Specific Type: Suspended Looping Coaster
Vekoma isn’t known for the most original placements. They derive most of their income from pre-designed production models. They have the Boomerang, the Roller Skater, the Flying Dutchman, Corkscrew with Bayerncurve, Invertigo and Déjà Vu. But one of the more successful ones, only eclipsed by the Boomerangs, are the Suspended Looping Coasters (SLC, as it is often called), with 24 worldwide in just the original, 689 meter format, and 39 with models with various additions and changes.
One of these ended up at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. The park wasn’t even a Six Flags park yet when Kong went in, however. It was hardly an amusement park for that matter. In 1996, however, Premier Parks (Not to be confused with Premier Rides, a roller coaster designer and manufacturer) bought out the wildlife park Marine World Africa USA with different intents from what it was since 1968.
Premier Parks then changed the park’s history forever in 1998. The park’s name was changed to New Marine World Theme Park, and with it came a Boomerang named…well…Boomerang and an SLC named Kong.
But Kong wasn’t just any SLC. It had a history. Opryland had been around since 1972, a lucky survivor in tough times for amusement parks, and all seemed to go well in the 90s, especially with roller coasters hitting their stride in creativity once again. Opryland ordered a brand new SLC from Vekoma, called Hangman, to put in their park for 1995. But the end was near. Just two years later, in 1997, the park was razed in order to convert it into a shopping mall. Unlike many shut down parks, however, this one actually had many of its roller coasters saved and shipped off to other parks. Hangman was one of these.
Premier bought the ride, with a spot ready for placement. A nice little hill on a path that leads to nowhere but does indeed contain rides did just fine. The orange and brown ride (It is now repainted red and yellow) was assembled and opened in May.
The ride itself, while still a copy, looks thrilling. It starts with a 100+ foot climb, and with the addition of the hill below, makes it look very high indeed. If it’s a clear day, the Golden Gate Bridge is actually visible from the peak (Though extremely tiny). Then it drops back down in a swooping 109 feet drop with a beautiful 180 degree turn. It levels out at the bottom, pulling up into a half loop before rolling the train over upright. For about a second. It instantly sends them rolling back upside down before half-looping back down to the ground. It then sends the riders back up with no rest into a left-turning hill, with an almost 90 degree bank at the top.
After dropping the riders down and once again giving no break from intensity (This is largely due to the layout’s small size, so that it can fit in a lot of parks), the ride pulls into another half loop. But rather than just rolling out, it moves more the side, sending it still upright but 90 degrees away from where it was originally going. Or, at least 90 degrees when you are back upright, since the train takes the passengers 270 degrees back around, under the inversion (which is called an immelmann, after a aircraft maneuver, which is in turn named after a pilot), ending up going the same direction as the lift hill.
This leads to a rare element (On coasters that aren’t SLCs), which is a double barrel roll. It twists the train around the track all the way over not once but twice. The train pulls abruptly out of the second one, into a 180 right hand turn. The ride ends fairly slowly, with a small, curvy hill before hitting the breaks, turning right, and entering the station.
The ride was the biggest thing in the area. At least, for a short time. In 1999, the Great Coasters International wooden coaster Roar was added, in 2000 Bolliger and Mabillard floorless coaster Medusa was added just across the path, and V2: Vertical Velocity was added just a year later. While this blistering adding pace dropped off afterwards, Kong was left behind, no longer the baddest in the region. But thousands of patrons are still thrilled by it every year, and while it isn’t the destination coaster, it is part of the Six Flags Discovery Kingdom skyline today.
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