Sunday, July 09, 2000

Kings Island visitors can keep in touch

Park is renting two-way radios

By Anna Guido
Enquirer Contributor

Auralinx personnel Jeremy Levy, Angie Schlinkert, Jonathan Schlinkert and Bill Schuman.
(Craig Ruttle photo)
| ZOOM |
        Paramount's Kings Island just got a little friendlier for harried parents. Auralinx Communications of Cincinnati is renting two-way radios at the Mason amusement park to help parents keep tabs on their wandering children.

        Industry expert Dennis Speigel said the concept is long overdue.

        “We see every idea out there that applies to the industry and we gave this one a gold star,” said Mr. Speigel, president of International Theme Park Services Inc. of Cincinnati and a former manager of Kings Island.

        “I saw this problem years ago, and believe me, when people get exposure to it, it's going to be in every theme park in the United States,” he said. “It's a fantastic way for families and groups to keep in touch.”

        There is one major difference, however, between the Auralinx product and the standard walkie-talkies such as the Motorola TalkAbout that have become popular in recent years.

  Half- and full-day rental costs for Auralinx two-way radios are $6.95 and $9.95. Coupons offering a $1 discount are handed out to Kings Island customers.
        The Auralinx is a digital wireless telephone that also functions as a digital two-way radio. When the units are rented for two-way radio use, they're locked in a mode that won't let people use them as phones.

        And unlike walkie-talkies, the Auralinx two-way radio doesn't have the cross chatter that sometimes prevents effective communication.

        Motorola is the developer and manufacturer of the product. Nextel provides the infrastructure.

        Auralinx president Jonathan Schlinkert of Delhi Township said he came up with the idea nearly two years ago and spent that time searching for the right product.

        “We wanted it to be something that would allow our customers to have private conversation without crossing over with other groups,” Mr. Schlinkert said. “The main reason we decided to use the product that we have, is because it has a broader bandwidth.”

        The Auralinx two-way radios communicate not by sending a signal directly, but by sending a radio signal through a switching office that locates and then sends the signal back to the other radios assigned to the same call-group on a phone/two-way radio network.

        Narrow bandwidth has plagued conventional family radio service devices. In 1996, the Federal Communications Commission carved out a narrow frequency range for them. As the devices have become more popular, the narrow bandwidth means more people are talking in the same space. Users no longer can hope for privacy in crowded places.

        Caryn Woods of Owensboro, Ky., rented the Auralinx radios at Kings Island last week. She was at the park with a small group that included her daughter, two other teens and her adult friend Sherri Worth.

        “It was great — it gave me peace of mind,” Mrs. Woods said. “Sherri and I went to the water park and the kids did their thing. We knew exactly where they were at all times. They'd call us when they were waiting in line for rides and talk to us. It was fun.”

        Cincinnati native Diane Grimm-Gueth, who now lives in Dublin, Ohio, rented the two-way radios two days last week when she was at Kings Island with her two small children and a third child.

        “Oh, it was awesome,” she said. “One of the best things about it is that there's no interference from other channels.”

        Mrs. Grimm-Gueth said the radios made her visit “far less stressful.”

        “You can have a different age range of children and enjoy the day all day long, instead of having to wait for the older ones to get off rides.”

        About half of the Auralinx Communications business is two-way radio rental and the other half is Nextel wireless phone service sales.

        The two-way radio business at Kings Island has been doing well since it opened mid-May at the Convenience Corner store just inside the main gate. On a recent Saturday, 95 of the 100 units were rented out.

        “We're doing wonderfully,” Mr. Schlinkert said. “We've had people ask if they could get season passes for the product.”

        Future plans include renting the radios to businesses for use at trade shows and conventions, an idea already in practice by other companies.

        But for now, Mr. Schlinkert (a former independent sales consultant and business planner) and partner Bill Schuman (a former broker with Fidelity Investments) will focus their energies on Kings Island and Fiesta Six Flags in San Antonio, Texas, where they've signed a deal to open their second two-way radio shop in 2001.

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