Six Flags over Georgia officially opens its 44th season today, though the park's newest roller coaster won't open for a few more weeks.
The 230-acre theme park in Austell will be open on weekends only through May 27, when it begins daily operations. Dare Devil Dive, the park's 11th roller coaster, will debut around that time.
"The beautiful weather this weekend is a perfect opportunity to come to Six Flags Over Georgia and enjoy a great day with your family," park president Melinda Ashcraft said.
The park has come a long way from the nine rides and one roller coaster it had when it opened in 1967. Malone said the park now boasts 35 rides, including 10 coasters, and bills itself as "the Southeast's most thrilling family destination."
It's also an economic engine in the county. The park has 118 full-time employees, but employs as many as 2,400 seasonal staff each summer. The park paid $883,230 in property taxes in 2010, and $20,226 in business license fees and taxes for 2011.
The park's spokesman, Brad Malone, won't say how many visitors it has each year. But he said that for the best experience, visitors should arrive about 30 minutes before the park's opening, and start at the back of the park.
"Crowds generally go to the first ride they see, so if you start at the back and work your way to the front, you will generally have shorter wait times," he said. Saturdays are usually the most crowded, he said, but park officials don't track the average wait times for the most popular rides.
The new Dare Devil Dive is expected to become one of those most popular rides. The coaster features a 10-story lift, followed by a 95-foot vertical first drop, and it reaches a top speed of 52 miles per hour. Goliath is the park's fastest coaster, at 70 mph, Malone said.
On Thursday, crews were busy installing the track for the Dare Devil Dive, while other workers painted signs and hung stuffed animals for games.
There are also two new live shows this year. "Show Stoppin" features popular hits from all music genres, and "Soda Shoppe Sweethearts," features tunes from the '50s.
Park employees began preparing for the 2011 season opening the day after the park closed in 2010, Malone said. Every year, landscaping is replanted, the rides are inspected, and all of the roller coaster train cars are taken apart and rebuilt to make sure everything is functioning properly.
While Malone also could not comment on the park's security, he insisted the park is safe, and that they work with Cobb County Police to make sure of it.
"We are proud of our guest safety record and have professional security staff on-site at all times," he said.
On July 3, 2007, a Marietta teen was severely beaten by several other young people at a bus stop near the park's entrance in what police said was an apparently random attack.
Regular daily admission is $49.99 for adults, and $34.99 for kids 48 inches and under. Children under 2 are free.
Today and tomorrow, visitors get into the park for $20.11 with a donation of at least six non-perishable food items at the gate.
Parking fees range from $15 for regular, to $25 for valet.
Visitors who want to skip the lines can purchase a Flash Pass, which allows guests to hold a spot in line for some of the park's major attractions without actually standing in line. When it's almost your turn, a message is sent to your Flash Pass device. There are three levels: regular, which has the same wait times as a regular guest; the gold, which is 75 percent less wait; and the platinum, which is the same as the gold except you can ride the attraction twice.
The Flash Pass pricing starts at $31 per person and is in addition to admission tickets.
The park also offers a VIP tour, which features park admission, a tour guide, front-of-the-line access to all rides,