BANSHEE OPENS AT KINGS ISLAND

The eagerly anticipated Banshee, the world’s longest inverted coaster, opened to the public on April 14.  Featuring a 150-foot drop, 7 inversions and top speed of 68 mph, this new record-setting B&M creation looks like a real winner.  Early reviews are wildly enthusiastic.  The park’s $24,000,000 investment, its highest ever, has already drawn a reported 44,000 riders within the first couple of days of its opening. Traffic was backed up for miles outside Kings Island and the average wait time to ride Banshee was about three hours.  Video courtesy of CoasterForce.

SIX FLAGS GREAT ADVENTURE OPENING DAY

Six Flags Great Adventure opened for the 2014 season on Saturday, April 12.  Since my last visit to the park, there have been some significant changes.   The most noticeable of these are the addition of the three Zumanjaro drop towers to Kingda Ka and the absence of Rolling Thunder.   With Rolling Thunder gone, El Toro, whose track was partially obscured from view by RT, is now completely out in the open.   A remnant of Rolling Thunder is still in place, visible in the foreground of the first photograph.  This gives rise to speculation as to whether it will remain permanently in place, perhaps as a memorial?

 Kingda Ka was not operating for reasons evident in the second photograph.  It’s scheduled to resume operation when Zumanjaro opens on May 24.

 There has been a major change in the season pass processing procedure.  Historically, season pass holders were photographed and the photographs were on the passes.  No more.  This season, pass holders get a plastic card with no photograph; they will be identified by fingerprint.  Upon entering the park, pass holders will show the card and have their index finger scanned.  Another change is that whereas season pass holders previously received a book of discount coupons, the coupons are now available only on line and must be uploaded onto the passes.

Six Flags staff went out of their way to make opening day a success, and it was, with a few minor glitches.  El Toro, Nitro and Bizarro all experienced “technical difficulties” while I was waiting to ride them although park personnel did a good job of getting them back up and running.  A Superman train is rumoured to have gotten stuck on the lift hill, forcing evacuation of riders, but this is unconfirmed.  All in all, a good opening day.

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FIRECHASER EXPRESS OPENS AT DOLLYWOOD

Firechaser Express, the country’s first dual launch family coaster and latest addition to Dollywood’s stellar ride lineup, opened on March 21 amid considerable fanfare.  Dolly Parton, dressed as a very sexy firefighter, was on hand to make a presentation and give a great rendition of Great Balls of Fire.  As to the coaster, dedicated to firefighters in the Smoky Mountains, it looks like a winner.  It features both forward and backward launches out of the station along with both visual and audial special effects.  Video courtesy of Coaster Force. 

KNOEBELS TO GET STEEL LOOPING COASTER

Knoebels Amusement Resort is actually getting a steel looper, scheduled to open in 2015. Manufactured by Zierer (Verbolten at Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Cobra at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom among others), IMPULSE will feature four inversions including a cobra roll, loop and in-line twist.  With a maximum vertical angle of 90 degrees and height of 98 feet, this will be the most extreme coaster in the park as well as an interesting addition.  I suppose it’s a sign of the times but interesting or not, this type of coaster seems somewhat out of character with both the two wonderful wooden coasters (Phoenix and Twister) and down-home ambience of Knoebels.    It would seem similarly incongruous if Holiday World were to add a steel looping coaster to their ride lineup.  Anyway, that’s progress!  What do you think?  Photograph courtesy of Knoebels.

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ZUMANJARO SUPPORTS ADDED TO KINGDA KA

New supports have been added to the Kingda Ka tower in preparation for the installation of Zumanjaro: Drop of Doom, which will feature three tracks and drop riders 415 feet at 90mph.  The drop tower will be connected to the back of Kingda Ka and because the Kingda Ka trains are to whizz over Zumanjaro, the operation of the two rides will presumably have to be synchronized to some extent.  And yes, those orange pieces on the ground are components of Zumanjaro.  Photo courtesy of Six Flags Great Adventure/NewsPlusNotes.

SIX FLAGS OVER TEXAS SUES GERSTLAUER

Six Flags over Texas has sued Gerstlauer, the manufacturer of the trains on New Texas Giant, in connection with the accident in which a woman fell from the coaster to her death last summer.  Six Flags claims that the train involved in the fatal accident was a “defective product that was unreasonably dangerous in design, manufacture, distribution and promotion."  The lawyer representing Gerstlauer claims that Six Flags failed to follow proper safety procedures and that the coaster “was built according to the specific design specifications and was reviewed, tested and approved by Six Flags.”  Of course, the family of the unfortunate victim filed a lawsuit against Six Flags.  What do you think?  Photograph by Brandon Wade, special to the Arlington Star-Telegram.

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BANSHEE CONSTRUCTION UPDATE

Banshee’s first train has now been installed on the track.  Now that’s progress!  We’re getting closer to the opening of this female-named B&M looping coaster with a ride duration of 2 minutes 40 seconds.  And here’s a look at the restraints.  Photographs courtesy of King’s Island.

