At Sally Dark Rides, our talented team often feels more like a family; over the last few years, Project Manager Chris Weaver has become an integral member. Recently we interviewed Chris to learn more about his background, interests, and the chance meeting that brought him to where he is today.
An Expertise in Construction, A Passion for Dark Rides
Chris began his career in construction after receiving his degree in Business Construction Management from the University of North Florida. His wife, Lauren, was the first to introduce him to Sally; he couldn’t believe such an incredible company was located in his city. “When I had the opportunity to walk in here, it blew my mind,” Chris remembers. “I was excited to see all the animatronics and the set pieces they were building. To see and learn the craftsmanship behind what we build in our shop was mind blowing. I knew I wanted to be part of this.”
The timing was kismet. Chris was getting ready to make a career move, and Sally needed a project manager with his construction expertise. “I threw my name in the hat, which forever changed my career path, and I couldn’t be happier.” Chris recalls his excitement upon learning what would be his first dark ride project, Justice League: Battle for Metropolis at Six Flags Great Adventure, New Jersey. “Justice League was a cannonball experience. It is one of our most dynamic attractions with every bell, whistle, and hat trick in the book. Working on that project prepared me for any dark ride down the line.”
Chris loves the fact that every project brings something new and unique. He recalls working on a special ride for an amusement park in Sweden. “Furuvik is such a cool and quaint park, we were excited to install a dark ride that would be there for decades. We knew their guests would really love this ride,” he says. More recently, Chris led the Reese’s Cupfusion project in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
The attraction’s debut in 2019 helped Hersheypark break into the top twenty list of most-attended theme parks in North America, according to the 2019 TEA/AECOM Theme Index. “Cupfusion was a special project for me. I had the opportunity to re-do a classic Sally dark ride. I believe we created a new classic ride for Hersheypark. While working on Cupfusion I quickly realized how great the Hershey group was to work with. Throughout the project I was part of the Hershey team and created friendships that will outlast my career.”
“Over the years we’ve really been able to dial-in on what makes a dark ride most effective and what will be successful for the park,” Chris explains. “When customers sign on with Sally, they know we’re always going to look out for their best interest. When we create a great ride, they’re going to be successful.”
Role at Sally Dark Rides
As project manager, Chris manages all the details of a project to ensure the team operates like a well-oiled machine. Creating and managing the schedule throughout the project is key to a successful installation. Ensuring the dark ride building is prepped, coordinating with subcontractors and projecting costs throughout the process are just some of the moving pieces he is responsible for.
His background in construction is a huge asset during the building’s construction; making sure the interior is built per required specifications is critical to a proper installation of the attraction. “Since dark ride construction is so peculiar, it’s important to make sure the construction team understands exactly what our facility requirements are,” Chris explains.
For Chris, the best part of his job is creating rides that bring families closer together. Seeing families spending time together brings huge satisfaction to Chris’s work.
“We’re really good at telling a story,” Chris says. It’s this attention to detail that gives riders that out-of-this-world family experience they’re looking for. “When you see guests, especially kids, get off the ride and have a big smile on their face – that’s what it’s all about.
When Chris isn't traveling the world installing dark rides, you can find him on the IAAPA trade show floor, both prior and during showtime. Beforehand, he’s responsible for managing the execution of the structural and technical plans for the Sally Dark Rides booth. You can catch up with Chris during show hours as well.
Another perk to the job is working with Sally’s amazing team of professionals.
“It’s a family here,” he says. “It makes it easier to come to work, and easier when you’re on the road. When you go to sleep at night, it doesn't feel like a grind because you enjoy the people.”
Of course, another fun part of Chris’s job is working with his actual family, including his wife, brother-in-law and father-in-law.
Insights Into the Industry
Looking into the future, Chris hopes the industry takes an interest in using rides to educate families and children. He’s particularly interested in planet conservation, and sees an opportunity to educate riders about caring for the environment. He hopes to see riders coming away from dark rides having learned deeper lessons. “It would be great if guests experienced a fun ride and thought, “I want to make sure we protect our planet & animals.’”
Having a passion for the environment himself, Chris appreciates how environmentally-conscious Sally Dark Rides is as a company, noting on his projects, the team works to recycle as much as they can from the site.
Life Outside Sally
Chris grew up in Melbourne Beach, FL and spent much of his childhood surfing, hunting and fishing with friends — hobbies he still enjoys today. And, he has taken up gardening - a hobby that has been especially rewarding during the pandemic. “Over the past year I have really focused on my health so I can continue to excel in my career & hobbies.” He also loves spending time with his family, which recently grew this year. In February of 2021, Chris and his wife welcomed their first son, Reese, to the dark ride family.