Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Premier Parks to Premier Convict Cove

Murderers. Rapists. Thieves. Engineers. Imagineers. For many prison inmates, designing amusement park attractions and thrill rides is the only taste of freedom they'll ever get. Although inmates are not able to attend "Convict Cove," a new Theme Park solely created by convicts from penitentiaries located all across the US, Premier Parks sees ride design and engineering as a new form of redemption for the common criminal.

In a comment involving the redemptive power of amusement park ride design, deputy warden David DiGuglielmo of SCI Graterford, a maximum-security state prison in Pennsylvania, believes that "Not giving inmates things to do is dangerous. They need outlets. They need ways to occupy their time. Some of the inmates -- before they got into ride design engineering -- were difficult people."

Inmates awarded good records can design together as long as they produce an upcharge attraction every three months. Holding on to a top notch staff of designers can be a problem. Adding to the pressure of the attraction itself, a design team can lose its privileges if the attraction is poorly attended. "It's hard to keep a quality design team together in here -- you have people going home all the time, you have people getting in trouble and getting put in solitary... you have to keep those spots filled if you want to keep your planned opening date."

This can be a problem, adds inversion coaster designer Troy (25 years for armed robbery), because, "It ain't like the street, where you can put a flyer out or a newspaper ad. We can look right around and we know who's here, and we're stuck with them."

As each attraction's debut date approaches, the design team must conduct its own publicity, prototype their attraction extensively, and finish all their regularly scheduled individual chores right up to the frantic last minutes before the attraction's premier -- where a rough, rowdy crowd of families, screaming babies, and destructive teenagers await.

Owners of traditional design firms are furious. "Steal my job they did," said famed B&M designer Walter Bollinger, speaking, oddly, in a Yoda tone of voice, perhaps reflecting an inability to write a Swiss accent. "Design coasters they know not how." After his ARN&R interview, Bollinger flew to the United States and robbed a Pennsylvania bank, hoping to become part of the SCI Grateford team. "They're doing great work in flying coasters," said Bollinger at sentencing.