Sea World San Diego has announced that it will open a third coaster, Electric Eel, in 2018.  This strikes me as a good move for the park, as Electric Eel will complement the other two coasters - Journey to Atlantis and Manta - while adding one that's more extreme and in the high thrill category.  It's a Skyrocket II coaster from Premier Rides,  nearly if not identical to Tempesto at Busch Gardens Williamsburg.  Featuring multiple launches, a zero-g roll and non-inverting loop, it packs more of a punch than would be apparent from the footage.  I say that as a veteran of Tempesto. Video courtesy of Sea World via Coaster Nation.


Of all the coasters I rode this year, two stood out, probably because I rode each of them for the first time and both were remarkable.  Both are RMC makeovers; I can’t say enough about how good this company is in transforming wooden coasters into hybrids with new thrill elements.  This was a tough call, as both coasters provided a great ride experience.  It came down to Iron Rattler and New Texas Giant. 

There are distinct similarities in that both feature RMC’s signature red I-Box track and several overbanked turns.  Iron Rattler is a terrain coaster, built over a quarry, and the feeling of freedom in racing over the terrain is a breath of fresh air.  The initial drop and barrel roll are awesome.  New Texas Giant, on the other hand, is contained within a more constricted area and doesn’t feature any inversions.  That being said, NTG affords a wild ride experience with several overbanked turns.  It also offers the element of surprise, as it’s impossible to see exactly what’s coming up next, even when you have some familiarity with the ride.  Even after repeated rides I was taken by surprise when the train enters the first of two tunnels.  The second tunnel is a highlight of the ride, as it’s pitch black and the train drops while in the tunnel.  Both coasters are so good that I really couldn’t make up my mind as to which was better, so this year it ends in a tie.


Construction of Mystic Timbers, Kings Island’s new wooden coaster slated to open in 2017 and the park’s 16th coaster, is progressing.  Featuring 3,265 feet of track and a course that takes riders through a densely wooded area  – like The Beast – and an extreme turn, it will cover an area of highly varied terrain.  At a height of 109 feet and a maximum speed of 53 mph, this coaster will not be a monster ride but it sure looks interesting.  Photo courtesy of Kings Island.


Iconic coaster Big Dipper at Geauga Lake is scheduled to be demolished within the next couple of weeks.  Before the park closed in 2007, this out and back woodie built in 1925 was one of the oldest operating coasters in existence.  It certainly has a lot of nostalgic value and it's sad to see it go.  Photo courtesy of Geauga Lake Today.

Skull Mountain To Become Rage of the Gargoyles

Six Flags Great Adventure's darkest ride, Skull Mountain, has been closed for transformation.  It will reopen on September 24 as Rage of the Gargoyles.  This will be a virtual reality experience with Samsung headgear powered by Oculus and enabling riders to shoot at flying demons.  Skull Mountain has always been a jarring coaster and the only one in the park which is absolutely pitch black, so the addition of VR represents an interesting new twist.  Image courtesy of Six Flags.


The suspense is over.  We knew that Kings Island was planning a new ride for 2017 but didn't know what it would be.  The park has announced that the new attraction will be Mystic Timbers, a wooden coaster to be built by GCI (Great Coasters International).  The 109-foot tall coaster featuring 3,265 feet of track will take a thrilling journey through a densely wooded area.  Shades of The Beast? The teaser has to do with what's in the shed at the end of the ride.  We won't know that until next year.  Animation video courtesy of Kings Island.


Cedar Point has announced that this massive wooden coaster will take its last ride in September. The rumor, unconfirmed, is that Mean Streak will undergo a Rocky Mountain Construction makeover.  I hope that this will prove to be the case, as Mean Streak is a prime candidate for the RMC treatment if ever there was one.  Not having ridden it in its prime, I can't comment on how it was when it opened but having ridden it several times within the past five years, I can say that it's colossally boring!  How a coaster with a 155-foot drop could be so lacking in airtime has never ceased to amaze me.  However, as welcome as an RMC makeover would be, from what I see thus far it's equally likely that this colossus will get the axe to make way for a completely new, unrelated attraction.  Video courtesy of Cedar Point.


Six Flags Discovery Kingdom has released this titillating POV video of The Joker, scheduled to open in late May.  Using the wooden support structure of the old Roar roller coaster, revamped and steel-tracked by Rocky Mountain Construction, The Joker features a wave turn and barrel roll among other elements.  This looks like a winner.


Valravn, the world's tallest, longest and fastest dive coaster, previewed to rave reviews two days ago.  Featuring a 223-foot lift hill, 214-foot 90-degree drop (this after the riders are suspended over the drop for four seconds with a spectacular view), Immelmann loop, second dive, dive loop and 270-degree roll, it looks pretty awesome.  Video courtesy of Cedar Point.


Busch Gardens Williamsburg announced that they will be getting a wooden coaster - finally! - in 2017.  This coaster, to be manufactured by Great Coasters International, will be Viking-themed.  Riders (designated fur trappers) will engage in an imaginary battle against invading Vikings.  The coaster will feature a 74-foot drop and 9 airtime hills.  The reason the park is announcing it so early is that they're giving enthusiasts - and anyone else who might be interested - an opportunity to vote on a name for this coaster:  Photo courtesy of Busch Gardens Williamsburg.  


