In the amusement industry, Chance Rides has rolled with the changing tides for over fifty years. CarnivalWarehouse.com spoke with Lisa Hargrove, marketing manager, who has been with Chance Rides for just over three years. "It is hard to pick a favorite thing about my job. I get a thrill just thinking about the fact that it's my job to promote amusement rides for a living. But I also love that I am working for a company that has been around for more than 50 years, well-established in the industry and still being run by the family of the founder. There is a fantastic story of about American manufacturing at its finest here and I get to tell it."
Chance Rides History
Chance Rides was founded by Harold Chance in the 1960`s. After Chance's return from World War II, he worked with his brother-in-law to build steam trains. Just before Harold's retirement, his son, Dick Chance, purchased the company and founded Chance Industries, Inc. in 1985 as a holding company for three subsidiaries-Chance Rides, Chance Coach and Chance Operations. The company bought the assets of Chance Manufacturing Co. and expanded to 425,000 sq. ft. on 40 acres with approximately 400 employees. Michael Chance, Dick's son, purchased the holdings of D.H. Morgan Manufacturing, Inc., a roller coaster design and manufacturing firm, in 2001 and developed Chance Morgan, Inc. Later that year, Chance Rides Manufacturing, Inc. was formed to produce the rides sold by Chance Morgan.
Throughout the last decade, Chance has fully consolidated the Morgan Manufacturing company to operate at its Wichita, Kan. headquarters. To this day, the company ownership remains within the Chance family, with Michael Chance as the company's president and Dick Chance as the CEO. Chance Rides primarily serves amusement parks, zoos and aquariums, carnivals and land developers, but universities, tour groups and city parks also purchase their ever popular Tramstars, Sunliner II's and C.P. Huntington Trains.
"No other ride manufacturer in North America has the depth of product line that we have," says Hargrove, noting the many milestones that paved the way for Chance Rides to "not only survive but thrive" within the amusement industry. "With Dick's purchase of the company also came the acquisition of Bradley and Kaye, that not only expanded our ride offering but gave us the molds for a line of elegant carousel horses that are still manufactured today. With the addition of Michael came the addition of roller coaster production which has only helped to solidify Chance Rides as a world class manufacturer of amusement rides. In more recent years, we've also begun manufacturing giant observation wheels, giving us another niche in the market for stand-alone attractions."
Chance Rides Brand Return Salutes Fiftieth Year Milestone
In celebration of the milestone 50th year in 2011, Chance reintroduced the Chance Rides brand in all its company marketing efforts. Each year, the company produces 20 to 25 different projects ranging from small carousels to large roller coasters and wheels. Hargrove says: "The product mix each year is different from the year before. This year we are manufacturing three Unicoasters all for different customers, before that we had only built two of them. We are in the process of building our 387th C.P. Huntington Train. This is the product that started our company."
The company was founded on the success of the C.P. Huntington train, which is manufactured much the way it was done back in 1961. The real tried and true Chance Rides product would be the carousels, which is always the "crowd pleaser" and "just an amazing work of art," according to Hargrove. The most popular carnival ride is the Zipper, found on most midways in the United States and across the world. In 2015, Chance Rides brought back the Zipper to much acclaim and is looking forward to rebuilding many more in 2016. "Wade Shows and Butler Amusements will be the first carnivals to showcase the new open cage Zipper in the summer of 2016," says Hargrove. "The rebuild process will be documented as they progress through the factory."
In regards to new plans or features on the horizon, Hargrove says "We are always in some stage of development on the next big thing. Our customers serve guests that are looking for the latest greatest thing and to be a partner to them in the industry we strive to help them answer that question. Currently, our newest development has been the Hyper GT-X roller coaster that is designed to pack a lot of punch into a small footprint for an affordable cost."
Hargrove's advice to others in the industry is to be "...willing to change with the tides. The amusement industry relies on disposable income and with that can be greatly affected by changes in the economy." Hargrove states that since Chance Rides is "designed to be diverse" they are more equipped to roll with economic changes that may affect the industry. "When business is booming we may produce a few roller coasters, when it's not we know we can rely on C.P. Huntington trains and carousels to get us through. The motto you'll hear most often around here is "We build fun, but it ain't easy". We know we ask a lot of the men and women that work here manufacturing quality products that are safe and reliable and to deliver them on time. We try to help everyone remember the smiles on the faces of the people who will ultimately enjoy their work while appreciating the fact that we know it wasn't easy." With a diverse product line and the strong infrastructure of a family run business, who knows what Chance Rides will accomplish by its centennial anniversary.