The barn shakes with anticipation.
Lights flicker and hearts pound with adrenaline. A thunderclap, its sound piped through speakers, reverberates through the line of eager riders. Nervous laughter follows.
Two-by-two riders are strapped into the nation’s first launched wing roller coaster, legs dangling over nothing. The train inches forward to an opening.
“Thunderbird clear for flight!”
Lightning. Thunder. Smoke. Launch!
After 66 days of waiting and more clues than one can count, Holiday World finally let the cat or should I say bird out of the bag. Tonight, Thunderbird was officially unveiled to the adoring public during a live stream beamed directly from Santa Claus, IN. The crowd was definitely not disappointed by Thunderbird, the parks first steel roller coaster. The $22 million coaster is more than double what the park has paid for any other single ride. Thunderbird is the first winged launch coaster built by B&M and will also be the first time the company itself has designed a launch mechanism. The ride track sports a brilliant orange color that is offset by the vibrant blue of the bird shaped trains. The launch will take riders from zero to 60 mph in just 3.5 seconds. The coaster also features 3,035 feet of track starting with a 140 high Immelmann loop followed by a 125 standard loop. Also included in the ride is a Horseshoe, an Elevated Spiral, a Zero-G roll, a S curve, 2 “headchopper” keyholes and a 360 in-line twist. Thunderbird will also feature not one but two crossovers with the park's other famous coaster, The Voyage. Construction is already underway for Thunderbird and it is expected to open next Spring.
In southwestern Indiana, nearly 70 years ago, an Evansville industrialist had an inspiration. With little there for children but a post office that handled Santa letters, why not offer something more. And that is exactly what Louis J. Koch did. He opened a theme park with a Mother Goose ride and toy elf shop. Years later his son Bill and grandson Will, took the dream even further, adding roller coasters and a giant water slide. Today Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari draws more than a million visitors a year.
But the park built by generations of a family to entertain families is now splitting a family apart. Will Koch’s widow and his brother are battling for control of the family park. According toblooloop.com, Lori fired Dan as interim president and kicked him off the company board, and they are no longer speaking.
Lori Koch, 51 year widow of Will Koch, says she wants the park for her three younger children. Recently while cruising through park in a golf cart as roller coasters jutted into the sky, Lori admitted to feeling pained by the family strife. “It’s hard, it’s difficult, I’m torn,” she said. “Who wants to be at odds with your family?”
Dan Koch, 48 year old brother of Will Koch and a lawyer from Florida says he wants some of the park back. Recently he spent over an hour on the phone talking fondly about Holiday World past and present. While discussing the feud, he became somber, thinking of being cut off from the place he spent summers as a boy since he was 7. “Any kind of family business, there’s tension,” he said. “I’ve got to be positive and move forward. I’d like to return in some lesser role someday. I’ll work anywhere, maybe pick up trash.”
It is still unknown what the outcome of the ownership of the park will be, or what will happen with the family feud but everyone can agree on one thing: No one was prepared for the Koch family feud as it happened.
A new development has occurred in the roller coaster story surrounding the struggles for revival of the Kentucky Kingdom amusement park, now SBNO for the past two years. After numerous attempts by Ed Hart and others being brought up, the Fair Board has continually shot them down and has all but eliminated him from the picture, despite always commenting that they want nothing more than to see the park open again.
According to the Courier-Journal, it now appears that the Koch family, owners and operators of Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari, are seeking rights to operate Kentucky Kingdom. Local website InsiderLouisville.com first broke the story when the Koch’s issued a response to an inquiry by the website, and it appears they are looking to grow their business in amusement parks by looking towards Kentucky Kingdom. They also reported “the process is still in the fact-finding stage; no decisions have been made by the Kochs whether to pursue this opportunity.”
The Fair Board’s main concern remains getting $20 million from the General Assembly in 2012, despite their tight budget. Ed Hart, who owned Kentucky Kingdom for nearly a decade prior to 2000, returned after the park closed with efforts to get it operational again, and first began pursuing money from the General Assembly last year. He secured the arrangement of $20 million in bank loans from the Al J. Schneider Company, plus $3 million of his loan, he just needed $20 million from the General Assembly to get the park open. Despite his efforts, things just wouldn’t work out, and then in September, the Fair Board announced it was ending talks with Hart, essentially throwing him out of the picture.