Six Flags Entertainment Corporation has announced that Virtual Reality (VR) using Samsung Gear powered by Oculus will be incorporated into nine coasters at Six Flags parks.  Riders will have the opportunity to wear Samsung Gear VR headsets to experience the rides in a totally new dimension.  This technology will allow riders to battle aliens or fly like Superman.  Disorienting?  Probably, although the VR headsets will purportedly synchronize with the layout of the rides so as to avoid unexpected twists, turns and bumps.  The nine coasters involved are Shock Wave at Six Flags Over Texas, Dare Devil Dive at Six Flags Over Georgia, the New Revolution at Six Flags Magic Mountain, Ninja at Six Flags St. Louis, Steamin’ Demon at The Great Escape, Goliath at La Ronde, Superman Krypton Coaster at Six Flags Fiesta Texas, Superman The Ride at Six Flags New England and Superman Ride of Steel at Six Flags America.   Photo courtesy of Six Flags.


Sea World has released a photo of the lead car on Mako, their new B&M hypercoaster expected to open this summer.   Designed to look like the shark after which it was named, the car is looking pretty spiffy.  The coaster will feature seven cars seating four across,  fewer than most B&M hypers, but at 70 mph will be the fastest coaster in Orlando.  The restraint is a clamshell lap guard. Photo courtesy of Sea World.


Six Flags Great Adventure’s new attraction for 2016, originally announced as Total Mayhem, will now be called The Joker.  The 4-D free fly coaster will feature a 90-degree lift hill, face-off seats and two beyond 90-degree drops.  Park President John Fitzgerald was quoted as saying “The Joker is undeniably one of the greatest DC Comics Super-Villains ever created. Only someone with his warped sense of humor could provide this level of insanity  or spinsanity ─ with a new, vertical coaster that delivers gravity-defying somersaults with utter unpredictability. It is the perfect addition to our dynamic line-up of award-winning roller coasters because this ride delivers total mayhem with its next-generation, cutting-edge thrills.”  Photo courtesy of Six Flags Great Adventure.


China has thus far been uncharted territory for Six Flags Entertainment Corp. but in partnership with China’s Riverside Investment Group, Six Flags has begun construction of a theme park in Haiyan, south of Shanghai, with a ground-breaking ceremony.  Although no specifics have been announced, the park will reportedly feature record-breaking roller coasters and all the other attractions for which Six Flags parks have become famous.  The provisional opening date is 2019.  Image (artist’s concept of what the park will look like) courtesy of Six Flags

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We've known for a couple of months that changes were in the air at Holiday World, and now it's official.  The legendary The Legend roller coaster will be partially retracked, to include a reinforced structure, new double down after the helix and new tunnel.  GCI will do the retracking.  Video courtesy of Holiday World.


Sea World's new attraction for 2016, Mako, was recently topped off.  This B&M hypercoaster will be the tallest in Orlando and a welcome addition to the park.  Say what you will about Sea World v. Disney and Universal, but with Mako, Manta and Kraken, Sea World is the place to go if your primary reason for visiting a theme park is to ride roller coasters.  Photograph courtesy of Sea World.


Just before Christmas, construction crews erected the highest piece of Valravn, the record-breaking dive coaster which will be Cedar Point's new attraction for 2016.  It will be the fifth coaster at Cedar Point to break the 200-foot barrier.  Projected opening is in May.  Photo courtesy of Cedar Point.

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There were two strong contenders for this honor, Fury 325 at Carowinds and Cannibal at Lagoon.   The fact that I actually got to ride Cannibal surprises me even as I write.  Although Fury was a given, as North/South Carolina is a short hop from Philly,  I kept asking myself whether it made sense to go all the way to Utah just to ride a roller coaster.  I kept trying to talk myself out of it but was so intrigued by what I’d seen and read that when the airfare to Salt Lake City dropped to $303 I was on board.

While Fury 325 offered an adrenaline rush, with its breathtaking speed, intimidating height and multiple elements, Cannibal won out.  As great as Fury was, it was somewhat old-school, a hyped-up version of Leviathan.  Cannibal, on the other hand, was a novelty and completely unique.  Who ever saw anything that looks like this?  The massive tower in which it’s housed looks somewhat sinister, especially with all of the projections on the sides.  It’s remarkable not only for its appearance and elements but for being built in-house, a rarity in amusement parks today.  Also, while those who follow trends in the industry are familiar with the terms hypercoaster and giga coaster, Lagoon decided to be different by describing Cannibal as their “mega coaster.”  Even the lift is unique.   As one accustomed to chain or cable lifts, I found it highly unusual to ascend, mostly in the dark, on what is essentially a ski lift.

As to the ride, it’s nothing short of awesome! Upon reaching the top, the train emerges from the tower onto a short section of train which appears to end abruptly, creating the impression that the train is about to go off the end of a cliff.  It comes to a standstill, heightening the suspense, before plummeting at a wicked 116-degree angle. And yes, I’ve ridden coasters with an angle of descent as steep as 90 degrees, but going beyond vertical is a thus far unparalleled experience.  The declivity on Cannibal is unquestionably the most hair-raising drop I ever experienced on any roller coaster, and at the same time the most exhilarating.   This is followed by a dive into a tunnel.

The other elements – Immelmann loop, overbanked curve, dive loop and double heartline roll (dubbed the “Lagoon Roll” by the park) – in that order - were a delight.  The entire course is seamless.  After the train goes through the dive loop it reaches the block brake, proceeding to the Lagoon Roll.  The fact that the two consecutive heartline rolls take place in slow motion greatly intensifies the ride experience, as the centripedal forces are especially strong.   After the Lagoon Roll, the train spirals through a 450-degree helix by a waterfall before returning to the loading station.

The beyond-vertical drop was certainly the highlight of the ride, but the inversions served to enhance what was conspicuously different from anything I had ever ridden.  While it wasn’t easy to decide whether it made sense to fly almost 2,000 miles to ride a roller coaster, it was the right decision.  Cannibal was well worth the trip.  This coaster blew me away!