Earlier this year rumors surfaced that Chicago area theme park, Six Flags Great America, was going to remove their stand up roller coaster Iron Wolf. Some fans were sad to see the long running coaster go as the ride has been a fixture at the park for more than two decades. Iron Wolf was also the first roller coaster from World renowned roller coaster designers, Bolliger & Mabillard. Thankfully, the park has planned an exciting new ride to take its place in 2012.
Last week, Six Flags Great America unveiled details for X-Flight. The 3,000 foot long steel roller coaster will boast a new seating configuration where guests will be seated completely outside of the track rather than above or below it. If riding completely exposed wasn’t enough, riders will face five loops that mimic fighter plane maneuvers including a barrel roll, zero-g roll, and an Immelmann loop. X-Flight’s most thrilling element will likely be when the roller coaster threads the needle as it narrowly passes through a themed air traffic control tower. The ride will begin with a 12-story drop generating a top speed of 55 mph. X-Flight is scheduled to open in the Spring of 2012.
For weeks now Fuji Q Highlands’ new roller coaster, Takabisha, has made international headlines. The steel Gerstlauer roller coaster has pushed the steepness envelope by setting a World record setting 121-degree drop. As I documented in my article, Five ways roller coasters have changed since you were a kid, roller coasters with beyond 90-degree drops are nothing new. Hersheypark’s Fahrenheit boasts a 97-degree drop and Steel Hawg at Indiana Beach made history when it opened in 2008 with an 111-degree drop. Steel Hawg was dethroned by the UK’s Mumbo Jumbo at Flamingoland which edged it out with a 112-degree drop.
There have also been a number of other roller coasters with these super steep drops, but the trend had seemed to go pretty much unnoticed to the media. Roller coaster fans like myself find them interesting, but the steepness record holder never got the kind of attention that the World’s fastest roller coaster (Formula Rossa) or the World’s tallest roller coaster (Kingda Ka) has received.
This is why I am so surprised by the enormous media attention that Takabisha, a roller coaster in Japan, has received here in the U.S. Many of my non-roller coaster loving friends and family have mentioned the ride to me, I’ve been contacted by the media to speak about it, it’s been featured on morning radio shows, on a late night talk show, and it’s been covered by national and international media outlets.
Of course this attention is a very good thing for Fuji-Q Highland. I would imagine that this international coverage is why a theme park would spend a reported $37 million to build a record breaking roller coaster. I have to wonder if there’s an amusement park, if not several, that are ordering a Takabisha clone or a similar roller coaster from Gerstlauer. A roller coaster that could surpass Takabisha with a 122-degree drop wouldn’t have to be as large or as costly while still providing some real buzz and interest on a large scale.
Like the race to build the tallest roller coasters in the 1990’s, could the battle for the steepest roller coaster be the new roller coaster arms race? Don’t be shocked if a theme park announces plans to build a new roller coaster with a record setting drop in 2012 or 2013. Takabisha has captivated the World and any theme park would love that kind of notoriety.
Here’s an on-ride video of Takabisha. The drop is at about 1:50 as the ride starts with a launch and an indoor section.
Based on my experiences and the general opinions and buzz from other roller coaster enthusiasts, here’s a list of what I consider to be America’s most intense roller coasters.
The Voyage at Holiday World Holiday World’sThe Voyage is one of the largest and fastest wooden roller coasters in the World. The out and back terrain coaster provides an intense 2 minute and 45 second marathon of thrills. After leaving the station, The Voyage delivers an onslaught of large hills, five underground tunnels, three ridiculously banked 90-degree turns, and a record-setting 24 seconds of air time as riders are lifted out of their seats throughout the adventure. Each time I got off of The Voyage I was physically exhausted, but also excited to get back in line and take the trip again. The Voyage is a rare wooden roller coaster in that it’s intense and a tad rough, but still fun and completely re-rideable.
