Closing a ride for the day is not as easy as simply shutting down the power. From queue lines to ride vehicles and such show elements as lighting and fog effects, all parts of the attraction have specific requirements that must be followed. In addition, closing staff are responsible for communicating all relevant information up their chain of command.
I used to work at both Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando, both of which have similar daily shut-down processes. Here's an insider look at what happens at the end of the day.
1. Close the queue
At the end of an operational day, crowds begin to thin. Except on very popular brand-new attractions, a queue that swelled to 60 minutes at noon is typically down to 10 minutes or less by the end of the day. Queues are designed with a complex system of ropes, chains, and gates that allow ride staff to configure them in different ways according to operational needs.
In the last hour or so, closing staff begin shutting down large sections of the queue, and redirecting guests along a more direct route to the attraction. Someone is generally also assigned to sweep out the queue and pick up trash, to ensure it is ready for the next day. Guests are allowed to enter the queue until the park is officially closed, and staff will reopen sections of the queue if needed, but most of the time guests experience close to a “walk-on” in the final minutes.
2. Begin taking vehicles offline
Ride vehicles are stored in different locations depending on the attraction’s layout and daily maintenance needs. For example, Kilimanjaro Safaris trucks are parked in a lot along the perimeter road that runs behind the attraction. Taking a truck offline involves driving through a hidden gate in the ride path and along the perimeter road to the lot. The driver must fill up the gas tank and then park canopy-to-canopy with other trucks, with the help of several spotters.
As operations slow down for the evening, staff members begin taking vehicles offline. At Kilimanjaro Safaris, this means literally taking trucks to the parking lot. At Kongfrontation, unless a tram was in the maintenance bay, all trams had to continue moving until the ride was completely shut down. Drivers competed to see who would be authorized a “fly-by” at the end of the night. Approved by the control tower, a fly-by meant that no guests were loaded on the tram. The driver could take a break from spieling while enjoying the show.
3. Give the remaining guests a great show
No matter what time a major theme park closes, guests are permitted to enter the queue until the precise moment that the park is officially closed. Sometimes this results in a short queue at closing time (or a long queue, if you happen to be working a new, popular attraction). One of the cardinal rules for attractions employees is that every single guest deserves a full show.
While many closing staff members are dispatched to perform closing tasks such as sweeping the queue or taking vehicles offline, a full complement of ride staff remains at their posts until the last guest has passed by. You never have to worry about your vehicle doors not being closed or your spiel being subpar just because you arrived at the end of the day.