Kentucky Kingdom plans for life after Six Flags

Back in February, Six Flags rejected its lease with its Louisville, Kentucky theme park Kentucky Kingdom. The park remained closed for all of 2010. Now, a redevelopment company has been actively posting plans to revitalize the troubled park on their new Kentucky Kingdom website and YouTube Channel.

Since I have been a roller coaster enthusiast, Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom has had the dubious distinction as the black sheep in the Six Flags chain. In the last decade, there were very few new rides. And, with the exception of one roller coaster which will now be Green Lantern at Great Adventure, there was no real draw for theme park travelers like myself. In addition, park operations and maintenance were subpar. Maintenance becomes glaringly important when horrifying accidents gain national attention. Anyone remember the girl whose feet were severed by the drop ride at the park?Ed Hart operated Kentucky Kingdom in its pre-Six Flags days of steady growth and has now once again taken the reins in its post-Six Flags era. He puts the blame for the park’s attendance and investment decline squarely on Six Flags. A new video charts the park’s attendance growth as new rides were opened in nearly every year of Kentucky Kingdom’s first 9 years. And then, it details the attendance decline as Six Flags removed rides and added very little.

With $50 million dollars of state-funded bonds going towards rehab and new rides, Hart plans to re-open Kentucky Kingdom in 2012. His plans were recently discussed during an interview with ParkThoughts. They include moving the park’s entrance, an expanded water park, and free parking. The most notable announcement for coaster fans was the mention of a new marquee Bolliger & Mabillard-designed roller coaster. Details of the new roller coaster are forthcoming.

Green Lantern to replace Scream Machine at Six Flags Great Adventure

Six Flags’ trend of re-theming old rides will continue as New Jersey’s Six Flags Great Adventure will open a relocated stand-up coaster in 2011. Formerly Chang at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom, the coaster will be renamed and re-themed as Green Lantern tying into the new movie starring Ryan Reynolds. The coaster was removed from Kentucky Kingdom just months before Six Flags decided to close the park.

Green Lantern will feature trains where riders stand rather than sit, while an over-the-shoulder harness will secure them in place. At 15 stories tall with a 14 story (144′) drop, it will be one of the largest stand-up coasters in the World. Green Lantern’s exciting course will include: a huge vertical loop, a dive loop, an inclined loop, and two corkscrews. In its new form, the ride will be painted green and it may have some tunnels and special effects.

Stand-up roller coasters are somewhat rare and really good stand-up coasters are almost impossible to find. Green Lantern, on the other hand, could be an exception. If this coaster runs as well as it did when I rode it at Kentucky Kingdom, then Great Adventure guests will be treated to an impressively fun and thrilling ride. Thanks to its Bolliger & Mabillard design, it’s smooth enough to pull off a great experience while most stand-up coasters are rough and uncomfortable.

Green Lantern is being built on the former site of the Great American Scream Machine. For two decades the red looping coaster had been a fixture of Great Adventures’ skyline. Over the years Scream Machine had gotten so rough that it boxed ears and produced headaches. Still, the ride had its supporters. Hardcore coaster enthusiasts claimed it was a fun ride if you knew how to ride it. While there were some that were sad to see it go I feel that most, like myself, were happy that it was scrapped. Great Adventure fans should be excited about the new world-class stand-up roller coaster that will replace it.

To see construction photos visit Six Flags Great Adventures’ website.

Six Flags’ Texas Giant to reopen after a $10 million upgrade

One of largest wooden roller coasters in the U.S. is getting a massive $10 million dollar makeover. Aging wooden roller coasters often undergo rehab projects where the ride’s rickety, old track is replaced with new lumber to create a more comfortable and enjoyable experience. Texas Giant’s transformation goes way beyond a standard rehab project. It will be reborn as the first wooden roller coaster to have its wooden rails completely replaced with steel rails.

When Texas Giant reopens during Six Flags Over Texas‘ 50th season next year, it will be as a steel coaster with a wooden support structure. It should offer a pretty unique experience thanks to a transformation almost akin to switching genders. While there have been steel roller coasters built with wooden supports, to my knowledge there haven’t been any that were first built as wooden coasters.

