New Coasters - August 2014

by Keith Miller

Several new roller coasters around the world have designs on thrilling guests of all ages.

From world-record setters to smaller rides geared kaleidoscope of new roller coasters has something for Mom and Dad, Junior, and the rest of the brood.

Explore a few different branches of the coaster family tree, as Funworld goes around the world to share some of the highlights from this year’s lineup of new coasters.


Rocky Mountain Construction Group, Six Flags Great America, Gurnee, Illinois

One of the most hotly anticipated new coasters of 2014 is a wooden giant called “Goliath,” which opened in early June at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Illinois. The ride sets three world records for a wooden coaster—tallest drop, at 180 feet; steepest drop, at 85 degrees; and fastest track speed, at 72 mph.

“Goliath” is the latest triumph of Rocky Mountain Construction Group (RMCG), which has garnered rave reviews the past three years for retrofitting I-Box and steel-box track into old wooden coasters, bringing them new life with a much smoother ride. But as a completely new coaster, “Goliath” gives RMCG much more flexibility in its design, and the results have the park just as excited about the ride as coaster enthusiasts.

“Six Flags Great America has never introduced a more impressive and innovative ride in terms of attributes,” says Katy Enrique, the park’s communications manager. “It is smooth like ‘Raging Bull’ but has all of the structure around the rider like a wooden roller coaster. Our guests are absorbing just how significant it is to say that ‘Goliath’ will break three world records for a wooden roller coaster. Plus, it goes upside down twice, which makes it the only wooden roller coaster in the world to do that via two separate elements.”

The 3,100-foot-long ride begins with a 165-foot lift hill, then a 180-foot drop, followed by three over-banked turns, an inverted drop, a 180-degree zero-G roll, and an inverted zero-G stall. Of these elements, Enrique says there is definitely one creating the most buzz: “The drop for sure! While the animation painted a great picture, the real deal is very intimidating to see.”

FireChaser Express

Gerstlauer Amusement Rides, Dollywood, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

When Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, opened its thrilling wing coaster in 2012, “Wild Eagle,” it experienced the largest year-to-year attendance growth in the park’s history. But when choosing the new ride that would follow “Wild Eagle,” Dollywood realized there were few coasters around that 4- and 5-year-old kids could ride and a 12-year-old would want to ride. So for 2014, the park addressed that void with the opening of “FireChaser Express.”

The 2,427-foot-long Gerstlauer ride has a modest 39-inch height requirement. Though that allows very young children to ride, the coaster has some features that will appeal to older kids and adults, including a mid-ride special effects show building that simulates a fire that riders have to “fight.”

Ralph Nielson, senior art director for the ride, talks about the special attention given to the scene: “The scene involves special effects, fireworks, flames, and a building that appears to be wood, but is actually concrete with a two-hour fire rating. An effects generator for the sparks, steam, and liquid nitrogen creates the smoke riders see, and the flames are created by propane.”

To make “FireChaser Express” a ride truly for the whole family, Dollywood needed it intense enough for tweens, not too scary for little kids, and interesting for adults. “That’s actually the fine line we had to walk,” Nielson says. “We tried to design it so it looked real and used things that are real; the fire hoses and axes—they aren’t toys, and the fire truck is actually a real fire truck. The gas pumps and sign weren’t reproductions; they were actually real.”

Dollywood contracted the cast of the “History Channel” show “American Pickers” to find some of these authentic items. The search for these artifacts and the coaster itself were featured on an episode of the show.


Intamin AG, Vialand, Istanbul, Turkey

Vialand park opened its new coaster, “Nefeskesen,” on April Fool’s Day, but this ride is no joke. Designed by Intamin, “Nefeskesen” means “breathtaker,” and that’s exactly what the park hopes the coaster does while exceeding 68 mph in just three seconds. After this linear synchronous motor (LSM) launch, the coaster train rockets vertically to the ride’s highest point of 164 feet, then dives down to continue the journey along 2,165 feet of track.

