Alexander: Welcome to Coaster Kings‘ countdown of the 20 best coasters that turned 20 years old this year!
The Coaster Class of 1999 had a lot of stars (still the most coasters to open in one year), so let’s take a look at the best of the best!
20. Millennium Coaster – Fantasy Island
With Y2K overzealousness being the cause for 1999’s unmatched coaster strength, the aptly named Millennium Coaster seems as good a place as any to start. The meandering Vekoma looper helped usher in a new era of smoother, more unique rides for the firm. While the Skegness flea market coaster is not without its charms, it’s not nearly as thrilling or well-paced as it looks (fortunately, the more-thrilling custom Vekoma inverted Odyssey is right next door).
19. Gwazi – Busch Gardens Tampa
Oh, Gwazi, we barely knew ye. It’s no coincidence that dueling/racing coasters have dropped like flies this decade (it’s almost as if building two virtually-identical coasters with the same narrow thrillseeker appeal is an operational burden or something). Gwazi was no exception, with the Lion side ceasing operations in 2012 and Tiger lingering on until 2015. Even devoted annual maintenance and new trains couldn’t save the coasters from themselves – a Shakespearian tragedy later echoed by another dueling central Florida pair just a few years later (but more on that in a bit).
18. Wild West Mine Train – Ocean Park
Here’s one not many people think about – 15 years after appearing on the scene with their custom Arrow looper (our very favorite), Dragon, Hong Kong’s Ocean Park introduced a curious but beautifully-situated custom Zamperla mine train (yes, really) on a dramatic slope facing the South China Sea. A gentle, scenic ride prone to valleying (mid-ride tire drives were installed after the fact), Wild West Mine Train is all about location – without it, it’s just an early one-off from a company more suited building production models.
17. Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster – Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Here at Coaster Kings, we’re massive Vekoma fans – but we’re the first to admit when a ride is running rougher than it should. Our beloved Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster was a milestone in many ways: Walt Disney World’s first inverting ride, Vekoma’s perfected launch coaster (following the birth of the modern launch concept with Disneyland Paris’ Space Mountain in 1995), the first coaster in the Western Hemisphere to use SOBAT (onboard audio), etc. etc., but frankly, Rockin’ is more uncomfortable than it has any right to be. We love the ride’s cheesiness and dripping-with-90s aesthetic, but Rockin’s French and Dutch clones show us just how more pleasant the ride could be – 20 years of daily 4-train-ops are likely be to blame (also, we miss the simulated working headlights on our limos).
16. Georgia Scorcher – Six Flags Over Georgia
1999 brought a lot of innovations to the table, including a handful of new products from B&M alone. As light shown on the Swiss firm’s new Floorless and Mega coaster designs (at fellow Six Flags parks, no less), the sun set on their original creation: the Stand-Up Coaster. While the product is technically still available to this day, Six Flags Over Georgia’s modest-but-satisfying Georgia Scorcher remains the final installment in the line-up. It’s interesting to note that the trend of larger, loopier Stand-Ups ended with Riddler’s Revenge at Magic Mountain, with the Atlanta park opting for a design based on earlier Stand-Up layouts (it had to fit the narrow plot left behind by a few water slides, after all).
15. Invertigo/Two Face: The Flipside – Kings Island / Six Flags America
Say what you want – Vekoma’s production models may not be anyone’s favorite, but Boomerangs and SLCs are the stuff marketing dreams are made of. Combining the two rides was the next natural step, giving birth to a troubled but enigmatic hybrid: the Invertigo. Kings Island’s Invertigo is the last in its original location (Enthusiasts must visit Italy’s Movieland Park for Two-Face) – its loudest fans declaring the ride “greater than the sum of its parts” (or perhaps, “greater than the mere sum of a Boomerang and SLC” in this case). Maybe it’s just the ride’s novelty factor at work, but we can’t say we disagree.
14. Ride of Steel – Six Flags Darien Lake
Before Cedar Point’s Millennium Force and Six Flags New England’s Superman began their decade-long feud of favoritism, the original Intamin 200ft+ coaster made Six Flags’ Buffalo, NY chapter its unlikely home. Though eclipsed many times over by later designs of Intamin an others, Ride of Steel bears some unique flair – even in the wake of its cloning for Six Flags America (that long, mid-ride straightaway only makes sense straddling one of Darien Lake’s various ponds).
13. Batman: The Ride – Six Flags Over Texas
While the Vekoma SLC was well on its way to alienating the enthusiast-community-at-large with its omnipresence, B&M provided Six Flags with their 6th & final Batman: The Ride – a design continuing to prove that it’s far and away from wearing out its welcome.
12. Poltergeist / Joker’s Jinx – Six Flags Fiesta Texas / Six Flags America
Though not the landmark sensation that their indoor Flight Of Fear siblings were 3 years before (and not quite as dazzling as their Mr. Freeze-themed cousins), Premier Rides’ outdoor “Spaghetti Bowl” coasters wound up being the firm’s first launch coasters to operate satisfactorily right out of the box (headbanger shoulder harnesses notwithstanding). Faster and better-paced than their KECO “can-o-loops” confidants, Poltergeist and Joker’s Jinx have the uncanny designation of being handily more attractive in the daylight despite their show-building shapeliness.
11. Bizarro – Six Flags Great Adventure
Narrowly missing our Top 10 is the first installment of B&M’s now-ubiquitous Floorless sit-down product, Bizarro. With rides like Kumba and Dragon Khan demonstrating B&M’s knack for traditional loopers, the solution for re-marketing the above-track product took inspiration from their industry-defining inverted coasters: nix the floor, and you’ve got a new experience. Bizarro itself isn’t much more than Kumba’s elements shuffled up and raised off the ground, but it remains a credit to both Six Flags Great Adventure’s commanding coaster collection and the B&M Floorless pedigree in general.
Find the Top 10 on Page 2!