Walking around your regional Cedar Fair or Six Flags amusement park, it is not uncommon to pass a ride where the statement, “Let’s ride this one; it was really fun when I rode it at *insert name here.” This is because ride clones are not uncommon, and amusement parks take full advantage of trends within the industry. By building replicas or similar rides in several different parks, it allows the local park goers the opportunity to ride the hot new coaster style without having to plan a 300+ mile road trip. This is what makes Kings Island such an impressive park to visit because rather than simply being the trend followers, they have proven time and time again with their wooden “beasts” that they are in fact the trend setters.
Kings Island is not shy about their impressive history as a wooden roller coaster innovator. They have opened their fourth wooden roller coaster, Mystic Timbers, this summer, and, in doing so, also managed to set a record. Kings Island now has more wooden roller coaster track than any other park in the world at 18,804 feet. To call them the wooden roller coaster capital of the world would not be too much of a stretch (though I’m sure Holiday World would like to stake claim to that title as well). While some would argue Holiday World’s wooden coasters are far and away the best on this planet, it is hard to argue the significance of Kings Island’s (even the one they tore down).
Kings Island Adds The Racer in 1972
Let’s start from the beginning; in 1972, Kings Island opened The Racer, which is a racing style out and back wooden roller coaster designed by John C. Allen, whom was convinced to come out of retirement by Kings Island to design their centerpiece attraction at their new park. While [today] it may be more of an afterthought sitting around the new steel giants like Diamondback and Banshee, the significance of this coaster cannot be overlooked. The Racer is very often credited as being one of the main rides to ignite a new coaster craze in the 70’s. Following The Great Depression of the 1930’s, roller coasters were no longer being built at the rate they were previously. Even after the market recovered, the roller coaster trend stayed dormant for several more decades. After The Racer opened to such success in 1972, though, the sleeping giant was reawaken, and new roller coasters were beginning to be built across the country.
The Beast Breaks Records
Seven years later, it was decided a new wooden monster had to be unleashed to the park goers of Kings Island. With the help of John C. Allen, Kings Island manufactured in house perhaps one of the most recognizable names in the roller coaster world, The Beast. Still the record holder for longest wooden coaster in the world, The Beast was marketed as the first modern roller coaster when it opened in 1979. The Beast took advantage of the terrain and wooded hillside located inside the park to give riders a one of kind experience at the time (and still perhaps the best night ride to this day). This terrain concept paved the way for the likes of Boulder Dash and The Voyage to take advantage of this same concept allowing them to become 2 of the [if not THE] best wooden roller coasters today.
Kings Island’s habit to think outside of the box only continued after creating the roller coaster rock star that is The Beast. The ride was such an iconic name associated with the park that they decided that it needed a sequel. In 1999, Kings Island announced they would be building the world’s first wooden hypercoaster (coaster that is over 200 feet tall). Son of Beast would smash nearly all of the major wooden roller coaster records, only preserving its father’s record for longest wooden coaster. At 218 feet and reaching speeds of 78 mph the statistics alone could have driven the hype train, but Kings Island decided to shock the world when it announced Son of Beast would also feature the first vertical loop on any wooden roller coaster. Sadly, most people know how this story ends. In 2006, structural damage to the track resulted in a sudden stoppage of a train mid-ride, resulting in several injuries. The follow year, the ride would reopen but without the signature vertical loop. The ride continued to operate without any trouble (minus the complaints of a rough ride) until 2009 when a rider was injured, thereby prompting the ride to again close and never re-open. It was torn down in 2012 to make way for Banshee to be built in its place.
Son Of Beast – Foreshadowing into the Future
While many would consider Son of Beast a failure, there is no denying the impact this ride made on the industry. On one side, it showed that a wooden roller coaster over 200 feet may not be the best approach. It just continued to prove that the taller a wooden coaster is, the rougher the ride seems to inevitably become. Mean Streak at Cedar Point, Texas Giant at Six Flags Over Texas, and The Rattler at Six Flags Fiesta Texas would also be examples of how taller wooden coasters were seemingly cursed with rough rides. On another side, it introduced the idea that a wooden roller COULD have inversions. This is a concept that the now uber-popular Rocky Mountain Construction (RMC) has made its calling card. Beloved wooden coasters such as Outlaw Run have proven that not only are inversions on wooden coasters possible but, when done correctly, can create some of the best wooden coasters in the world. So, while Son of Beast may not have been a major success for Kings Island, it did open the door to some of today’s best rides.
GCI Designs Another Winner, Mystic Timbers
Finally, we reach the brand new-for-2017 Mystic Timbers! A truly spectacular Great Coasters International (GCI) attraction located behind Diamondback. This ride is simply amazing; continuing the concept they created in 1979 with The Beast, Kings Island and GCI created a brand-new ride that embraces the terrain while taking you on an adventure through the woods. Perhaps one of, if not the, best GCI coasters, Kings Island has hit a grand slam home run with its new attraction. But, the ride itself is not where the innovativeness is shown here. GCI has been building some of the best wooden coasters in the industry for years now, so the question may be asked, “is the trend setters turning into the trend followers?” The answer here is once again a clear, “NO!” While a GCI wooden coaster is not a new concept, the ending to this ride is! Throughout the off season the catch phrase #WhatsInTheShed went viral from the time the ride was announced, creating a buzz that almost exceeded the buzz for the ride itself.
What exactly is this shed you may ask? Well I am not going to spoil the surprise for anyone that has yet to make the trip to Mason, Ohio, but what I will do is explain the brilliance of it. Most roller coasters take you for the ride of your life and then, after 2-3 mins of adrenaline pumping fun, it stops, and you sit in the hot sun while you wait for the train in the station to be dispatched. Kings Island has now eliminated perhaps the most dull and uncomfortable part of a roller coaster ride by creating a new ending experience. No longer does the fun of a roller coaster abruptly end with a hot seat in the sun. Rather, you will continue to be engulfed in the experience until the ride-op asks you to “push down and pull up on your lap bars and exit to your right.” I see this becoming a new trend throughout the industry when new rides are built in the future, and, once again, we will be able to thank Kings Island [and parent company, Cedar Fair] for their innovative thinking.
So, does Kings Island have the best wooden roller coaster collection in the world? That would depend on who you ask. Holiday World may still have this honor despite the addition of Mystic Timbers this summer. But as you can see, Kings Island may have the most important wooden roller coaster collection in the world. Having the honor to say they have been trendsetters in the industry for decades, Mystic Timbers proves that they do not plan to stop this anytime soon. Featuring wooden coasters for all types of fans – even small fans with the not previously mentioned Woodstock Express as one of the best and most exciting kiddie coasters to introduce the young ones to the thrills of riding. Kings Island has a proud legacy with a foundation made of wood that has provided coaster lovers from all around the world a reason to be thankful for their past and excited for the future.