The elements that follow include a top hat, an Immelmann loop, various twists, over-banked high-speed curves, and a 360-degree in-line rollover—a horizontal rotation. While the coaster has some intense elements and is the park’s most spectacular coaster, Vialand says it took great care in keeping the ride family friendly. “This type of entertainment and excitement is family friendly in accordance with [our] concept,” says Eda Seremet, Vialand’s corporate communications specialist. “Our experience is that this is the right choice. ‘Breathtaker’ is our most coveted [ride.]”

Seremet notes the US$17 million coaster utilizes 3 million watts of electrical power during its launch. The ride’s two trains have four cars, each with two rows seating two riders abreast, for a total capacity of 16 riders. The whole coaster, including the trains, is themed on Formula 1 racing.


Bolliger & Mabillard, Kings Island, Mason, Ohio

Kings Island already boasts two inverted steel coasters in its ride collection, but “Banshee” is a giant leap forward from those rides. The $24 million coaster, designed by Bolliger & Mabillard, is the highest single ride investment in the park’s history. It’s the longest inverted steel coaster in the world at 4,124 feet and features seven inversions.

But it’s not just the number of inversions that makes this coaster special, according to Don Helbig, Kings Island’s public relations manager. “The size of each of the inversions is much bigger—more massive—than what you see on other inverted roller coasters,” he says, “with the top speed of 68 mph not being reached until the second half of the ride. Riders also experience an elevation drop of 208 feet from the highest point of the ride at the top of the 167-foot lift to the lowest point between loops four and five of the Batwing element.”

In addition to these elements, the coaster also offers a 150-foot curved first drop, a vertical loop that encircles the lift hill, a dive loop, a zero-G roll, an in-line roll, and a carousel.

“Banshee’s” three trains each have eight cars that seat riders four across, for a total capacity of 32. Kings Island notes the coaster, the park’s 15th, features textured lighting and other special effects that create a night ride experience different from the daytime affair.

Medusa Steel Coaster

Rocky Mountain Construction Group, Six Flags Mexico, Mexico City

Over the past three years, the changes Rocky Mountain has made to the dynamics of wooden coasters with its I-Box and steel-box track has transformed this industry segment. Now, the company is applying this innovative approach to its first coaster outside the United States.
Six Flags Mexico debuted “Medusa Steel Coaster” as a wholly revitalized version of the former “Medusa” coaster that operated at the park for 14 seasons. The new hybrid coaster is taller, faster, steeper, and smoother than its predecessor. “We are saying it is the transformation of our classic wooden coaster into the most exciting hybrid roller coaster in the world,” says Roberto Baez, the park’s public relations manager. “It proudly sustains a record of seven heel-over-head inversions over any hybrid roller coaster around the world—three full barrel rolls and four over-banked, beyond-vertical turns. The first drop is an inversion, an unusual characteristic in roller coasters around the world.”

After a 117-foot initial drop, the coaster shoots along more than 3,000 feet of track at 58 mph before entering a series of inversions. “Medusa Steel Coaster” is themed on a story line that involves an old Western mining town and a mythical character that turns people into stone. Its two newly themed trains feature the head of Medusa.

Rewind Racers

Gerstlauer Amusement Rides, Adventure City, Anaheim, California

To celebrate its 20th anniversary, Adventure City has embarked on building a new $2 million steel roller coaster, the largest single investment in the park’s history. “Rewind Racers,” the 600-foot-long ride from Gerstlauer, will be the first family shuttle coaster in North America when it opens in late 2014.

“We are a small theme park catering to families with young kids,” says Allan Ansdell, Jr., president of Adventure City. “‘Rewind Racers’ was the perfect addition. The coaster will travel both forward and backward and have a minimum height requirement of only 39 inches for children when accompanied by an adult.”

When the coaster train leaves the station, it does so in reverse, climbing the first lift hill with riders facing backward. Following a pause in a pit-stop garage at the top of the lift hill, the train speeds forward and through the loading station at 30 mph, then enters a few small hills and banked curves. Then it ascends another lift hill next to the original pit-stop garage hill before repeating the circuit in reverse.

The coaster’s single train has seven cars that each seat two riders side by side for a total capacity of 14 riders. R&R Creative Amusement Designs created the video production and themed design for the train, queue, and loading station. Construction on the coaster began in May 2014.

