AMUSEMENT TODAY: Women of Influence, Sara Seay

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Sara Seay, ICAE

Director of Sales & Marketing
Premier Rides
Baltimore, Maryland

A view from the top …

Sara Seay is the director of marketing and sales for Premier Rides, Inc., headquar­tered in Baltimore, Maryland.  Premier, founded in 1995, is a designer and supplier of cutting-edge attractions.

Seay has been with Premier for 16 years. She began her career in the amusement industry when she was 14 years old at Lagoon Park, Farmington, Utah.


Accomplishments and affiliations…


Many paths led Seay to her home

Sara Seay has walked down many different paths. Some she chose. Some were chosen for her. Some were good, and some not so good.  But each and every pathway taught her lessons of life and family and career.

“I feel they all brought me to where I am today,” Seay said.

Seay was born In Centerville, Utah, along with her brother who is 11 months older than she. Besides the town of her birth, she also lived in several other Utah cities, Bountiful, Salt Lake City and Farmington.

To say Seay was an overachiever is not a stretch. She studied hard. She made good grades. She graduated from high school early. She took college-level math and biology courses. She received college scholarships to the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, and Utah State University, Logan.

Lagoon Certificate

She also, at the age of 14 years, started working at Lagoon, a family owned and operated amusement park in Farmington. She was working part time then. She couldn’t have guessed, at that time, she would start full-time employment there in three years, the beginning of a 10-year stint.

She had made plans for herself. She wanted to attend Utah State and wanted to major in mechanical engineering. She was on that track and felt positive about her decisions.

But at the age of 15 years, an event occurred which turned her world upside down. On a trip to Salt Lake City from Bountiful, her mother, brother and cousin were in a horrific car accident. This accident would forever change her life, her brother’s life and especially her mother’s life.

All three sustained significant injuries with her mother’s most damaging injury taking several weeks to show up. She ended up with an injury to her brain and lapsed into a coma. She awoke, but would never live at home again.

“She had to learn to speak again,” Seay said. “She lost most of her hearing. Her mobility wasn’t good. My world changed tremendously in an instant. Our roles reversed. I became my mom’s support. It changed everything.”

For one thing, Seay spent much of her spare time at the nursing home with her mom. She became her advocate and, as she could, she would take her mom out on special occasions.

It wasn’t always easy.

“I noticed how people would talk over mom to me because of her impaired speech,” Seay said. “I think that was why helping people with disabilities during my time at Lagoon was so important.

“Those experiences continue to motivate me to really listen to and work to communicate directly with clients around the globe, particularly when English is a second language and accents are thick.”

The accident also altered her decision for college. Instead of going to Utah State, she decided to stay close to home and attend the University of Utah.

And that accident could well have been the catalyst for her to change her college major from mechanical engineering to hospitality management. “I was sitting in class one day and I looked around me and thought, you know, this isn’t what I really want to do,” Seay said. “I was way too social.

“I felt I always had to work twice as hard to prove my worth,” she said. “I was the youngest in the class. I was a woman in a male-dominated field of study. At that moment, I chose another path. Still today, I face the challenge of being a woman in a man’s environment. With time I’ve learned to navigate it, to know my own worth and to find pathways to success.”

Seay was already working full time at Lagoon. She threw herself into her work. She grew into her job eventually holding the titles of manager of guest services as well as being a park director.

Sara Seay at Lagoon

She loved her job. She loved her team. She learned from her general manager, who was at the time Clark Robinson. Robinson later left Lagoon to become president of IAAPA.

She also was good at her job. Part of that job included handling complaints. Her colleagues told her they had never seen anyone who could say “no” to someone and be thanked for it.

But, handling complaints for 10 years began to take a toll on her outlook. She applied for another position at the park that was set to come open. She got it, but, at the last moment, the person vacating the position had a change of mind and decided to stay.

“I was so excited about being able to move to another position,” she said.

Mentally, she was already in that other position. It was hard for her to go back. She decided to leave Lagoon, taking a job at Utah’s Hogle Zoo.

But, as so many people need to do to at some point in time, she took that leap of faith, which ended up propelling her to the east coast where she visited the offices of IAAPA in Arlington, Virginia.

She also visited her former general manager Robinson. She was looking for employment. Robinson pointed her to Premier Rides, which turned out to be another turning point in her life.

She found that she settled well into marketing at Premier. She also found her future husband, Jim Seay.

And, now, 16 years later with more than 25 years in the industry, she knows her home.

“I have made some wonderful friends all around the globe,” Seay said. “They are my family. I am grateful to travel all over the world to develop relationships, to meet with clients and visit their facilities and, of course, to sell Premier Rides attractions.”

