POV FOOTAGE OF THE JOKER RELEASED

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 DEBUTS AT CEDAR POINT

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 TO GET WOODEN COASTER

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: http://bit.ly/1UjthUa  Photo courtesy of Busch Gardens Williamsburg.  

SIX FLAGS TO ADD VIRTUAL REALITY

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 UNVEILS MAKO LEAD CAR

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.

TOTAL MAYHEM RENAMED THE JOKER

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.

SIX FLAGS COMING TO CHINA

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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THE LEGEND TO BE RETRACKED

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.

MAKO TOPPED OFF

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.

VALRAVN TOPPED OFF

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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BEST ROLLER COASTER RIDE OF THE YEAR 2015

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!

OZARK WILDCAT DEMOLISHED

Ozark Wildcat, which operated from 2003 to 2008 at the now defunct Celebration City in Branson, MO, has been demolished.  Although the trains had been sold to Dollywood some time ago, the coaster remained standing as a sort of landmark.  It's the first Great Coasters International coaster to be demolished.  The demolition video was posted by the Woodland Hills Family Church.

HOLIDAY IN THE PARK

Six Flags Great Adventure's inaugural Holiday in the Park is both a spectacle and a treat. Although other Six Flags parks have featured a holiday event, this is a first for Great Adventure.   It's not only a great way to celebrate the holidays; it's a way to prolong roller coaster season in the chilly Northeast.  Upon entering the park, guests are greeted by a massive Christmas tree replete with lights.  The park is filled with glittering lights, seasonal fixtures such as a snowman through which people can walk, seasonal concoctions such as hot chocolate and special funnel cakes, a booth at which guests can have their photos taken against a holiday background, and many more attractions.  Six of the the twelve coasters are operating: Batman:The Ride, Nitro, Skull Mountain, The Dark Knight, Superman:Ultimate Flight and The Green Lantern.  Some flat rides are operating, including Sky Screamer.

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SWITCHBACK OPENS AT ZDT'S AMUSEMENT PARK

Switchback, the only wooden shuttle coaster in existence, opened at ZDT's Amusement Park - a small family-owned park - in Seguin, Texas on October 17.   This unique coaster, like a boomerang,  begins the circuit going forward and then does it all in reverse.   The steepness of the initial drop and 87% angle of ascent will undoubtedly make for an exciting ride.  This looks like another winner for The Gravity Group, probably best known for The Voyage at Holiday World.  Photo courtesy for ZDT's Amusement Park.


Six Flags 2016 Attractions

The new attractions for 2016 at Six Flags parks are somewhat underwhelming.  A number of parks will get a Larson Giant Loop; the one ride that really looks promising is The Joker at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom.  The closed coaster Roar will get the Rocky Mountain Construction treatment and considering what RMC did with Wicked Cyclone and Twisted Colossus, this one could be a real winner.

CEDAR POINT TO GET DIVE COASTER

Several weeks ago Cedar Point announced that its new attraction for 2016 will be Valravn, a dive coaster named after a supernatural bird from Danish folklore.  Only the third dive coaster to be built in the USA (the other two are Griffon and its sister coaster Sheikra, at Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Busch Gardens Tampa), it will set new records for height, length and speed.  This is how it will look.  Video courtesy of Cedar Point.

CANNIBAL OPEN AT LAGOON

This highly anticipated coaster opened at Lagoon in Farmington, Utah on July 2, 2015.  Cannibal boasts the steepest beyond vertical drop – 116 degrees – of any coaster in the USA.  Unusually, it was built in-house by Lagoon rather than by an independent contractor or major manufacturer.  It features a 208-foot elevator lift in the dark along with five inversions.  Video courtesy of DeathbyIllusion.   For more information about rides at Lagoon, visit www.lagoonpark.com