Geauga Lake is an Ohio park with one heck of a roller coaster history. It started out back in 1888 as a local picnic spot and lakeside park, with a luxury hotel and dance hall called Picnic Lake Park. The first amusement would arrive the next year, a steam-powered carousel. For years it was the ideal family spot in the town of Aurora, Ohio until 1926 when what is now the park's oldest operating coaster arrived. Clipper (now Big Dipper), a classic John Miller-designed wooden coaster, was built. Boasting an out and back layout built into the terrain, a sixty-five-foot-tall height, and half-mile-long ride, Clipper became a favorite amongst younger thrill seekers and locals.
The park slowly grew with many kiddie and family rides being added. The additions included a giant swimming pool in 1927, the permanent installation of a traveling Marcus Illions Carousel in 1937 that still operates to this day, and many family rides that are now hard to find such as Tumble Bugs and Fly-O-Planes (both defunct). The park would then add another coaster in 1958 with a Schiff Wild Mouse by the name of Wild Mouse that would remain at the park until 1971 when it would move on to the defunct Chippewa Lake Park and remain there standing but not operating.
In the late 1960's, an alumni of Cedar Point staffers formed Funtime Parks Inc. Funtime would buy out Geauga Lake that year and later on buy Wynadot Lake in Columbus, Ohio and Darien Lake (now Six Flags Darien Lake) in Darien Center, New York. The Geauga Lake purchase resulted in the small park becoming a major thrill spot in Ohio to compete with nearby Cedar Point and the newly-opened Kings Island (now Paramount's Kings Island) in Cincinnati. The first major changes included even more rides coming to the park and a new main gate with a one-price entry and unlimited rides in 1973. Along with the new system, in 1969, Clipper would be renamed Big Dipper.
Numerous flat rides started to show up at the park during the 1960's and 1970's such as the Merry Oldies Arrow Dynamics-made antique cars, the Cuyahoga River Logging Company Arrow log flume (now known as Pepsi Plunge), a Mack Swing Bob ride called Matterhorn (now Hay Baler), the Black Squid Everly Gyro Tower spinning flat ride, Skyscraper Intamin-made observation tower, and the park classic monorail Bel-Air Express.
To compete with the state-of-the-art roller coasters being added to parks around the country in the 1970's, 1976 brought a clone of a popular model at the time, a Pinfari Zyklon by the name of Cyclone. Cyclone boasted a compact layout with twists, turns, and sudden drops and remained at the park until 1980. But the next year brought Geauga Lake its first record-breaker to attract people to the Ohio park. In 1977, the park contacted Utah's Arrow Dynamics for a custom looping coaster. Looping twice back to back was the Double Loop, holding the distinction of being the first coaster to have back-to-back loops. Today, Double Loop remains a favorite amongst thrill seeking beginners and older coaster enthusiasts.
Soon enough, another looping coaster touched down at the growing looping coaster paradise. In 1978, Arrow returned with their popular Corkscrew model called Corkscrew, which would become a park icon until its removal for Head Spin (previously known as Mind Eraser). As modernization went on in the Ohio park, it suddenly expanded yet again with a new lakeside waterpark called Boardwalk Shores included with admission in 1983. Some attractions at the new waterpark included the Stingray Wet Slides, which consisted of Neptune Falls, Stingray, and Undertow, a steep slide with a holding brake for suspense. The year after, Boardwalk Shores expanded with the Wave (defunct), one of the world's biggest wave pools clocking in at 1,780,000 gallons of water to drench guests in gigantic waves.
1986 Came with a renovated kids area called Rainbow Island (defunct). Consisting of many kiddie rides, Rainbow Island gave little ones fun things to do. But two years later was a gigantic year and anniversary for the park. In 1988, Geauga Lake celebrated its 100th anniversary, and how did the park celebrate it? With a new coaster, of course. Geauga Lake contacted Dinn and Summers, well-known wooden coaster designers known for hits including the Beast at Kings Island, and Raging Wolf Bobs was built. Based on the defunct classic Riverview Bobs located in Chicago until the 1960's, the ride became a hit at the park amongst enthusiasts and locals. In 1989, Geauga Lake decided to please kids again with Turtle Beach (defunct), an interactive children's water playground in the waterpark.
The 1990's came and would become one of the biggest decades in the park's history, but its traditional soul began to dwindle. In 1993, the park got one of its big hit flat rides, America's very first Huss Top Spin, called Texas Twister. But two years later, the park's traditional charm began to slowly dissapear as Funtime Parks was bought out by growing chain Premier Parks. Geauga Lake saw change, and as a picnic hotspot amongst locals for more than a 100 years, suddenly changed to a modern amusement parkwhen bringing food into the park was banned. Also, some of the park's vintage flats, such as the rare Rocket Ships ride, were removed. But 1995 spelled the end for one of the hit coasters, Corkscrew. What would replace the ride?