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GOLIATH CONSTRUCTION PROGRESSES

The brutal winter weather hasn’t halted construction of the record-breaking (longest and steepest drop, fastest speed, dive loop and zero-g roll) wooden coaster scheduled to open this spring.   Rocky Mountain Construction’s second wooden coaster – the absolutely fabulous Outlaw Run was their first – will replace Iron Wolf and use the same loading station. This looks pretty exciting!  Will it be as good as Outlaw Run? It seems only fitting to include videos of both the ongoing construction and the finished product as conceptualized in animated form.  I just wish that Six Flags could have come up with a name other than Goliath, which is becoming redundant to say the least.

THE VIPER COMES TO CHINA

The largest coaster ever to come to China will be built by Great Coasters International at the Wanda Culture Tourism City in Nanchang and is scheduled to open in 2015.  This wooden coaster will feature a 164-foot lift hill and 4,921 feet of track, making it the 9th longest in existence unless another new coaster overtakes it in the meantime.

FALCON'S FURY CONSTRUCTION UPDATE

The 335-foot drop tower under construction at Busch Gardens Tampa has now reached the 300-foot mark.  Scheduled to open in 2014, Falcon’s Fury will offer a breathtaking view and rotate riders 90 degrees before plummeting them straight down at 60 mph.   This ride will be a record-setter.   A vertical drop face-down from that height should be pretty sensational.   Photograph courtesy of Aerial Innovations, Inc. Tampa, FL.

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2013 WORST RIDE EXPERIENCE

Having posted my best ride experience of 2013, I thought it only fitting to post my worst.  Of all the coasters I rode during the past year, one stands out as egregiously awful.  I’ve ridden some headbangers  - a couple that come to mind immediately are Anaconda at Kings Dominion and Flashback at Six Flags New England – but Mind Eraser at Six Flags New England takes the cake.   This coaster looked innocuous enough and even pretty interesting, and while I can’t say that the ride wasn’t interesting, I can say that it was pure hell.   OK, so it was different from other inverted coasters I’ve ridden in that it doesn’t follow the standard layout of an initial drop followed by a vertical loop.  After the initial drop it proceeds into a roll over – an element I’d never experienced before - which was brutal.  The other inversions – sidewinder and double in-line twist – were equally rough.  I found myself being knocked about mercilessly, and not only my head but also my neck and shoulders were getting roughed up to the point at which it became agonizing.   This twisted mass of steel was twisting me out of shape and I couldn’t wait for the ride to end.   My ride on Mind Eraser is one that I’d like to erase from memory. What’s your worst ride experience of 2013?

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2013 BEST RIDE EXPERIENCE OF THE YEAR

 

2013 was an exciting year for coaster enthusiasts, with the emergence of both new and revamped coasters – although I got to ride only two of them, Outlaw Run and Gatekeeper.  I missed Iron Rattler by two weeks, having booked a flight to San Antonio in anticipation of its being open by the time I got there (it wasn’t and the airline was going to charge me $300 to change my flight) and missed Hades 360 because the airline changed my itinerary at the last minute.  (As a result I gave up on the idea of going to Wisconsin Dells and instead went to Kings Dominion, where I got in 20 roller coaster rides in one day, a new record for me.)  

As to my best ride experience of the year, this was a tough one and a toss up between a new coaster (Outlaw Run) and an old one (Boulder Dash).   While both are pretty spectacular, Outlaw Run gets a slight edge for both the novelty and thrill factor.  From the effortless ascent of the lift hill to the delectable double barrel roll, Outlaw Run proved to be a real winner and justification for going all the way to Branson, MO.  The record-breaking first drop – a record which will be broken when Goliath at Six Flags Great America opens in 2014 – was as good as anticipated and the rest of the ride was a blast.   The overbanked turn early on in the ride came close to an inversion (I don’t agree that there are three inversions, as hyped) and the double barrel roll almost blew me away.  One thing I remember as clearly as if it happened yesterday is racing through open terrain, literally holding onto my shirt, which was practically flying off over my head; the airtime was that good.  It doesn’t get much better than this.  What do you think?  What’s your best ride experience of 2013?

See what Joel from The Coaster Critic,  Arthur from About Theme Parks Guide, Brian from Domain of Death and the Coaster 101 team have to say about their best ride experiences of 2013:

 

Joel: http://www.thecoastercritic.com/2013/12/what-was-your-single-best-ride-experience-of-2013.html

Arthur: http://themeparks.about.com/b/2013/12/27/best-ride-experience-of-2013-iron-rattler.htm

Brian:  http://www.domainofdeath3.com/most-memorable-ride-experience-of-2013-freezing-on-nitro/

Coaster 101: http://www.coaster101.com/2013/12/31/favorite-moments-2013-part-2/

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2013 WOODEN COASTER POLL NOW OPEN

Mitch Hawker's wooden coaster poll for 2013 is now open for voting.  Deadline is January 24, 2014.   The main page of what I presume to be the official website is somewhat confusing with a long list of instructions, so here's the shortcut: http://hawker.stationbrakes.com/build   The past year has seen the resurgence of wooden coasters.  Yay!  I just cast my ballot and my top five are 1) El Toro 2) Outlaw Run 3) Boulder Dash 4) The Voyage and 5) Shivering Timbers. What do you think?

