With the long holiday weekend, I had the chance to visit Six Flags St. Louis for the first time in many years. The park has been around for several decades and has, of course, been through a lot of changes. But there are some things that stay consistent over time. The Screamin’ Eagle, long considered the flagship roller coaster, still overlooks the park. The Log Flume still drifts quietly through its turns. The drinks are still overpriced. And the Moon Cars still putter around their track.
The Moon Motor Car company, in case you don’t know, produced cars and trucks in St. Louis from 1906 through 1929. Their cars were well built from high quality parts, but the amount of manual work that went into each one ultimately led to their demise. Six Flags has, for years, honored the vehicles with replicas that ran at speeds of nearly 5 mph. They run on a track that allows for a little steering, but not much, meaning anyone who can reach the pedal can pilot the car. I, like many others in the area, had my first driving experience on that track. I was pleased to see it still operational.
I was quickly disappointed, though, when we took a spin. The area that used to be reserved for scenic, rumbling rides (including a pond and a bridge that you both crossed and drove under) has been overtaken by a restaurant and a new wooden coaster (American Thunder, which is by all accounts a fine ride). What was once a five minute drive is now closer to 30 seconds. And I can’t quite get my head around it. (In fairness, this change took place in 2008, so this isn’t new. Just new to me.)
I understand change. I understand progress. I understand that the customer base of an amusement park is more likely to ride a coaster than a replica antique car. I understand the desire to keep some family friendly rides in place, and the desire to keep a connection to the past. The Moon Cars have been around since the park opened, with some minor modifications. But at some point you have to decide from whom the park is built, and what your decisions will mean to them.
I would expect I am in the demographic that was considered when the cars were left in, despite being squeezed out by new rides. I grew up in the park, so it should be a nice reminder of my childhood. Instead, though, I am perplexed by the decision and saddened by what the ride has become. Had it gone away, I probably would not have missed it. But by not committing to a path, they have instead provided a ride that most people skip, and many of the rest don’t really enjoy.
When you are changing your environment, you have to commit. We’ve talked before about designing for your 80% and helping the other 20% cope. This is a great example of an attempt to please everyone, and not being very successful at it. If you want to move forward, you have to be willing to go all in or your results will invariably be substandard. Your audience won’t appreciate the effort, and the final product will be less that you need or want.
Don’t get caught in this trap. Find your Moon Cars, cherish their memory, but put them to rest.