US Thrill Rides Steps Out Front with Dazzling New Rides and Attractions
Amid the growing guest excitement of returning to beloved thrilling attractions, one company is again ready to delight with extraordinary rides and attractions that are not only unique, but also visually stunning: US Thrill Rides of Orlando, Florida.
US Thrill Rides was founded by its current CEO, Bill Kitchen, who is one of the attractions industry’s most ingenious inventors. Thrillseekers will be delighted to know that Kitchen’s passion for designing exciting attractions was born out of his own exhilarating experiences—he’s even an experienced pilot who has flown fighter jets. In 1990, Kitchen took his first skydive, and though he was terrified, he loved it and decided to become a master skydiver.
Around the same time, Kitchen began bungee jumping, which motivated him to start Sky Fun 1, a company that sold equipment to bungee jumping operators. His skydiving and bungee jumping drops lit a fire in Kitchen to create something to allow others to enjoy similar thrills.
So he invented one of the most prolific rides in the attractions industry, the Skycoaster. Kitchen says he built his first Skycoaster model at his house—out of broom handles—and the flyer was a small G.I. Joe figurine. Upon seeing it, his girlfriend said he was crazy and that no one would ever ride it. “So I broke up with the girlfriend and built the ride,” Kitchen says.
“Everyone lined up to get on it,” he recalls. “I was contacted by Harry Henninger, president of Kennywood, about opening one there, and we did. As far as we know, the Skycoaster was the very first ride with an upcharge. Within a couple of years, almost everybody bought it, including FECs (family entertainment centers).” Today, there are some 130 Skycoasters operating on six continents.
But Kitchen was just getting started. His devotion to skydiving inspired him to invent an indoor vertical wind tunnel that allows “flyers” to simulate skydiving while suspended on a column of air. He later sold the company, which today is called iFly (formerly Skyventure). There are now around 92 iFly tunnels operating worldwide, including several aboard cruise ships.
However, through Kitchen’s years of creating thrill rides and other attractions, one thing that’s never changed is his infatuation with safety. His very first ride invention, the Skycoaster, was conceived as a safer way for amusement parks to emulate bungee jumping.
But he insists that safety goes far beyond an attraction’s design—it must be a dedication on the part of the manufacturer and operator as well—and that philosophy permeates everything he does: “All our rides are not only profitable, but safe. Our dedication to safety is legendary, and ride operators must be trained every year.”
Today, Kitchen and US Thrill Rides are promoting a stable of rides and attractions that are as unique as they are spectacular. “Part of the story is the fact that we always wanted to develop rides that are new and exclusive where they are operated,” Kitchen says. “We can grant exclusivity in a marketplace using patents, and that’s a crucial key.”
Attendees at IAAPA Expo 2021 in Orlando last November got to see one of US Thrill Rides’ latest innovations, the SkyBlazer, which takes Kitchen’s previous invention, the Skycoaster, to a whole new level. He says Skycoaster allows a maximum of only three guests to ride at once, and they need to wear flight suits. But SkyBlazer magnifies that number by seating 6 to 24 riders side by side on a circular disc before lifting them off the ground. It then amplifies the excitement by reeling them 200 feet into the air.
After a few moments of intense anticipation, the riders are released into a free fall before the swing motion catches them and sweeps into a pendulum action, all while the disc swivels, adding to the thrills. The first Skyblazer is already under construction in Cotaland at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.
Small Footprint, Big Thrills
“The Polercoaster is tall and iconic—a destination all by itself,” says Kitchen of the ride that transforms the concept of a roller coaster by taking it vertical. The Polercoaster can feature the same track lengths as other coasters, plus the thrilling twists, loops, dips, and other one-of-a-kind features of a coaster experience but in a very small footprint.
The 2,000- to 10,000-foot track wraps around a tower that rises 200 to 700 feet, with four to 12 trains holding eight passengers. The vehicles are raised to the top via a vertical magnetic lift system. Then gravity treats riders to an adrenaline rush as the coaster spirals down the spire and through gripping elements, amid spectacular views.
Reaching Up to the Sky
If an awe-inspiring tower is coveted, but without the roller coaster, then SkySpire is the solution. SkySpire grants passengers breathtaking 360-degree panoramic views in climate-controlled gondolas during their spiraling ride to the top. Those with an observation platform offer even greater views or even retail and dining options.
From the value-minded SkySpire Core (200 to 300 feet tall) to the sky-touching SkySpire Prime (500 to 1,000 feet tall), the architecturally stunning structures can be a magnet for tourists and offer operators ample media, advertising, and sponsorship opportunities.
Putting Riders in Control of the Action
The Unicoaster pulsates with the thrills of roller coaster but the footprint of carousel. The ride is only 45 to 60 feet in diameter but seats up to 24 guests. Riders will love the fact that they can control the action of their vehicle with a control stick, flipping and inverting themselves forward and backward.
Unicoaster can be customized to almost any theme. As an example, Unicoaster Roulette: The Game You Can Ride was introduced in 2020. Visually emulating a roulette wheel, riders have the chance to win a prize with every ride, making it perfect for casinos, cruise ships, or FECs looking for a ride with an exceptional promotional theme.
In addition to his work with US Thrill Rides and developing new attractions, Kitchen devotes his spare time to flying his seaplane, traveling, and charitable activities. He’s a major contributor to Compassion International, the founding contributor to Give Kids Safe Shelter Inc., and a board member at KindRED Pride Foundation.
For more information on US Thrill Rides and its attractions, visit usthrillrides.com.
This story was made possible by IAAPA partner US Thrill Rides. It does not necessarily reflect the views of Funworld writers and editors. IAAPA does not endorse any service, company, or product mentioned within.
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