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HERSHEY ANNOUNCES NEW RIDES FOR 2014

Hersheypark has announced that three new family-friendly rides will open in 2014. First, located in Music Box Way, is a family coaster designed to introduce youngsters to the coaster experience and accommodate those who do not meet the height requirements of the bigger coasters.   Second is Tea Cups, a type of ride almost omnipresent in theme parks, and third is Happy Swing, a simple swing ride that can be enjoyed by guests of all ages.  Tea Cups and Happy Swing will be in The Hollow, where Comet and the breathtaking Skyrush are located.  Photograph courtesy of http://www.hersheypark.com/

 

BANSHEE FUNDRAISER EVENT SCHEDULED FOR APRIL 17, 2014

On April 17, 2014, Kings Island will host a fundraiser for the greater Cincinnati chapter of A Kid Again, a nonprofit organization designed to improve the quality of life for children with life-threatening illnesses.    Coaster enthusiasts who can raise a minimum of $100.00 will enjoy unlimited rides on the world’s longest inverted coaster from 9:00 pm to 11:00 pm, plus get complimentary admission to Kings Island, a certificate of participation, Scream for a Kid T-shirt and food.   With seven inversions and a 150-foot drop, it should be a fun experience and all in a good cause.  Registration forms can be obtained at https://www.visitkingsisland.com/ Photograph courtesy of Kings Island.

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ROLLING THUNDER BITES THE DUST

Although there has been no official confirmation and it’s difficult to determine whether the below image is a filtered photograph or artist’s rendering, there are numerous reports to the effect that Rolling Thunder was demolished during the first week of November.  The rationale behind the decision to get rid of Rolling Thunder is ostensibly to make room for Zumanjaro, the record-breaking drop tower which will open at Six Flags Great Adventure in 2014.  However, because the drop tower will be connected to Kingda Ka, it’s questionable as to whether the new ride would have had to impinge on Rolling Thunder – which gives rise to the suspicion that the fate of Rolling Thunder was primarily the result of an economic decision.  This coaster was showing its age and needed rehabbing; maintaining a drop tower is clearly cheaper than maintaining a wooden coaster, without figuring in the cost of building the tower in the first place.  The only obvious advantage to be gained from the removal of Rolling Thunder is that park guests will now be able to get from Kingda Ka to El Toro via a path in the area where the defunct coaster stood, instead of having to walk all the way back to the entrance of Golden Kingdom and over the boardwalk.   Rolling Thunder was something of a classic, a landmark, and it’s sad to see it go.  In its absence, the park will no longer have an intermediate wooden coaster suitable for families or those who can’t ride El Toro due to height restrictions, fear or other reasons.  Photo from Theme Park Review.

SMILER SHUT DOWN AFTER WHEELS HIT RIDERS

The record-breaking Gerstlauer coaster The Smiler, with a staggering 14 inversions, had to be shut down after yet another mishap.  A spokesperson for Alton Towers said that some “small guide wheels” used to keep the chain inside the chain guard came off as the train was being pulled up the incline, striking several riders in the front of the train.  The train completed its circuit and there were no serious injuries but one of the riders hit by a plastic wheel expressed consternation about continuing, saying that "You are at the highest point of the ride and you've got all these loops to do and you just think that the carriage is going to come off.”   The ride was subsequently closed pending investigation.  As Alton Towers closes for the season on November 10, 2013, The Smiler may not reopen until 2014.  Photo courtesy of The Daily Mail.

 

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FLIGHT DECK TO BE RENAMED THE BAT

The Arrow suspended coaster Flight Deck will be renamed The Bat for the 2014 season, in honor of the old Bat coaster which operated from 1981 to 1983.  It will get a new paint job, with a double charcoal pattern on supports and bright orange track.  The trains will be black.   With The Bat and Banshee side by side, this should be interesting.

Photo courtesy of coasterimage.com.

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PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN ACCIDENT

A five-year-old boy sustained serious injuries on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland in Paris.  Although there are conflicting reports as to how the accident happened, it would appear that the boy lost his balance, fell overboard and became trapped between a platform and the boat behind him.  According to commander Fabrice Delin of the Codis emergency services for the Seine-et-Marne department,  “He was stuck between the platform, with his chest compressed, and the boat.”  In critical condition, the boy was transported to a hospital but is recovering from his injuries.  Safety checks of the ride had been conducted earlier in the day but the accident forced closing of the ride pending further investigation.  Photograph courtesy of Wikipedia.

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THUNDER RUN BACK UP AND RUNNING

 

Closed for five years,   the newly renovated Thunder Run at Kentucky Kingdom made its debut on October 9.   The first to ride this updated classic wooden coaster did so by special invitation.    After a $1,000.000 investment and with new steel tracking,   the ride is reported to be smoother and better.   Kentucky Kingdom will reopen to the public in 2014.  Video footage courtesy of WLKY news in Louisville.