Though they haven’t made any offers, they have confirmed that it’s a path they’ve been looking into pursuing.
Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari in Santa Claus, Indiana issued a press release announcing its major new addition for the 2012 season, Mammoth. Mammoth, a new prototype from ProSlide Technology Inc., is set to be the world’s longest water coaster when it opens in May, and at a cost of $9 million will be the “largest single-ride investement in Holday World’s history.”
While the ride is somewhat similar to Wildebeest, a smaller water coaster that the park opened up in 2010, Mammoth will be a longer and much larger attraction, featuring rafts that hold up to six passengers, and a much larger tube. The ride will be located just east of Wildebeest and will utilize the same LIM technology from HydroMagnetic that ride uses to propel riders up and down undulating hills and twists. President Dan Koch stated in the press release “It’s so huge, we’re calling it Mammoth.”
After ascending to the highest elevation on a conveyor, the ride will drop five-stories down at a 45-degree angle before the LIMs take over to propel up the rides numerous hills in between the twists, turns, enclosures, and drops. Mammoth will take up about three acres of real estate, and combined with Wildebeest, the park now boasts the two longest water coasters in the world.
The ride will stand 69-feet high with the largest drop plunging riders down 53-feet. It will also feature five hills totaling 282-feet in length, five enclosed sections, and a number of twists and turns in between. The record setting length will stand at 1,763 feet (1/3 of a mile).
The announcement itself marked the 65th anniversary of Holiday World, which originally opened as Santa Claus Land at that time. Along with the new Mammoth slide, the park announced it would be adding the family-friendly Holiday World’s Happy Halloween Weekends throughout October, extending its normal operating season.
The amusement park community lost a dear owner on Monday, June 14th as Holiday World owner Will Koch passed away of type one diabetes at the age of 48. He is survived by his wive Lori, three children, his mother Pat, and sibblings Dan, Kristi, Phillip and Natalie.
Being part of the Koch family, Will was part of a amusement park heritage. Holiday World proclaims itself as the world’s first theme park, opening its gates more than sixty-four years ago, even ahead of the world renown Disney parks. The entire time, it has been owned by the Kochs.
Will was born and raised in Santa Claus, Indiana. Later, he would graduate from Heritage Hills High School and graduated in 1979 as a Valedictorian. Afterwards, he graduated in 1984 from the University of Notre Dame with a Bachelors degree in electrical engineering. He received a Masters degree in computer science from the University of Southern California in 1986.
He took the reigns of Holiday World soon thereafter. He was pivotal in bringing Holiday World a big time spotlight in the amusement park industry, paticularly in the first two wooden coasters Raven in 1995 and Legand in 2000. He was part designer of the 2006 Voyage wooden coaster and boosted the size of Splashin’ Safari.
In 2004, he received the International Applause Award for the amusement park industry, with criteria including foresight, originality, creativity, sound business development and profitability. Since 2006, Holiday World has topped one million visitors each season. This year, the park is introducing the world’s longest water coaster in Wildebeast’s one-third mile long trek along with adding the techonologically advanced Timberliner trains to Voyage.
A few nearby park blogs including Cedar Point’s and Kings Island’s along with the many coaster sites on the web have expressed their condolences towards Holiday World and the Kochs. The members, administration, and staff here at COASTER-net also have them in our prayers.
Holiday World continues to push the envelope with water rides with their latest addition for 2010. Hot off the drawing boards of Pro Slide Technology Inc.
The addition comes after the park has just added a water laden monster in Pilgrim's Plunge, currently the tallest water ride in the world at 135 ft. The new slide, called Wildebeest, will be the worlds longest water coaster. Water coasters are similar to slides in that riders are taken through the lengths of tubes via water flow. However, a water coaster features Linear Induction Motors, allowing for up hill accelerations and a layout with less concerns for gravity.
Wildebeest shall be about a third of a mile long, or, as the park boasts, 1,710 ft. Wildebeest shall feature 8 sets of LIM's. While venturing through the 2 minute, 30 second course, riders shall also encounter a 38 ft, 45 degree angle drop, speeds around 36 ft/sec., 7 drops, and 3 tunnels, two of which are underground.