Kings Island is happy with progress towards reopening the world's largest, fastest wooden coaster to its crowds.
Just under a year after an accident left 27 riders with neck and back pain, Son of Beast runs test after test on a modified coaster to ensure that the July 8, 2006 incident is its first and last.
Yesterday, a trainload of humans joined the water-filled plastic test dummies that formerly held the sole privilege of experiencing nearly 7,000 feet of track. However, the park is careful not to set a reopening date in stone just yet.
"The progress on Son of Beast is coming along very nicely," Marketing Communications Coordinator Josh Hackenberg said. "We are committed to opening the ride this season."
Kings Island's daily operation ends August 26, but the park remains open for the 2007 season on weekends through October 28. That provides a window of exactly four more months to reopen Son of Beast this season.
The investigation into last year's accident discovered a cause of cracked timber giving way several inches as a train passed over the ride's sweeping double helix.
While one of the goals of the past off-season was inherently to strengthen the structure, another was to find lighter trains. The park was successful in purchasing two trains manufactured by German company Gerstlauer that formerly ran on Hurricane at the now-defunct Myrtle Beach Pavilion.
However, the use of lighter trains required a major sacrifice in the form of the ride's signature track element: its vertical loop.
The loop has long been one of the park's most unique bragging rights. In Son of Beast's 1999 press release, then-Paramount's-Kings-Island advertised "the tallest, fastest and only looping wooden roller coaster in the world." That title rang true until this winter's modifications.