Q/A with Ride Entertainment’s Ed Hiller, 2017 Bright Lights Award Winner
From roller coasters and extreme thrill rides to multi-media attractions and record-breaking amusements, Ride Entertainment has sold, operated and installed entertainment fixtures internationally for more than two decades. They’re a local Maryland business with an international reputation and the latest winner of the 2017 Bright Lights Award for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
“Fueled by Ed Hiller’s innovative and entrepreneurial spirit and with the help of his dedicated and hardworking employees, Ride Entertainment has become one of the world’s largest entertainment sales enterprises,” said Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot. “This award recognizes our state’s thriving community of innovators and entrepreneurs that strengthen Maryland’s economy, generate jobs and tax revenue, and develop new ideas that more effectively deliver services and products to the marketplace, and I couldn’t be happier to award the Bright Lights Award for Queen Anne’s County to Ride Entertainment for creating innovative amusement park attractions across the globe.”
Ride Entertainment is behind many of your favorite sky coasters and thrill rides across America and their prolific and pioneering work and reputation for developing inventive rides and attractions helped to create a strong economic backbone for the state of Maryland. We recently had a chance to find out more about the innovative company directly from CEO, Ed Hiller.
C101: For those who don’t know, could you please briefly introduce yourself – who are you and what do you do?
Ed Hiller, CEO of Ride Entertainment. I run a company with offices in Stevensville, Maryland, Baltimore, Maryland and New York, New York. Our company is a leader in the entertainment industry offering a wide range of attractions and services.
C101: What are those services you offer? Could you please give us an overview of Ride Entertainment and the wide range of services you provide to the amusement industry?
Ed: We have five main disciplines:
- Sales: We represent a wide variety of American and European manufacturers. Our portfolio includes everything from mega roller coasters to family attractions.
- Operations: We operate several small-to-medium parks and stand-alone attractions.
- Financial Partnerships: We are the industry’s largest revenue share partner. At large parks or resort areas, we will own and install an extra-pay attraction like a Skycoaster or Slingshot for example and our partner will operate the attraction. At zoos, aquariums and museums, we have similar arrangements, but with smaller attractions like theaters, family rides and ziplines for example.
- Installations: Our installation division has installed some great attractions across the globe. In the past year, we have installed: StarFlyer at Valleyfair, moved Cedar Point’s Skycoaster, installed the Euro-Fighter at Casino Pier, installed the StarFlyer at Six Flags America, installed the Free Fly at Six Flags New England, and installed the Skyfall at Dollywood.
- Skycoaster: We own Skycoaster, the world’s most successful thrill ride with over 75 attractions spanning six continents.
C101: What are some other well-known projects Ride Entertainment has been involved with that our readers might recognize?
Ed: Over the past few years:
- Casino Pier, Hydrus Rollercoaster [author’s note: one of our most anticipated roller coasters for 2017]
- Six Flags New England and Six Flags over Texas, StarFlyers (World Tallest swing ride at 403 feet)
- Manage the SeaGlass Carousel in Manhattan
- Adventureland, Monster Rollercoaster
C101: What makes Ride Entertainment unique among other businesses in the amusement industry?
Ed: We are the only full-service company in the industry. By that, I mean that we have a unique collection of capabilities, our five disciplines. You will find other companies that do one or two of these things, but no one else has the breadth of experience that we do. It allows us to offer a wide range of services and products to our clients.
C101: What does it mean to be named a 2017 BRIGHT LIGHTS AWARD winner for Innovation and Entrepreneurship?
Ed: It is thrilling. I started this company with one other employee and we shared a laptop. In a little under 20 years, we have gone from that arrangement to over 150 employees in three offices. It has been an amazing ride and I really look forward to some of the big projects we have planned in the next few years. Maryland Comptroller Franchot certainly has given us a great honor. It was out of the blue and we cannot express how happy we are.
C101: We can’t wait to head more about those future big projects. If your past work is any indication, they’re going to be awesome! And the question we have to ask everyone – what’s your favorite roller coaster and why?
Ed: Probably the Gerstlauer Spinning Coaster in the Mall of America. This was our first coaster sale for them in North America and it kicked an already great relationship into high gear. They were able to design that ride while only moving one retail stand, it was an amazing feat of engineering. I don’t think any other company could have designed a ride to fit as well as Gerstlauer did. In addition, they went from a prototype concept to open in 12 months!
C101: Thanks again to Ed for taking time to answer our questions and to Bridget Forney for facilitating the interview.
To learn more about Ride Entertainment, visit their website here.