“Rewind Racers” replaces “Tree Top Racers,” a Wild Mouse coaster built by E&F Miler in the mid-1950s.


Mack Rides, Sochi Park Adventureland, Sochi, Russia

Roller coaster fans in and around Sochi, Russia, are about to be treated to a ride like no other in the region as Sochi Park Adventureland prepares to open “Dragon,” a 3,465-foot-long steel coaster sure to thrill.

The coaster blasts riders from zero to 62 mph in just 2.5 seconds, generating G-forces of almost 4.0. The 90-second ride takes riders to a height of 125 feet and features a total of four inversions, including a 105-foot-tall loop, an in-line twist, and a twisted horseshoe roll. “Dragon” will have two trains, and its designer, Mack Rides, estimates the coaster will have a capacity of 1,720 riders per hour.

The two trains will feature five cars per train. Seating in each train is arranged with two riders seated side by side in two rows, for a total of 20 riders per train.

“There is no launch coaster near [Sochi Park Adventureland],” says Thorsten Koebele, chief sales and marketing officer for Mack Rides. “‘Dragon’ is the signature ride of the park, visually and also from the ride experience, providing a thrill ride, but still open to [the whole] family. The acceleration is moderate, with a maximum of four G’s vertical, and the ride itself is very smooth.”


Zamperla, Luna Park, Coney Island, New York

Certainly one of the most talked-about new roller coasters of 2014 is the “Thunderbolt” at Luna Park in Coney Island, New York. It sits on the same site as the original “Thunderbolt” roller coaster, which operated from 1925 to 1982, but the location and the name are about all the new ride shares with the old.

The original “Thunderbolt” was a wooden coaster, whereas this new ride is steel. The track stretches 2,233 feet, but it extends over an unusual footprint—800 feet long but only 48 feet wide. It sends riders up a 90-degree vertical ascent to a height of 125 feet, then drops them into a series of elements at 55 mph, including a 100-foot vertical loop, an 80-foot zero-gravity roll, a heartline dive, and a corkscrew, for a total of five inversions. The ride finishes with several bunny hills on the return to the station.

One signature feature of the “Thunderbolt” is that its trains are comprised of a single car holding nine passengers. Riders are seated three across instead of the customary two or four. Zamperla, which made the ride, notes the increase in single-parent households since the time of the original “Thunderbolt” makes this seating configuration more acceptable.

“The reaction to the new ‘Thunderbolt’ has been entirely positive,” says Alberto Zamperla, president and CEO of the Zamperla Group. “Although the coaster has historic connections, which we’ve encouraged by keeping the name, the modern updates are exciting and in keeping with Luna Park’s mix of nostalgia for the old and the thrill of the modern.”

Zamperla is the majority shareholder of Central Amusement International, which runs Luna Park and will operate the coaster. Guests pay $10 for a ride on the $9 million “Thunderbolt” and must be 48 inches tall.

OCT Thrust SSC1000

S&S Worldwide, Happy Valley, Hongshan, Wuhan, Hubei, China

S&S Worldwide has apparently hit on a winner with its compressed-air launch coaster model. The company is currently building its fourth in China alone, according to Tim Timco, S&S’ vice president of sales and marketing, and he reveals more are under consideration. The latest to open is “OCT Thrust SSC1000” at Happy Valley in Hongshan, Wuhan, Hubei, and its sister ride, the “Bullet Coaster,” recently opened at Happy Valley in Nanshan, Shenzhen, Guangdong.

“OCT Thrust SSC1000” rockets riders to a height of 196.8 feet at 83 mph while they experience G-forces of 4.5, then drops them 221 feet into an underground tunnel. The coaster features six cars per train carrying 24 passengers, with the riders seated four across in a single row.

“What makes the ride worth duplicating is, by far, our patented air-launch system,” Timco says. “This and the well-designed elements from our design engineer are the key reasons for others wanting to clone the ride.”