Texas Giant will return in 2011 with some exciting new elements. The first drop has been extended 10 feet higher and its angle of descent will set a record. The 79-degree drop will be the steepest of any wooden coaster in the World. The ride’s layout will also include a record-breaking bank of 95-degrees. The other most notable upgrade will be the new trains themed after 1961 Cadillac Devilles. To top off the ride with some Texas flavor, the trains will be adorned with custom made cattle horns.

Hopefully, Texas Giant’s “Six Million Dollar Man”-like renovation pays off for Six Flags. The company has transitioned from building lots of big new rides to renovating and updating older rides with new themes and special effects. If Texas Giant’s upgrade proves successful, I’d hope to see other aging, rough wooden roller coasters get a steel track overhaul as well. I’m looking forward to getting down to Arlington, Texas next year and taking the all new Texas Giant for a spin. It looks to be one of the most exciting stories in the theme park industry in 2011.%Poll-56849%

Six Flags theme parks re-theme rides for 2011

While theme parks around the world add more rides, more shows and more dining options for guests in 2011, there’s one thing you will find less of at Six Flags parks next year: character.

Six Flags plans to re-theme many of its rides in a cost-cutting measure.

Evel Knievel, Tony Hawk, Thomas the Tank Engine and The Wiggles are among the losers in the deal as Six Flags unravels some licensing agreements.

As the Los Angeles Times reports:

  • The Tony Hawk Big Spin ride at Six Flags St. Louis, Six Flags Fiesta Texas, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom and Six Flags Over Texas will be rethemed as the Big Spin, without the famous skateboarder’s name or likeness.
  • At Six Flags St. Louis, a wooden coaster named the Evil Knievel will renamed American Thunder.
  • Thomas the Tank Engine will disappear from Thomas Town kiddie lands at Six Flags America (which just opened its Thomas Town this June), Six Flags Magic Mountain, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, Six Flags New England and Six Flags Over Georgia.
  • The Wiggles will no longer sing at the Wiggles World children’s areas at Six Flags Great Adventure, Six Flags Great America, Great Escape, Six Flags New England and Six Flags Fiesta Texas, where five rides have already been stripped of the kid’s band theming.

Despite the re-themed rides, characters from the Looney Tunes, DC Comics and Hanna-Barbera will remain at the parks.

[Image credit: Flickr user bravo!]

New roller coaster to debut at Six Flags New England in 2011

Six Flags New England, located in Agawam, Massachusetts, will be getting a new wild mouse roller coaster in 2011. Well, we’ll call it slightly used. Last year, the coaster was re-located from Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom where it was Road Runner Express. Wild mouse roller coasters are known for their flat, un-banked track, and tight hairpin turns. The tight turns give riders the feeling that the cars might just fly over the edge.
Theme park fans are a crafty bunch. Recently, plans for the 2011 ride were unearthed from a Six Flags investors report and a local town hall meeting. According to the document, the ride may be known as Gauntlet. Others clues point to the names: Gotham City Gauntlet, Gotham City Transit, and Escape from Arkham Asylum. Six Flags New England will likely end the guessing game soon with an official announcement.

Located in the DC Super Hero Adventures section near the Scream Tower, the 2011 roller coaster will feature 17 hairpin turns over its 1,213 feet of track. Six Flags New England has been whetting enthusiasts’ appetite by posting construction photos on their Facebook page. As you can see, the compact coaster is coming up quite fast. At this rate most of the new ride’s structure will be complete before the harsh winter weather moves in.
To Six Flags’ credit, they’re giving the pre-owned roller coaster a nice little makeover. You can see the Gotham City theming in the aforementioned plans. The theme will include cars themed as taxi cabs, police cars, and Batman villains. The plans show a less immersive theme than the one employed on the Batman Dark Knight roller coaster that the park was supposed to get back in 2008. This is probably a good thing as both of the Dark Knight coaster clones that sprung up at sister parks Great Adventure and Great America were hammered with horrible reviews.
The Dark Knight coasters were enclosed in a building and the theming was so intense, for Six Flags, that guests probably expected a thrill ride, not a fun little family coaster. With this new coaster, guests may be able to see what they’re in for and set their expectations accordingly. The new ride will open in the Spring of 2011 as Six Flags New England’s 10th roller coaster.

[Image credit: Six Flags New England’s Facebook Page]