of Origins’ debut is still unknown, but Origins could have one of the earliest openings of any of Kings Dominion’s features productions in recent memory.
Tastes of Virginia Festival
As we learned last fall, Kings Dominion’s Executive Chef Paul Maloney has left the park. Chef Paul, a devotee to improving the park’s culinary offerings, was the driving force behind the Spring Bloom Festival and its accompanying International Food Faire. Following Chef Paul’s departure, we were saddened but unsurprised to learn that the Spring Bloom Festival and Food Faire has also gone by the wayside.
However, we recently got word that a new food festival is coming to Kings Dominion this spring: Taste of Virginia. The festival will celebrate the culture of various regions of Virginia with a new food fair serving dishes, beers, and wines crafted from local ingredients that reflect Northern, Southern, Eastern, and Western Virginian cuisine. We’re almost certain that the festival will reuse the booths from the Spring Bloom Festival as food-serving kiosks. Like Spring Bloom, Taste of Virginia will also feature live music, and given the theme, we expect to hear a lot of bluegrass and country music during the festival.
The event is scheduled for three weekends during mid-May, but as of this writing, its exact location is unknown. It could be located under the Eiffel Tower like the Spring Bloom Festival, near the Carousel and arbor tunnel like 2016’s Barbecue & Brew Festival, or in the thematically-appropriate Old Virginia area. At this point, it’s anyone’s guess.
If this event is anything like Carowinds’ Taste of the Carolinas festival (which it should be), this development is definitely something to get excited about. That event, which celebrates Carolinian culture with local dishes and music, is immensely popular and consistently gets rave reviews.
New Dining Plan Locations
Veteran users of Kings Dominion’s dining plan know that the chain restaurants inside the park are exempt from the plan. Subway was added in 2016, but Panda Express, Chik-Fil-A, and Boardwalk Fries were still off-limits to dining plan users.
In 2017, dining plan users will finally get to cash in on these locations. The dining plan now includes a “Panda bowl” (one entree and one side) at Panda Express, eight chicken nuggets or a chicken sandwich (spicy or regular) and waffle fries at Chik-Fil-A, and chicken tenders and a side of signature fries at Boardwalk Fries (though only at the location in Old Virginia).
Three park-run restaurants, Surfer Joe’s in Soak City, Wayside Grill in Old Virginia, and Kilimanjaro Chicken Shack in Safari Village have also joined the dining plan lineup. As useful as the dining plan is for frequent visitors, one of its greatest downsides was the limitation of restaurants that accepted it and the monotony of its choices. Fortunately, that may no longer be an issue in 2017.
Passholder Preview Night
Kings Dominion is once again hosting a special operating day exclusively for its pass members before the season begins, but this time it’s at night. The park will open for its “dress rehearsal” on Friday, March 24 from 5 o’clock PM to 9 o’clock PM. This day might not be for everyone, as only a select amount of attractions will be open, but the event will provide a chance to check out everything that’s new for 2017 before it opens to the public, including the new Planet Snoopy expansion.
A special presentation will be hosted in the Kings Dominion Theater at 7 o’clock. Last year, the presentation was merely a recap of what was new for the coming season and didn’t really provide any new or groundbreaking information, but that doesn’t mean 2017’s presentation will be the same. Plus, some free prizes (which last year ranged from a DVD to an iPad Mini) will be raffled away.
2017 is shaping up to be a surprisingly big year for Kings Dominion. To get the latest information and updates, give us a “Like” on Facebook and follow us on Instagram and Twitter. Don’t forget to drop us a comment below or join the discussion on our affiliate site, The ParkFans Forum.
Spring isn’t far away!