by Danny Miller
As many of us expected, Kings Island unveiled plans to open Banshee, a B&M inverted coasters for 2014 on Thursday night. While we could easily say we knew everything (and frankly, we knew a lot), we also knew next to nothing thanks to all the teasers and endless mind games the park played right up until the teaser video, which was preceded by a “before we let the bat out of the cage…” followed by a collective groan of the crowd. Rather than talk about what we can easily gain from looking at the ride’s website or ride gallery page, let’s talk about some of the major takeaways from the announcement.
THE RIDE – Okay, so maybe we will talk about the ride itself just a bit. For one thing, the layout is awesome. The absence of a pre-drop brake allows the first drop to be shaped in a unique way, making it what seems to be one of the steepest of any inverted coaster. I love the variety of inversions used on the ride, especially the loop that circles the lift. The lack of a mid-course brake run also mean this ride will be packed with non-stop action. I have a feeling the highlight of the ride may be the batwing element, as the train will reach its top speed at the exit of the maneuver. As far as inverted coasters go, this is one of the better layouts. The drawback here will be that the lack of a mid-course brake may hurt capacity, but as some have pointed out, Leviathan and Millennium Force have comparable ride times without mid-course brakes and operate with three trains just fine. It remains to be seen, but Banshee should be able to keep up in the capacity department.
THE LOOK – Top to bottom, Banshee will be one of the sleekest looking coasters out there. The purple track is rare among coasters, and the blue support columns seem to compliment the track color surprisingly well. I was worried that purple track with blue supports would make this ride look like one solid color (Leviathan suffers from this), but if the renderings are true, the color will really pop along the sky. The station building will also help this ride if it is themed the way the renderings show, as a spooky, church-like building. Speaking of spooky, how about that logo? It is easily one of my favorites on any ride right away. The word mark imposes fear, as does the female figure that swoops behind it, and it will look great on merchandise like mugs and t-shirts, as some lucky folks already know.
THE TRAINS – Here is where my only major concern is, and perhaps I can explain why. Do the trains look awesome? Yes. Do they look sleek? Absolutely. Most importantly, will the lack of a hard harness around your head eliminate some possible head banging as the ride ages? Indeed. My concern is that these harnesses are the same style used on the wing coasters. B&M’s inverted coasters are notorious for being some of the most intense in the industry. The likes of Montu, Alpengeist, and Afterburn come to mind.
The wing coasters, generally speaking, are far less intense in the g force department. Gatekeeper seems to walk the line with these harnesses, as a small percentage of folks get off and complain that the vests tighten too much. Gatekeeper is fairly intense, but if Banshee is anything like the aforementioned inverts, these vests could tighten significantly and cause some serious discomfort by the end of the ride. If the vests did not lock their position at the start of the ride, this could be eliminated, but the fact that they will likely be hydraulic and not ratcheting like all other inverts leaves open the potential for the ride to staple people by the conclusion of the run, something B&M coasters have always been praised for not doing.
B&M’S EVOLUTION – A while back, some people expressed concerns that B&M was unwilling to go outside the box and stretch their boundaries. Many coasters built in the mid 2000’s were noted as being very similar to previous rides, with little variation among the elements. Over the last few years, we have seen the wing coaster come to life in very different styles. We’ve also seen B&M finally break the 300-foot mark. Banshee takes another step in a new direction, as there are several things to point out about Banshee. As mentioned before, the trains are one. If they do not cause comfort issues, they will provide a smoother ride several years down the road.
Secondly, they are learning that the pre-drop brake is unnecessary, and that is the main reason Banshee’s drop may just be the best on any invert. We also see some unique elements for inverted coasters. B&M has inserted a dive loop to start off the inversions, something not usually done on inverted coasters. The big thing for Banshee however is the heart line roll, something B&M has experimented with on the wing coasters, and with great success. Can Banshee’s be just as thrilling? If so, expect B&M to continue to keep their layouts unique, while still keeping the most thrilling elements like loops, zero g rolls, and batwings.
THEY GOT IT RIGHT – The last takeaway from the announcement, and possibly the biggest one, is the simple fact that Kings Island got every aspect of this right. They got the ride right, they got the name right, they got the logo right, and beyond that, they nailed the teasers and announcement itself. I have not seen excitement of this level surrounding a ride announcement for a long time. As I mentioned at the start, Kings Island did a great job of toying with enthusiasts, letting us think we had it all figured out, then teasing us with an assumed to be fake website showing a wing coaster, before bringing it full-circle and confirming our initial beliefs. It really was excellently played because they knew that people would be looking at the chain’s history and they could sucker us in one way or another, and they did.
To wrap up, I will say that I am not totally against the idea of The Bat making a return to Kings Island, but I don’t think Thursday night would have been the time to make it happen. Nearly everyone at the announcement could be heard chanting “Banshee! Banshee! Banshee!” It is obvious that the public is ready to handle the Banshee moniker this time around, and honestly I have always loved the name, using it quite a few times in NoLimits and Roller Coaster Tycoon. The origin of the name and the creature makes too much sense for a roller coaster not to use it, especially considering Kings Island’s history with failed rides.
I would like to congratulate B&M and Kings Island for what will hopefully be another job well done, and I must say I can’t wait to head to Mason in April to scream like a Banshee with all the other enthusiasts who had no idea what to expect, yet knew everything all along.