31 January 2011 by By Jason Garcia, Orlando Sentinel
Walt Disney World's Splash Mountain reopens tomorrow after a month-long refurbishment with a new feature: Lap bars.
The restraints have been installed in each of the18-year-old flume ride's 64 log-shaped boats. They are designed to prevent riders from standing up or getting off before the end of the nine-and-a-half minute ride, which carries guests through enclosed areas with animatronics and includes a 52-foot-drop at a 45-degree angle.
It's an issue that has vexed Disney for years, posing both a safety hazard and an operations headache, as workers are forced to bring the popular Magic Kingdom attraction to a halt when someone tries to exit early.
"From time to time, we have had guests attempt to prematurely exit the ride vehicle. It is our hope that the new lap bars will prevent this from happening in the future," Disney World spokesman Bryan Malenius said Monday.
Disney has considered installing safety bars on Splash Mountain before. The subject drew attention in 2000, when a 37-year-old St. Petersburg man was killed after climbing out of his seat midway through the ride and was struck by another of boat.
But the idea had been rejected in the past at least in part because of concerns that lap bars would slow the ride's loading process and reduce its overall capacity. That is a significant concern in the Magic Kingdom, the world's busiest theme park with more than 17 million visitors each year.
Capacity constraints are one of the primary reasons Disney is expanding the Fantasyland section of the theme park.
Disney said the lap bars installed on the ride will not significantly impact Splash Mountain's load time nor will they reduce the number of people each vehicle can carry. GO BACK