Gravitykraft, Story Land, Glen, New Hampshire

Perhaps one of the most surprising developments in the world of roller coasters the past three years has been the remarkable success and popularity of small new wooden coasters at amusement parks. The latest addition to this growing list of modest-sized woodies is “Roar-O-Saurus” at Story Land.

Celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, the park wanted to do something special for its loyal guests, according to Eric Dziedzic, Story Land’s general manager. It settled on a wooden coaster designed by The Gravity Group’s Gravitykraft because the park wanted to extend its target market.

“Our niche in the market has always been 2- to 12-year-olds,” he says, “but the reality was that once you hit 8 or 9, Story Land was a bit too young for the ‘big’ kids. This ride, along with other recent additions, has made the experience that much better for the entire group. ‘Roar-O-Saurus’ has upped the ante even further. Adults can ride this multiple times and feel exhilarated while doing so, plus who wouldn’t want to experience a child’s first roller coaster ride with them?”

“Roar-O-Saurus” rises to a height of 40 feet and reaches 35 mph on 1,242 feet of track. The ride has a 42-inch height requirement. The coaster’s backstory involves a little dinosaur named Rory who can’t find his roar, but when he enters the coaster’s tunnel, he discovers it. The first car of the coaster’s 12-rider train looks like the head of a green triceratops, with the other cars comprising its body.

El Loco

S&S Worldwide, The Adventuredome Theme Park at Circus Circus, Las Vegas, Nevada

The guests had spoken: They wanted a new coaster at The Adventuredome Theme Park, perched on the second floor of MGM Resorts’ Circus Circus Las Vegas. Then came the challenge: where to put an additional coaster in the five-acre indoor park, already packed with 25 rides and attractions. Enter “El Loco.”

“It was like building a ship in a bottle,” says Tom J. Nolan, vice president of theme park operations for Adventuredome. The S&S Worldwide steel coaster was customized to fit the small footprint and built with minimal downtime for other attractions at the year-round indoor park. The ride’s 1,300 feet of electric-yellow track was twisted into sharp drops and turns to fit neatly under the bubblegum-pink dome and through the existing mountainous theming of “Canyon Blaster,” the only other coaster at The Adventuredome.

Compact four-person vehicles, needed for the tight space, allow for quicker turns while the open-carriage design gives riders the sensation of flying. Each seat features built-in speakers with customizable music; guests can enjoy Latin, hip-hop, or rock tunes as they ride. The 72-second ride features a 90-degree drop, a lateral floater that transitions into a 45-degree outward-banked tip out and doughnut roll, a 180-degree in-line roll into a barrel roll, 60-degree in-line roll out, and more.

“El Loco” is one of six models of its type in the world and the only indoor model in the United States. One of the features unique to this particular ride is the inverted drop to the brakes. To make the most of existing structures and limited space, The Adventuredome wanted “El Loco” to use the same exit station as “Rim Runner,” the ride it replaced. A reverse 240-degree roll whips into an inverted drop to slow the car down enough to hit the desired braking point. The perk of a slow inversion: The riders have enough time to see the track behind them, in all its compact glory.

—Prasana William

Martin & Vleminckx, The Gravity Group Working on Several Wooden Coasters in China

Martin & Vleminckx Rides and The Gravity Group certainly have been busy of late in China. The two companies are currently working together on no fewer than four large new wooden coaster projects in the country for 2014 openings and two more for openings in 2015. The Gravity Group does the designs and Martin & Vleminckx handles the build for each project.

One of these coasters for 2014 is a yet-unnamed, but impressive ride being built at Fantawild Adventure in Jinan, Shandong, China. According to Chuck Bingham, a company partner at Martin & Vleminckx, the big coaster will carry passengers along 3,822 feet of track and will feature the very first barrel roll on a wood coaster in all of China and the second in the world. Its two trains will roar along at 53 mph, each having a capacity of 24 passengers, with 12 cars per train carrying two passengers. The coaster’s hourly throughput is estimated to be 1,016 riders. The track circuit has numerous rises and drops, offering riders a full 19 seconds of airtime. The ride, which is scheduled to open in late 2014, will be located in a themed area of Fantawild Adventure and will rise to a height of 108 feet.