This past month has not been a good one if you’re a wooden roller coaster residing at a Six Flags park. The chain announced the closure of not one, but two additional woodies: the Riverside Cyclone at Six Flags New England and the legendary Colossus at Six Flags Magic Mountain.The Colossus rumor is the worst kept secret in the industry – but the Cyclone announcement was out of left field. In the past 5 years, five different wooden coasters will be either modified or removed from Six Flags parks. So why do I claim this as the “death” of the wooden coaster era there? You have to look at the pattern of other parks in the chain to understand it:
1.) Park builds wooden coaster.
2.) Due to unknown reasons (some insiders claim it’s to save money) maintenance is deferred, making the ride rougher.
3.) As a result, the coaster must be modified from original form to save on wear and tear, either via brakes or “topper track.”
4a.) The coaster is EITHER removed altogether due to lack of ridership, complaints or sheer amount of work needed to repair and restore it…
4b.) The coaster is modified to a steel track, provided by Rocky Mountain Construction, making it a steel coaster with wooden structure. (a la the “New Texas Giant,” “Iron Rattler”)Now, to be fair – each of these rides (sans Medusa) were well beyond their prime. Of the five wooden coasters that have been converted to steel or are slated to close, three were heavily modified from their original form, making them shells of their former selves. (In the case of the Cyclone, the ride itself was just poor, rough and terribly paced to begin with.)
Hell, Colossus and it’s dual track hasn’t really raced for the past 20 years. Why? Usually only one track was open – you guessed it – to save on maintenance and wear. Anyone who’s ridden it this year will attest, the right side track hasn’t been used in months – and it shows.Not many guests know, but most of the rides and attractions at Six Flags aren’t American built – they’re almost exclusively from Europe. The traditional wooden coaster is really America’s sole contribution to the amusement community worldwide (not forgetting the Log Flume).
So then, are we witnessing a generational shift in technology, much as our Great Grandparents saw the shift from side-friction coasters to safer (and more extreme) wooden upstop rides? Or are we witnessing a stopgap cost cutting measure? Tell me what you think in the comments section, below.
Personally, I’m torn – everyone loves the latest and greatest – but you have to remember and preserve the past, too. Wooden coasters are expensive to maintain, no doubt – but NOT maintaining them through their life ends up being more expensive in the long run.
My final thought – the Giant Dipper in Santa Cruz is 90 years old and yet it’s smoother than any wooden coaster at any Six Flags park. And yet, all of those woodies are at least 50 years YOUNGER.
That’s right – we’re up early, getting our coaster fix for the new year off on the right foot…err, coaster rather.
Follow our journey with the hashtag: #greatamericanthrills – we’ll be live blogging the entire day on social media.
And if you’re in the area, drop on by – we’d love to meet you!
This week, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom and Six Flags Magic Mountain have placed new seat belt restraints on three of their coasters that previously ran with only a lap bar restraint, apparently as a proactive safety precaution. The move was NOT part of a directive or order by CalOSHA, as previously speculated by several amusement park fan sites.
“It was not a mandate from the State of California. Cal/OSHA was told that Six Flag’s (sic) corporate office made the decision,” said Peter Melton, a spokesperson for the Department of Industrial Relations via an e-mail.
After the unfortunate incident at Six Flags Over Texas, you had to expect there was going to be changes to operations and seat design. Although, I know I speak for many fans in the community when I say, “This might be a bit excessive, especially considering the lack of incidents on the three known coasters to get the seat belt additions.”
The parks now do not allow riders to lower their lap bars, as originally reported by The Coaster Guy yesterday. This is to ensure the seat belts are all fastened and fitting. If a lap bar is brought down, attendants must reopen the entire train and repeat the process.
Those who have ridden the rides with the seat belts are already seeing significantly increased dispatch times (longer waits) and some have even reported pain due to the protrusion of the seat belts into their lower abdomens.
“Cal/OSHA inspected the seat belts after they were installed and found them satisfactory,” Melton said in his e-mail.
While the dispatch times will improve as guests and employees adapt to and refine the new policy, the belts also provide a much easier way for employees to gauge if a rider is too large to ride.
However, the reported “pinching” action of the seat belts against the lower abdomen and lap bar does beg the question, “Are these ‘improvements’ actually going to cause more rider problems than they were intended to solve?”
We shall see if this is a chain-wide mandate when the new season begins in spring. That’s when the seasonal parks will be reopen for their season. For now, only the two year-round parks on the west coast have confirmed seat belt installations.
This story was originally broken by CGA Insider, when they visited Six Flags Discovery Kingdom and spotted the alterations.
Recently, I had the pleasure to give a “Grand Tour” of California’s Great America to “The Coaster Guy.” Kurt runs a very in-depth site that focuses on his home park, Six Flags Magic Mountain – but also covers other parks that he visits in his travels.
If you’ve never been to his site, I HIGHLY recommend taking a few minutes to go over there and peruse it. It’s always great to meet up with like-minded enthusiasts – and especially ones who share the same passion for parks that I do. I just hope I didn’t make him completely sick showing him all the intense flat rides at the park!
Kurt, I promise that I’ll make it out to Magic Mountain – and look forward to a “smooth” free fall on Drop of Doom!
For more information or to see the Great America update, visit: www.theCoasterGuy.com
Today’s the big day – the coordinated announcements from all of the Six Flags parks on their new for 2014 attractions!
Looks like our local park, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, actually made out quite well, with THREE major announcements today.
For a new attraction, the park will receive, “Tsunami Soaker” a teacup ride – with a watery twist. The park was sorely lacking water rides (there’s only two) and those hot Vallejo summers will mean long lines for this fun (and interactive) attraction.
Personally, I love when family attractions get put in – it shows the park has a balance to it, rather than adding extreme thrill rides each and every year, which tend to attract the, “wrong crowds.”
Our question – is where exactly will it go? The park isn’t exactly flush with space, so this means either a creative “shoe-in” somewhere in the park, or the removal of an older attraction.
We shall see, because we’re going to leave the speculation to those “other” sites…
In addition, the park has also announced that the popular “Cirque Dreams Splashtastic” WILL RETURN for a limited run again next season. (Which is being overlooked by most other sites) This, combined with the addition of “Tsunami Soaker” gives families a great way to spend their day at Discovery Kingdom.
And in addition to all of that – a little bit of nostalgia for fans of the park when it was Marine World Africa USA…
The park is going back to being open YEAR ROUND!
“With the region’s mild temperatures, being open all year means guests have even more opportunity to enjoy Discovery Kingdom’s wildlife and wilder rides,” said Don McCoy, park president. “In addition to our summer daily operating schedule, we will now be open on weekends year-round ― further cementing Six Flags Discovery Kingdom as the premier destination for affordable, thrilling entertainment.“
Now of course, this means seeing rides go down during that time, just like Disney does at their parks – it will be interesting to see how this new year-round operation affects, well OPERATIONS! Seasonal parks tend to struggle to keep staffing up for some reason in California, so we’ll see how this year-round push goes this time around.
Considering the move to an annual “membership” plans for season pass sales earlier this year, it’s not surprising – but still great to hear officially.
For a complete list of the new for 2014 attractions at Six Flags parks, including some truly insane record-breakers across the country – visit this link HERE.