Roller Coaster designs, elements, models, and ideas have evolved a lot over the years as we have progressed further into the technological age. There are various parks and companies out there that have introduced new ideas and let the amusement park industry flow with their ideas and see these ideas pop up all over the world. A park that has done a fantastic job of this is none other than my home park, King's Island. Kings Island has been operating since 1972 and has been introducing new theories and concepts since it has opened up for the most part.
Kings Island today is home to fourteen great roller coasters. The park has had several coasters come and go as well. A large chunk of the coasters at Kings Island have started trends we see across the country as well as the world today. These roller coasters at the park date as far back as the Bat, which was built in 1981, and all the way up to Diamondback, built just last year in 2009.
The main roller coasters of Kings Island that have really stood out and started some popular trends and helped evolve other ideas into bigger and better ideas include the following: The Bat (first suspended roller coaster); King Cobra (first stand-up roller coaster); Vortex (first roller coaster with six inversions); Beast (longest wooden roller coaster); Outer Limits Flight of Fear (first LIM launched roller coaster); Son of Beast (only looping wooden roller coaster); and Diamondback (first B&M hyper roller coaster with a splashdown). Some of these roller coasters may have not had long lives or worked out at Kings Island very long, but their ideas and designs have led the way down the road in future years to come in one way or another. I will be discussing each of these in further detail about why they have been important in the coaster industry.
The first roller coaster I will discuss will be Beast, which was built in 1979. It was built as the longest roller coaster at 7,359 feet. Steel Dragon 2000 at Nagashima Spa Land as well as Ultimate at Lightwater Valley are two steel coasters that have both been built longer since the Beast was built, but Beast still is the world's longest wooden roller coaster! This classic woodie has thrilled millions of riders in its years and is still one of the most popular rides in the park today due to its uniqueness. The Beast is spread over thirty-five acres of Kings Island and snakes its way deep through the woods. The coaster can sometimes feel as it is out of control like a beast could be, hence its name. Beast uses the terrain very well throughout a large chunk of its course. A lot of the time, the track is no more than a few feet off the ground due to that it simply follows where the terrain goes, making it a very unique coaster. Built by Al Collins and Jeff Gramke, the 31 year old coaster will definitely not be going anywhere soon due to its long term success.
The next coaster of Kings Island I am going to bring up is the Bat. The Arrow Dynamic's manufactured Bat first opened up in 1981, four years before I was born, and closed down just two years later in 1983. I was not even around to experience and see the world's first suspended roller coaster. The Bat experienced several problems from day one. Its main issue was track banking. It did not take long for excessive stress on the track and supports to occur due to the track's lack of banking. There was also too much stress on the wheels due to the break fins being mounted on the bottom of the cars as well as too much stress on the train's shock absorbers due to the violent swinging that constantly went on. However, seeing as the Bat was unsuccessful for the most part, Arrow Dynamics used it to create better and much more successful suspended roller coasters throughout the nation shortly after the Bat had closed down permanently. Improved banked tracking was put into play to make the suspended coasters much more successful. The suspended coaster suddenly grew to be much more popular with the track banking as King's Island put in Top Gun to get a suspended coaster back since Bat had failed. Big Bad Wolf at Busch Gardens was most likely the most popular version of the suspended roller coaster. Several enthusiasts even started a campaign called "Save Big Bad Wolf" to try and save it once they heard it was going to be dismantled. Astroworld's XLR-8 was opened up in 1984 and operated for about 20 years until Astroworld had to shut down permanently. Big Bad Wolf at Busch Gardens Williamsburg also opened up in 1984 and shut down just last year because the manufacturer had assumed the ride had met its maximum life span. In 1993, Flighty Deck (formerly Top Gun) made its debut at Kings Island and is still in operation today. Vortex at Canada's Wonderland is a near clone of Flight Deck and is also still in operation today. These very successful roller coasters were made successful from all the lessons learned from the Bat.
The first stand up roller coaster to come around was King Cobra, which was built in 1984 by Togo. King Cobra operated for several years until it was taken apart in 2002. The ride was losing its popularity quickly by this time, plus Kings Island was removing rides a lot to make room for new attractions. The Togo built King Cobra was an extremely rough ride, causing very few people wanting to ride it. However, Bolliger and Mallibard/Intamin improved from King Cobra's design and made the stand-up roller coaster into a better and more comfortable style to ride. The stand-up coaster never really became a smashing hit due to most of them still be rough and uncomfortable to ride for the average rider. It is not very motivating waiting an hour or more in line to for a ride you are going to be standing up on. Sky Rider at Canada's Wonderland at Kings Dominion is a near clone of Kings Island's King Cobra. These were considered the old fashioned stand up coasters until the stand up roller coaster really evolved into models such as Riddler's Revenge at Six Flags Magic Mountain and Mantis at Cedar Point.
