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MGA attention-to-detail...Service Access Road...early years

Share your memories of working at Marriott's GREAT AMERICA in Gurnee

MGA attention-to-detail...Service Access Road...early years

Postby MGA1 » Fri May 16, 2008 11:29 pm

During the first few years the park was open, Marriott was fastidious about paying attention to detail in every area of the park that a guest could possibly see. One of the visible "backstage" areas was the employee/service access road that runs from Orleans Place (next to Buffet Le Grande) all the way to the back of the park where the Wardrobe building is located. The road actually passes under the covered bridge between Yukon Territory and County Fair. This is the only covered bridge in the park that has 6' high solid walls on both sides so the guests can't see the service road and employees passing underneath it. The train also crosses this service road just before it arrives at the County Fair station. If you were walking to/from your work location on the service road when the train passed by, you were "trained" to stand there, make eye contact with the guests on the train and continually wave with a big cheesy smile on your face. Almost every one did it...it was just one piece of MGA employee "culture."

The service road was/is visible to guests from many of the slower moving rides (sky trek tower, delta flyer/eagles flight, southern cross, the train, triple wheel), so Marriott didn't want guests to see the service areas or see the employees on breaks. During the first few years the park was open (76-78), Marriott really paid attention to making sure the service road area landscaping was as perfectly manicured and clean as the guest areas of the park. The road was hosed off each night and the blacktop was resealed and restriped each Spring. The areas along the service road had well maintained sod and several areas had beautiful flower beds planted in them. They stopped planting the flowers backstage after 1978 :(

To keep guests from seeing employing lounging around during breaks, costumed employees were asked to take their breaks in one of three areas...Bugs Beanery (the employee cafeteria) located at the middle point of the service road, or at two covered outdoor break areas (one was directly behind A La Burger in Orleans Place, the other was located behind the Klondike Cafe in Yukon Territory).

Also, employees weren't allowed to smoke, eat, or chew gum in front of guests, or use the restrooms in the guest areas of the parks. There were designated backstage employee restrooms near each of break areas.
"...and enjoy the rest of your day here at Marriott's GRRRREAT America"
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Postby soupkid » Fri May 23, 2008 9:09 am

Speaking of the covered bridge, I was wondering if the Gurnee park had this same "design flaw" as the Santa Clara park, where I worked Security in the 80's.

Even though First Aid was located in the center of the park for obvious reasons, it made it difficult when an ambulance was called to the park. The Yukon/County Fair covered bridge was not high enough for an ambulance to drive under. The only way for the ambulance to get to First Aid was to open up the service gates and drive across the guest area on the south side of the bridge. So we had to have security officers hold the guests at both sides of the bridge until the ambulance passes. Then, do it again when the ambulance leaves. Obviously the last thing park officials want guests to see is ambulances coming to the park, but its impossible to hide them when they actually have to drive, albeit very briefly, in the guest areas. Also, ambulances were always escorted by a security patrol car (we used actual black and white SCPD cop cars back then), so that added to the mix.

I wonder why they didn't build this bridge just a little higher. Does the Gurnee park have the same issue?
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Postby Tech Services 1 » Fri May 23, 2008 7:04 pm

^^^
Wow, you just jogged another memory out of the back of my brain!

At the Gurnee park, they had the same problem, but they solved it by digging the road out underneath the bridge, which made more headroom above.
The downside was the lower road flooded more often during really heavy rains, but that didn't happen too often.

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Eegads, has it been that long?
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Postby RLAiello » Sun Jun 29, 2008 1:17 am

I remember when I first started at the park (1988) it was not long after they had dug out the area under the bridge. That year they made a revision to the path the employees took to walk along the service road- in the past they walked under the bridge along with traffic, but in 1988 they opened a new path along the north side of the bridge (alongside the rocks) that remained level with the rest of the corridor and kept the employees away from the road.

The yellow line that separated the walking path from the road still remained going under the bridge, and for a while some longer-term employees still used this path, while us newbies used the new one and ONLY the new one.

Of course, if you worked late, and it was long after the park closed, you could walk under the bridge without any problems.

Ahhh good times.
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Postby Tech Services 1 » Tue Jul 01, 2008 5:49 pm

RLAiello wrote: . . . but in 1988 they opened a new path along the north side of the bridge (alongside the rocks) that remained level with the rest of the corridor and kept the employees away from the road . . . for a while some longer-term employees still used this path, while us newbies used the new one and ONLY the new one . . .
Ahhh good times.

Hmmm . . . fuzzy memory moment here? The new walkway was installed a couple years earlier than that, while I was still working there. You can see it in this picture from the winter of '85 - '86:
http://www.greatamericaparks.com/images ... m=32&pos=8

You're right about the long-term employees not using the new walkway. The safety department was always fussing at anyone they saw walking down the old path. They had signs with red arrows installed telling people to use the new path. You can see one in this same picture, partially obscured by a tree branch.
Personally, I really liked the new level path, so I didn't understand why anyone would walk down and up the hill!

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Re: MGA attention-to-detail...Service Access Road...early ye

Postby jimmy gimbels » Fri Jul 30, 2010 7:25 pm

It would kill you to see the horrid conditions of the backstage area under the Six Flags watch. Weeds everywhere. They never cut what is left of the grass. Broken picnic tables. Trees and shrubs left untrimmed...or dead. The walkway lines have been worn away. Peeling paint. Rusting building. You think that things are sometimes iffy "on stage." Backstage is a mess. Let's not even discuss the employee bathrooms. At least the Character Cafe is kept clean...well, to SFGZ standard, but the outdoor patio area is filthy. Sad. Very sad.
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Re: MGA attention-to-detail...Service Access Road...early ye

Postby jonrev » Tue Aug 31, 2010 6:47 pm

jimmy gimbels wrote:It would kill you to see the horrid conditions of the backstage area under the Six Flags watch. Weeds everywhere. They never cut what is left of the grass. Broken picnic tables. Trees and shrubs left untrimmed...or dead. The walkway lines have been worn away. Peeling paint. Rusting building. You think that things are sometimes iffy "on stage." Backstage is a mess. Let's not even discuss the employee bathrooms. At least the Character Cafe is kept clean...well, to SFGZ standard, but the outdoor patio area is filthy. Sad. Very sad.


I remember it being like that in 07. Gary Indiana has better-kept roads than the SFGAm service road. The bathroom near Mardi Gras was horrid but at least it was air conditioned.
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Re: MGA attention-to-detail...Service Access Road...early ye

Postby jimmy gimbels » Sun Jan 23, 2011 2:55 pm

Thanks goodness that some of the employee bathrooms have AC. Wish they would be kept stocked with soap and paper towels. Outdoor break areas for employees are now just a collectio of broken benches and wobbly picnic tables pulled out of the food court. One area has those old benches from Yukon Territory...mostly rotted away after being exposed to the elements for 30 years. Ceiling fans no longer work in the covered area...monitors do not work either. Candy in the machines is old and stale. In other words, backstage is a nightmare.
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Re: MGA attention-to-detail...Service Access Road...early ye

Postby Demonlover13 » Wed Feb 16, 2011 4:10 pm

One thing I love about the backstage bathrooms, always warm in the chilly spring and always cool in the hot summers!
I need a great day this year, or 2, or 30!
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