X2 at Six Flags Magic Mountain Six Flags Magic Mountain’sX2 has an insane riding position. It places riders on either side of the track instead of on top or below it. In turn, exposing riders and giving them virtually no place to hide. Not only is the seating position off-putting and intimidating, but the seats rotate riders 360-degrees forward and backward. If that wasn’t enough, the ride’s opening dive sends you plummeting head first towards the ground. X2 was so intense that it made the middle-aged mom that I rode with see her life pass before her eyes.
Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure and Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point
Six Flags Great Adventure’sKingda Ka and Cedar Point’sTop Thrill Dragster are two very similar roller coasters that boast staggering stats. At over 40 stories tall, they’re literally skyscrapers earning them the rare distinction of strata coasters. While the climb to that lofty altitude and subsequent plunge are both very memorable moments, the rides’ launches are a 10 out of 10 on the intensity scale. Kingda Ka and Top Thrill Dragster accelerate their passengers from 0 to speeds of 128 mph and 120 mph respectively in about four seconds. Overall, I wouldn’t call them the best all-around roller coasters, but the feeling of that sheer power and acceleration is something that has to be experienced. As my cheeks flapped in the wind I wondered, “How much faster can this thing go?”
Clearly there are other intense roller coasters, but for me these are the most extreme. Which roller coasters would you consider the most intense? [Photo Credit: Flickr user – Intamin 10]
Last month Boomers in Dania Beach, Florida closed their wooden roller coaster known as the Dania Beach Hurricane. The ride could be seen from Interstate 95 just south of Ft. Lauderdale. It could also be seen from the Ft. Lauderdale airport as I found out a few years ago. I thought I was seeing a mirage when I landed there for a connecting flight as I wasn’t aware of the coaster at the time.
While details around the ride’s closing have been scarce, a Sun Sentinel article points to the high cost of maintaining a wooden roller coaster in a warm humid climate. The article stated:
“The high cost of maintenance and insurance, plus low ridership as the ride became rough,” likely contributed to the Dania Beach coaster shutdown on April 26, Doppelt said. “I’d say they couldn’t afford to redo it.”
The company that owns the coaster has cited “business reasons” for the closure, but did not offer details.
When news first broke that the park had closed the Hurricane, enthusiasts hoped that another park would buy the ride. Now it appears that there’s a good chance that the area landmark may soon be no more. According to Screamscape, the Dania Beach Hurricane may be scheduled for demolition as soon as June. Meanwhile, roller coaster enthusiasts at ThemeParkReview and CoasterBuzz have shared their love for the ride. If it is demolished, it sounds like it will be missed.
Six Flags Over Texas is celebrating their 50th anniversary in a big way. The park spent $10 million remodeling their massive wooden roller coaster Texas Giant. The twenty-one year old coaster had gotten rough over the years. So, Six Flags brought in Rocky Mountain Construction for a first-ever transformation that involved replacing the ride’s wooden track with steel track.
The new track not only allows for a smoother ride, but it also allowed the designers to incorporate some thrilling new elements. The New Texas Giant, boasts highly banked turns taken at more than 90 degrees and a taller and steeper first drop. I was lucky enough to make the trip to Texas for the ride’s opening day last week. Anticipation certainly ran high as the wait was reported to have reached 4 hours. Thankfully, the riders that I spoke to were thoroughly satisfied when they returned to the station as they claimed that the wait was well worth it.
The experience begins as you board one of the three trains that are themed to look like 1961 Cadillac DeVilles. In true Texas fashion, the hood of the front car is complete with a custom-made cattle horn. After the relatively quiet climb to the top of the 15-story tall lift hill, you are treated to a smooth and exhilarating ride that’s packed with numerous air time hills. Air time refers to moments when you are briefly lifted out of your seat. The lengthy ride finishes with the train racing through three tunnels that feature fog and special LED effects.
Guests were shocked at how smooth the Texas Giant had become and were excited that their rough ride was not only ride-able again, but actually the park’s main attraction. I gave the New Texas Giant a rare 10 out of 10 and I placed it at 6th in my top ten list. I highly recommend this roller coaster and I hope that this is only the beginning of such transformations.