Vortex was the first roller coaster in the world to feature six inversions. Also built by Arrow Dynamics, this roller coaster had started numerous multi inversion coasters throughout the world. Vortex made its debut in April of 1987, and only held the record for most inversions for a year until Shockwave was built up at Six Flags Great America, which featured seven inversions. A couple of years later, Great American Scream Machine was opened at Six Flags Great Adventure (1989) as well as Viper a year later (1990) out at Six Flags Magic Mountain. Great American Scream Machine and Viper also both consisted of seven inversions. Vortex's inversions are two loops, a double corkscrew, as well as a batwing, totaling six. Vortex is also one of nine coasters to feature the batwing element. Vortex continued the coaster-inversion war that was going on with several Arrow designs. The elements on Vortex were obviously carried on to the other coasters Arrow Dynamics had built years later down the road.
Kings Island was also the park to introduce the first roller coaster with a LIM launching system (linear induction motors) as well as the first modern launched roller coaster as the launched loop coasters such as [url=HTTP://COASTER-NET.COM/]Montezooma's Revenge[/url] at Knott's Berry Farm uses a flywheel mechanism to launch its trains. Kings Island's, Flight of Fear, which was built in 1996, is an indoor, looping Premier Rides model that is completely enclosed. The coaster goes through a huge cluster of track in a very confined space during its one minute duration. The LIM launched technology that Flight of Fear introduced was a huge hit not only in the roller coaster industry but NASA has looked at it for possible shuttle launches and the NAVY has looked at it as well for a launching system on aircraft carriers. Kings Dominion has the only other enclosed clone, also called Flight of Fear. Two outdoor clones of this also exist. One is Poltergeist, built in 1999 and located at Six Flags Fiesta Texas and the other is Joker's Jinx, also built in 1999 and located at Six Flags America.Flight of Fear at Kings Island and all of its clones were definitely not favorites at first due to the constant complaining from headaches after the ride due to people's heads banging back and forth between the over the head restraints. Over the head restraints do not go well together with tight, curving coaster track. When I rode it the first time in 1997, I swore I would never ride it again as it gave me the worst head ache for several hours afterwards. Premier Rides finally decided to do something about this problem in 2001 and remove the over the head restraints and replace them with ratcheting lap bars and this made the ride much more comfortable. It is actually now one of my favorites. The clones around the nations immediately followed this move and they are much better rides now as well since the fix.
Son of Beast: A view of the steel loop coming out of the station. It was removed after the coaster's seventh season.
For the debut of the Summer 2000 season, something I would have never guessed came out...a looping wooden roller coaster. Son of Beast was extremely popular in its opening year due to it being the world's tallest wooden roller coaster, only wooden hyper coaster, and only looping wooden roller coaster. After its inaugural season, its popularity plummeted as riders did not enjoy it at all. It was extremely rough, especially through its two large helixes after the first drop, and several riders were injured on it and had to go to the hospital throughout its decade of operation. On July 9th, 2006, was the most serious accident the massive wooden coaster has undergone so far. What happened here was a structural failure that caused a bump on the track and twenty-seven riders were hurt and had to be taken to nearby hospitals for investigation. To not cause so much stress on the track and wooden structure, lighter trains were put into circuit on Son of Beast shortly after the accident in July. These much more light Gerstlauer trains were actually relocated from Myrtle Beach's Pavilion's Hurricane Category 5coaster. In order for the light trains to complete the long circuit on Son of Beast, the loop was also removed. The heavier trains used before were heavy enough to complete the large loop, but were extremely rough and over time caused lots of stress to the track, eventually busting, causing the accident. The ride re-opened in 2007 after testing. In June 2009, a woman complained of suffering a head injury from the Son of Beast from when she rode it on May 31st, 2009 and had to go into intensive care. After this accident, officials investigated the ride and did not really find anything that was irregular with the ride that would cause this, however the coaster closed down for the remainder of the 2009 season as well as all the 2010 season. The ride has not been popular since its opening season in 2000, even with the new trains added for the 2007 season. What will happen with Son of Beast is uncertain, but in order to regain its popularity back, something massive is going to have to be done. Putting all new steel track on the ride in place of its wooden track would be a start. Seeing how successful the New Texas Giantwill be with its renovation could see a similar change to Son of Beast in the coming years.
Diamondback's splashdown: The ending of Diamondback is very unique in that the train goes into a splashdown and creates an amazing site of splashing water for onlookers.
Kings Island's newest roller coaster, built in 2009, Diamondback, has been a smashing hit for the park in its first two seasons so far. Diamondback is a Bolliger and Mallibard built coaster and is actually based off of Canada Wonderland's Behemoth, which was built a year before in 2008. However, Diamondback is the first B&M hyper coaster to feature a splashdown. This is what sets Diamondback unique from Behemoth as well as Carowinds' Intimidator. Intimidator was built a year later for the 2010 season. Diamondback, Behemoth, and Intimidator all also feature the new style seating in a V shape where all riders are provided an unobstructed view and experience. These B&M coasters have been very successful and popular since they have come out in the past few years, and Kings Island made Diamondback their very own with its unique feature.
All of these roller coasters I have discussed have all been at Kings Island, and most still do exist at Kings Island. A lot of them may not seem like much now due to what we are seeing arise throughout the amusement park industry today, but when these coasters first debuted, they were a huge deal. They are what started a lot of what we see today and have really helped emerge ideas into bigger and better ideas as the years have gone on and technology has advanced. I am sure Kings Island will continue to debut many firsts in its future roller coasters and who knows what these may translate into in future years in the roller coaster industry.