In 1996, a new coaster came from the company infamous for cloning and mass-producing coaster models, Vekoma. The park recieved one of Vekoma's popular Boomerang models and called it Mind Eraser (later changed to Head Spin). Riders go through three inversions - a cobra roll and loop - then up a reversing spike and through the layout again, backwards. Also in 1996 came Grizzly Run Rapids, a popular Intamin-made River Rapids ride. The next year, 1997, brought an Intamin First Generation Freefall ride similar to Demon Drop at nearby Cedar Point, called Mr. Hyde's Nasty Fall. Then, 1998 brought another popular Vekoma cloned coaster.
The year 1998 brought Geauga Lake a nasty criminal for thrilling riders when Serial Thriller (now Thunderhawk) debuted as one of Vekoma's many Suspended Looping Coasters. With five inversions of twisted red and teal situated on the shore of Geauga Lake, Serial Thriller became a hit amongst the public. The year 1999 was the final year that the park would be called Geauga Lake... Or was it? That year, the park got a giant ferris wheel by the name of Americana that would make it onto the park's logo before 2000.
A new millennium came and change was all over in the air. Geauga Lake was finally flagged and renamed Six Flags Ohio, and Six Flags' first objective with their new park was to compete with nearby titans Cedar Point and Paramount's Kings Island. Six Flags played the card for more thrill rides and four coasters to be installed that year. Along with the rides, the park got new mascots such as the common Six Flags Looney Toons and DC Comics Superheroes. The first of the four coaster would become the fan favorite coaster at Geauga Lake after the Dark Knight came and became one of Bolliger and Mabillard's twisted floorless masterpieces. Batman: Knight Flight (now known as Dominator) was built as Ohio's first floorless coaster. Coming in at 161 feet and boasting the world's largest vertical loop at 135 feet tall, Batman: Knight Flight dominated the lakeside.
The second coaster for the 2000 season involves another iconic DC Comics Superhero. The Man of Steel touched down as America's first Intamin Impulse coaster and the world's first Impulse coaster with a twisted spike. Superman: Ultimate Escape (now known as Steel Venom), became another fan-loved ride. Superman launched riders at speeds nearing seventy miles per hour up a twisted spike when going forwards, and up a straight vertical spike with a holding brake when going backwards, both spikes at a massive 180 feet in height. Using LIM motors, Intamin's coaster became a hit and was later cloned at other Six Flags parks under the name V2: Vertical Velocity.
Where there are superheroes, there are villains, and that is the lesson of the third major coaster in the biggest year of Geauga Lake's history: the Custom Coasters International-made steel-supported wooden coaster Villain. Being the parks first twisted double-out and back wooden coaster, this woodie became a hit amongst local enthusiasts with its enormous 108-foot-tall steel structure with twisted wooden track, speeds nearing sixty miles per hour, and an unusual trick-track element dominating the area by the classic Double Loop coaster. But the last coaster of the park's biggest year did not forget about the kids. Six Flags contacted Zierer for another one of their stocked Tivoli Large model rides for a family coaster in the form of Road Runner Express (now known as Beaver Land Mine Ride). A small twisted layout with one long train gave many families and young thrill seekers a new family favorite.
With the new coasters, new areas also took shape and the park became a full-fleged theme park from the traditional park it was just a few years before. Taking the place of the massive wave pool the Wave came the park's new kids' section, Looney Toons Boomtown (now known as Kidzone Playworks). Six Flags' common Gotham City-themed area (now known as Power City) went in over by Batman: Knight Flight. Meanwhile, 50's Midway became the section featuring Superman: Ultimate Escape. And finally, the last new section in the park was a new waterpark named after the Six Flags brand of Hurricane Harbor waterparks (now known as Hurricane Hannah's).
But the next year would be almost as big as 2000. Across the shores of Six Flags Ohio was another chain park, Sea World Ohio. Sea World, a chain owned by Anheuser-Busch (also owners of Busch Gardens), was built in the 1970's located across from the amusement park. The park contained no rides, but rather several stadiums and marine animal exhibits, and a kids' section known as Shamu's Happy Harbor. Then came one big and shocking move in early 2001. One of Six Flags' biggest spending years was 2001 and buying out neighboring Sea World Ohio was one of the big spending moves. Reasons behind the buyout included a few reasons by Busch. One reason includes the freezing Ohio weather during the winter, and the other being Busch not securing the rights to build amusement rides in their park since Busch were adding rides to other Sea World parks at the time the park was built.
Thus, within one year after the transformation into Six Flags, the park was renamed again, this time called Six Flags Worlds of Adventure. Six Flags now had three parks combined into one, with not only the already-owned Hurricane Harbor waterpark and the amusement rides, but now a wildlife section. So now the North end became known as the Wild Rides section and the South end became known as the Wild Life side to fit with Six Flags Worlds of Adventure's new motto: "Wild Life, Wild Rides." But 2001 brought the park another smash hit ride for enthusiasts and a first in the region.
