No screaming on the Screamer!
A suburban amusement park has gotten so many complaints from neighbors about bloodcurdling screams that it has instituted a no-shrieking rule for its scary new thrill ride, the Scandia Screamer, a gigantic, windmill-like contraption that sends people plunging 16 stories to Earth at nearly 60 mph.
Riders who let out a screech — or just about any other noise — are pulled off and sent to the back of the line.
"After the first complaint, our rule was no profanity," said Steve Baddley, general manager at the Scandia Family Fun Center. "Then neighbors said it wasn't just that — it was the crazy, excessive screaming. Then they said it was really all of it, the loud laughing, everything. Eventually, we said, 'Bag it, that's it — no noise.'"
The rule was imposed March 29, nearly three weeks after the ride opened.
‘Please remain silent and enjoy the Screamer’
As passengers are strapped into the two metal baskets, the operator recites this warning: "We are required to remove you from this ride if you make any noise. If you feel you might make a noise, please cover your mouth tightly with you hand, like this (The operator then covers mouth with hand). If we hear any noise through your hand, we will remove you from the ride. So please remain silent and enjoy the Screamer."
Those who dared the ride this week said keeping quiet is harder than it sounds.
"I think we were just talking loudly. I wouldn't say it was screaming," said 15-year-old Anna Matsoyan, after she and her little sister were pulled off the ride for what sounded more like a whimper. "It's kind of a bummer. It makes you want to scream."
The ban also can be confusing for the ride's operators. Last weekend, park employees stopped the Screamer only to realize it wasn't a rider who ran afoul of the new policy, but a customer on the park's miniature golf course who howled after hitting a hole-in-one.
New kind of noise nuisance
Most of the complaints have come from residents in a pocket of neatly landscaped homes that are separated from the 30-year-old amusement park by a 12-lane freeway.
Tom Gardner and other neighbors acknowledge that living next to Interstate 80 is noisy, but say the Screamer has become an entirely new kind of nuisance. It is loud, lights up at night and gives riders a peek into backyard swimming pools, they say.
The 165-foot ride is so tall that the Federal Aviation Administration forced the amusement park to install warning lights on its rotating arms.
Gardner has moved his cigar smoking to his garage because the Screamer has marred the view from his back patio.
"I'm sure it's affected our property value," he said.
The Screamer has become the most noticeable attraction at the amusement park, which was founded in 1977 by three Scandinavian families. Relatives still operate the Sacramento-area park and two others in California.
The owners say they won't change the ride's name, even with the new policy.
"No, we can't afford a new sign," Baddley said. "Besides, it's kind of our niche now. Those who have complained have created a ton more business for the very thing they complained about."