Specific Type: Steel, looping, twister
Way back in that great transition year known as 2000 –– that stepping stone from one century to another –– a theme park in the great state of Ohio began a transition of its own. Geauga Lake's new owner, Six Flags, Inc., intended to place the lackluster park on the map of theme park greatness.
One of the secret weapons Six Flags put a good multi-million-dollar budget towards was a new star for the coaster collection. Sure, there was the first of the "Impulse Coaster" saga from the Swiss brains at Intamin AG, Superman: Ultimate Escape; the classic double-out-and-back wooden airtime machine known as the Villain; and a slew of new rides spinning and flipping in every direction around them, but one ride in particular took the crown that year at the lakeside park.
Rising to just over sixty-one stories, an elegant, innovative, unique maze of yellow track began gracing the shores of Geauga as it became known as Six Flags Ohio. Batman Knight Flight, as Six Flags christened their shiny yellow-and-blue sculpture of a scream machine, was one of the most unique ride types in the world at the time that the park’s ribbons were cut on May 5, 2000. With an innovative train design that completely threw away the traditional floor walls that every above-track ride before 1999’s Medusa at Six Flags Great Adventure had comforted riders with.
The Ohio park also received a layout stepping outside of the normal inversion-saturated layouts that the other four parks with floorless rides, instead opting for intense low-to-the-ground banked curves, nearly-inverting banks, and blatantly wacky curves. If that weren’t unique enough, the coaster had to throw on an extra thirty-three feet of track beyond its nearest competitor to make it the longest floorless coaster on earth and an enormous 135-foot-tall first inversion: the tallest vertical loop on the planet earth.
As the new millennium rode along, Batman Knight Flight continued to draw the thrill-seekers to the park, whether Six Flags decided to call it Six Flags Ohio, Six Flags Worlds of Adventure like they did in 2001, or sell it to the Cedar Fair company and change it back to Geauga Lake like they did in 2004. The only problem: the Ohio park itself just wasn’t drawing the crowds. One more name-change more and the newly re-re-re-rechristened Geauga Lake & Wildwater Kingdom was done. The ride was over for a theme park that just couldn’t compete with its new family members Cedar Point andKings Island any longer.
However, the ride definitely wasn’t over for a coaster that had consistently drawn thrill-seekers to a not-always-world-class theme park for seven years. As the floorless masterpiece and its remaining seven steel- and wood-tracked neighbors prepared to give their final rides at Geauga Lake & Wildwater Kingdom on September 16, 2007, Cedar Fair began organizing the process of dispersing the plunder across the country, from Dorney Park in Pennsylvania, to Michigan’s Adventure in… Michigan. Yet, as the end of the summer drew close, the question remained: where would the star attraction end up? That question was answered before long as tons of track and supports were loaded up and sent 425 miles south.
Dominator, as Cedar Fair renamed the former DC-Comics-superhero coaster, will begin taking dominion over another park’s coaster collection in 2008: Kings Dominion in Virginia. Now, from the moment motorists pull into Kings Dominion’s parking lot, the brightly-colored twisting tracks of Dominator will forever redefine a skyline formerly dominated by the park’s front Eiffel Tower replica, central Drop Zone Stunt Towerfreefall ride, and Volcano: the Blast Coaster at its far east side. As those motorists become guests, they can take a stroll past the fountains of the International Street entry midway and hang a left at Berserker, the 1984 swinging ship known for its 360-degree loops.
There, directly in front of them in place of a former bus parking lot, sits a far more impressive sight than the painted blacktop on one side of the coaster and kiddie rides on the other: more twists and inversions than anyone can take in with a single glance. As they wait in line, future riders can watch trains soar through 4,210 feet of track surrounding them. But as they climb up into the station, the real fun begins. The air gates open and riders board the yellow trains, sitting down in purple seats and securing orange over-the-shoulder harnesses. With all systems go, the steel floor drops out from beneath riders’ dangling feet, leaving nothing but track beneath. The gates ahead swing wide open and the train begins rolling.
Riders get a small taste of the sheer lack of straight track on Dominator right from the beginning when they leave the station with a small diving twist to the right immediately followed by a U-turn in the other direction. As they round the U-turn, the full train gets a preview of the madness to come: interlocking corkscrews in the midst of banked curves in every direction. The track levels off and straightens out for a brief moment when the train begins clicking up its sixteen-story lift hill. On the way up, Kings Dominion’s 400 acres sink beneath and the playful cobra roll out to the right. However, the loop clearly visible just beyond that cobra roll is barely dwarfed as the lift tops out.
The track dips a few feet, giving the train just a few seconds to warm up before diving into the first major thrill element –– literally. Banking gracefully to the right, the train starts to dive 157 feet all while curving 135 degrees to the right, aiming the track directly for the world-record-shattering loop. It may be twenty feet shorter than the world’s tallest inversion in general, a record held by Kings Dominion’s own Volcano, but all other traditional loops are put to shame by 135 vertical feet of curvature, all taken powerfully and smoothly by the Bolliger-and-Mabillard-designed tracks. With the loop wrapped up, the track ahead banks for a low-to-the-ground turnaround taking passengers around the outside of the cobra roll.
The thirty-two pairs of dangling feet come within inches of the track as it climbs steeply into another right-hand turn, this time an insanely-banked turnaround directly around the station. The over-banked curve nosedives back to the ground at the entrance to the cobra roll. Dominator starts off the roll with a wide half-loop, curves back to the right-side-up position again with a generously-sized half-corkscrew, then half-corkscrews back into another wide half-loop back to the ground. The disorientation gradually ends for a quick moment as the train rockets up towards the lift hill and around a gradual left-hand curve touring through the supports holding up the ride’s highest track.
A set of brakes puts some minor restraint on the speed, but only for a second. With the lift hill parallel on the left, the track drops out from beneath riders as the train follows it back to the ground. However, the track doesn’t stay there for long; it climbs right back up and into the first corkscrew –– a flip to the left over another section of track. The first corkscrew concludes and immediately enters a slight right turn feeding underneath the second and final corkscrew. The track climbs steeply and makes a left U-turn, diving right back down to corkscrew number two, another left flip leading right back underneath the first. Rising into another graceful maneuver, Dominator completes a 135-degree curve to the left that dives into a 270-degree curve along the ground.
With a slight banked curve to the right, then to the left, the train winds up directly beneath the lift hill, coming to a quick stop. One more U-turn to the right sends the train towards another set of brakes and finally back into the station. When the floor rises back up underneath thrill-seekers’ feet, they can push their harnesses back up and power-walk down the exit –– straight back to the entrance again for another two-minute ride.
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