–Pam Sherborne

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AUSTRALIAN LEISURE MANAGEMENT: Premier Rides Provides Global Technology Solutions for Park Re-Openings


With attractions and theme parks planning to re-open following COVID-19, the Premier Service division of Premier Rides is working with their clients to provide 24-hour a day support for areas such as ride rehab video link support, real-time service bulletins, and online training conferences.

As theme parks worldwide consider and implement new operating strategies for their facilities to reopen, the Premier Service team is emphasising its tech-savvy approach to customer support, using a wide array of existing and cutting-edge technology platforms.

Premier Rides’ focus on safety and service is why clients rely on Premier Service for support during this reopening phase.  The Premier team has experience with challenging regulatory environments and has even worked with clients to help them open other manufacturer’s rides.

Premier Rides President Jim Seay advises “the focus of our industry has always been one of providing amazing lifetime memories. We have all faced challenges before, and although this season has been delayed, we are seeing parks start to reopen.  Premier Rides is here to help our clients navigate through these uncharted waters as the reopening process begins to emerge.

Premier Rides Product Fabrication

While the pandemic has closed the doors for many, Premier Rides’ tech-savvy service team is proud to provide support and to be able to continue fabrication of products for valued clients around the world

During the pandemic, Premier Rides has been able to remain open for business and fully operational.   Seay notes “as soon as facilities started shutting down, our clients’ focus shifted rapidly to the service side of business.  And even though the logistics of delivering service has become far more challenging, our team has risen to the occasion and has been both providing global support and expediting shipments of rehab product worldwide.

“Many parks are facing limited time to ramp up for reopening once restrictions are lifted, and many have limited staff to perform all the necessary work related to opening.  That is where the Premier Service team can help.  Whether it be support related to maintenance inspections or providing guidance to socially distance riders on an attraction, the Premier Service staff is working to ensure our clients get in business as quickly and as safely as possible so the focus can return to creating lifelong memories of fun.”

Celebrating 25 years in business this year, Premier Rides has extensive experience not only in the development and delivery of new attractions but also in providing service to clients around the globe.  The majority of the service work performed by Premier Service is on non-Premier attractions.  During the past quarter century, the Premier Service team has worked onsite alongside clients to perform maintenance on all rides and to train park staff.

They have performed ride rehabilitation, safety analyses and modifications, provided spare parts, ride upgrades, and replacement fleets of roller coaster trains.

Seay adds “the attractions industry is a close-knit community, and occasions like this highlight how we support each other and our communities for success.

“Thank you to the global attractions community for coming together…thanks not only the committees in our global and regional associations, but also to the individuals and entities who are working long hours to explore ideas and develop guidelines, technologies, and best practices  that have been shared around the world in an effort to ease the challenges of reopening.  We are in this together.”


NEW YORK TIMES: The Brains Behind Your Stomach’s Drop

Jim Seay travels the world, designing, constructing and testing some of the world’s most exciting roller coasters.

The first roller coaster Jim Seay rode was the wooden Cyclone at Coney Island when he was 9 or 10 years old. He admits being “pretty scared.” Today, Mr. Seay, 59, is behind award-winning, heart-in-throat thrill rides around the world.After graduating from Cornell University with a mechanical engineering degree, Mr. Seay worked at the Hughes Aircraft Company in California in the company’s aerospace department. In the late 1980s, as military spending dropped, Mr. Seay shifted into entertainment, working for Six Flags before opening Premier Rides, based in Baltimore, which designs, constructs and tests attractions like Revenge of the Mummy at Universal Studios and the soon-to-open Dragonfire in Qatar. As president of Premier Rides, he spends more than half the year traveling to rides or to explore future coaster destinations.

Below are edited excerpts from a conversation with Mr. Seay.

There was a significant learning curve. At Hughes Aircraft it was a white-collar engineer environment. In the theme parks, there’s a very technical side. The engineers are developing the attractions, but there’s also an entire team of electricians and mechanics. They are the people who actually know how to make things work. I learned that the people at the theme parks tend to understand the equipment better than even the suppliers who are building it. They live with it daily. They inspect it daily. I learned a tremendous amount about the safety and maintenance side of things from the front-line technicians.

Sometimes we design our own attractions based on the creative talent at Premier Rides. Sometimes you have people who want to develop something around an intellectual property and you work together to develop something. We were very fortunate to do that with Universal Studios on the Revenge of the Mummy attractions. That ride is now in three locations around the world. Over 160 million people have ridden those rides. It’s very humbling.