Lost Coasters of California – Part 10: Déjà Vu

In Part 9 of this series I briefly mentioned Six Flags ambitious expansion throughout the 1990s and early 2000s.  A growing American economy made the expansion of the theme park market seem unstoppable.  A series of park acquisitions and the acquisition of Six Flags by Premier Parks that was finalized in 1998 expanded the company’s portfolio to include European parks, movie themed parks, and animal parks.  At the park level Six Flags unveiled park expansions and additions at a dizzying rate.  From the years 1997-2003 Six Flags Magic Mountain received a brand new coaster every year.  It is worth noting that with the exception of 1999 each one of these additions was a major, and in many cases record breaking coaster: 1997 saw the addition of the record breaking 400 ft tall Superman: The Escape.  1998’s Riddler’s Revenge remains the largest Stand-Up coaster in the world. 2000’s Goliath opened as the world’s tallest continuous circuit coaster. 2002’s X introduced the world to the 4th dimension coaster.  And 2003’s B&M floorless Scream was built to be a reliable addition after X‘s problems. X was originally set to open in 2001 but was delayed significantly.  Six Flags chose to open another major thrill machine from Vekoma. Unfortunately, this coaster would have its own set of problems. In August of 2001 Six Flags and Vekoma unveiled the world’s first “Giant Inverted Boomerang”, Deja Vu.

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Lost Coasters of California – Part 9: Stealth

Paramount Park’s 13 year foray into the theme park business resulted in a significant number of successes and industry oddities.  The application of Paramount theming in existing regional parks gave us two significant B&M Top Gun inverts and the world’s first major linear induction motor launch coaster, Flight of Fear.  However their tendency to experiment and take additions in different directions also resulted in a string of failures and disappointments.  Kings Dominion opened the late Volcano, The Blast Coaster in 1998, a prototype Intamin inverted catapult coaster that never seemed to run reliably throughout its 20 years at the park, and the ill-fated prototype air launch coaster Hypersonic XLC in 2001.  Carowinds opened a Setpoint suspended water coaster in 2000 called Flying Super Saturator which lasted less than 10 years.  Canada’s Wonderland still has an odd collection of mid-size coasters for the world’s most popular regional park including 1995’s SLC Top Gun and 2004’s Zamperla flyer Tomb Raider, The Ride.  The chain’s flagship, Kings Island, received one of the most notorious failures of them all, 2000’s wooden hyper coaster, Son of Beast.  That same year the chain would add a unique prototype to Great America, the world’s first major flying coaster, Stealth.  

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Lost Coasters of California – Part 8: Invertigo

Last week we focused on Windjammer Surf Racers and how it was a product of Knott’s Berry Farm’s attempt to navigate the space between the family and thrill market.  It faced the problem of Magic Mountain dominating the thrill market with major coaster additions, many of which we’ve discussed here, and Disneyland’s hyper detailed themed experiences.   Northern California in the late 90s had a far less competitive theme park market.  After the construction and runaway success of Tidal Wave in 1977 Marriott’s Great America, eventually Great America in 1985 and then Paramount’s Great America in 1993, had remained consistent with coaster trends.  In 1986 they opened the wooden Grizzly, 1991 saw the addition of the B&M standup Vortex, and 1993 saw the addition of the still-beloved B&M invert Top Gun.  These consistent additions, despite changes in ownership, resulted in a solid coaster collection any regional park could be proud of.  

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Lost Coasters of California – Part 7: Windjammer

Today’s roller coaster landscape is becoming increasingly international.  With the rise of streaming video, social media, and even Google Translate the coaster enthusiast community and industry is more connected than it’s ever been.  With the recent rise of Chinese theme parks and Chinese ride manufacturers it’s easy to forget a time when Japan seemed second only to the United States as a thrill ride destination.  The undisputed king of the Japanese coaster manufacturers was “Toyo Goraku Ki Kabushiki Kaisha” or TOGO.  TOGO opened their first roller coaster in  1953 at Hanayashiki park in Tokyo and soon began building rides all over Japan.  In 1983 their stand-up coaster model was opening at Kings Island as King Cobra, bringing TOGO to North America.  Over the next two decades TOGO would try to capitalize on this success and expand into the American and European market.  They eventually opened a subsidiary named TOGO International headquartered in Middletown, Ohio. While there was some success an ill-fated 1997 project at Knott’s Berry Farm would mark the end of TOGO’s presence as a leader in the coaster world. 

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Six Flags Discovery Kingdom Opens Rides Starting April 1st!

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, the Thrill Capital of  Northern California, today announced plans to open the park with the complement of world class roller coasters, rides, and animals with a special exclusive preview for Members and  Season Pass holders, April 1 and 2, then opening to the general public on April 3, 2021. For the  first time since March of last year, the park will operate its renowned collection of thrilling rides  in accordance with state, county and local government guidelines. The park has safely hosted  guests for the animal-focused, Marine World Experience, since July of 2020. In accordance with  state and county reopening guidelines for theme parks, Six Flags will operate at reduced  attendance levels utilizing the existing reservation system. The park is also continuing the  implementation of extensive safety measures including several new advanced technology  systems to protect guests and employees. The plan, developed in consultation with infectious  disease experts, sets standards for executing at the highest levels of hygiene and social  distancing protocols. These procedures will be adjusted on an as-needed basis to ensure  compliance with state and county recommendations.

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Lost Coasters of California – Part 3: Tidal Wave

As we discussed in the last article on the Whizzer the Marriott’s Great America parks were bold designs that applied many lessons learned at other regional parks.  Part of this was a plan and specific plots designated for expansion.  In 1977, a year after its opening, the Santa Clara park was the first to receive a major coaster addition, the Tidal Wave.

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Lost Coasters of California – Part 1: Corkscrew

The Golden State has long had the reputation as one of the recreation capitals of the world.  Beautiful weather combined with a diverse landscape created an environment where leisure became a serious business.  It is no surprise that California is home to some of the world’s most famous roller coasters.  Unfortunately many great rides are no longer part of the California coaster landscape.  In these series we will be exploring some of California’s great coasters that are no more!

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The Evolution of Northern California’s Coaster Landscape

America has a few regions that are “hotspots” for roller coasters, regions with 2 or more parks within a short distance from each other.  The most famous include Central Florida, Southern California, and Eastern Pennsylvania. Though long outshined by the plethora of parks  surrounding Los Angeles and San Diego, Northern California holds the distinction of being a region with three parks with major thrill roller coasters.  The roller coaster landscape of Northern California has changed dramatically just within the past 10 years.

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California Theme Parks – Where Do We Go From Here?

After months on top of months of waiting, California theme parks finally received reopening guidelines yesterday during the state’s weekly COVID-19 briefing. Governor Gavin Newsom along with other high-level representatives from the Golden State have decided to split up theme parks into “larger theme parks” and “smaller theme parks”. The placement of a theme park is based on its capacity. The state says it will allow smaller theme parks to reopen at 25% capacity (or 500 people, whichever is fewer) once the county the park resides in is placed into the orange tier. Reservations will be required, all park guests must live in the same county the park is in, and only outdoor attractions will be allowed to operate. For larger theme parks, the restrictions are even more suffocating, with the guidelines stating that the county the park resides in must be in the yellow tier in order to reopen. Like the smaller parks, reservations will also be required and the park capacity will have to be 25%. Continue reading “California Theme Parks – Where Do We Go From Here?”