Flying was taken to the X-treme when X-Flight was unveiled in 2001 as a modified version of Stealth at Paramount's Great America (now BORG Assimilator at Paramount's Carowinds). This coaster is one of Vekoma's Flying Dutchman models, identical to Batwing at Six Flags America which opened the same year. X-Flight became the Midwest's first flying coaster and another smash-hit thrill, boasting five inversions, a height of 115 feet, and speeds of over fifty miles per hour. 2001 Brought more rides toward the end of that season when numerous family flat rides started popping up in the Happy Harbor section of the Wild Life side.
With Six Flags' acquisition of Sea World Ohio as the Wild Life side, Six Flags needed some new attractions for the area, so new animal exhibits debuted in 2002. The first addition was Tiger Island, featuring many tigers in a small habitat for visitors to view. But what Sea World had was what Six Flags lacked with the popular killer whale Shamu. Luckily, the main addition for 2002 was Shouka, a killer whale on a breeding loan to Six Flags from a marine mammal park in France. Even more animals invaded the former Sea World side as Base Camp Zebra was added, showing the popular striped horses of Africa up close. Numerous shows also debuted that year as well for marine animals in the existing stadiums.
The 2003 season brought another local record ride to the park. Hurricane Mountain, a clone of the Hurricane Harbor water park's icon, was built and billed as Ohio's tallest and fastest water slide complex. The slides were named after historic hurricanes and became a hit at Hurricane Harbor. Even more slides joined Hurricane Mountain in 2003 as a trio family friendly slides was introduced called Shark Attack. More family flat rides showed up that year on the Wild Life side as Thriller Bees and Starfish. But the next year brought a stunning piece of news in the industry just ahead of the 2004 season.
It was March 10th, 2004, and Six Flags, now crippled in billions of dollars in debt, began to sell parks to ease the burden. Six Flags Worlds of Adventure ate a majority in Six Flags' wallet as millions were spent on the park in a short period of time, mainly to compete with nearby titan Cedar Point. On that day, it was announced that the owners of Cedar Point, Cedar Fair L.P., bought Six Flags Worlds of Adventure and would change the name back to Geauga Lake. Cedar Fair had no easy task ahead as they had a deadline to meet before the opening of the park's 2004 season on May 1st.
Hard at work, Cedar Fair had to rename anything that involved any Looney Toons or DC Comics themes. Cedar Fair renamed many of the rides after their already-used names at other parks, and the most well-known rides got new names. Batman: Knight Flight became Dominator (which are also S&S Shot Towers at Dorney Park), Superman: Ultimate Escape became Steel Venom (named after Valleyfair!'s Intamin Impulse of the same name), Serial Thriller became Thunderhawk (named after the classic wooden coaster at Dorney Park), Mind Eraser became Head Spin, and Road Runner Express became Beaver Land Mine Ride. The themed sections of Gotham City, Hurricane Harbor, and Looney Toons Boomtown became Power City, Hurricane Hannah's, and Kidzone Playworks respectively. Cedar Fair met their deadline and on May 1st, 2004, a new era under new ownership began. But one question remained, what would happen to the Wild Life side?
Cedar Fair answered that question in November, 2004 as demolition began on the old Wild Life side for a new and expanded waterpark to replace Hurricane Hannah's, known as Wildwater Kingdom (sharing the same name of Dorney Park's waterpark). Demolishing the park's existing structures to be replaced with new water slides and old ones from the other end of the park in the former Hurricane Harbor section, the park plans to open in two phases, with the first phase projects opening in 2005 and the second in 2006. Hurricane Hannah's will have its last season in 2005 after two major changes and more than 20 years at the park. Along with a new waterpark, Cedar Fair brought in their mascots, the Peanuts characters, two new motion simulator experiences, relocated Thriller Bees and Starfish from the former Wild Life side, and lastly added lakeside picnic pavilions. But low attendence throughout the 2005 season made an even bigger burden for Cedar Fair. In late 2005, the park listed its Intamin Freefall ride, Mr. Hyde's Nasty Fall, for sale and portions of Hurricane Hannah's closed for demolition. Even more bad news came, the 2nd phase of the park's Wildwater Kingdom project was cut down to only a 30,000 square foot wave pool known as Tidal Wave Bay. More cuts to the 2006 season include the cancellation of the parks' Halloween Haunt event and a signifigantly shorter season. Certainly, Geauga Lake's forecast is looking foggy, but Cedar Fair is determined to make the park Ohio's premier family destination, not for thrill seekers.
Geauga Lake has certainly had a roller coaster of a history, and after its time as a mega park known as Six Flags Worlds of Adventure, the park is now set to head back to become the traditional, family-friendly park it once was.