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Morgan's Wonderland Expands the Park's Accessible Wonder
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Rides 4U - New & Used Rides
Morgan's Wonderland theme park was opened by Gordon Hartman in 2010 as a location where children and their families could enjoy an amusement park experience regardless of their abilities. The San Antonio-based homebuilder named the park for his daughter who has a rare genetic disease that caused difficulties with communication abilities. He wanted to shape an inclusive space where everyone was welcome to play.

The park has brought approximately 4 million visitors to its gates since opening in 2010.

The park has continued to expand since its initial inception, now including Morgan's Inspiration Island, the first water park designed to be inclusive for those of all abilities, as well as Morgan's Sports and “The MAC” or Multi Assistance Center. Nearby, Morgan's Camp allows all kids to experience camping in a safe, fun environment.

Now the theme park itself has expanded. For its spring opening, Morgan's Wonderland introduced four new attractions, developed at a cost of approximately $6 million. Along with the new rides, the park has been refurbished and refreshed overall for its 15th season.

Hartman terms the updates and additions as adhering to the park's stringent standards for “MQ – Morgan's Quality.” The March Grand Opening Celebration, titled “New Year, New Rides, New Joy” was in the works since last October. Hartman notes that the expansion is largest in the park's history with the four major new attractions having been added to the park's 25 attractions already in place.

New rides include a 4D Magic Cinema Theater located in the park's Sensory Village; the passenger boat ride Pirate Island Cruises; a four-seater zip line with the name Rocket's Sky Flight Adventure; and the wheelchair accessible Jette's Wonder Bikes ride.

In all, some 592 updates and additions were added to the park over a period of 98 days, during which time the park closed in order for the work to take place, according to Hartman. “The beautiful thing is we are able to be here today because we accomplished that. There were so many people that made that possible.”

Chief among them was Morgan's Wonderland park-president Richard Pretlow. Pretlow attests that “Every square inch of the park has been touched.” This includes bathroom upgrading such as four adult changing tables; and a salon in which hair styling becomes both accessible and fun.

But the new rides are the main attraction. These rides look toward the future, and guests who may have grown up with the park. Pretlow notes that “We have a lot of rides here that cater [to ages] from two to 10, but we really didn't have anything for teenagers and older special-needs adults. If you are a special-needs child, at some point you become a special-needs adult. You want something with a little more thrill to it.”

With that need in mind, Rocket's Sky Flight Adventure is the park's first thrill ride. It rises 13 stories, providing a grand view of downtown San Antonio from 130 feet in the air.  According to Pretlow, its manufacturer, the Utah-based Altitude Rides and Attractions “has installed a first-of-its-kind, 4-seater zip line that can accommodate riders with disabilities and special needs.” The same manufacturer created a 2-seater at the Morgan's Camp location. The new ride at the theme park positions its riders back-to-back creating “two different experiences on one zip line. The carriage also has room for respiratory equipment or other gear required by the rider with special needs, plus additional restraints for riders” who need assistance with head or upper body control.  

The four-seater, ultra-accessible zipline is the first of its kind globally, Pretlow explains. It offers two different settings for its riders. “We have the fast setting that I call thrill mode, and the slow setting for folks who may have issues with torso or neck control. Rather than coming in fast like a thrill ride, it comes in very, very slow.”

Created by SimEx-Iwerks, the 4D Magic Cinema in Sensory Village features a platform that allows riders in wheelchairs to have the same roller-coaster-type experience as would other riders, according to Pretlow. The unique ride elements that provide this experience include “electric actuators that deliver smooth and accurate motion effects, a custom video screen size for guests of all abilities and a motion-disengage option for those who do not wish to experience coaster-like sensations.”

Pirate Island Cruises is equally fully accessible with an easily accessed entrance via the park's newly built pier. It offers a peaceful lake cruise with a great view of the Rocky's Sky Flight Adventure.

Jette's Wonder Bikes are wheelchair accessible. Manufactured by Zamperla, the ride's cars are designed as hang-gliders. Each car on the circularly spinning flat ride “is equipped with pedals that riders can use to make the cars swoop up and down. Guests unable to access the pedals can use hand cranks instead,” Pretlow notes. Additionally, the ride features two arms with gondolas that allow wheelchairs to simply roll aboard.

Michael Coleman, North American sales for Zamperla says “This newest iteration of the accessible gondola is not only rider-friendly but also operator friendly. When the accessible gondola is not needed for a wheelchair, it has a seat that is removable and can be used by anyone.” He notes that seat removal is simple and takes less than a minute to accomplish. Stylistically, the ride incorporates the park's butterfly logo. This attraction replaces what had previously been the location of an off-road-style car ride.  

Pretlow is excited at the full accessibility of the new attractions, which the park worked hand in hand with manufacturers to achieve. “We believe guests of all abilities will enjoy them as we pursue our mission of inclusion, bringing together those with and without special needs …in a colorful, upbeat, non-judgmental environment.”

What's next for the inclusive park? The development of the first ultra-accessible hotel.

2024 season passes for the park are $50 per person and year-round annual memberships is priced at $75.
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